Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago calls for gov’t action on child trafficking

Activists call for measures to combat child neglect
Street children in Kampala. Trafficking of children from Karamoja is rife.

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Kampala City Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago has asked the Government of Uganda to boost the fight against child trafficking.

Speaking at the celebrations to mark the International Day of Street Children (IDSC), Lukwago said that the children are not on the streets to beg but rather have been trafficked to the streets for the benefit of others.

Lukwago claims that big people in government are behind child trafficking to the streets and that partly explains why the influx has persisted.

Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago.

A 2018 enumeration survey of street children by Retrak Uganda in collaboration with the Gender Ministry and Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) found that there were 2,661 children aged between 7 to 17 who were living on the streets of Kampala.

The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the Police Force, and the Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA often conduct rescue operations where children are taken off the streets to the rehabilitation center and later reunited with their families. The centers include Naguru remand home in Kampala, Kampiringisa Rehabilitation Centre in Mpigi district, and Koblin Youth Center in Napak district.

The operations have however not reduced the number of children on the streets and some often return while more are brought to the streets.

According to Lukwago powerful individuals are making a killing from the illegal trade. The Executive Director Africhild Centre at Makerere University Timothy Opobo called for a thorough investigation into the issue of street children. He observed that since the majority of the children on the streets come from Karamoja, it signals a problem that exists in that area.

Away from the relapses of the challenge, there are insufficient facilities to rehabilitate the rescued children. For instance, the Lord Mayor says KCCA has been taking rescued children to Koblin instead of Naguru and Kampiringisa because of the limited facilities at the two facilities.

Koblin was established mainly as a youth development center to host about 80 youths but is now forced to accommodate more than 100 rescued children. Other children are taken to Masulita Children’s Home in Wakiso district with support from Uganda Women’s Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO).

Lukwago says the government should take up its mandate as outlined in the Children Act and establish a National Rehabilitation Centre for Children and other centers for the detention, rehabilitation, and retraining of children.    

According to Lukwago, the government has left much of the work related to street children to KCCA yet they have limited capacity to do so.

Children still on Kampala streets
A street kid carries a baby as they stand along a street in Kampala.

While KCCA is the leading agency dealing with children on Kampala streets, it lacks the necessary resources to rescue and rehabilitate children. During the recent discussion of the 2023/2024 KCCA budget framework paper, Deputy Lord Mayor Doreen Nyanjura expressed dismay that no funds had been allocated to the Directorate of Gender to deal with the affairs of street children.

Often, KCCA collaborates with civil society bodies to conduct the rescue and rehabilitation of children from Kampala streets. For instance, according to KCCA, in its January 2023 operation, the authority was supported by three local NGOs working under the Local Coalition Accelerator initiative.

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The NGOs contributed fuel equivalent to 720 liters for the bus, coaster, and pickup; meals for the children while in transit, and facilitation for the rescue team.

International Day for Street Children (IDSC) has been celebrated globally since 2012, to recognize the humanity, dignity, and defiance of street children in the face of unimaginable hardships. This year, it’s being marked under the theme, “keeping the street-connected children safe.”