Soweto slum, on the outskirts of Jinja, Uganda is home to 4,000 displaced people. Here, HIV prevalence is high, child headed and grandmother headed households are common and malnutrition is a chronic problem. There are no health or education services and the main industry is alcohol brewing which stifles the community.
Last year Rachel Bentley, our director at Children on the Edge, made a connection with an organisation called ADSN (Adolescent Development Support Network) who do fantastic work with street teenagers many of them originating from the slums. These slums are home to 85% of the city’s population and found on the periphery of Jinja. ADSN want to develop a preventative programme to target younger children living in the slums to give them the necessary support and skills they need to avoid ending up on the streets. They have asked Children on the Edge to help with this.
The problems in Northern Uganda have become well known and in the past few years the media and aid agencies have flocked to the area. What is less well known is the sheer volume of people displaced internally by the conflict and troubles of the North. Not only are these people facing displacement, but the AIDS pandemic has created a huge number of orphaned children, child headed households and elderly headed households.
Soweto is one of 8 peri-urban townships surrounding Jinja and identified by ADSN as the neediest slum. It’s 4,000 inhabitants are all cramped within 10 acres. The majority have been displaced from Northern Uganda with additional numbers having fled from Rwanda and Sudan. Conditions in the slum are appalling. There are no health centres or schools, houses are built from mud and people eat once a day if they are lucky.
Often unattended and with no place to go throughout the day children are exposed to a number of vulnerabilities, including child sacrifice. Brewing and distilling alcohol is Soweto’s primary economic activity. Many small children are given the dregs of the brew and the toxins from the shack breweries run through the streets where they play. Child abuse is common with continual exposure to inebriated men and prostitution leaves children vulnerable to abuse and HIV.
Children in Soweto have little hope, there are no sustainable livelihoods open to them or their families and malnutrition is rife. There is heavy dependence on witchcraft as people use it in a desperate bid to escape poverty. Consequently child sacrifice is a growing issue, especially for these children left without care.
In partnership with ADSN, Children on the Edge aim to establish a child friendly space in the community providing essential services for these children. This will be a safe place to receive help and protection and will give them a chance to simply play and be children. An important component to this project will be an agricultural programme to provide an alternative to the alcohol industry that reaps such destruction.
Please help us make a difference to these children who really are ‘on the edge’. Watch this space to see what develops and if you think you can help with raising or donating money then please do get in touch.