By Raymond Baguma
THE number of Ugandans living in absolute poverty has reduced from 8.4 million four years ago to 7.1 million today, according to the Uganda National Household Survey (UNHS).
The United Nations defines absolute poverty as a situation under which a person lives on less than $1 a day.
The report was released yesterday by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) officials at a workshop at Statistics House.
The survey is conducted every two to three years by UBOS to measure Ugandaâ€™s progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The MDGs focus on reduction of absolute poverty and hunger, improvement of maternal health, reduction of infant mortality, universal primary education, access to safe water, reduction of HIV/AIDS, eradication of malaria, environmental sustainability and creation of a global partnership for development.
The survey, conducted between May last year and April this year, covered 80 districts and compiled information on areas such as education, health, expenditure, welfare in homes, housing conditions, situation of vulnerable groups, family incomes, access to loans and credit.
Poverty reduction by region
Despite the significant reduction in poverty, northern Uganda still has the highest number of poor people at 46.2%, which is higher than the national average.
However, the poverty levels have declined from 60.7% in the 2005/2006 survey.
The report attributes poverty reduction in the north to the return of peace, which has enabled people to engage in agriculture, a strong growth in consumption and expenditure, a bumper harvest of maize as well as regional trade with South Sudan.
Eastern Uganda ranked second, with 24.2% of the people living in absolute poverty. However, this is a marked decline from 35.9% in 2005/2006.
Central Uganda has the lowest poverty levels at 9.7%, which declined from 16.4%.
In western Uganda, poverty levels stand at 18.2%, slightly down from 20.5% in 2005/2006.
However, in the western rural and urban areas of central and eastern region, the increase was not substantial enough to move people significantly above the poverty line.
Ugandaâ€™s estimated population is 30.7 million, with more than half the population (50.8%) aged below 15 years. The working age of 15-64 years makes up 46.1% of the population.
The elderly people, aged 65 years and above, make up 3.1% of the total population of Uganda. Ugandaâ€™s dependency ratio is 117.
There are 6.2 million households, with each having an average of five people.
Also, most of the young Ugandans (52.5%) live in rural areas. On the other hand, the biggest percentage (57%) of Ugandans who are of working age, live in urban areas.
Generally, there have been slight changes in prevalence of diseases since the 2005/06 household survey.
The major types of illnesses affecting Ugandans are malaria/ fever, respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea and skin infections.
However, the prevalence of malaria decreased from 56% to 52% since the last survey in 2005/09.
Malaria, according to the survey, is the most prevalent illness reported by 52% of Ugandans who fell sick during 30 days prior to the survey interviews.
Also, most people who fell sick sought medical attention from private clinics, while 41% of the population had slept under mosquito nets the day before the survey.
The highest incidences of malaria occurred in eastern Uganda, followed by central and western regions. The north as well as Kampala had low incidents of malaria. However, the north had the highest incidents of diarrhoea, while Kampala had the highest incidence of respiratory tract infections. Also, the average distance to a government health unit was 4.6km. About 75% of the sick people have to walk to the government health unit.
The literacy rate is 73%, an increase from 69% in 2005/06.
The males have a higher literacy rate than females.
Both primary and secondary school enrolment levels have increased over the last 5 years. The main reason children aged 6-12 do not attend school is because they are considered too young by parents and guardians.
The survey shows that Ugandan children walk an average distance of 2km in order to access a government primary school. Walking was reported to be the most common mode of transport to access education facilities.
Housing and household conditions
Most dwelling units are detached houses and owner-occupied iron-roofed houses.
Only 12% of households use electricity for lighting.
About 74% of households have access to water from improved sources compared to 68% in 2005/06.
The most common source of energy for lighting in Ugandan households remains the â€œtadoobaâ€ (wick lamp). Also, wood fuel is the most common source of energy for cooking in Ugandan households.
On sanitation, the survey shows that 9% of households did not use any toilet facility.
Also, one in every 10 households lacks a toilet facility.
The average distance to the main source of drinking water is about a kilometre. The mean waiting time for water is 27 minutes.
The ownership of clothes was almost the same between the 2005/06 household survey and 2009/10 household survey.
The number of Ugandans who possess at least a pair of shoes increased from 50% in 2005/06 survey to 58% in the 2009/10 survey.
Also, 9% of the households had a meal a day. About 71% of the communities had access to telephone services.