Child Protection Systems
Preventing and responding to violence against children
In Uganda, most children have experienced some form of violence and abuse. More than 8 million children are considered to be vulnerable to harm.
Sexual abuse is the most common form of violence, with gender as a major risk factor. Every day, around 26 girls are defiled. Rape is on the increase, rising by 30 per cent from 7,360 reported cases in 2009 to 9,588 in 2013.
Girls are also threatened by child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Uganda is among the top 25 countries with the highest rates of child marriage. In eastern and north-eastern Uganda, in particular Karamoja and Sebei regions, girls as young as 10 have to endure FGM/C as a rite of passage to womanhood.
Violence and abuse follow children to schools and homes – places where they are supposed to be safe and protected. In 2015, the Uganda Child Helpline (‘Sauti’) received and handled more than 3,000 cases of violence, abuse and neglect of children and in 2016, it registered 238,629 calls where 2,878 were serious cases of VAC that sometimes posed situations of life and death for the children involved.
Children with disabilities are even more at risk of mental, physical and sexual abuse because of discrimination, isolation and lack of access to services. Other groups of acutely vulnerable children include children living on the street, orphans and refugee children.
There has been a 70 per cent increase in children living on the streets since 1993, with about 10,000 children in total in 2014. In Uganda, 1.7 million children are orphaned and a third of all Ugandan families have had to foster orphaned children. With the recent South Sudan refugee influx, Uganda is now host to 1.3m refugees, including survivors of sexual violence and separated or unaccompanied children who urgently need protection.
Child labour is a common feature of life for extremely vulnerable children. Millions of children are working in exploitative conditions in Uganda, with 93 per cent of rural children believed to be engaged in commercial or subsistence agriculture.
But there are still gaps in service delivery to both prevent and respond to violence and abuse. Around 30 per cent of children are still not registered at birth, leaving them excluded from support and protection services, and unaccounted for in policy decisions. In addition, entrenched cultural and patriarchal beliefs, attitudes and norms towards children and women perpetuate child- and gender-based violence.
To create a violence free nation, the government, with support from partners such as UNICEF, is putting in place a comprehensive child protection system by:
- Supporting the development and implementation of a national child protection policy and strategic planning framework.
- Strengthening the coordination of a multi-sectoral prevention and response programme at both national and sub-national levels, with a focus on most at-risk children.
- Developing a costed model of successful district- and community-based prevention and response systems to inform the roll-out of the child protection policy.
- Consolidating and expanding the coverage of the national Child Helpline to all districts, as the main system for reporting and managing cases of child victims or those at risk of violence.
- Developing the capacity of the social welfare workforce, building on Sunrise and other initiatives.
- Developing a comprehensive and integrated management information system (MIS) on violence against children, linked to the gender-based violence MIS, to track cases of children entering the child protection system and to strengthen accountability for results.
- Developing an evidence-based national communication strategy to address social norms that perpetuate violence against children.
- Pursuing strategic partnerships with United Nations agencies, faith-based organizations and other civil society organizations.
- Strengthening the capacity of national institutions to coordinate response to emergency situations, and ensure that children affected by emergencies receive appropriate care and support.
- If the target of reducing the proportion of girls getting married before 18 by 5 per cent (from 49 per cent to 44 per cent) is reached by 2020, over 350,000 more girls will not be married when they are children.
- If the 2020 target of decreasing FGM/C by 50 per cent is met, around 66,000 more women and girls (15–19 years), will avoid life-long health, psychological and social consequences associated with the harmful practice.
- If the 2020 target of withdrawing children from child labour is met, at least 1,000 more vulnerable children in seven priority districts would be saved from exploitative labour and integrated into their communities.
- If the target of reducing by two thirds the number of children living in over 600 institutions is reached by 2020, then 25,000 children would be taken out of institutions and placed in alternative family care, and 500 children’s institutions closed down.
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