Govt stuck as children return to Kampala streets

What you need to know:

Authorities say street children are exposed to multiple hazards, which include carrying and offloading luggage, sexual abuse, scorching sunshine and accidents

Children have returned to city streets barely three weeks after government took 160 of them to rehabilitation homes.

A spot-check done by this newspaper yesterday found majority of children and teenage mothers roaming streets, sparking questions about their safety during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Unlike previously, they rarely spend 30 minutes in one spot to evade arrest by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) law enforcement officers.

Some of the children feigned ignorance of the ongoing evacuation, saying they would rather be taken off the streets.

“I would also love to get a descent home and eat good food but I don’t have anywhere to go. The time when KCCA took my friends, I had slept in a different place and when I came to look for them I was told that they had been taken. I will be glad to meet them if KCCA takes me there,” said 13-year-old Geoffrey Kisitu.

Kisitu said he started staying on streets last year after his mother left him with his father whom he said was rarely at home.

However,  we also established that some of the children intentionally dodge the KCCA team, claiming that life is ‘harsh’ in rehabilitation homes.

The KCCA deputy director of Gender, Ms Josephine Lubwama, said there are more than 4,000 children on streets, but added that they are working with other partners to ensure that all of them leave the streets.

Challenge

“The problem is that some of them tend to escape when we are doing the evacuation exercise only to show up when the exercise is done. But we have now heightened the evacuation and our target is to rescue all of them now that we even have partners,’’ she said.

Ms Lubwama said in the rehabilitation homes, children are enrolled in various technical institutes to enable them acquire skills.

Authorities say street children are exposed to multiple hazards, which include carrying and offloading luggage, sexual abuse, scorching sunshine and accidents.

Some of them end up engaging in criminal activities to make ends meet.

For instance, motorists trapped in city traffic jams who don’t offer any help to street children have had their cars smashed by the street children.

The ChildFund International’s child protection and advocacy manager, Ms Jean Lydia Akite,  said they and other organisations are currently running a campaign dubbed “joining forces for Africa’’, aimed at supporting street children during this pandemic.

Asked how they intend to completely stop children from coming to streets Ms Akite said they are working with the Ministry of Gender and other partners to come up with a long-term plan of fighting it by addressing the cause.

Ms Akite made the remarks at City Hall last week while handing over an assortment of items to be used by evacuated street children.

STUDY ON STREET CHILDREN

A study released in 2018 by AfriChild Centre Uganda, a research centre, found out that some police officers and KCCA law enforcers were sexually harassing city street girls. Titled “Violence against children outside of family care in Kampala and its periphery”, the study was carried out in 2016 to assess how, why and where violence against children such as those engaged in domestic work and on the street, occurs. The study targeted children between the age of five and eight years and 9-17 years. The findings also indicate that physical violence was established as one of the most common forms of violence against children both inside and outside of their households. Additionally, law enforcement authorities were found to be major perpetrators of violence against children on Kampala streets.

2019 KCCA ordinance

In 2019 KCCA passed the Child Protection Ordinance 2019 to enhance child protection and control the influx of street children on the city streets. However, this ordinance is yet to be approved by the Attorney General before its implementation.

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