Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) law enforcement officers together with police today rescued more than 170 street children in a mop-up operation to get them off the streets of Kampala City.
The children some as young as five-year-old mainily from Karamoja are usually seen standing outside supermarkets, or by traffic lights begging for money from passers-by. Majority of these children are forced to the streets to beg, using everything from addiction to drugs, to threats of violence and actual beatings by their traffickers.
The Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) through the Directorate of Gender, Community Services and Production condemns these acts of child abuse that are killing the future of the children.
Dr Esau Galukande the KCCA Director for Gender and Community Services said the rescued children will be taken to Kobulin Skills Center in Napak where they will be sheltered and empowered with some life skills. ..notes that street children need help, not isolation in order to harness their full potential.
Galukande noted that one of the ways to stop forced begging is for Ugandans to stop giving handouts to street children.
“Being kind hearted is good, but often the money you give to these children is always taken by their traffickers who do nothing to help the children. We need to stop supporting these traffickers,” Galukande says.
He noted that Ugandans should think twice before giving money to street children.
“The small amount of money you give to them is not kindness but encouragement for them to keep on the street begging. If there is no money these cartels won’t traffic the children from the villages,” Galukande says.
He said child begging is controlled by treacherous cartels and mafias operating unchecked in different parts of the country. According to accounts of the rescued children, they are given daily targets for their begging trips.
Despite the fact that majority of the children are forced into begging and on the streets, KCCA has taken its responsibility of child protection by continued efforts to rescue the children.
“We want to help these children enjoy their childhood but also protect them from exploitation and abuse. But also help them from heading for a lifetime of crime,” Galukande said.
Between March and November 2021, KCCA rescued over 400 children but the numbers still on the street are still big. Of these, 47 have been skilled in bricklaying and construction, metal welding and fabrication, mechanics and tailoring.
KCCA says others have been reunited with their families, especially those from Napak district in Karamoja region. “Neglect and parents’ failure to adequately provide for children’s needs and high poverty rates are among the factors that drive children to a life on the streets” he said.
KCCA is collaborating with community agencies on several projects aimed at getting children off the streets and back into school. The street children tend to be between 6-15 years old and are mostly boys.
According to KCCA, there are two categories of street children in Kampala; those not accompanied by parents and those who are accompanied by parents.
“Majority of those who are not accompanied are boys, like 90% of them and they are very dangerous when they stay on the streets where wrong elements use them for crimes,”
These children are common in Kisenyi and Kagugube. The most common ones are those accompanied by the parents especially Karamajong children who are common on the streets begging.
“We are using a voluntary approach to rescue them and through working with partners we help the children get education, counseling, family support, and life skills training,” Galihande said.
Zaina Nakubulwa, the Supervisor Children Affairs at KCCA notes that various stakeholders including landlords where the children are housed need to come on board to ensure children are protected.
She revealed that in places like Katwe children live in makeshift places which are not conducive. Others are being exploited by business people who use their labor and pay them peanuts.
“Children who are supposed to be in school are in the markets working. When you go to Owino there are very many children involved in sorting beans. Children as young as seven years are being abused and exploited,” Nakubulwa says.
She revealed that working with stakeholders KCCA will start arresting everyone involved in using underage children for labour activities. She said KCCA is leading the ﬁght against the abusive tradition of forcing young children to beg on the streets.
Nakubulwa says when children are left on streets they miss out on their right to education and are vulnerable to exploitation.