Tuesday June 17 2014

Government launches child helpline

By Didas Kisembo

LIRA- The government yesterday marked the Day of the African Child by launching a national child helpline to enable children to report cases of abuse.
The national child helpline code is 116.

“The helpline is a toll free line accessible on all networks to report cases of abuse which are left unreported due to gaps in the child protection system,” said Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development Mary Karooro Okurut.

The national helpline, which has been set up with support and funding from Plan Uganda, will have its headquarters in Kampala with addition satellite centres in districts all over the country. Centres have so far been set up in Lira, Tororo, Luweero, Kamuli and Aleptong districts.

How helpline will work
“Some cases that come in at the national centre will have to be forwarded to the district management so that they can follow up at the grassroots level,” Mr Patrick Menya, the deputy coordinator for child helpline, said.

“We hope with this helpline, no child shall suffer in silence. We want to make sure the voice of that child that is abused is heard and this will go a long way in ensuring a safe environment for our children,” Mr Henry Aleko from Plan Uganda said.

The idea of a toll free child helpline service was first initiated in September 2005 by Uganda Child Rights NGO Network and two of her member organisations; ANPPCAN Uganda Chapter and Action for Children.

In 2009, the child helpline implementing partners in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender developed a five-year strategic plan to provide a framework for the operationalisation of a national child helpline service using short-code 116 in place of the 0800 numbers.
“Since January, the helpline has been active though it was still undergoing tests to ensure its efficiency and we have been averaging about 1000 call-ins per day,” Mr Aleko said.

The 116 code is already being used by countries across the continent notably Kenya and Ethiopia as a child helpline.