Formerly street homeless children to be reintegrated with families after lockdown

Thirteen children who were living on the streets before the lockdown came into force in Uganda will be reintegrated back into family-based care following interventions by Hope for Justice.

Throughout April and May, Hope for Justice staff have been working with more than 200 children who were temporarily housed at an emergency shelter set up at Namakwekwe Primary School in Mbale by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).

The anti-slavery charity has already reintegrated one girl and has also stepped in to reintegrate 13 boys into family settings following the closure of an emergency shelter on May 18th.

Moses Wangadia, Programmes Team Leader at Hope for Justice, said: “This emergency shelter was a win-win situation for all stakeholders. The children participated in the decision to come to the quarantine centre as opposed to living on the streets where they were being rounded up and beaten – policies that go against the fundamental human rights of participation and protection.

“The organisations involved were able to demonstrate to the authorities the fact that child participation is more sustainable than forceful removal from the streets. The KCCA also performed one of its core mandates of protecting the vulnerable population living within the confines of the city.”

Homeless and street-connected children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and are often targeted by predatory gangs who force them into sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and forced labour.

Dozens of children were left fighting to survive on the streets of Mbale, a city in eastern Uganda, when the new rules were introduced at the outbreak of COVID-19.

The young people were at risk of being beaten by security personnel, who were enforcing the bans in public spaces, and struggled to find food as businesses such as kiosks and restaurants shut their doors.

A total of 206 children opted to attend the shelter, where they benefited from donations such as mattresses, blankets and food, as well as counselling and one-to-ones sessions with Hope for Justice staff.

Hope for Justice is currently supporting 13 of the boys who have been enrolled at the charity’s Lighthouses – residential aftercare facilities – where they will receive further restorative work, such as counselling and education, with the eventual aim to reintegrate them after the lockdown.

Moses added: “It was a well-executed project with a high degree of collaboration among stakeholders under the leadership of Kampala Capital City Authority.”

Of those who stayed at the shelter, 59 were referred to a vocational training institute for reintegration and/or help to move into independent living, one young person was found to be over-age and was supported into independent living, one was diagnosed with tuberculosis and supported by Hope for Justice social workers who reunited her with her family, 41 ran away from the shelter, back to the streets, and 104 children were allocated to several organisations who are now working with them to reintegrate them post-lockdown.

The KCCA is currently trying to source funding to support the children who were referred for vocational training, each of whom will require approximately 1,000,000 Ugandan shillings, which equates to roughly £213, for their six-month practical work experience.