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The Expanding Social Protection (ESP) Programme is a Government of Uganda Programme implemented under the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development. Since 2006, the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development has championed efforts to promote social protection in Uganda. These efforts culminated in the design of the Expanding Social Protection Programme (ESP) which was approved by the Cabinet in June 2010. The five year programme is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), Irish Aid and UNICEF with a budget of UGX 160 billion. The Government of Uganda starting from financial 2011/12 is making a financial contribution towards the grants, on top of the UGX6billion in kind contribution over 5 years. In the financial 2013/14 Government provided UGX 2billion for grants.

For the last two decades, Uganda has consistently registered impressive rates of economic growth; with GDP growing at an average of 7 per cent since 1990. As a result, poverty reduced from as high as 56.4 per cent in 1992/93 to 24.5 per cent in 2009/10. The long term prospects for growth remain good.

(i)Poverty & Vulnerability: 

In spite of the impressive growth, more than 7.5 million Ugandans still live in extreme poverty; in rural parts of Northern Uganda the poverty rate is as high as 49 per cent, in Karamoja it is at 75 per cent.   Nearly 40 per cent of households in the country are vulnerable to poverty, living just above the poverty line.

(ii)Senior Citizens poverty & vulnerability: <br>

The poverty rate of households which have a senior citizen is almost 29 per cent compared to 24.5 per cent nationally. Older persons are present in around 15 per cent of Ugandan households. Indeed 64.5 per cent of Uganda’s older persons have some form of disability; and yet, 93 per cent of them have no formal income security.


Inequality in Uganda is increasing. Although the overall poverty rate is reducing, between 2005/6 and 2009/10, the poorest saw almost no change in their consumption. 

(iv)Unequal Access to Services: 

Despite significant investments in health and education by the government, the poorest and most vulnerable are failing to access basic services. Less than 7 out of every 10 children from the poorest households are enrolled in primary school compared to more than 9 in every 10 children from the wealthiest households. The number of households citing financial constraints as being the main reason for children dropping out of school more than doubled between 2005/6 and 2009/2010.

The poorest and most vulnerable of Uganda’s population are failing to benefit from, or contribute to Uganda’s growth and development. Social protection through Direct Income Support represents an affordable, direct way to address these imbalances.

Today, social protection is globally recognised as a critical component of national development strategies and key to achieving inclusive, pro-poor, equitable development. Social protection directly reduces poverty, supports excluded citizens to access services, provides a foundation on which they can build productive livelihoods and enables them to live a life of security and dignity. Direct Income Support will enable all Ugandans to contribute to, and benefit from, their country’s socio- economic transformation. 


Although a range of social protection instruments exist in Uganda, they have limited reach in terms of the numbers and types of people targeted. Provision of the core of many social protection systems-Direct Income Support- is very limited. The country also at the moment lacks a clear national vision for building a comprehensive social protection system as well as key instruments at national level such as Direct Income Support. Coordination of social protection issues in the country is limited; leading to potential gaps and duplications in coverage for the most vulnerable. For more Information: ESP Website