"); NewWindow.document.close(); return false; }

A new hope for orphans
Saturday 7 May 2005
Home About PlusNews Country Profiles News Briefs Special Reports Subscribe Archive IRINnews


East Africa
Great Lakes
Horn of Africa
Southern Africa
West Africa
RSS - News Briefs


PlusNews E-mail Subscription

UGANDA: A new hope for orphans

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

©  IRIN/Mercedes Sayagues

Paul Esonu (far right) drumming with other former street children

KAMPALA, 16 August (PLUSNEWS) - Paul Esonu, 20, was only seven when he ran away from his abusive parents. "That was the worst time in my life," he said of the seven years he lived on the streets of Kampala and Jinja in Uganda.

Esonu ate from rubbish bins, sniffed glue to ward off cold and hunger and was beaten up by police. Shopping arcade guards denied him shelter on rainy nights, and he was sexually abused by older men and women who paid with either food or money.

All this changed when he found the drop-in day centre of Child Restoration Outreach in Jinja, northeast of the capital Kampala. After a year of counselling, Esonu went back to class and is now in high school, with plans to study medicine.

His nightmare is over, but for many others it is only just the beginning. Uganda's devastating mix of civil war, HIV/AIDS and poverty has resulted in growing numbers of vulnerable children.

"Ugandan children face extremely hard difficulties," said Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, during a recent visit to Jinja.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that half Uganda's 2.2 million orphans have lost one or both parents to the pandemic.

Although HIV prevalence rates have dropped dramatically from over 20 percent in the early 1990s to 6 percent today, the number of orphans continues to rise due to the time lag between the infection of parents, sickness and death.

According to UNICEF, HIV/AIDS-related orphanhood rose from 17 percent in 1990 to 42 percent in 1995 and 51 percent in 2003.

To help families and communities deal with this crisis, Uganda recently completed its policy on orphans and vulnerable children, as required by the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS of the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) in 2001. The policy will soon be submitted to cabinet for approval.

Entitled "Hope Never Runs Dry", the policy defines families and communities as the first line of response and views state-run institutions, such as orphanages, as the final option. It has also shifted the focus from helping individual orphans to helping the households they live in.

"If we want families to care for more children, we need to strengthen their economic capacity," said Sheila Coutinho, UNICEF officer for orphans and vulnerable children.

One way is by providing microfinance to grow economically viable crops such as ginger, garlic and vanilla.

The policy groups a number of interventions into an Essential Services Package for orphans and vulnerable children. Priority areas include care and support, child protection, education, health, food security and nutrition, psychosocial support, socioeconomic security, conflict resolution and peace building.

Access to education is a serious problem for orphans and needy children. Despite the government's introduction of free primary education in 1997, the hidden costs of books, uniforms, transport and lunches remain a barrier to many.

Although primary school enrolment expanded from 2.5 million in 1997 to 7.4 million in 2003, the problem lies with keeping the children in school. Only 23 percent of girls and boys complete primary school and only about 519,000 of the country's estimated 2.2 million orphans are in school.

"If we don't look after these children, we will lose a generation," Coutinho told PlusNews.

The government has requested US $56 million from the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis to support implementation of the policy. A $2 million grant has already been approved.

The project manager of Child Restoration Outreach, Harriet Obbo, spoke about the success of the initiative, which has rescued 1,800 children from the streets of Mbale, Masaka and Jinja in its 12 years of existence.

"We try to bring back the African concept that all children belong to the community," said Obbo.

Family reunions are the primary goal of the project. This involves helping dysfunctional families through courses in parenting skills and adult literacy, with microcredit for small businesses. When a family reunion fails to take place, foster care is the next option, while older teenagers may try independent living in small groups under adult supervision.

"I am pleased to see that community-based care is the first option," Lewis told PlusNews after meeting with children and carers from several projects in Jinja.

A glimmer of hope lies in the government's national treatment programme, which will delay orphanhood by extending parents' lives. Uganda has 25,000 people on antiretrovirals and plans to reach 60,000 by the end of 2005, or about half of those who need treatment.

With the availability of treatment, a sound policy and resources, hope will not run dry for Uganda's orphans.


Recent UGANDA Reports
Adult HIV infections rise to seven percent,  5/May/05
Free ARVs for HIV-positive civil servants,  7/Apr/05
Rights group criticises emphasis on abstinence,  30/Mar/05
Poverty affecting ART use among mothers,  10/Feb/05
Public transport to be used to combat HIV/AIDS,  20/Jan/05
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Youth against AIDS
Making a Difference for Children Affected by AIDS

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.

[Back] [Home Page]

Click here to send any feedback, comments or questions you have about PlusNews Website or if you prefer you can send an Email to Webmaster

Copyright © IRIN 2005
The material contained on www.PlusNews.org comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.
All PlusNews material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the IRIN copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.