The increasing number of children living on the streets of Jinja City is causing worry among leaders and child rights activists. According to a recent survey by Support and Love Via Education (SALVE) International, there are now 11,516 street children in Jinja, a significant increase from 3,943 in 2017.
Leaders are concerned that this situation could lead to various social issues, including criminal activities among the children. Fazira Kawuma, the deputy mayor, expressed concern that street life deprives these children of parental care and exposes them to negative influences.
The SALVE International survey, conducted between January and February, covered areas like Bugembe, Loco village, and the Masese slums. The report, released on November 11, revealed that 68% of the children were boys, and 32% were girls, aged three to 17.
Sarah Esther Agwang, the SALVE International Street outreach manager, highlighted that even three-year-olds are on the streets, taking on adult responsibilities. The survey found that 2% of the children identified as refugees, and only 14% were attending school regularly.
The study also indicated that the number of street children increases during school holidays, as some try to earn money for tuition and school necessities. This trend contributes to a lack of education, limiting opportunities for these children to break the cycle of poverty and contribute to their communities’ development.
Alfred Ochaya, the SALVE International executive director, attributed the rise in street children to poor living conditions, exacerbated by high poverty levels and mistreatment, including by stepparents. Other factors include peer pressure, COVID-19-related family livelihood losses, and an influx of refugees due to political instability in neighboring states.
Ochaya suggested that strict laws in Kampala, making the streets unfriendly for children, may have driven many to nearby towns like Jinja. He urged well-wishers to assist in rehabilitating and resettling these children.
Sarah Tibafana, the probation and welfare officer for Jinja, commended SALVE for its initiative, emphasizing that such research findings are essential for better planning. Cissy Logose, the officer in charge of the child and family protection unit at Jinja Central Police Station, called on parents and stakeholders to fulfill their roles in raising children.