State of street children in Lira worrying

By Hudson Apunyo

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STATE OF CHILDREN

NORTHERN UGANDA - The state of street children in Lira is worrying amid the coronavirus pandemic, with up to 300 children living on the streets full-time.

Others stay on the streets during day time and return to their respective homes in the evening.

During a town hall meeting attended by dozens of street children and stakeholders, the children complained of being harassed by security forces, lack of food, medical care, shelter and clothing.

While presenting a report on the state of street children in Lira, Beatrice Akelo of Childline Uganda, the organisers of the community convention, said the children reported that some local defence unit (LDU) personnel beat them even when they are looking for something to eat.

The children want people to stop falsely accusing them of implicating them in crimes they have not committed.

Akello, who has years of experience in working with Lira street children, said the children should be institutionalized so that they can be sensitized about the raging coronavirus, trace their families and hopefully reintergrated as well.

Christine Anono, the district community development officer, said children get abused but they do not get justice.

"All the partners should join hands together and provide service to children wholesomely," she told the meeting.

Anono said children are being abused by close relatives and the matter is simply pushed under the carpet out of reported fear of family embarrassment.

She said they organized the meeting as a buildup to their belated celebration of the Day of the African Child (observed every June 16).

Delilah Aisu of Save Street Children Uganda shared how they are handling the street children situation in Kampala.

Saying that the lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus has impacted greatly on street children, she said they are trying all they can to see that the destitute children have shelter.

Aisu said the homeless are prone to being beaten or arrested by LDUs during curfew hours.

She added that children who call the streets home deserve much better - a safer environment where they can find accommodation, health care, rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration.

Aisu commended the government and KCCA for supporting them in efforts ensure that children on the streets of Kampala get shelter.

Lira district speaker George Rashid Opio, who is also a cultural leader, counselled the children against getting engaged in political activities which will make people sideline them.

He urged the children to get back to their families if the opportunity arises.

Inspector of Police Betty Ailo, who represented the District Police Commander, said they love the children but some errant officers torture them.

She regretted for any harassment of a street child children and vowed to follow up the matter with her seniors.

Shafik Butanda, the principal community development officer in the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, said they are keen on state of street children and that they have requested for more money to cover other parts of the country to help see the children off the streets.