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Issue 07 | March 2023
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How prepared are local governments to cope with climate-related disasters?

anna By Anna Amumpiire Akandwanaho, Research Fellow, ACODE

The economy of Uganda, the well-being of the population in Uganda and the recent positive development trajectories in the country are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The Third National Development Plan (NDP III) and Uganda’s Vision 2040 acknowledges the challenges that climate change and disaster risks will pose with regard to achieving the country’s development aspirations. According to the Office of the Prime Minister,2 in 2020, Uganda was ranked 15th globally and 1st in Africa, among countries most affected by climate-related natural disasters. Over 80% of the districts in Uganda are prone to droughts with over 25% of the population exposed to the impacts of floods.3 During the past years, Uganda like the rest of the world has been experiencing extreme weather events namely: high rainfall seasons, landslides, floods, and prolonged periods of drought; all of which are a manifestation of climate change. In 2019-2020 Uganda experienced rising water levels in the Lake Victoria, Kyoga, Albert and River Nile basins. On the morning of July 31 2022, Uganda awoke to the news of floods and landslides in parts of Eastern Uganda, specifically in the districts around Mt. Elgon region including Mbale, Kapchorwa, Bulambuli, Namisindwa, Sironko, Manafwa and the surrounding areas. According to the latest figures published jointly by the Office of the Prime Minister and the International Organization for Migration Uganda, at least 222,930 people (36,404 households) were affected by weather-related disasters between January and August 2021.4 In FY 2020/2021, the Economic loss (USD incurred per disaster as a % of GDP) that Uganda suffered was 7%.

Uganda’s Second National Development Plan5 identified disaster management as one of the enabling sectors to achieve sustainable development. The Government of Uganda has taken significant steps to advance its Disaster Risk Management (DRM) and climate resilience. These steps include setting up the policy and institutional framework for DRM. Uganda’s disaster management is coordinated through the Department of Disaster Preparedness and Management, under the Office of the Prime Minister. The country’s Disaster Management Policy6 outlines DRM priorities, which include strengthening institutions and financing for climate change adaptation; developing multi-sectoral adaptation plans; implementing programs to reduce the socio-economic impact of climate change and natural disasters; and increasing community-level resilience to climate change.

Challenges affecting disaster preparedness and management specific to Local Governments Despite the steps taken by the government towards disaster management, there are still challenges affecting effective disaster preparedness and management in the country. The Natural Resources, Environment, Climate Change, Land and Water Management Annual Programme Performance Report for 20227 observes that underfunding remains a major challenge. According to the report, the budget allocation in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework is far below the projected funding to achieve the outcomes and implement the interventions as outlined in NDP III and Programme Implementation Action Plan. There is currently no law to govern disaster risk reduction and management. While the National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management has provisions on contingency funding for disaster response, funding for preparedness, and the formalisation of disaster response structures; there is a need for the enactment of the National Disaster Preparedness and Management Act to enforce such key provisions of this policy. The National Disaster Preparedness and Management Bill is yet to be finalised.

Although local governments are at the forefront of dealing with disasters, prevention and preparedness; they lack funding specifically for these functions. Local Governments specifically have been faced with challenges in related to climate-induced disasters. These challenges include failure to get information about the magnitude of the disaster, future desatster projections, delayed response and inadequate financial support while responding to these disasters, and lack adequate coordination for preparedness and response to such disasters in the existing mechanisms. Those that have some available local revenue often allocate this to respond to disasters. However, these resources are meagre. Furthermore, some district disaster management committees at the lower local governments are not only non-functional but in several disaster-prone districts, there is lack of effective disaster preparedness and response plans to effectively mitigate and cope with the devastating effects of disasters in the country. The limited funding or lack thereof at the local government level directed towards disaster management, preparedness and prevention has rendered implementation of the existing District Contingency Plans highly impracticable.8

While the Public Finance Management Act9 provides for funding the management of disaster preparedness, mitigation and prevention, it is yet to be operationalised. It has been observed that significant gaps exist in the district-level contingency planning development and its mainstreaming into the district development plans.10 Consequently, strengthening disaster preparedness at district levels is critical to save lives, protect livelihoods and enhance the recovery processes from disasters and crises. There is a need to increase funding for disaster preparedness and management at the district level so that they can as cope with and manage climate change disasters.


If well facilitated, Local Governments are well-placed political institutions that are capable of managing climate-related disasters. The Government and other stakeholders should focus on strengthening Local Governments’ disaster preparedness as opposed to focusing the bulk of the resources on managing and responding to disasters.


  • The management of disasters is a multi‐sectoral and multidisciplinary process. Response to climate-related hazards and disasters, and mitigation of their impact, requires cross-sector engagement. It involves all government ministries, deparments and agencies in collaboration with humanitarian and development partners, the private sector, local governments, and the communities. The existing National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction should therefore ensure that all the stakeholders are involved in discussions on disaster management and building of resilience. This will ensure the coordination of disaster responses by the relevant actors and enhance stakeholder collaboration. Notably, capacity building for District Disaster Management Committees is integral and deserves to be supported for these committes to respond.
  • The Office of the Prime Minister should reinforce the legal framework for effective disaster risk governance, management, and response by finalizing the National Disaster Risk Management Plan and eventually the National Disaster Preparedness and Management Bill. This would be usueful in ensuring funding for local governments to effectively respond to issues of disaster reduction, address inclusive governance structures for disaster risk reduction, and prioritize preparedness over response.
  • The Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development should allocate Local Governments a specific grant directed towards disaster management.11 Alternatively, the Office of the Prime Minister should ensure that disaster elements are incorporated into the grant allocation formulae for Local Governments to make mainstreaming disaster preparedness, management and prevention into sector budgets more effective. The Contingency Fund as stipulated in the Public Finance Management Act should be operationalized to provide additional resources for disaster preparedness.
  • Align Disaster Risk Reduction And Climate Change Adaption: According to a United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, report on Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Risk-informed and Climate-smart Development12 aligning disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation agendas creates conditions for greater policy impact, more efficient use of resources, and more effective action in protecting life, livelihoods and valuable assets. Therefore, disaster risk reduction and climate change actions should be aligned during national and local level planning, and decision-making to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters.
  1. Andrea D, and Dr. Munawwar A; Local Governments and Climate Change, Commonwealth Secretariat, Discussion Paper, Number 2 October 2008
  2. Statista Disaster Monitoring Network (2020)
  3. 2020 national risk and vulnerability atlas for Uganda
  4. 2021 International Organization for Migration Annual Report
  5. National Development Plan II (2010/11 - 2014/15)
  6. National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management 2011
  7. Ministry of Water and Environment, Natural Resources, Environment, Climate Change, Land and Water Management Annual Programme Performance Report 2022
  8. BMAU BRIEFING PAPER (8/19) May 2019
  9. Public Finance Management Act, 2015 as amended
  10. District-Level Contingency Planning Methodology and Related Guidance Note Uganda 2016
  11. BMAU BRIEFING PAPER (8/19) May 2019
  12. Dr Jaroslav Mysiak, Review of Good Practices, Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Risk-informed and Climate-smart Development, September 2021

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