How we started in Uganda - Masese II pilot programme
When we first visited Uganda, children in Masese II (Soweto), a slum just outside Jinja, were at risk of malnutrition, abuse and child sacrifice. Brewing and distilling alcohol in dangerous and unlicensed breweries was the area's primary economic activity and conditions in the slum were appalling. Children were being exposed to extreme hazards around the brewing areas and were even fed the dregs of the alcohol mix.
With no place to go throughout the day, children were extremely vulnerable. Child abuse was common and continual exposure to inebriated men and prostitution left children at greater risk of abuse and HIV.
Child sacrifice was a growing issue in the Masese II community, and children left unattended throughout the day, or wandering any distance from home, were at risk.
With no productive livelihoods, no access to education or healthcare, widespread malnutrition and no safe place to play and simply enjoy being children, there was little hope for the children who live here.
How we helped
Through establishing a Child and Community Centre together with the Adolescent Development Support Network (ADSN), we provided early years education for children under 5 and educational support for children of primary school age. This Centre also provided nutritious meals in order to reduce child malnutrition and improve health.
A Child Protection Team (CPT) mobilised local people to care for their children more effectively and receive support and advice on parenting, health, nutrition and preventing abuse. The area is now cleaner, child abuse has lessened and incidents of child sacrifice have been eradicated for over 2 years.
Vulnerable households began to meet their own needs through the agricultural component of the project. This included micro-finance schemes, comprehensive agricultural training, land and inputs. With this alternative to providing income and sourcing nutritious food, 9 out of the 14 breweries have now closed down.
After the success of this pilot project we have now passed on the management to our local partners and are beginning to replicate this work in the wider district.
We are focussing on the neighbouring communities of Loco, Masese I, and Masese III.
Masese I, Masese III and Loco - The Issues
Loco is a small slum community, formed of basic rows of barracks that were formally owned by the railway corporation for their workers. The area has poor sanitation with latrines overflowing into the streets.
The demise of the railway has resulted in the barrack buildings being rented to the poorest families as accommodation. Most of these families live in tiny huts that used to be storerooms. If they cannot pay the rent the landlords will simply padlock the doors.
The high rate of HIV has resulted in many widows, child-headed and grandparent-headed households. General health, hygiene and sanitation within the community is poor and there is an additional malaria problem.
There a high level of alcohol abuse here, leaving children especially vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Rampant theft and frequent instances of domestic violence also create a volatile environment.
The nearby nursery school and primary school are both run down and expensive to attend, stopping the most vulnerable children from enrolling.
Masese I is a large, densely populated lakeside slum community, formed mostly of internally displaced people from Northern Uganda. It is ten times the size of Soweto with a population of around 500,000.
70% of the community have no permanent jobs, with many employed in casual labour earning an average of 1500 shillings a day (approx 30p). Rent is too expensive, and many children have to work finding firewood to pay for rent and food instead of going to school.
There are schools for those that want to pursue education, but many can’t afford the costs. This has resulted in low attendance and a high drop-out rate. There are also five nursery schools but again, all of them charge a fee which is too expensive for poorer families.
The community is mainly made up of widows and single mothers and there is a high rate of HIV and malaria. There are many child mothers and child-headed households. Many children are abandoned by single mothers who marry other men as a solution to their problems, only to find that their children are not accepted into the new household.
Masese III is a slum community for low cost renters with an estimated population of around 5,000. The community consists of many Karamojong people, who are a nomadic people group from Northern Uganda.
The Karamojong traditionally let their children wander unattended. Due to this, children are often left alone and vulnerable all day whilst the parents are working. Child marriage is a serious issue in this area due to the cultural norms of the people group
There are high levels of HIV and child headed households. Child abuse and child protection issues are rife throughout, and there is a high number of street children. Alcoholism is a recurring problem.
The community have become dependent on food handouts from a neighbouring organisation who is due to move on, so they desperately need to develop sustainable incomes and food sources.
What we are doing to help
We have established Child Protection Teams in each of these vulnerable areas, who are working to empower each community to build a protective environment for their children.
The teams are building relationships in their own communities, identifying problem areas and creating a link between people living in the slums and local authorities and services.
They are facilitating workshops and training sessions on issues including child development, parenting techniques, child rights, reproductive health and alcohol abuse. They also offer individual support to vulnerable families.
Using sensitisation workshops and simple resources, the teams are creating a safe environment for children. Child sacrifice is a growing issue in the country and after our pilot scheme eradicated the number of incidents in one area, the new teams are employing the same methods in their own neighbourhoods.
In addition to this, Child Protection Teams are resourcing parents and carers to look after themselves and their families with sustainable, safe and productive incomes through our small business loan programme.
Entitled 'Education loans', the most vulnerable households are provided with a small loan to start a business, along with training on saving, budgeting and business skills. They work together with other parents from the community who are starting their businesses, and learn from each other. Once the business is established, the loan is paid back and ready to help the next person. They have become known as 'Education loans' because they enable parents to cover the costs of sending their children to school.
The Child Protection Team in Loco have worked together with COTE Africa to establish an Early Childhood Development Centre in Loco community providing early years education for children from the most vulnerable households.
News and Features
A huge thank you to the many organisations who are funding this vital work in Uganda. These include: