Young people have their say on how to protect street children during COVID-19

Young people were given the chance to have their say on a COVID-19 strategy to support children living on the streets in Mbale, eastern Uganda, during the lockdown.

“Government should remove the children from the streets and screen them for Coronavirus,” one child said, “Those with the virus should be taken to hospital for treatment and those without should be taken to safe places.”

Another said that the government should provide for the basic needs of children living on the streets “so they don’t have to endanger themselves by looking for food and selling scraps to get money.”

Yet another child said: “Government should pray for children on the street and around the whole world at large for God to protect them.”

These were some of the suggestions given by children at one of Hope for Justice’s Shine Schools, an education and career centre based within our Lighthouse facilities, as part of a consultation on how to safeguard street children during the pandemic.

Hope for Justice staff and children were asked by Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to share ideas as part of this process.

An emergency shelter was set up in April which has housed 206 children during the lockdown, with Kampala Capital City Authority taking the lead on coordinating the response and bringing together key stakeholders to assist with the response.

Prior to this, many children on the streets had resorted to sleeping in video halls – makeshift shacks commonly made of plywood and tin sheeting, which function as cinemas for thousands of low-income Ugandans. Others sought refuge in scrap collection points and huts made out of polythene bags, with no access to safe water and limited understanding of COVID-19.