Pandemics don’t pause poverty: how food banks are helping to mitigate a crisis in Kampala’s slums

By Holly Hughes

In Uganda, many children grow up experiencing multidimensional poverty. This means that they experience deprivations in at least two of their basic rights. In the broadest sense, these are nutrition, health, water, education, shelter, sanitation and information. For children living in the urban slums of Kampala, they are often extremely deprived of many of these basic rights, or to a higher extent than those in other areas. This is often referred to as the urban paradox – urban inequalities and challenges such as poor services and overcrowding in urban cities mean families can suffer more than their rural counterparts.

Kids Club Kampala is a community-led charity based in the UK that works with vulnerable children in Kampala’s slums to help meet their basic needs. To do this, they deliver valuable projects providing safety, nutrition, education and relief for children to help, in the longer term, break the cycle of poverty.

Pandemics don’t pause poverty

Uganda imposed a lockdown on the 30th March in response to the coronavirus pandemic, forcing the closure of schools, shops and markets as well as use of public transport and private cars. Many of the communities living in Kampala’s slums rely on income from working in the markets, and projects led by Kids Club Kampala provide an education and hot meal for their children while they work. In lockdown, access to food and hygiene has become increasingly urgent.

Kids Club Kampala were called upon by local leaders in Kampala to help support vulnerable families during the crisis. They have responded by transforming their existing education sites into food banks which is enabling families in need to access a week’s worth of food during these unprecedented times.

In order to continue to support vulnerable families living in the slums, Kids Club Kampala have launched an emergency appeal calling on supporters to help them raise £20,000 to continue providing food packages until lockdown ends. As of 14th May, they have provided food packages to nearly 24,000 families. This is a huge achievement, especially given that family size is on average five members, and usually even higher in the slums. In Uganda, 70% of the labour force work in the informal economy, as street vendors or litter pickers for example. This makes life in lockdown very different from here in the UK. Firstly, you cannot work from home and second, you cannot get financial government support. Finally, and perhaps most critically, unlike in rural areas, those living in urban slums cannot support themselves through subsistence living. Therefore, the food banks provided by Kids Club Kampala are a lifeline, with youth in slums across the country reaching out to request their support.

In addition to the food packages, Kids Club Kampala are working in partnership with Project:Blueprint who have donated 8 hand washing stations and are currently in the process of constructing a private toilet facility within the slums.

The provision of food packages is helping to ease the suffering of vulnerable children and families who live in Kampala’s slums. Without this service families would not be able to meet their basic needs. By focusing on providing good nutrition now can help to ensure children remain healthy enough to return to school once lockdown is lifted.  This can help to prevent perpetuated cycles of poverty that detriment families living in Kampala’s urban slums.

Find out more about Kids Club Kampala’s current work and how you can support their emergency appeal.

Holly is a Masters student in International Development at the University of Birmingham and an intern with Kids Club Kampala.

*Images provided by Kids Club Kampala


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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