CRS Work in Uganda
Although Uganda has abundant natural resources, years of instability and conflict, especially in the north, have hampered development. A growing number of people—including young orphans—also face the devastating impact of HIV. Catholic Relief Services works closely with local partners to provide programs that help Ugandans overcome these challenges.
HIV and AIDS
HIV affects millions of Ugandans, including those living with the virus and the many children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS. CRS supports projects that provide care and treatment, promote education and prevention, and offer assistance to children left behind. These initiatives are aimed at empowering individuals and communities to prevent the spread of HIV and help those affected by the pandemic.
CRS' largest HIV initiative in Uganda is delivered through the AIDSRelief program. Funded by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR, AIDSRelief is a consortium of five members led by CRS that provides high-quality care and antiretroviral therapy to people living with HIV in nine countries. In Uganda, AIDSRelief supports 18 health facilities in 11 districts, reaching over 62,420 people, including more than 20,785 on antiretroviral therapy.
Funding from AIDSRelief, as well as UNICEF, enables CRS to work with district health authorities primarily in western Uganda to prevent transmission of the HIV virus from pregnant mothers to their newborn children. In addition, funding from AIDSRelief, CRS private funds and the Better Way Foundation allows CRS and our partners to provide medical treatment and emotional support to more than 2,000 children orphaned by AIDS.
To prevent new infections, HIV education is essential. Using PEPFAR funds and private donations, CRS has provided abstinence and Be Faithful education to more than 186,000 people in 6 of Uganda's 19 Catholic dioceses.
The majority of Ugandans make a living through subsistence agriculture. Many people in the north who have been unable to safely farm on their lands for years are now warily returning to their fields. To support Ugandans' ability to grow and sell food, CRS implements numerous agricultural projects.
To increase both food availability and incomes, CRS works with local community-based agricultural organizations to increase crop yields and help poor farmers access markets. The CRS-led Great Lakes Cassava Initiative, a new project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to stem the spread of two devastating cassava diseases in Uganda and five other countries. Other agricultural projects in Uganda include innovative voucher-based fairs in the north. These fairs, funded by the U.S. government and the European Union, enable farmers to select seeds, tools and goats to restart farming activities.
Since August 2006, CRS has helped Ugandans improve their economic standing through our Savings and Internal Lending Communities. Through privately funded initiatives, often integrated with HIV and agricultural projects, CRS has helped more than 12,000 clients in six districts form over 600 savings and lending groups. These valuable community groups encourage members to save small amounts of money each week, typically 50 cents or $1. Members can then withdraw loans against the pooled savings, gaining access to capital to start small businesses, such as opening a kiosk shop or purchasing a goat to breed livestock.
CRS also provides technical support to HOFOKAM, a microfinance institution founded by the Catholic dioceses of Fort Portal, Hoima and Kasese in western and northern Uganda. HOFOKAM offers loans to the working poor so families can launch small businesses. In early 2008, HOFOKAM was serving more than 15,000 clients—nearly 65 percent of them women—with a loan portfolio of more than $1.7 million. HOFOKAM aims to expand into additional dioceses, with the long-term goal of becoming a unified, Church-supported microfinance institution serving Ugandans countrywide.
Water and Sanitation
Due to ongoing violence in the north, more than 500,000 Ugandans still live in camps for internally displaced people. To help improve living conditions in the camps, CRS supports water and sanitation projects. In 2007, CRS began serving more than 14,500 beneficiaries in 14 communities through the Global Water Initiative, a consortium funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. CRS is building latrines, constructing washing areas, protecting natural springs and training residents in good health and sanitation practices.
Partnership and Global Solidarity
Partnership and global solidarity are important goals that CRS Uganda strives to achieve across our programming. A dedicated unit helps ensure that project officers promote justice, partnership, advocacy and global solidarity in all activities. To uphold the mission and values of CRS, justice is the key guiding principle in our workplace and with our partners.
In addition, CRS supports a global solidarity partnership between the Kasana Luweero diocese in central Uganda and the U.S. diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, fostering cultural understanding and friendship. CRS has also carried out numerous peacebuilding projects in the north to support people affected by the ongoing conflict and help resolve community problems. Currently, CRS champions conflict mediation and peacebuilding through the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative in communities affected by violence.
Emergency Preparedness and Recovery
Many Ugandans struggle to survive due to emergencies each year. In the north, two decades of conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group and the government displaced more than 2 million people and led to economic collapse for many communities. In addition, Uganda’s western region is a disaster-prone area with a long history of earthquakes, landslides, flooding, drought and pestilence. To help mitigate the impact of these disasters, CRS includes emergency preparedness and recovery activities in all of our programs. Key activities over the years have included providing shelter for night commuters (children seeking safety from rebel abduction), water and sanitation projects in camps for displaced people, and innovative fairs that enable farming families to select seeds, tools and small livestock to get back on their feet.