Government Interventions and Household Poverty in Uganda: A Comprehensive Review and Critical Analysis

1Muhwezi Amosi Kahara, 1Edaku Charles, 1,2Asaba Richard Bagonza, 1Grace Lubaale, 3Eze Chidinma Esther, 4Mutebi Joel and 5Val Hyginus Udoka Eze*

1Department of Development, Peace and Conflict Studies, Kampala International University, Uganda

2 School of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University, Uganda.

3Department of Educational Foundation, Kampala International University, Uganda.

4Department of Computing, Kampala International University, Uganda.

5Department of Publication and Extension, Kampala International University, Uganda.


*Corresponding Author:


This comprehensive review explores the multifaceted impact of government interventions on household poverty in Uganda, a nation grappling with socio-economic challenges. Through an in-depth analysis of diverse policies and programs implemented by the Ugandan government, this study examines their efficacy in alleviating poverty and enhancing the overall well-being of households. Drawing upon a wide array of scholarly articles, policy documents, and empirical studies, the research assesses the effectiveness of interventions such as social welfare programs, economic programs, pro-poor programs and educational reforms. The review delves into the intricate interplay between these government interventions and household poverty dynamics, considering factors like income disparity, access to education, healthcare services, and employment opportunities. By synthesizing existing literature, this study elucidates the successes and shortcomings of various strategies, shedding light on the key determinants of their effectiveness. Additionally, it analyzes the role of governance, accountability mechanisms, and resource allocation in shaping the outcomes of poverty-alleviation initiatives. Hence, this review critically examines the challenges faced by marginalized households in accessing and benefiting from government interventions, highlighting areas that require targeted policy reforms and targeted interventions. By identifying gaps in existing research and policy frameworks, this study provides valuable insights for policymakers, researchers, and development practitioners, aiming to inform evidence-based decision-making processes. Ultimately, this review contributes to the ongoing discourse on poverty reduction strategies in Uganda and offers recommendations for enhancing the impact of government interventions on vulnerable households, thereby fostering sustainable socio-economic development in the region.

Keywords: Government intervention, household poverty, empowerment, entrepreneurship, Uganda


In the realm of socio-economic development, few issues resonate as profoundly as the intricate interplay between government interventions and household poverty. This scholarly research review stands at the intersection of policy, economics, and social welfare, delving deep into the heart of Uganda’s socioeconomic landscape. As scholars dedicated to unravelling the complexities of poverty alleviation, our pursuit is to meticulously dissect the multifaceted relationship between government interventions and the poverty-stricken households of Uganda [1] [2]. Uganda, a nation marked by its rich cultural heritage and natural diversity, has made significant strides in recent decades, yet challenges persist in the form of widespread poverty that grips a substantial portion of its populace. This scholarly exploration embarks on a comprehensive journey to fathom the efficacy of various government interventions aimed at mitigating household poverty. With a critical lens, we aim to evaluate existing strategies, policies, and programs, discerning their impact, limitations, and potential for transformative change [3] [1].

Our scholarly inquiry into this pressing issue seeks to bridge the gap between theory and practice, offering an in-depth analysis grounded in empirical evidence and theoretical frameworks. By synthesizing existing literature, empirical studies, and policy documents, we aim to provide a holistic understanding of the historical context, the evolution of government interventions, and their impact on the socioeconomic fabric of Ugandan households. This research will scrutinize a myriad of interventions ranging from social safety nets and economic empowerment programs to educational initiatives and healthcare reforms. Through rigorous analysis, this study will explore the factors that influence the success or failure of these interventions, shedding light on the challenges faced by policymakers, implementing agencies, and the households they aim to uplift. Moreover, this research will critically assess the role of various stakeholders, including international organizations, non-governmental entities, and community-based organizations, in shaping the landscape of poverty alleviation in Uganda.

This research endeavours to extend beyond mere critique; but aspires to offer nuanced insights and evidence-based recommendations that can inform future policy formulations and strategic interventions. By synthesizing the experiences and lessons learned from past initiatives, this review paper will contribute to the discourse on effective poverty reduction strategies, not only in Uganda but also serving as a valuable resource for policymakers and researchers worldwide. In the pursuit of unravelling the intricate dynamics between government interventions and household poverty in Uganda, this scholarly exploration endeavours to provide a roadmap toward a more equitable, just, and prosperous society. As scholars deeply committed to the welfare of Ugandan citizens and humanity at large, this research embarks on this intellectual odyssey with unwavering dedication, aiming to leave an indelible mark on the discourse surrounding poverty alleviation and socio-economic development

Government Interventions and Household Poverty Dynamics in Uganda

Over the past three decades, Uganda has witnessed a partially successful trajectory in poverty reduction, marked by an annual national poverty reduction rate of 1.9% points from 1993 to 2006. This progress was attributed to comprehensive reforms and investments at the household level, contributing to the re-establishment of peace across the nation. Despite ongoing poverty reduction efforts since 2006, challenges persist as poverty levels fluctuate. Regional poverty saw a decline of 1.6% annually, and international poverty decreased by 2.7% per annum, ranking Uganda with the second-fastest poverty reduction rate in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, by 2013, over a third of the population still lived below the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day, showcasing the endurance of poverty despite advancements [4][1]. Critically, the disparity between Uganda’s poverty line in the 1990s and early 2000s and the international poverty line raises questions about the adequacy of Uganda’s poverty metrics. The national poverty line, established in 1993, has not been updated to reflect real price increases for essential goods consumed by impoverished households. Adjusting the poverty line by 29 to 30% could better capture changes in consumption over the past 15 years, aligning it with standards used by comparable lower-income countries. Despite improvements, access to essential infrastructure services remains low, particularly for low-income individuals. Sanitation access is limited, and a quarter of the poor lack toilet facilities. Electricity access is among the lowest globally, with only 14% of households using electricity for lighting. Additionally, between 2005 and 2009, for every three individuals lifted out of poverty, two regressed, highlighting the fragility of poverty alleviation efforts [5][6]. Uganda’s success in reducing poverty has resulted in a vulnerable population living just above the poverty line, susceptible to falling back into poverty during adverse circumstances. Regional variations in poverty have increased, with the majority of the poor concentrated in the Northern and Eastern regions, experiencing slower progress compared to the Central and Western regions. The Ugandan government has implemented numerous interventions since the 1990s to combat poverty, including initiatives addressing income, welfare, urban planning, and management. Social protection measures and market-enhancing approaches are deemed essential. Despite these efforts, Uganda remains among the world’s poorest nations, with urban areas housing a significant population below the absolute and relative poverty lines [7]. To address household poverty comprehensively, the Ugandan government has designed interventions focusing on income, welfare, social protection, urban planning, and management. However, the review of privatization and liberalization of the economy necessitates further government intervention to provide income, welfare, and social protection. While the government encourages private sector involvement for profit motives, poverty eradication actions persist [8]. The Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) targets strengthening social movements and facilitating self-help programs in deprived communities. Moreover, the government has embraced participatory governance and rights-based approaches. Although these policies have reduced household poverty among urban residents, income gaps persist, emphasizing the ongoing need for comprehensive and inclusive poverty alleviation strategies [9].

Economic interventions

In the 1990s, the Ugandan Government initiated an infrastructure development agenda, focusing on the rehabilitation of deteriorated main roads and the construction of new tarmac roads. This comprehensive effort encompassed the road sector, energy, and industrial development, leading to an impressive average economic growth of 6.5% over the last two decades (1986-2016). During this period, Uganda experienced a notable reduction in household poverty, decreasing from a national average of 35% in the mid-1980s to 19.7% in 2017 [10][11]. However, despite these overall positive trends, the researcher discovered an increase in household poverty within Nansana Municipal Council. The study highlighted poor infrastructure as a significant factor contributing to mobility challenges in Nansana, with insufficient resources cited as a reason for the subpar roads. The Ugandan Government also implemented macro-economic reforms in the 1990s, including Liberalization, privatization, retrenchment, and currency reforms. Despite these efforts, the goal of eradicating poverty has not been fully realized. In 1997, the Poverty Reduction Programme was launched, emphasizing the prioritization of government spending on critical poverty reduction programs. In 2007, a plan for the modernization of agriculture was introduced to address the needs of the majority engaged in agriculture [12]. Despite the slow economic recovery in Northern and Eastern Uganda, where insecurity remains a hurdle to poverty reduction, macro-economic policies at the national level contributed significantly to reducing poverty from 35% in the 1990s to 19.7% in 2017. However, recent statistics indicate a reversal of this trend, with poverty increasing from 19.7% in 2017 to 21.4% in 2020, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The researcher observed that household poverty reached 42% in the Nansana and Nabweru divisions, indicating a reversal of the progress made by the Ugandan Government. Despite numerous household poverty interventions, including those outlined in the First National Development Plan (NDP 1, 2010-2015), which aimed to transform Ugandans from a peasantry life to middle-income status, many households still lack sufficient education, health, and water services [10][12][13]. The Second National Development Plan (2015/16-2019/2020) aimed at enhancing Uganda’s competitiveness and achieving sustainable wealth and employment, yet the country remains among the poorest. The researcher found that household poverty stood at 42% in Nansana Municipal Council [14]. The Third National Development Plan (NDP, 2020/2021-2024/2025) emphasized wealth creation for Ugandans and infrastructure development. Despite this vision, the country’s growth rate stagnated at 3-4% from 2015 to 2020, and Uganda’s economy relies heavily on external funding, resulting in a significant external debt exceeding 80 trillion. Consequently, household poverty surpassed 20% in 2020, and government interventions in health, education, and other income and nutritional programs fell short of addressing the core issues. The study observed that, despite substantial spending on health and education, more than 40% of urban households still face deficits in these critical areas [14].

Social Protection

The Uganda Government initiated the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP) as a poverty intervention, targeting youth aged 18 to 30. Administered by the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development, the program emphasizes skill-building and training for unemployed youth. Since its commencement in 2014, the initiative has provided soft loans to young individuals in both rural and urban areas for income-generating ventures. Specifically designed to assist vulnerable groups, including school dropouts, those without formal education, single-parented youth, the disabled, and individuals living with HIV/AIDS, the program aims to empower those who completed secondary or tertiary education but remain unemployed. To date, the program has benefited 38,500 individuals as of 2015/2016. However, a study conducted in Nansana Municipal Council revealed that the Youth Livelihood Programme inadequately covered the urban youth, leaving a significant portion in household poverty. The study noted that only organized youth groups received funds, neglecting many informal youths. Consequently, over 40% of the youth in Nansana Municipal Council remain unemployed and trapped in poverty [15].

Additionally, the Uganda Government implemented Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 1997, followed by Universal Secondary Education (USE) to eliminate barriers to education caused by the inability of parents to afford school fees. The government also embraced private-public partnerships for selected private schools. Despite increased budgetary allocations, the study identified challenges in accessing quality education for the urban poor due to rising education costs. As a result, vulnerable households in Nansana Municipal Council have experienced high dropout rates, perpetuating a cycle of poverty [15][12].

In the healthcare sector, the government implemented initiatives to address vulnerability among low-income populations. The expansion of healthcare services aimed at reaching 1.3% of the GDP in 2016/2017, with a focus on primary public health, essential free healthcare services, and grants to local governments. However, urbanization negatively impacted healthcare services in Nansana Municipal Council, leading to disparities in the distribution of health facilities. Despite government efforts, private management of health facilities has made drugs and pharmaceutical products expensive, contributing to health-related poverty [16]. Moreover, the government’s primary healthcare programme, covering 50% of total health expenditure, targeted vulnerable groups such as the elderly, women, children, and victims of natural disasters. Despite this, the study highlighted continued exclusion and household poverty among the elderly, youth, and women [16][17].

The Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) implemented in 2002 aimed to reduce household poverty by enhancing consumption expenditure. However, the study found that despite these efforts, household poverty remained pervasive in Nansana Municipal Council. The decentralization policy, initiated in 1997, prioritized the allocation of government resources to key sectors like education and health to alleviate poverty. Nevertheless, rapid urbanization led to a scarcity of essential services, further excluding poor households and perpetuating household poverty [18][19]. The study utilized various poverty measures, including incidence, inequality, and severity, based on expenditure data. Alarming statistics revealed that over 21% of Ugandans survive on insufficient calorie content, leading to a food crisis among poor households. The government’s water sector program aimed to extend water services to towns at subsidized costs, but poor households in Nansana Municipal Council still faced challenges accessing water, contributing to increased household poverty and susceptibility to waterborne diseases [19][20]. In summary, despite government interventions, the study underscores persistent challenges in addressing poverty among vulnerable populations in the Nansana Municipal Council, urging a comprehensive reevaluation of existing strategies [21].

Pro-Poor Interventions

The Ugandan government has implemented policies specifically designed to address issues faced by the impoverished population. These measures involve strategic fiscal allocations to efficiently provide preventive and curative healthcare and education services to those experiencing poverty. The interventions encompass pro-poor budgeting, planning, monitoring, and evaluation, ensuring that government funds are effectively directed towards social programs benefiting the impoverished. These initiatives, which include both direct spending and efforts to enhance vulnerability mitigation and employment access, aim to expand opportunities for individuals with low incomes. Additionally, they strive to ensure that progressive taxation benefits those in poverty. A review conducted by [19] highlighted a successful household poverty intervention in Bornu district, Indonesia. The study emphasized that addressing health and education is crucial for effectively combating poverty in Nansana Municipality. To further understand and combat poverty, the Ugandan government introduced the National Poverty Survey. This comprehensive study [22] revealed that household poverty in the country stood at 21.4%, with rural areas experiencing a higher incidence at 25%, compared to 9.6% in urban areas. Eastern and Northern Uganda had particularly elevated rural poverty levels, reaching 35.7% and 32.5%, respectively. Notably, the study found that household poverty in the urban sector of Nansana Municipal Council had increased to 42%, exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 [23]. In response to the needs of the elderly, the Ugandan government launched an elderly benefits scheme as part of its social protection program for individuals aged 60, 65, 70, and 80 years and above. Although the program was intended to cover those above 60 years, the study identified a disparity in the distribution of elderly benefits in the Nansana Municipal Council. While some elders in regions like Toro and Bunyoro benefited from the scheme, there were exclusions and inconsistencies in coverage, leaving many elderly individuals in Nansana Municipal Council in a state of poverty. This suggests that government pro-poor initiatives may not have fully met their intended objectives in addressing household poverty in the council [23].

Women and youth entrepreneurship

In the 2000s, Uganda launched initiatives aimed at fostering entrepreneurship among women and youth to enhance inclusive development [18]. The goal was to equip these demographic groups with skills to reduce job access vulnerability and enhance occupational mobility. The study found that limited access to skills has trapped many youth, both men and women, in household poverty, resulting in unemployment and exclusion. The Uganda Government implemented the Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP), focusing on providing financial and skill support to women, especially those aged 18 to 65, including women with disabilities, victims of gender-based violence (GBV), those with HIV, and those in remote areas. Managed by the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development (MGLSD), UWEP has benefited 29,500 women across Uganda since 2013, but its coverage in North Eastern Uganda has been limited, primarily due to high vulnerability and scarce resources. Despite positive impacts, challenges persisted. A 2015/2016 skilling program, benefiting 149,000 Ugandans, found that UWEP covered only a few youth groups in Nansana Municipality, with funds reaching 70 million Ugandan shillings. Unfortunately, these funds were disbursed to organized women groups with limited proposal-writing knowledge, excluding those not engaged in formal activities and exacerbating household poverty in Nansana Municipality [24] [25]. While reforms in the 1990s brought benefits and challenges to urban citizens, including increased unemployment, the study observed that household poverty rates remained high. Urban poverty in Uganda intensified with a shift from public to private sector employment, characterized by worker exploitation and low pay. The growth and spread of household poverty in Ugandan towns were attributed to rampant unemployment, adverse shocks, and uncertainty in job and wage markets [26][27]. Similar trends were observed in China during the 1990s, where economic reforms led to unemployment and poverty. The establishment of the Minimum Living Guarantee (Dibao) aimed to alleviate urban poverty, but data limitations hindered its success. In Chinese cities, low-income households suffered from financial strain, leading to open unemployment and subsequent poverty [28][29]. The available literature emphasized the crucial role of assets in determining daily lives, income generation, and business growth, with government interventions targeting small-scale enterprises, slum dwellers, and those in the informal sector [7]. However, Uganda’s economy faced additional challenges, including the impact of global shocks such as COVID-19, Ebola, floods, and locusts. These calamities heightened household poverty across rural and urban areas. The Uganda Poverty Status Report of 2021 revealed an increase in household poverty, affecting over 66% of Ugandans [30][31][23]. Some districts in Northern Uganda reported poverty levels exceeding 50%, surpassing the national average of 21.4% [32][33]. It is obvious that poverty has a very big effect on the student’s understanding and teachers’ job performance in Africa [34][35][36]. As of 2022, certain regions, particularly Eastern and Northern Uganda, continued to experience poverty levels above 50%.


The comprehensive review and critical analysis of government interventions and household poverty in Uganda reveal multifaceted dynamics. Numerous programs, such as social safety nets, agricultural subsidies, and vocational training initiatives, have been implemented to alleviate poverty. While some interventions exhibit positive outcomes, challenges persist. Social safety nets, including cash transfer programs, show promise in addressing immediate needs. However, their long-term impact on breaking the cycle of poverty requires further scrutiny. Agricultural subsidies aim to boost rural livelihoods, yet the effectiveness varies, often hindered by issues like corruption and mismanagement. Vocational training initiatives play a crucial role in enhancing skills and employability, yet accessibility remains a concern. Disparities in urban-rural development and gender-specific challenges also emerge, underscoring the need for targeted strategies. The review underscores the importance of a holistic approach, acknowledging the interconnectedness of education, healthcare, and economic empowerment. Collaborative efforts between government, NGOs, and the private sector are essential for sustainable poverty reduction. Additionally, addressing systemic issues such as corruption, inefficient resource allocation, and policy coherence is paramount to ensuring the success of interventions. Finally, the findings of this research work emphasized the necessity for continuous evaluation, adaptive strategies, and transparent governance to effectively tackle household poverty in Uganda. Successful interventions require a nuanced understanding of local contexts and an integrated approach that empowers communities while addressing the root causes of poverty.


In conclusion, this comprehensive review underscores the intricate relationship between government interventions and household poverty dynamics in Uganda. Through a meticulous analysis of various policies and programs, this study illuminates both successes and shortcomings in the country’s efforts to alleviate poverty and enhance the well-being of its households. The research emphasizes the crucial role played by factors such as income disparity, education, healthcare access, and employment opportunities in shaping the outcomes of poverty-alleviation initiatives. Moreover, it highlights the significance of governance, accountability mechanisms, and resource allocation in determining the efficacy of interventions. By identifying gaps in existing research and policy frameworks, this review not only provides valuable insights for policymakers and development practitioners but also offers a roadmap for targeted reforms. Addressing the challenges faced by marginalized households and enhancing the impact of government interventions can pave the way for sustainable socio-economic development in Uganda. This study, therefore, serves as a valuable resource for evidence-based decision-making, contributing significantly to the ongoing discourse on poverty reduction strategies in the Nansana Municipal Council.


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CITE AS: Muhwezi Amosi Kahara, Edaku Charles, Asaba Richard Bagonza, Grace Lubaale, Eze Chidinma Esther, Mutebi Joel and Val Hyginus Udoka Eze (2023). Government Interventions and Household Poverty in Uganda: A Comprehensive Review and Critical Analysis. IAA JOURNAL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES (IAA-JSS) 9(2):1-9.