Ugandan government endorses pioneering study of children living on streets



A major piece of research on the experiences of children living and working on the streets of Uganda, carried out by Hope for Justice, has been endorsed by the country’s government. The findings have been published in a report which brings together the children’s perspectives on their experiences and insights into their characteristics, as well as data. 

The study is centred on four districts in Uganda that make up a major route used by children, moving through Mbale, Iganga and Jinja in eastern Uganda, to the capital city, Kampala. The report, entitled ‘Enumeration of Children on the Streets in Uganda across Four Locations: Iganga, Jinja, Mbale and Kampala’, will be officially launched by the government post-lockdown. 

Florence Soyekwo, Uganda Country Director at Hope for Justice, said:

The publication and endorsement of this report is a milestone achievement. This is the first study of its kind to be conducted in Uganda using this methodology.”

The Enumeration Report is an important piece of work that sheds light on the scale, experiences, and demographic makeup of children living and working on the streets. We have learned several things from the study that have informed our response – namely, the reasons why children enter life on the streets, what their experiences are, and the kinds of risks to exploitation they encounter. 

“The endorsement from the Ugandan government on this work is significant because it adds authenticity to the findings and allows for a coordinated effort to combat child exploitation. 

By using evidence such as this to inform policy and practice, we remain agile, responsive, and proactive in our approach to combatting the exploitation of some of the most vulnerable groups in Uganda. 



Findings include that 600 children, aged seven to 17, are estimated to be living on the streets in both Jinja and Mbale, whilst in Kampala, there are estimated to be more than 2,600. Very few children were found to be living on the streets in Iganga. Across the four locations, more than 11,000 children were identified to be working on the streets one or more days a week. 

Less than 10% of children living on the streets were girls, yet almost 30% of children working on the streets were girls. Some of the girls reported that they had experienced rape and sexual abuse on the streets and many said that a lack of sanitary towels was a major challenge. 

Most children on the streets reported that they have both parents still alive, with very few being total orphans.  

Children spoke of poverty, family instability and violence as playing a major role in pushing them to look for a better life elsewhere. The study revealed that most children had had a poor, unhappy and unstable family experience, including physical, emotional and sexual abuse. 

The enumeration and the qualitative study revealed that many families are not getting the support they need to fully care for their children, and that difficulties in accessing education, largely due to costs, is another key factor in children’s presence on the streets. 

The compilation of the study, the research for which was conducted over a month-long period, involved collaboration with the Uganda Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) on the planning, process and delivery, and with technical support from the Ugandan Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), including the training of enumerators, data quality checks and a review of the dataset, as well as the support of police, district offices and NGOs. 

Imelda Atai Musana, Deputy Executive Director of Statistical Production and Development at the UBOS has endorsed the study. 

Sarah Ul-haq, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager at Hope for Justice, said: “The process of enumeration for a population that is historically difficult to reach was a huge undertaking that required the support of statisticians and researchers.  

UBOS provided technical assistance and support for the data collection, which employed a ‘dual system estimation’ methodology, which gave two sets of respondents which were matched to establish the overlap and undercount to estimate the size of populations.” 

The report makes a number of recommendations for both state and non-state actors to develop a sustainable response to children on the streets. 

One of these highlights the need for a renewed commitment to end child labour in Uganda. In the four districts covered by this study, there are 15,500 children exposed to hazardous work on the streets, including scavenging, carrying loads and selling goods. 

The study was generously funded by a private foundation and The Red Nose Day Fund. 

Read the full report here.