Child protection

Keeping children safe from harm and danger

Smiling group of young children
UNICEF Uganda/2017/Ntabadde

The situation

Most children in Uganda have faced some form of violence – physical, sexual, emotional or domestic. More than 8 million children, 51 per cent of the child population, are believed to be vulnerable. 

Girls in particular are at risk of early marriage, teenage pregnancy and female genital mutilation/cutting. Child marriage is rampant across Uganda and the UDHS (2011) indicates that 49 per cent of women aged 20-49 years had got married before the age of 18 while 15 per cent of them got married by the age of 15 years. This is also closely linked with a high rate of teenage pregnancy (24 per cent) and is among the highest in Africa. This further aggravates maternal and under 5 mortality rates.

Although, FGM/C affects only 1.4 per cent of the population in Uganda, it is estimated that it affects about 90 per cent of girls in the 6 districts where FGM/C is practiced (three in Karamoja and three in Eastern Uganda).

After the age of 10 years, adolescent boys and girls are often sent to work or are married off as part of a family’s survival strategy. Half of 5-17 year-olds are working, a quarter of them in hazardous conditions. Children make up the majority of workers in the informal sector, and in rural areas 93 per cent of children are engaged in agriculture and fishing. 

There are also more than 30,000 child-headed households, and 40,000 children living in institutions in Uganda. 

Physical violence is another major concern in Uganda and is largely normalized and practiced in the context of disciplining a child.

Though there is no nationwide data on Violence Against Children (VAC), there are several partial studies and official statistics that provide an insight on the magnitude of different forms of VAC. The most common form of violence is sexual violence especially defilement of girls.



Uganda Violence Against Children Survey: Findings from a National Survey

Violence Against Children in Uganda Survey: Key Facts and Messages

The current child protection system needs to be strengthened significantly if it is to adequately protect and care for vulnerable children.

“The referral system is working well because after a child’s case is referred, a mother is summoned and counselled. When they come back after the counselling, they do things differently. It shows a change in their attitude and ways of handling children with respect.”

Milly Nancy, President of the Child Protection Committee in Kiryandongo


We focus on creating a comprehensive child protection system that prevents violence against children and women and responds to victims and survivors of violence with quality services.

In partnership with the Government of Uganda we are mainly focusing on three strategic areas: 

  1. Child protection system (link to sub-programme page): Building an integrated national child protection system that prevents and responds to violence, abuse, neglect and discrimination, and ensures the care of vulnerable children.
  2. Justice for children (link to sub-programme page): Developing a child friendly and responsive justice system (as part of the national child protection system) that operates in the best interests of children.
  3. Birth registration (link to sub-programme page): Scaling up a comprehensive birth and death registration system that will provide universal, continuous and free birth registration to all children in Uganda.