Covid-19: Street children increase amidst lockdown

Adah Nkorenta in yellow, the programs manager for Child Restoration Outreach with some of street children in Masaka photo by Tonny Kalyango

By TONNY KALYANGO .

Civil society activists in the field of restoration of street children in Greater Masaka have expressed concern over the growing number of homeless children on the streets following the presidential Covid- 19 preventive directives that left schools including rehabilitation centers closed for a period of 42 days.

According to Adah Nkorent the programs manager for Child Restoration Outreach(CRO) that recruits and rehabilitate street children before reuniting them with their families across the country, the presidential directive caught them unaware and they didn’t have any other alternative but rather dispersing those who were still in the process of rehabilitation and unfortunately, most of them ended on streets

 However, Nkorenta and her team are monitoring them from where they are to maintain the bondage between them and the organization plus providing them with necessities of life.

“Many young people are flocking the streets from their homes due to various push factors triggered by this lockdown among others are domestic violence, corporal punishments, and negligence,” she said 

Most of these children are from slum areas of Masaka City suburbs like Nyendo, Ssenyange, Ssaza, Katwe, and others from neighboring districts. 

Florence Nakintu 15, who is undergoing hairdressing training with the support of for Child Restoration Outreach (CRO) noted that he fled her home after experiencing severe punishments by her stepmother but when she (stepmother) reached the step of forcing her into the early marriage she resorted to Masaka City streets the only option before being rescued by CRO one month later. 

Apart from street children, authorities are worried about the surging rate of child labour which is also attributed to financial challenges faced by homesteads in Masaka following the closure of most of the businesses in urban areas in this second phase of lockdown.

Children are being turned into breadwinners for families as parents task them to vend foodstuffs and other supplies in the central business area of the city.

Annet Namulema a mother of five a resident of Kirinda village in Nyendo-Mukungwe division who was abandoned by his husband narrated to The Witness that she resorted to asking her 13 year old son to vend foodstuffs in bid for them to earn livelihood after her hopes were stuttered by lockdown 

  “Although there is curfew I had to risk my son go hunt for money amidst all challenges because I no longer work it’s the money from Maize sold by my son that supports us,” She said  

 Ritah Nabulime the Masaka City probation officer has warned parents over negligence that is exposing their children to long-term repercussions including early pregnancies, abandoning educations, adopting moral decadency among others.

“As Government, we should shiftily swing in to streamline online, radio, and television teaching programs to suit the capacity of even poor families in the slums as this can halt parents from letting their children for other responsibilities beyond their abilities,” She said 

ASP Rosemary Namwanje the head of a family protection unit at Masaka central police station noted that on daily basis her office records about 9 cases of domestic violence, family negligence, and violation of children. 

Namwanje warned the village leaderships over handling cases like defilement and rape which are out of their jurisdiction which has since flourished the crimes 

 ”many cases have been misdirected due to delay in following the procedures like timely medical testing of victims of rape and defilement and tampering with evidence,” adding that local authorities should refer capital offense to line authorities instantly.

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