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HIV/AIDS increasing child labour in Rakai, Mukono

By Vision Reporter

Added 6th September 2006 03:00 AM

The HIV/AIDS stigma that once hit Rakai district may be over, but other effects brought about by the AIDS scourge still haunt the district.

The HIV/AIDS stigma that once hit Rakai district may be over, but other effects brought about by the AIDS scourge still haunt the district.

By Fred Nangoli
The HIV/AIDS stigma that once hit Rakai district may be over, but other effects brought about by the AIDS scourge still haunt the district.
The number of child-headed households is higher in Rakai than in any other district in the central region and the number of children engaged in child labour, including sex trade, is alarming.
Michael Ojwang, the district probation social welfare officer, says Rakai has over 49,000 children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS and over 40,000 of these children mainly aged between six and 14 are not in school and are involved in child labour.
Ojwang was presenting a report on the overview of child labour in Rakai district during the launch of the Global Report on Child Labour and Action Programme by the International Labour Organisation and International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO/IPEC) in Kyotera recently.
He said over 50% of the children engaged in commercial sex, cattle herding, fishing and quarrying are victims of HIV/AIDS.
Ojwang says many of the children, especially girls, are engaged in commercial sex in Kasensero landing site and the trading centres of Kakuto, Kyotera Lyandonde, Kalisizo and Mutukula. He said fishermen, truck drivers, bar and restaurant patrons and cross-border businessmen use the girls to satisfy their sexual desires and pay them peanuts. This has increased the spread of HIV.
Richard Amanya, the chairperson of Rakai Network of AIDS Service Organisations, says because of the HIV scourge, the district has registered over 1,000 child-headed households.
Amanya says such homes are run by children between nine to 12 years who do odd jobs to support their younger siblings.
“They work on trucks as conductors, in bars and lodges, as maids and in markets as vendors,” Amanya said.
To curb the escalating problems of child labour in Rakai, ILO-IPEC is supporting Children of Uganda (COU) a Rakai based NGO in implementing an HIV/AIDS induced child labour project in the district which will see 550 children rescued from child labour in the next 18 months. Of these, 250 children are to be withdrawn and rehabilitated while 300 will be prevented from joining the labour market.
But putting Rakai aside, the situation in Mukono district is no better. About 70,000 children are not attending school and are believed to be engaged child labour.
Kitiibwa Ssabaganzi, the district labour development officer of Mukono, says the district, with 886 primary schools, has an enrolment of 180,000 children, of which 150,000 are under five years of age.
While presenting a paper on child labour in Mukono during the launch of the Global Report on Child Labour and Action Programme in Mukono, Ssabaganzi said many children are currently engaged in fishing activities on Lake Victoria, growing vanilla, market vending and stone and sand quarrying.
“In Buvuma County on Lake Victoria, the majority of the children have taken up fishing and are not in school,” he said.
Ssabaganzi attributed the increasing forms of child labour in the district to HIV/AIDS which has left many children orphaned.
Gilbert Sendugwa, the country programme co-ordinator of ILO-IPEC, affirms that between 50% to 80% of the children engaged in child labour are victims of HIV/AIDS.
“When their parents die, the children engage in all forms of labour to forge a living. But while in the labour market, they are sexually abused and exposed to HIV/AIDS,” he said.

Akky de Kort, the senior programme officer of ILO-IPEC in Uganda, said a recently released global report on child labour indicates that the practice has fallen by 11% in the last four years from 246 million to 218 million. Kort attributed the decline to increased political will and awareness by governments, employers and the public.
The global report which was being launched in Mukono, Mbale and Rakai districts was organised by the International Labour Organisation and the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour as part of the activities to mark the World Day of Child Labour.
The programme, which was being launched under the theme: The end of child labour: Together we can do it, was aimed at raising awareness on the emerging child labour issues and advocate for concerted efforts against child labour.
Ends

HIV/AIDS increasing child labour in Rakai, Mukono

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