Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) yesterday rounded up 259 street children and returned them to Karamoja Sub-region where authorities seek to rehabilitate them before they are reunited with their families.
The KCCA executive director, Ms Dorothy Kisaka, told Mania Media yesterday that the authority has deployed teams in all the city divisions to search for street children and designed strategies targeting perpetrators behind the crime.
“A swoop is being planned to clear the whole city to ensure that all street children are taken to secure places to save them from exploitation,” Ms Kisaka said.
“About 259 children have been rescued and are being taken to Koblin Skilling Centre in Napak District, where tracing and reintegration with their families will be done. Food to support the centre was delivered on Friday,” she added.
The hot spots for street children in the city have been around Jinja Road traffic lights, Wandegeya, Nakulabye, and Queens Way.
Ms Kisaka said KCCA is currently experiencing an increasing number of street children, of which 80 percent are from Karamoja.
It is estimated that about 300 Karimojong children and teenagers live in Kisenyi and Katwe parishes in Kampala. Another 500 children live with adult caretakers who spend the day on the streets or in the markets sorting cereals.
“The information from communities revealed that there are adults who live on the money collected by street children, including parents in Karamoja, especially in Napak,” Ms Kisaka said.
“The reason for trafficking children from Karamoja is the commercial value attached to begging. This has become a lucrative business involving varied beneficiaries where children are exploited, abused and possibly trafficked. It is against this background that KCCA has designed strategies to rescue children from streets and contribute to their wellbeing,” she added.
Ms Kisaka said KCCA will work with district authorities to ensure that street children are reintegrated and also prosecute those who convince them to return.
The Unicef representative in Uganda, Dr Munir Safieldin, welcomed the measure, saying: “Children should not be in the streets and should not live as beggars. Also, for a sustainable return to their homes, authorities have to address the push factors that led these children to leave home.”
Ms Yvonne Laruni, the programme manager of (Good Schools) at Raising Voices, an organisation that advocates for the rights of women and children, also lauded KCCA’s decision .
“The street has never been a place for a child to grow from. Every child needs a home, a place where they are safe and every child needs education. The street exposes them to so many risks, children get raped, killed, and are at risk of getting accidents and diseases,” Ms Laruni said.
She urged leaders to address the challenges that had forced children to come to the streets.
“Is it because they were left alone or lured? Some people lure children to exploit them financially. Whereas it is easy to resettle a child whose parents are willing to take care of them, it may be hard for those who run away from home because they were experiencing a lot of violence and had no option but to run to the streets. Such children can be resettled in children’s centres and homes,” Ms Laruni said.