My interest in the “Kampala street babies” begun with an article written by Lulu Jemimah (The Ugandan Monitor News paper 10/08/2008) highlighting the plight of the street kids.
I decided to host a Christmas party for the Kampala street kids. I collected clothes and shoes from England, which was transported, to Uganda. These were the presents that were offered to the children on the day. The party was a success and had over 700 people.
What I found out on the day was that approximately 600 of those who attended were mothers and children from the Karamojong tribe. I then embarked on finding out why this was so. The rest of my stay in Kampala was spent in the slums trying to get to know the Karamojong and finding out what the issues were. Why there were lots of them in Kampala and why there were babies from this particular tribe begging on the street.
The reasons that they gave me were as follows:
Having done a bit more research, this is what I found out:
There are approximately 2000 street babies, toddlers and children under the age of five years on the streets of Kampala and neigbouring towns of Jinja, Mbale and Tororo. Their mothers live in the most deprived conditions in the city slums. The majority of the children living on the streets of Kampala are from the Karamojong tribe, which has a culture and language radically different from mainstream Uganda. They are a pastoralist tribe from the extreme North-eastern part of Uganda, which has been beset by famine, drought, inter-tribal conflict and cattle rustling. As a result, many of the Karamojong women and children have fled to Kampala in search of a better life. Few are educated, and so they struggle to integrate and end up begging on the streets. The babies and children were often rounded up, and dumped in Kampiringisa (a prison for delinquents) the babies together with their “pimps” then “bribe” or “escape” from the prison, walk all the way back to Kampala and are back on the streets within two weeks. This is a vicious circle.
Some of the babies have been borrowed or even hired from their biological parents in Karamoja. They are brought to Kampala and a fraction of the money earned is then sent back to Karamoja. There has been loss of lives on the streets. Approximately 14 children have been run over and killed in the last 3 years whilst trying to escape from the government officials trying to round them up. Adults have been rounded up and taken back to karamoja. However, they have managed to go back to Kampala. The Karamojong people have a dependency culture. For the last 30 years, World food programme has been distributing food to these people and there fore they are not empowered to either grow their own or earn a living in any other way. Over the years, Karamoja has been plunged into insecurity, hunger, human rights abuses and extreme poverty.
It remains the most backward region in Uganda, with 80% illiteracy rate and 82% of the population living below the poverty line. Despite the provision of free primary education by the Government, over 50% of school age children in Karamoja are not in schools. Many parents do not send their children to school because they want them to help in cattle-keeping and family chores. Malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea continue to spread in the region with no corresponding response from the health sector to curb the maladies.
Where as the disarmament process has brought relative peace in the region, there is need to consolidated it and harmonise it with development. It should be recalled that some warriors have gone hiding with their guns and they occasionally attack the already disarmed communities for cattle and food, causing loss of lives and destruction of property. A combination of all these hardships has forced many women and children to leave their homes and sought refugee on the streets of Kampala and other towns in Eastern Uganda.
Kaana's primary aim is to eliminate the need for mothers to send their babies, toddlers and children into the streets of the Ugandan capital Kampala, to beg. These mothers live in the most deprived conditions in the slums of Katwe, Kisenyi and Nakivubo. They have all come to the city to try and make a living in order to support themselves and their children.