Love Ministries Childrenâ€™s Centre in Kisimu village was home to 40 destitute children, some from as far as Iganga. It had existed for 15 years.
Florence Athieno was arrested because she operated the orphanage without the approval of the ministry.
There are over two million orphans in Uganda. One out of every 15 Ugandans is an orphan below the age of 18. This places a huge burden on society, particularly on the productive age-group. The overwhelming majority of orphans are integrated in the extended family system. The initial policy of the Government to discourage orphanages and fall back on the traditional African support system was undoubtedly a good policy, particularly for rural Uganda. It, however, becomes difficult to sustain in urban settings, where accommodation is scarce and food is expensive.
The number of cases of child neglect is on the increase, according to the Uganda Human Rights Commission, and Kampala is now filled with street children. Registration and regularisation of orphanages is a good thing. Because they involve vulnerable children, orphanages are prone to abuse, be it from financial or sexual exploitation. However, rather than closing down orphanages, arresting the owners and sending the orphans to a remand home, the ministry should assist bona fide caretakers to regularise their status and improve their infrastructure.
Ministry officials and local Police should closely supervise the registered orphanages to make sure they meet clearly spelled-out requirements. The ministry should also demand accountability for the funds and donations received to prevent orphanages from becoming a commercial business.
Closing orphanages is not a solution