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Uganda is a landlocked country in east Africa, roughly three times the size of Ireland. Most people live in rural areas and make their living from agriculture. Although Uganda has had consistently high economic growth rates and a strong record in the response to HIV and AIDS, it has struggled to ensure that all its citizens benefit equally. Ireland works with a range of partners including government, non-governmental organisations and multi-lateral organisations  supporting programmes and working to influence policies that ensure children can go to school and get a good education, that the most vulnerable communities are supported, that citizens have a greater say in how their country is run and that systems of accountability function effectively

  • Overview
  • Background
  • Our Work
  • Results


Uganda at a glance

Population 37.6 million
Proportion of people living on less than $ 1.25 a day 38%
Ranking on UN Human Development Index 2011 164 out of 187 countries
Partner Country since 1994


Ireland and Uganda

We opened our Embassy in Uganda in 1994, when we established our official aid programme. Since then, Irish Aid has worked with a variety of partner organisations including government institutions, UN agencies, international research institutions and aid agencies to deliver on our development objectives in Uganda.

In 2012, the government suspended €16 million of development assistance which was due to be channelled through Government of Ugandan systems, following the discovery of fraud in the Office of the Prime Minister. The Government of Uganda has since refunded in full the €4 million of Irish Aid funding which was misappropriated. Ireland continues to press the Government of Uganda for concerted actions following the fraud. A number of investigations are in process and one prosecution has been secured. We continue to support the work of the Office of the Auditor General in carrying out follow-on inquiries and audits. In 2014 and 2015 , the Irish Aid programme is being implemented through trusted non-Government systems. The Evaluation and Audit Unit within the Department continues to provide strong financial oversight to the programme.

A new Country Strategy Paper for Ireland’s programme in Uganda from 2016 to 2020 is now in place.

As well as providing assistance through our bilateral aid programme, we support the work of local and international aid agencies and missionary organisations in Uganda through our civil society funding schemes.

We are working to deepen the trade and investment links between Uganda and Ireland in ways that benefit both countries. An Irish business network  meets regularlyAnd a number of research and learning partnerships between higher education institutions in Ireland and Uganda are supported through the Programme of Strategic Co-operation.




Uganda gained its independence from Britain in 1962 but went on to experience a long period of hardship under the oppressive regimes of Idi Amin and Milton Obote before take-over of Government in 1986 by President Yoweri Museveni.  President Museveni was re-elected for a fourth time in 2011, the first being in 1996.   Elections are due in early 2016.

Politically, Uganda is relatively stable. Its  ninth Parliament and a free press have both shown themselves willing to hold the Government to account for its policies and decisions.  And the fighting that had plagued northern Uganda is now largely over, although the country remains vulnerable to civil unrest, human rights issues and corruption.

There has been a general improvement in the observance of human rights, access to justice, security of people and property, and adherence to the rule of law and due process. This can be attributed in some way to improvements in the functioning of the legal system in Uganda. 

In particular, the use of the sector-wide strategy, the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS), has helped decentralise the delivery of justice and has led to the establishment of codes of conduct and performance standards for legal sector personnel.  Despite these improvements, factors such as the huge case backlog, lack of necessary training for legal personnel, legislative bottlenecks and poverty itself significantly limit access to justice in Uganda.

Uganda has made good progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which are closely aligned with its National Development Plan 2 . This Plan focuses on growing the country’s economy and increasing employment as well as ensuring that people have the services they need to be healthy, educated and productive

A primary school class in Kasese area of Uganda


Uganda’s economy continues to outperform other countries in the region. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate is currently around 3.4%* with the services sector the main driver of economic growth.

Agriculture is the country’s main source of income with 66% of Uganda’s working age population deriving its income from farming. Uganda’s major exports are all agro-based; with coffee as the leading export commodity.  Contribution of the agriculture sector to growth and development continues to be inhibited by low levels of public investment, limited mechanisation and unfavourable land use policies. 

The country is rich in natural resources such as cobalt and copper. And the recent discovery of oil, which could yield between US$2 and US$5 billion in additional revenues per year, has the potential to help Uganda achieve its goal of becoming a Middle Income Country.


Despite its impressive economic growth, Uganda is ranked 161 out of 187 countries on the United Nations’ Human Development Index (Ireland is currently ranked seven). More than 8.5 million Ugandans still live in poverty.  One of the poorest regions in Uganda is the Karamoja region in the north east of the country where 75% of the population is classified as poor. Years of armed conflict, and the effects of climate change have led to chronic poverty and food insecurity.   

Gender-based violence is a persistent problem in Uganda, in spite of legislation that has attempted to address the issue. Ugandan women are also at high risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, although improvements have been made in under-five mortality rates. Uganda also has a serious shortage of trained health workers, which is affecting the Government’s ability to improve health services.

In spite of these challenges, progress has been made in other areas. There are almost 5 million more pupils in primary schools today compared to 1997, even more impressive considering more than half the population is below the age of 15 years.

Life expectancy has increased from 45 years in 2003 to 54 years in 2011. And the country has seen a significant drop in the HIV and AIDS prevalence rate, which is currently at 7.3% compared to 18% in the 1990s. However, Uganda now needs to consolidate the gains it has made in reducing HIV prevalence. Recent trends are a cause for concern.  The disease accounts for one third of all adult deaths and over half of all deaths among children under the age of five.

*Source: World Development Indicators

Our Work

Irish Aid supports a range of programmes in Uganda, geared to ensure Irish expertise is deployed in response to the country's most critical needs. These include programmes in social protection, refugee support, HIV/AIDS, education and governance.

Asaba Moses picking tea on a farm in Uganda

Since Irish Aid began working in Uganda in 1994, the national poverty rate in Uganda has halved, and there have been many successes in tackling HIV/AIDS. Access to quality education has been improved and the economy has been strengthened. However, challenges remain. Karamoja, where Ireland's programme is focused, is particularly disadvantaged: it is the poorest sub-region in Uganda with a poverty rate of 61%.

Supporting Senior Citizens

Irish Aid works alongside the Governments of Uganda and the UK to deliver a €115 million social protection programme across Uganda. A critical component of this programme is the social welfare payments made to senior citizens. The payment has improved the quality of life across many households, through supporting improved diets, better access to basic health care and education supports for children. It has also provided opportunities for households to engage in small enterprises.

Helping refugees

With1.4 million refugees, Uganda has significant humanitarian needs. Ireland supports the refugee response by engaging in coordinated action with other donors and supporting the Government of Uganda to implement the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). We also fund the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to support health, food, and water and sanitation programmes for refugee communities.

Reducing HIV/AIDS infections

Supporting HIV/AIDS response is also a core component of Ireland's work in Uganda . Currently our support is focused on reducing and stabilizing the number of new HIV infection. We work with UNAIDS and a consortium of four local partners to fund prevention of HIV and AIDS in communities across the country. Irish Aid particularly focuses on the Karamoja region.

Improving access to education

Ireland's investments in the education sector improve access and completion of quality education and training for people in marginalised areas, again with a focus on Karamoja. We work with a range of partners including UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and Sport, and local organisations to address barriers to education, reform vocational education, support skills development and provide school meals.

Promoting citizens' rights

Irish Aid engages with and provides financial support to governance partners on citizen's rights awareness and promotion, improving access to justice, and promotion of human rights and gender equality. Our support to these partners also helps to promote civic space and accountability, improve legal aid service provision and outreach, and protect human rights defenders in Tanzania.


Uganda’s progress

At national level, Uganda has made significant progress in the following areas:

  • 154,614 senior citizens across 47 districts are benefitting from the $8 per month social welfare payment, resulting in improved resilience and quality of life.
  • In 2017, 70% of water to refugees was supplied through sustainable water supply systems; 70,000 household latrines; and 3,800 communal latrines constructed in the different settlements.
  • A reduction in new HIV infections from estimated 162,294 in 2011 to 52,000 in 2016; and a decline in prevalence from 7.3% in 2011 to 6% in 2016.  
  • Since 2016, 1,097 Karamojong (427 males and 670 females) have accessed post primary education through the Irish Aid bursary programme
  • Over 500,000 Ugandans have been able to access direct legal assistance through Ireland's support to the Democratic Governance Facility.

More detail on the Irish Aid programme in Uganda is available in Country Strategy Paper for Uganda 2016-2020.

Irish Aid Annual Report 2017 details the many results delivered through Ireland's aid programme, Irish Aid, across our partner countries, including Uganda, in 2017. It includes key policy developments, and details of Irish Aid expenditure across the world.

Download the Irish Aid Country Strategy Paper

Irish Aid’s Uganda Country Strategy Paper 2016 – 2020 (PDF) sets out how we respond to the changing development environment in Uganda.