Fred M. Ssewamala

Associate Professor of Social Work and International Affairs; Director, Columbia University International Center for Child Health and Asset Development


Dr. Fred Ssewamala is an Associate Professor of Social Work and International Affairs at Columbia School of Social Work; Director of Columbia University International Center for Child Health and Asset Development; a Global Thought Fellow with Columbia University; and a former Senior Research Fellow with New America Foundation. Dr. Ssewamala has several years of practice in the International Social Development field. His practice experience includes serving at the Red Cross (Uganda), where he acted in several programmatic positions related to designing projects and programs for poverty alleviation and community development, and at Justine Petersen Housing and Reinvestment Corporation a 501(c) (3) Missouri (USA) not-for-profit corporation that assists low-to-moderate income individuals and families become homeowners, access financial institutions, start their own micro-businesses, and accumulate assets.

His current research on Africa is funded by a consortium of organizations, including the National Institute of Health, the MasterCard Foundation, and New America Foundation. This research focuses on asset-ownership development, financial management, and creating life options through economic empowerment and innovative financial inclusion models for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in sub-Saharan Africa. Professor Ssewamala is also currently researching the acceptability and feasibility of economic empowerment interventions in poor African immigrant communities in the urban U.S.

Research Interests:

  • International Social and Economic Development
  • Comparative Social Welfare Policy
  • Anti-Poverty Policies [with emphasis on asset-building and asset-based policies, such as microentrepreneurship, homeownership, youth and children's educational savings accounts, & individual development accounts(IDAs).
  • Asset Ownership Opportunities among orphaned children in Sub   Saharan Africa.
  • Gender and Development
  • Civil Society, Civic Participation, and Social Networks
  • Financial Inclusion
  • Evaluative Research

Awards and Honors:

  • Ford Foundation Research Fellow
  • Recipient of George Warren Brown School of Social Work Dissertation Scholarship
  • Social Development Scholar, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Recipient of the Paulo Freire Scholarship, Washington University in St. Louis

Current Grants & Projects:

Selected Publications:

Journal Articles

Ssewamala, F. M., Neilands, T. B., Waldfogel, J., & Ismayilova, L. (2012). The impact of a microfinance-based intervention on depression levels of AIDS orphaned children in Uganda. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50(4), 346-352.

Ismayilova, L., Ssewamala, F. M., & Karimli, L. (2012). Family support as a mediator of change in sexual risk-taking attitudes among orphaned adolescents in rural Uganda. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50(3), 228-235.

Ssewamala, F. M., Wang, J. S-H., Nabunya, P., & Karimli, L. (2011). Strengthening universal primary education in Uganda: The potential role of a family asset-based development program. International Journal of Educational Development, 31(5), 466-471.

Ssewamala, F. M., Sperber, E., Zimmerman, J., & Karimli, L. (2010). The potential of asset-based development strategies for poverty alleviation in sub-saharan Africa. International Journal of Social Welfare, 19(4), 433-443.

Ssewamala, F. M., Karimli, L., Han, C-K., & Ismayilova, L. (2010). Social capital, savings, and educational outcomes of orphaned adolescents in sub-saharan Africa. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(12), 1704-1710.

Ssewamala, F. M., Ismayilova, L., McKay, M., Sperber, E., Bannon, W., & Alicea, S. (2010). Gender and the effects of an economic empowerment program on attitudes toward sexual risk-taking among AIDS-srphaned adolescent youth in Uganda. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46(4), 372-378.

Ssewamala, F. M., Han, C-K, Neilands, T. B., Ismayilova, L., & Sperber, E. (2010). The effect of economic assets on sexual risk-taking intentions among orphaned adolescents in Uganda. American Journal of Public Health, 100(3), 483-488.

Curley, J., Ssewamala, F. M., & Han, C-K. (2010). Assets and educational outcomes: Child development accounts (CDAs) for orphaned children in Uganda. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(11), 1585-1590.

Ssewamala, F. M. & Ismayilova, L. (2009). Integrating children savings accounts in the care and support of orphaned adolescents in rural Uganda. Social Service Review, 83(3), 453‑472.

Ssewamala, F. M., Han, C-K, & Neilands, T. B. (2009). Asset ownership and health and mental health functioning among AIDS-orphaned adolescents: Findings from a randomized clinical trial in rural Uganda. Social Science and Medicine, 69(2), 191-198.

Curley, J., Ssewamala, F. M., & Sherraden, M. (2009). Institutions and saving in low income families. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 36(3), 9-32.

Book Chapters

Ssewamala, F. M., & Sperber, E. (2012). International work: Power, knowledge and social interventions in the globalized world. In B. Simon & W. Green (Eds.), Guide to writing in 21st century social work. New York: Columbia University Press.