What we do
Find out how we are supporting the government to reach the most marginalized children
Globally, UNICEF is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children's rights, to help meet their basic needs, and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. In Uganda, UNICEF began its operations in the early 1960s. Our work is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and strives to establish children's rights as enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour towards children.
Situation of children in Uganda:
- A child born in Uganda today can expect to live to the age of 63. The under-five mortality rate has declined from 151 per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 64 per 1,000 live births in 2016.
- The proportion of women who received assistance from a skilled provider during delivery increased from 39 per cent in 2000 to 74 per cent in 2016.
- Neonatal mortality fell between 1988 and 2006 but has stagnated at 27 deaths per 1,000 live births since and is responsible for 42 per cent of all under-five deaths.
- Steady progress has reduced the national prevalence of stunting among under-fives from 33 per cent in 2011 to 29 per cent in 2016. However, this has not led to a large reduction in the overall number of stunted children in Uganda, due to the rapid growth in population.
- Teenage pregnancy is an important contributor to school dropout and a top cause of death among adolescent girls. One in 4 girls aged 15 to 19 years have begun childbearing. This number has increased because of COVID-19 related school closures.
- Birth registration for under-five children in Uganda stands at an approximate 57 per cent, of which some 24 per cent of under-fives having a birth certificate.
- Around 4 out of 10 young children (aged 3 to 5 years) attend early childhood education - a marked improvement from 2011, when only 2 out of 10 attended such facilities.
- Similarly, 8 out of 10 children aged 6 to 12 years attend primary schools and more than 1 in 4 attend secondary school.
- The net primary school attendance rate is 83.3 per cent for boys and 84.1 per cent for girls; 83.2 per cent for rural areas and 86.1 per cent for urban areas.
- Uganda has made significant progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS especially in the last 10 years. An estimated 1,400,000 individuals are living with HIV, of which 98,000 are children.
- Access to safe water increased from 57 per cent in 2000 to 78 per cent by 2020.
- Fifty-six (56) per cent of Uganda’s children experience multidimensional deprivations and a low standard of living.
- With an approximate population of 42.9 million and an annual population growth of 3 per cent, the population is expected to double in 23 years, reaching 85.8 million by 2044. Approximately 1.6 million babies are expected to be born every year.
Advancing the rights of children in Uganda
UNICEF works to ensure that all boys and girls in Uganda, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, realize their rights and have an equal opportunity to survive and thrive.
Through its current country programme, which was designed in partnership with the Government of Uganda, UNICEF supports national efforts to accelerate the realization of children’s rights and progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for children in line with the Government of Uganda’s Vision 2040. Moreover, the programme is aligned with the Third National Development Plan for 2020–2025 and forms an integral part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for Uganda 2021–2025 as well as the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.
The current Government of Uganda-UNICEF country programme 2021-2025 focuses on: education, child protection, social protection, health, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, and HIV/AIDS, nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). UNICEF also prioritizes cross-sectoral themes that contribute to holistic results for children, including early childhood development, adolescent development, social behaviour change, and advocacy.
While working at national scale, UNICEF also uses a focus-district approach that targets those districts with the highest prevalence of child deprivation or vulnerability to external shocks, including refugee movements, disease outbreaks, and climate-related impact. In partnership with the government, UNICEF has identified 29 districts that meet this criteria, which UNICEF supports through three Zonal Offices and the Kampala Head Office. UNICEF works with each focus district on planning and budgeting, coordination, evidence-generation, and cross-sectoral collaboration and uses these experiences to inform programming in other districts throughout the country, while strengthening humanitarian and development linkages.
UNICEF is the custodian or co-custodian for 17 SDG indicators
UNICEF is responsible for seven global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators and co-custodian for a further ten. In this role, UNICEF supports countries in generating, analyzing, and utilizing data for these indicators for all their citizens. This includes leading methodological work, developing international standards, and establishing mechanisms for the compilation and verification of national data, and maintaining global databases.
|Custodian SDG indicators||Indicator numbers|
|Early childhood development||4.2.1|
|Female genital mutilation||5.3.2|
|Sexual violence against children||16.2.3|
|Skilled attendance at birth||3.1.2|
|Fully immunized children||3.b.1|
|Sexual violence against women and girls, by intimate partner||5.2.1|
|Sexual violence against women and girls, by person other than intimate partner||5.2.2|
|Safely managed water||6.1.1|
|Safely managed sanitation and handwashing||6.2.1|
Child Survival and Development
Every child has the right to survive and thrive.
UNICEF strives to improve the health and nutrition of vulnerable children, adolescents and mothers towards creating a healthy society.
Uganda has recorded a steady decline in infant and under-five mortality over the years but is yet to achieve real progress in reducing neonatal and maternal deaths. Child mortality is unevenly distributed across the country, with mortality rates highest in Karamoja, Southwest, West Nile, and western regions. Progress in nutrition has remained slow. While stunting declined from 33 per cent to 29 per cent since 2011, almost 3 in 10 children aged 6 to 59 months are stunted.
UNICEF is building capacities of the Government and stakeholders to strengthen service delivery, while educating families and communities and simultaneously encouraging demand for the following services:
- High quality, integrated package for pregnant and lactating mothers and newborns, including HIV.
- High-impact nutrition interventions.
- Essential package of quality preventative, promotive and curative services for infants and young children.
- Safe water, sanitation and hygiene.
Basic Education and Adolescent Development
Every child has a right to learn and access quality services to fulfil their potential.
Education enables gainful employment opportunities and empowers boys and girls to participate in decision-making to build a better future for themselves and their communities.
Uganda faces major challenges in providing quality and accessible basic education to children and adolescents. Today, around 4 out of 10 young children aged 3 to 5 years attend early childhood education, showing marked progress from 2011 that saw 2 out of 10 children enrolled. Similarly, 8 out of 10 children aged 6 to12 years attend primary school and more than 1 in 4 attend secondary school.
However, access remains inequitable: the secondary level enrolment of the richest 20 per cent of the population (43.1 per cent) is five times that of the poorest 20 per cent (8.2 per cent). In geographical terms, the highest Secondary Net Enrolment is seen in Kampala (52 per cent) and lowest in Acholi (7 per cent).
Child marriage, teenage pregnancy, abuse at schools and school fees keep many teens, especially girls, out of secondary schools. Costs associated with education account for 6 out of 10 people leaving school, and pregnancy accounts for 8 per cent of girls who left school. Similar challenges remain in the quality of education: only about 50 per cent of the children in Primary 3 were proficient in literacy and numeracy in a 2018 survey conducted by the Government.
Violence, exploitation and abuse in all forms puts children’s physical and mental health and education at risk, jeopardizing their development and entire future. UNICEF works to build a strong system to prevent and respond to violence against children and women in all contexts.
Most children in Uganda have experienced physical violence that threatens and halts their holistic and positive development – 59 per cent of girls and 68 per cent of boys. Gender-based violence and sexual violence are also pervasive, with some 35 per cent of girls and 17 per cent of boys having experienced sexual violence during childhood.
Girls are especially at risk of child marriage, teenage pregnancy, and female genital mutilation. Today, 4 in 10 women aged 20 to 49 years are married by 18 years, and at least 1 in 4 teenage girls are either pregnant or have a child.
Child labour is pervasive, with children mainly working in the informal sector. In rural areas, 93 per cent of children are engaged in agriculture and fishing.
Social Policy and advocacy
Every child has the right to an equitable chance in life. UNICEF is helping establish equitable and child-friendly policies and programmes based on evidence to create equal opportunities for all, especially vulnerable boys and girls.
Child deprivation is rapidly developing an urban face. Urban populations are growing at 54 per cent every year, twice the rate of rural areas. Half of this growth is expected within the Greater Kampala region, where 60 per cent of children live in congested informal settlements with inadequate housing, unsanitary environmental conditions, and limited access to essential health, education, social welfare and child protection services. Overall, in Uganda, 56 per cent of boys and girls suffer from multidimensional poverty.
Communication, Advocacy and Partnerships
Communication, advocacy, partnerships and private-sector engagement will help to mobilize support for action and resources to realize the rights of children in Uganda, especially the most marginalized, and to put the rights and well-being of the most disadvantaged girls and boys at the heart of social, political and economic agendas.
Social Behaviour Change
Social Behaviour Change is a key strategic shift in UNICEF Uganda's current country programme. The Uganda Country Office has committed to a greater investment in social behaviour communication to promote child-supportive practices and social norms;