There are several children living and working on the streets across Uganda, including over 3,500 children in Kampala alone. The children who are predominantly Ugandans, also include nationals of Burundi, DRC, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Kenya and Somalia. Push and pull factors that force children to live and work on the streets include: poverty, domestic violence, family breakdown, peer pressure, existence of work opportunities, child neglect as well as death of parents or caregivers. Other factors include war and natural calamities, separation of parents, child trafficking; search for opportunities in urban settings, while others were born on the streets.
Most of the children in street situations engage in different forms of work, including collecting and selling scrap and bottles; engaging in casual labour; hawking or vending; engaging in informal employment; begging; commercial sex; pick-pocketing; as well as drug dealing. They mostly sleep on the streets, while some sleep in homes with parents or relatives, as well as houses they rent. All children in street situations have experienced different forms of violence; most of them have also been subjected to emotional violence, while a significant number of them have encountered sexual violence, with law enforcement agencies, peers as well as adults and street gangs being named as major perpetrators. Most children in street situations have been arrested for being Idle and disorderly, fighting, hawking, drug abuse, theft, indiscipline, defilement as well as property damage. Some children are reported not to know why they are arrested; some illegally cross the border entry points to and from Uganda; while others are involved in commercial sex. Most of the children in street situations use drug substances, which generally include; alcohol, aviation fuel, gum, thinner, marijuana and kurt, among others. Also, children in street situations have a low rate of completing school and have limited access to health care, shelter and nutrition.
Save Street Children Uganda is a 24-hour transitional centre for children in street situations. Through our street and community outreaches, we reach out to children in underserved communities with high rates of child labour, child abuse, child neglect, and exploitation. We purposely rescue children to provide temporary care and protection, while efforts are being made to rehabilitate them and trace for their families. Our work on the street starts with the identification of children in street situations and the observation of the dynamics of their environment. This is achieved by going to where the children are. It involves Social Workers establishing links with the children, understanding their views and encouraging them to initiate the active process of leaving the street.
SASCU’s rehabilitation process is designed to assist children in street situations, who have experienced or likely to experience trauma to achieve and maintain optimal functioning in interaction with their environment.
During rehabilitation, we consider child-oriented programmes that focus on the physical and psychosocial development needs of children, increasing levels of autonomy with regard to care and decision-making as they transition through adolescence; as well as their relationships with their families, peers, schools and vocational settings.
Through continuous monitoring of the child and sharing that it is possible to be reunited with their family, without any expectations, there is always a possibility of reaching a key moment, resulting to reintegration.
In support of our vision, “a society where no child lives on the street” and our movement “#HomesNotStreets” when a child is referred by the competent authorities to our Children’s Home for rehabilitation, care and protection, our social workers make it a priority to trace for the child’s family members. Thereafter, efforts are undertaken to contact them and foster assessment visits, considering the child’s best interest to guarantee that all forces are geared towards reintegration, as the best place for a child is with the family. Reintegration is key to a full and productive life, and to the progress of a child to contribute to their socio-economic wellbeing. When investments are made in children in street situations, their risk of dying under the age of 5 is reduced, they stand a better chance of excelling at school and they are also more likely to break the cycle of poverty.
“Children Belong in Families”