Category Archives: Uganda

With schools closed, child labour on the rise in lockdown Uganda

Omara Mark Desmond, 13, sells masks outside a petrol station to support his family. Child rights organisations say they are seeing a rise in child labour during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo taken on June 22, 2020, in Gulu, northern Uganda. Sally Hayden/Thomson Reuters Foundation

GULU, Uganda, – Every morning soon after dawn, 10-year-old Moses leaves home carrying trays of hard-boiled eggs and walks for half an hour to sell them outside a petrol station in the Ugandan city of Gulu.

With schools closed indefinitely since the nation went into a strict lockdown to fight COVID-19 in March, Moses is among some 15 million Ugandan children at risk of being forced to work as families are pushed towards extreme poverty, charities say.

After seven hours hawking his eggs, which sell for 500 Ugandan shillings($0.13) apiece, and doing his best to avoid police enforcing the lockdown, Moses picked up his trays and headed home.

“Business isn’t good. We won’t have enough food,” he said, as a group of boys, also selling eggs, asked him how his day had been.

A Save the Children report carried out in May found 56% of Ugandans had noticed an increase in child labour since the beginning of the lockdown.

“(There are) children in the streets selling stuff, selling alcohol, selling food in the markets, but also some of the big gold mines, we’ve had quite a few reports of more children going to work there,” said Alun McDonald, head of advocacy and communications for Save the Children in Uganda.

He said the charity has also been getting reports about increasing numbers of teenage girls being drawn into sex work to help their families make ends meet and buy everyday goods including food and sanitary pads.

The pandemic has put millions of children worldwide at risk of being pushed into labour, reversing two decades of work to combat the practice and potentially marking the first rise in child labour since 2000, the United Nations warned in June.

‘LIFE IS SO HARD’

Moses lives with his grandmother Fatima Khamis, 45, who looks after 16 children in total. As the only elder in her extended family she is expected to care for relatives’ children in a crisis situation, such as the pandemic.

Before the lockdown, Khamis used to run her own business selling snacks to students, but she had to shut down as customers stayed home.

Government food aid has barely covered the capital city, Kampala, and Khamis has received only 3 kg (6.6 pounds) of beans and 5 kg of rice since the coronavirus curbs took effect.

Besides Moses, two other girls work selling samosas but the household’s meagre income only stretches to one meal a day now.

“Life has become so hard,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Some of Khamis’s wards are orphans, some are her own children, and others have been placed in her care because their parents were unable to look after them.

Moses’s father is out of work while his mother got stuck in southern Uganda when the lockdown started.

Even before the pandemic shut down her business, the four youngest school-age children living with Khamis were not attending classes because she could not afford to pay school fees and buy books, paper and pens.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200708085058-8ptfw/

Ugandans melt plastic waste into coronavirus face shields

A gatekeeper at Gulu regional hospital wears a face shield made by local organisation Takataka Plastics to deal with COVID-19 shortages of personal protective equipment, Gulu, Uganda, May 2020. Thomson Reuters Foundation/John Okot

GULU, Uganda,- When the Ugandan government ordered all non-essential workplaces shut to contain the coronavirus pandemic in late March, Peter Okwoko and his colleague Paige Balcom kept working.

But the pair – who had been turning collected plastic waste into building materials since last year – shifted gear and instead began manufacturing makeshift plastic face shields from discarded plastic bottles.

When they posted pictures of their prototypes on social media, they got a surprise phone call from the local public hospital.

“The doctor from Gulu regional referral hospital requested we make 10 face shield masks urgently because they didn’t have enough” and the hospital had just received its first COVID-19 patient, said Okwoko, 29, a co-founder of Takataka Plastics.

The social enterprise set to work shredding plastic, melting it and shaping the liquid plastic into face shields and frames. Soon a first set of shields was delivered.

But “in the afternoon, the hospital called again. They said they needed more face shields because the previous ones had worked out well for them”, Okwoko said.

LOCAL PROTECTION

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to burn around the world, it has also caused severe disruptions in supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The problem is particularly severe in poorer countries with few resources to pay high prices in a competitive global market. In March, WHO officials urged companies around the world to increase production by 40% if possible to meet growing demand.

In Uganda, medical workers have discussed work boycotts to protest the lack of protective equipment in hospitals, especially after several healthcare workers were confirmed infected with the virus.

“The situation is critical. Many people are working without PPE,” Dr. Mukuzi Muhereza, secretary general for the country’s health workers’ body, the Uganda Medical Association, warned last week.

“That is hampering the fight against COVID-19 because there’s fear among health workers that anytime I touch a patient I might be a COVID patient myself,” he said.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200611002521-u8gf1/

No time to play: Childhood in Uganda’s biggest refugee settlement

Uganda
Uganda hosts the largest number of unaccompanied child refugees in the world, according to the UNHCR [Portia Crowe/Al Jazeera]

Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, Uganda – Every morning, Rose Inya makes her four younger siblings breakfast and gets them ready for school. In the evenings, the 16-year-old, who is herself still a student, prepares dinner, tends to her vegetable garden, and puts her sisters and brothers to bed.

She assigns them household chores and monitors their homework. When they misbehave, she reprimands them, and when they are sick, she is the one who cares for them.

Inya and her siblings, who are South Sudanese refugees, live alone in Uganda’s sprawling Bidi Bidi refugee settlement. They fled their village of Avumadrichi with their mother in 2016. Their father and eldest brother stayed behind. Six months ago, their mother went back to try to earn some money. They have not heard from her since.

According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), Uganda hosts the largest number of unaccompanied child refugees in the world – some 41,200 in 2018 – with the majority less than 15 years old and nearly 3,000 younger than five. Most of them come from South Sudan, which has been mired in civil war since December 2013. 

Coping with the inflows of minors is one of many challenges facing the landlocked East African country, which, despite being one of the less-developed nations globally, is the world’s third-largest host of refugees, with some 1.2 million asylum-seekers in 2018.

Many Ugandans were themselves displaced during Idi Amin’s rule in the 1970s and later during an armed campaign by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group. And while Western nations are increasingly shutting their doors to migrants, the UN and the humanitarian community have praised Uganda’s unique hosting model, which allows refugees to work, farm, and study.

But hosting so many vulnerable people comes with challenges for the government, the UNHCR, and partner organisations in the refugee settlements. Unaccompanied children face a unique set of risks, including sexual exploitation, early pregnancy, and even robbery, according to Johnson Ochan Abic of World Vision International, an aid organisation.

Nassa Yangi was 17 when she fled South Sudan’s capital, Juba, to Uganda in May 2017 with seven of her nieces and nephews, the youngest of whom was only four. She cared for the children in the Rhino Camp refugee settlement until she was able to trace her mother, who was some 80 kilometres (48 miles) away in Bidi Bidi, with the help of the Uganda Red Cross.

“I was the mother and the father – I did everything,” she said.

Yangi said she cried when she heard her mother’s voice over the phone. They were reunited in Bidi Bidi in June 2018, after more than a year apart.

But some children will never see their parents again. Agnes Night’s mother was killed by a stray bullet while they were fleeing the South Sudanese town of Morobo together three years ago. Night, 16, now lives in Bidi Bidi with Asiki Emmanuel, a neighbour from her village that she came across on the road to Uganda who agreed to take her in.

Foster families

When children arrive at the settlement alone, the NGOs seek out volunteer foster families from the same tribes who speak their language and share their customs.

Arikanjilo Lodong, 31, has taken in 11 foster children alongside his six biological children since fleeing fighting in South Sudan’s Equatoria region in July 2016. Four of them are siblings he met on the road to Uganda; they continue to live with him today. Of the seven other children he agreed to foster when he arrived in Bidi Bidi, six have since been reunited with their families.

“I miss them, really, I miss them,” he said of those who have been returned to their parents. “Even when I went there [to visit some of them] last year, one girl said she wanted to come [back with me], but her father refused.”

But not all the children are so happy with their foster parents. Taban Joseph, 17, from the South Sudanese town of Magwi, said his foster father “does not love” him.

“He is rude,” Joseph said, noting he does not always let him go out with friends. He also said his caretakers buy school supplies for their biological children but not for him and their other foster children.

World Vision International has about 70 case workers overseeing some 6,000 unaccompanied children in Bidi Bidi. They also rely on a network of volunteer para-social workers, who are refugees themselves and live in the settlement, as well as community-based child protection committees to monitor for signs of abuse.

Before legally signing children over, the UNHCR and partner NGOs check prospective parents’ criminal records and ask community leaders to vet them. The families must also attend training sessions on positive parenting, child abuse, children’s rights, and how to recognise withdrawal and other symptoms of trauma.

Some say the foster families do not do enough.

“The caretakers, what they do is give them food if it is there, give them basic necessities, but when we look at the psychological status of these children, it’s actually not all that well,” said Seme Ludanga Faustino, a South Sudanese refugee who cofounded the organisation I Can South Sudan, which provides music lessons and other social activities for children in Bidi Bidi.

The organisation also aims to forge friendships between children from different ethnic groups.

Stephen Wandu, I Can South Sudan’s co-founder and a well-known singer-songwriter in South Sudan under the stage name Ambassadeur Koko, fled to Uganda in 2016, becoming a refugee for the second time in his life.

He had previously lived in the Central African Republic as a child during the Sudanese civil war. Wandu’s parents divorced when he was young and his father died when he was a teenager, so he understands how it feels to be alone. That is why he felt compelled to help when he heard of the mass influx of South Sudanese children to Uganda.

On a recent Wednesday at the church where the organisation meets, some four dozen children were rehearsing a song about peace they would soon be recording with the Ugandan singer JM Kennedy. A clear leader in the group was Bosco John, a 13-year-old from the South Sudanese city of Yei who wants to be a lawyer when he grows up.

For John, the music sessions are a chance to forget about life as a refugee. He said his mother has mental health issues and his father stayed behind in South Sudan to look after their land. John fled to Uganda in August 2016 with a neighbour, who he continues to live with, but who, he says, gives him too much domestic labour to do. School is tough too – classrooms are overcrowded and lacking in materials.

But John, normally a gravely serious child, completely transforms when he picks up a ukulele. Practising the new song with his friends, suddenly he becomes all confidence and flair.

“When you sing, you’re able to sing out the issue that is torturing you internally,” Ludanga Faustino said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/time-play-childhood-uganda-biggest-refugee-camp-200101080357207.html

 

Uganda’s bicycle ambulances help the pregnant, sick and injured

Bicycle photo
The ambulances are managed by village health teams chosen from within the community. The teams distribute contact numbers so people in need can request the service. NICHOLAS BAMULANZEKI/AL JAZEERA

by Caleb Okereke

Kibibi, Uganda – In the early months of her pregnancy, Sandra Naigaga had to walk more than four kilometres to get to antenatal care at the health centre in Kibibi, Uganda.

Uganda has high maternal and newborn death rates, with 15 women dying every day from childbirth and pregnancy-related issues. That worried Naigaga in those initial months of pregnancy.

That fear however subsided in late 2018 when the NGO First African Bicycle Information Organization (FABIO) introduced its free bicycle ambulance service to the two major health centres in the region.

Naigaga is one of the hundreds of women, elderly persons, children and the sick in her area who regularly use bicycle ambulances to get prompt medical attention.

In many remote areas, many of the roads are impassable for vehicles, so the bicycles with their specialised trailers to carry patients are the only way for many to get to a health centre.

“As pregnant women, we are always weak,” says Naigaga, “They take us to hospital, we get treatment and they take us back home.”

In Uganda, 77 of the country’s 121 districts lack an ambulance service and fewer than 7% of patients arrive at hospital by ambulance.

That lack of transport prompted FABIO to develop its first bicycle ambulance service in 2006 in Uganda’s then war-torn northern region.

Their goal since has been to create something that is both environmentally friendly and easy to maintain.

“We wanted to create a sustainable way or a cheaper way for people to be able to access health centres,” says executive director, Katesi Najjiba.

The ambulances are built by locals, with locally sourced materials, using as a base the black bicycle whose spare parts are easily found in the villages.

Bryan Nleututu, a field officer at FABIO, says the ambulances are “African solutions to African problems”.

Some terrain can be challenging for the cyclists.

“The hilly areas are most times not easy for me to go pick the patients,” says Mukasa Harid, a bicycle ambulance cyclist. “It’s only possible when one helps me push it and we manage.”

To address that concern, FABIO introduced the e-scooter, a rechargeable electric bike used in place of bicycles in areas where the terrain is hardened like the region around the Kibibi health centre.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/ugandas-bicycle-ambulances-pregnant-sick-injured-190331165202646.html

Holy Cross Sisters help Ugandan women resist domestic violence

domestic-violence photoYoung women chat Nov. 11, 2018, in Mbale, Uganda. The Holy Cross Sisters in eastern Uganda have launched a campaign to end violence against women and girls. (CNS/Doreen Ajiambo)

by Doreen Ajiambo

Not all that long ago, family members and residents of this small town in western Uganda mourned the loss of Sarah Baguma, who was stabbed to death by her husband in a domestic wrangle.

Her cousin, Rachael Nabirye, told police that Baguma was stabbed six times in her abdomen and head.

“My cousin’s husband accused her of returning home late before he began beating her,” said Nabirye, who was staying with the couple at the time of the attack. “They had been fighting every time, and we had advised them to separate. It’s very unfortunate that she had to die.”

The killing highlighted how widespread domestic violence is in the East Africa nation. The situation is so serious that women religious of the Holy Cross Sisters have intervened by launching community discussions designed to increase awareness about the prevalence of family violence.

During discussions, women and other stakeholders are given the opportunity to share their experience and identify the causes and possibly solutions to the violence they face. Participants learn about their legal rights and are encouraged to report any form of violence meted against them to authorities.

Holy Cross Sr. Semerita Mbambu said the order introduced the effort in the hope of reducing, even ending, violence against women and girls. Many women facing domestic violence in their marriages or relationships have been rescued, taken to various parishes and given funds to start a business to generate some income, she said.

“We have realized that the main cause of domestic violence in many families is poverty,” Mbambu told Catholic News Service. “Men don’t want to work and support their wives. They want to drink alcohol the whole day and leave all responsibilities to the women. They beat their wives if they refuse to give them money for drinking alcohol.”

Violence against women and girls is on the rise in Uganda despite stringent laws to protect victims and survivors. Gender-based violence increased from 38,651 incidents in 2015 to 40,258 in 2016, according to Ugandan police. Domestic violence is more common in rural areas than in cities, a report from police said.

Fifty-six percent of women 15 years and older experience physical violence, according to the 2017 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey. The findings show that local police agencies reported 341 women and girls were killed in domestic conflicts in 2015 and 2016.

Authorities have blamed Ugandan culture as the main cause of violence against women and girls. They have called on religious leaders to help society as a whole to understand the consequences of violence and the rights of everyone to live a violence-free life.

“The society believes that a man has a right to beat a woman,” said Solomon Mugisa, a government representative in Kabarole district in western Uganda, where domestic violence has been increasing. “They beat women to maintain the status quo and they are celebrated by members of the society as heroes. I want to tell them that it’s a criminal offense to beat a woman, and we’re going to arrest perpetrators when such incidents are reported to us.”

The Holy Cross Sisters have made it their mission to end violence against women, eliminate poverty and build communities of justice and love.

Recently, the Holy Cross Sisters joined other religious congregations in rescuing hundreds of women facing violence. Those rescued were helped with food and monetary donations and taught about their legal rights.

The sisters also conduct monthly meetings with other religious leaders to create awareness and seek solutions for the women living in dire circumstances.

Mbambu, who has been leading other women religious in a campaign against domestic violence, said empowering women and girls was the only way to protect their rights.

“We need to empower women by helping them start income-generating activities and also encourage young girls to go to school,” she told CNS. “If we do that, our country is going to develop very quickly. We should remember that domestic violence hinders development in the country.”

Joyce Mugasa, 35, said she appreciated the sisters’ work in rescuing her from an abusive marriage and helping her to start a business. Mugasa recounted how her husband used to hit, kick and slap her while he was drunk. She said her husband had been mistreating her, but she had been holding on to the marriage because she had nowhere else to go.

“I want to thank the sisters for helping me and also saving my life,” said Mugasa, a mother of three who now owns a grocery store in the town of Kabarole. “My husband used to beat me mercilessly, but I wanted to stay in marriage and raise my children. But when he threatened to kill me, I was forced to run and seek refuge in one of the parishes. I’m now free, and I thank God.”

Back in Kyenjojo, Nabirye wished her cousin could have sought refuge in a church. She said she wants the government and the church to ensure that no woman goes through the same experience.

“I want to urge Sisters of the Holy Cross family to ensure that no woman dies in the hands of her husband because of love,” she said. “They should help women who are suffering in silence in villages. I don’t want any woman to go through the same situation as that of my cousin.”

 

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/equality/holy-cross-sisters-help-ugandan-women-resist-domestic-violence-55779?utm_source=GSR+digest+1-17-19&utm_campaign=cc&utm_medium=email

Vatican Christmas concert will support refugees in Iraq, Uganda

Refugees photoPope Francis addresses the performer and organizers of the Christmas Concert in
the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Dec. 14, 2018. Credit: Vatican Media.

By Courtney Grogan

Vatican City, (CNA/EWTN News).- This Christmas it is particularly important to
support refugees and migrants, Pope Francis said Friday, ahead of the Vatican
Christmas Concert fundraiser in support of young refugee education.

“Christmas is always new because it invites us to be reborn in faith, to open
ourselves to hope, to rekindle charity,” Pope Francis said in the Clementine Hall of
the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

“This year, in particular, calls us to reflect on the situation of many men, women and
children of our time – migrants, displaced persons, and refugees – marching to
escape wars, miseries caused by social injustice and climate change,” the pope
continued.

Pope Francis stressed his particular concern for the “little ones” among migrants,
who face dangerous situations and “long marches on foot” when they should be
“sitting among the school desks, like their peers.”

“They too need training to be able to work tomorrow and participate as citizens,
aware of the common good,” he commented.

The Holy Father expressed gratitude for the work of two papal charities that support
young refugees in Iraq and Uganda. “Missioni Don Bosco” in Uganda and “Scholas
Occurrentes” in Iraq will both receive proceeds from the Vatican Christmas Concert
taking place in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall.

“Missioni Don Bosco” is an Italian Catholic charity supporting the education of
disadvantaged youth in developing countries. Their Salesian missionaries in Uganda
aid refugee families from South Sudan. One of their educational projects in the
Palabek refugee camp provides vocational training to 1,500 students, who also
receive one meal a day.

The Pontifical Foundation’s “Scholas Occurrentes” was founded by Bergoglio while
he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires as an initiative to encourage social integration
and the culture of encounter through technology, arts and sports.

On Friday, Pope Francis met with young Iraqi refugees supported by “Scholas
Occurrentes,” and the artists performing in the Christmas concert, and shared his
message on the importance of education and solidarity.

The pope drew a direct link between the Christmas story and the needs of child
refugees today. “When the violent anger of Herod struck the territory of Bethlehem,
the Holy Family of Nazareth experienced the anguish of persecution, and guided by
God, took refuge in Egypt,” he said.

“The little Jesus reminds us that half of the refugees of today, in the world, are
children, innocent victims of human injustices,” he continued.
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-christmas-concert-will-support-
refugees-in-iraq-uganda-41097