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Chronic Poverty Research Centre

A social protection agenda for Uganda's poorest of the poor

Policy Brief No.2/2006

Charles Lwanga-Ntale

Chronic Poverty Research Centre

June 2006

SARPN acknowledges Development Research and Training (DRT) as a source of this document.
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Why this briefing paper?

This briefing paper is intended to inform policy makers and implementers (both within government and civil society), about the urgent need to adopt Social Protection policy measures which address Chronic Poverty - measures which reflect the interests of the very poorest in our country in national priorities. Uganda’s Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) has just been revised, and many of its provisions provide a good opportunity to deepen policy engagement in favour of this category of the population.

What is Chronic Poverty? How big is the problem in Uganda?

Chronic poverty is that poverty which traps individuals and households in severe and multi-dimensional deprivation for several years and is often transmitted across generations. It is a situation where people are born in poverty, live in poverty and frequently pass that poverty onto their children. This kind of poverty is characterized by its perpetual nature and persistence, the feeling of bare survival with no sign of escape, and an inability to resist shocks that lead to further impoverishment. Recently concluded research (see Chronic Poverty Report, 2005) suggests that 20% of Uganda’s households -more than 7 million people or 26% of the total population - live in chronic poverty. Chronic poverty affects a substantial proportion of the national population and reflects deep-seated disadvantages: with no surplus to save, low levels of human, social or political capital and few productive assets. Consequently, the chronically poor’s ability to identify and capitalise on escape routes from poverty are profoundly limited.1

Chronically poor people are sometimes dependents, but often working poor. According to the poor themselves, they include (but are not limited to) people with a disabilities, widows, the elderly with no social support, orphaned and neglected children, street children; those affected by HIV (especially where the breadwinner is ill or has died) and the long-term sick. They also include internally displaced people (especially those in camps); and isolated communities or those who rely on own account agriculture or on casual jobs. Female-headed households are more likely to be chronically poor.

While addressing chronic poverty compre-hensively is constrained by the still limited understanding of its drivers, maintainers and interrupters, which points towards a need for further research, analysis reveals some options for policy, and points towards initiatives that can be undertaken either in the short term, or to pave the way for the next revision of the PEAP. One of the options is targeting and protecting the very poor household.

  1. Bird & Shinyekwa, 2003

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