Uganda Facts - Compassion International

Compassion has been making a difference in the lives of children in need in Uganda since 1980. Through our work there, we gather Uganda facts about children in need and the community of Uganda. These Uganda facts and statistics provide a good overview of the reality of poverty and how Compassion is releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

Poverty is a common problem in the country of Uganda but Compassion is working to change this. The Uganda facts tell a discouraging story, but Compassion is bringing hope in the midst of this discouragement. With your involvement, our programs are changing the statistics one child at a time.

Don't let the hopelessness of Uganda facts overwhelm you. You can make a difference to a child in Uganda today!


Compassion's ministry in Uganda began in 1980. Currently, more than 101,000 children participate in more than 370 child development centers. Compassion partners with churches to help them provide Ugandan children with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be.

Learn About Uganda

The precolonial history of Uganda is not well recorded, since genealogy was the only method employed by the early settlers in the area. At the time of the first exploration of Uganda, there were three main kingdoms, each ruled by a monarch and laws and customs of their own. The kingdoms of Buganda, Kitara (sub-divided into Bunyoro and Toro) and Karagwe are all well documented by early explorers. It is believed that these kingdoms originated around the 16th century, the land before that probably being occupied by Bushmen. The Bantu originated from the west coast of Africa, migrating along the Niger River, and occupied the northern, central and western parts of Uganda. The eastern part of Uganda, occupied some 250 years ago by the Nilo-Hamitic tribes, never formed a kingdom because the people were nomadic and the area was not well suited to agriculture.

There are four main ethnic groups in Uganda, which all have different origins.
The Bantu, by far the largest in number, came from the west and include the tribes of Buganda, Banyankole, Basoga, Bakiga, Batoro, Banyoro, Banyarwanda, Bagisu, Bagwere and Bakonjo.

The Nilotics, who came from the north, include the Lango, Acholi, Alur, Padhola, Lulya and Jonam.

The NiloHamitics include the Teso, Karamojong, Kumam, Kakwa, Sebei, Pokot, Labwor and Tepeth, and the Sudanics include the Lugbara, Madi and Lendu.

The Hamites are mostly constituted by the Bahima.

These tribes engaged in the long distance trade with the Arabs and some of their neighbors.

The first Europeans set foot in Uganda in 1862 as explorers and were followed by missionaries. Following religious wars between converted Protestants and Anglicans in Buganda, a British protectorate administration took control of the region in 1896. Independence movements of the 1950s came to fruition in 1962 when Uganda was granted self-rule. In 1971 a military coup toppled the country's first government. Army commander Idi Amin took control, looting the country and killing opponents and members of their tribes. After eight years of Amin's misrule, Uganda was an economic and social disaster. Thousands starved to death or were killed.

The dictatorial regime of Idi Amin (1971-79) was responsible for the deaths of some 300,000 opponents. Guerrilla war and human rights abuses under Milton Obote from 1980 to 1985 claimed the lives of at least another 100,000 people. Uganda has experienced relative stability and economic growth since 1986. A constitutional referendum in 2005 canceled a 19-year ban on multi-party politics.

Source: The World Factbook, 2014.


The typical school year runs from January to November. Education is encouraged and seen in most parts of the country as a very important stepping stone to success. Education is not compulsory, but to encourage parents to take their children to school, the government has established the Universal Primary Education policy where four children from each family have their education costs subsidized in government-run schools. There are plans to extend this to the secondary school level. Most Ugandans attend primary education from age 6 through 13.

Makerere University, the biggest and oldest university in East Africa, is located in Kampala. For several decades, this was the only university in Uganda. However, in recent years, several universities have emerged to give options to the increasing number of students.   

Some communities have resisted education. But overall, the attitude toward education has improved greatly and the graduate rate continues to increase.


The constitution provides for freedom of religion. In many areas, particularly in rural settings, some religions tend to be syncretistic. Deeply held traditional indigenous beliefs commonly are blended into or observed alongside the rites of recognized religions, particularly in areas that are predominantly Christian.

Missionary groups of several denominations are present and active in the country, including the Pentecostal Church, the Baptist Church, the Episcopal Church/Church of Uganda, the Church of God and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Private Koranic and Christian schools are common. In public schools, religious instruction is optional and the curriculum covers world religions rather than instruction in one particular religion. There are also many private schools sponsored by religious groups that offer religious instruction according to the school's affiliation. These private schools are open to students of other faiths, but they usually do not offer minority religious instruction.

Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released in 2012 by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.



Ugandans produce woven textiles, pottery, sculpture, oral poetry, ritual dance and drama.


Ugandan music includes traditional and cultural dance and singing, drums and African instruments.

Holidays and Festivals

New Year's Day, Jan. 1
Liberation Day, Jan. 26
Women's Day, March 8
Easter Week, March/April
Labor Day, May 1
Martyrs' Day, June 3
Heroes' Day, June 9
Independence Day, Oct. 9
Christmas, Dec. 25: The Christmas season is the most important holiday of the year in Uganda and is very festive. Shopping is popular and usually begins the first week of December. Gifts, clothes and Christmas cards are purchased. Caroling is also popular Uganda also observes Muslim holidays.

Sports and Games

Ugandans enjoy soccer, boxing, basketball, golf and cricket. Recreational activities within the country include mountain hiking/climbing, watching gorillas, fishing, whitewater rafting, sailing and bird watching.

Typical Foods

Ugandans eat many foods, including bananas, corn, rice, sweet potatoes, cassava, beans and indigenous vegetables.

Peanut Soup
1-1/2 cups dry unsalted peanuts
3 cups chicken stock
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
1-1/2 cups milk, scalded

In a blender or food processor, combine the peanuts and some chicken stock. Puree. In a saucepan, combine the pureed peanuts, the remainder of the chicken stock, onion, hot pepper sauce and salt to taste. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the soy sauce and milk, and continue cooking over low heat for another 5 minutes. Garnish with croutons and serve hot. Yields 6 appetizer-size servings.



  • Olyotya? (How are you?)
  • Gyendi. (I am well.)
  • Nze bampita ... (My name is …)
  • Webale. (Thank you.)


  • Agandi? (How are you?)
  • Nimarungyi. (I am well.)
  • Nibanyeta ... (My name is …)
  • Webare. (Thank you.)
Compassion in Uganda

Child Sponsorship Program

Children typically meet at the child development center for 8 hours on Saturday. Older children also meet at the center 3 to 5 days a week during holidays. Because many of the older children (age 12 and up) attend boarding school and are away from home for three months at a time, child development centers often organize a "catch-up" program to meet the needs of these children.

Every child is offered an opportunity to hear the gospel and to confess the lordship of Jesus Christ. Every registered child or youth receives an age-appropriate Bible or scripture portion within one year of registration and again two or three years later.

Each child receives a snack as well as lunch each time he or she attends program activities. A snack might be something like tea, porridge and a bun. Lunch consists of maize, rice or matooke (plantains) with beans, peas or beef.

The child development centers offer weekly extracurricular activities, such as sports, drama and debate. The children also participate in regular service opportunities like work camps, road cleaning, church activities and service to the elderly.

Adolescents receive vocational training in such skills as carpentry, tailoring, crocheting, sewing, knitting and mat making. These skills are offered to give the students opportunities to generate income, which is especially important for those who do not finish high school. The skills offered have been relevant to the Ugandan culture for some time.

Parents can attend monthly classes on adult literacy, quarterly trainings on topics such as hygiene, sanitation, parenting and income-generating activities, and monthly caregivers' meetings for program evaluation. Parents are also represented on the center committees and contribute to the planning and implementation of the program.

Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in Uganda.

Uganda Facts & Figures




35,918,915 (2014 estimate)

Note: Estimates for this country take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS, which results in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, and lower population growth rates than otherwise expected.

Languages English (official national language, taught in grade schools, used in courts of law and by most newspapers and some radio broadcasts), Ganda or Luganda (most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages, preferred for native language publications in the capital and may be taught in school), other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Swahili, Arabic
Religions Christian 83.9% (Roman Catholic 41.9%, Anglican 35.9%, Pentecostal 4.6%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1.5%), Muslim 12.1%, other 3.1%, none 0.9% (2002 census)

Literacy rate

Definition: Age 15 and over can read and write.

Male: 82.6%

Female: 64.6% (2010 estimate)
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources

Urban:  91.3%

Rural:  71.7% (2011 estimate)
Percentage of population using adequate sanitation facilities

Urban: 33.9%

Rural: 35.2% (2011 estimate)
Climate Tropical; generally rainy with two dry seasons (December to February, June to August); semiarid in northeast
Percentage of population urbanized 15.6% (2011 estimate)
Life expectancy

Male:  53.1 years

Female:  55.86 years (2014 estimate)
Under-5 mortality rate 69/1,000 (2012 estimate)
GDP per capita $1,500 (2013 estimate)
Monetary unit Ugandan new shilling (UGX)
Number of people living with HIV/AIDS 1.5 million (2012 estimate)
Percentage of population living below $1.25 a day

38% (2007-11 study)

Sources for facts:  The World Factbook, 2014; The State of the World's Children, 2014