Although the Ugandan government has actively addressed the Karamojong street children phenomenon since 2002, it remains a problem. In Kampala alone, there are over 2,000 Karamojong street children1. Despite renewed government fervor, the current Campaign to Eradicate Street Children in Kampala, spearheaded by the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development (MGLSD), the Ministry of Karamoja Affairs, and the Kampala City Council (KCC), is ineffective. Without overcoming the mistrust between the Karamojong and city officials and providing access to social services, the campaign will not be successful.
- Rehabilitation centers have inadequate resources to help Karamojong street children
The previous rehabilitation center, Kamparingisa Juvenile Detention Center, was ill-equipped to handle the influx of Karamojong street children. The sleeping quarters were lice-infested, and there was a severe food shortage. Children complained of being abused by staff and forced to do physical labor2. Moreover, Kamparingisa failed to provide the children with basic services such as education, vocational training, emotional counseling, and drug rehabilitation3. Even though the street child campaign was re-launched in August, the construction of two new centers, Masulita Children’s Village and Kobulin Reception Center, is delayed4. There are currently no recourses for Karamojong children who cannot be reunited with their parents. As a result, many have escaped back to the streets of Kampala.
- Karamojong street children and adults lack access to basic social services.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Kampala lack the human capital and financial resources to create a support network for the Karamojong. Although some NGOs operate “drop-in” centers where they can bathe and spend the night, these centers do not provide food or medical care. The Karamojong also fall prey to high rent and discriminatory government policies that prohibit begging and congregating in commercial centers. As a result, Karamojong struggle to find a livelihood and harbor a deep mistrust of government initiatives, such as the street child campaign5.
- The rehabilitation and reintegration processes are involuntary.
Karamojong street children are rounded-up by KCC police during violent street raids that often tear families asunder. From Kamparingisa, women and children are forcibly bussed back to Karamoja, where they are either reunited with their families or resettled on government land. Many return to Kampala because they lack the vocational skills and resources to sustain a livelihood in the harsh conditions of Karamoja6.