Napak Parents Miss Children They Sent to Kampala to Beg

A section of parents in Napak district are struggling to find the children who have been begging in the streets of the Kampala capital city over the years.

Many children aged between 5 and 12 years left their homes in villages in the years between 2015 and 2021 to beg on the streets of Kampala, but some were also destined to work in people’s homes as maids.

The Kampala Capital City Authority has been rounding up the children who are begging from the streets and returning them back to Karamoja to be reunited with their families.

However, some parents in the sub counties of Lopei and Lokopo have raised a concern that they have never seen their children for the last ten years and they do not know their fate.

Cecilia Moru of Kailikong village in Lopei Sub County said that her granddaughter left home in 2016 but to date she does not know her fate.

Moru says her granddaughter was taken to Kampala by an aunt, who wanted her support in domestic work, but after in 2018, she received reports that the child got lost and all efforts to locate her have been in vain.

‘’I’m just hoping that my child is safe from wherever she is, I’m only praying to God to guide her to return back home safely,’’ Moru said.

Keya Longoli, another parent in Lopei trading centre said that he was surprised to see other children being reunited with their parents and yet his child was missing.

Longoli noted that seven children from his village were rounded up in the Kampala streets and they do not know the organization that carried out the operations and where the children were taken.

He appealed to the government to help them trace the missing children because they are willing to take them back to school.

Maria Lokuta, a mother of eight children in Kailikong village, said that her sister went with her child to Kampala to beg but after three months when they were at the bus park preparing to board back home, the child disappeared.

Lokuta said that her elder daughter has camped in Kampala looking for the child for over nine years now but all in vain.

She appealed to any well-wisher to help her trace the children because all her efforts have failed to yield better results.

Gabriel Akol, the LC1 chairperson of Lopei trading centre observed that the high poverty levels in the households will not enable these children to settle in their homes.

Akol appealed to the government to look for the children and take them back to school with food support, scholastic materials and other basic needs.

He noted that very many children have been returned to Karamoja but they find their way back to the streets because of hunger and insecurity in at home.

Ngorok Clarion, another LC1 chairperson (of Lorengelup village) observed that many of these children lie to them that they are going to the neighbouring districts in Teso to look for means of survival but unfortunately they end up in Kampala.

He noted that they have no problem with their children going to work in the districts in Teso because those who are already there have been supporting their families with food.

But Mary Agan Apuun, the District Community Development Officer for Napak said that her office has never registered any case of missing children.

Apuun noted that it is hard to believe if the parents do not know where their children are because they are the ones who facilitate them to travel to Kampala.

She observed that the children in the streets are always in touch with their parents since they work for money that is sent home to support other siblings at home.

She revealed that a lot of effort has been put in place to fight child trafficking in the region but their effort is being frustrated by the gaps in the regulatory framework.

Apuun also said that the district has come up with child protection and a child anti-trafficking ordinance that will help to address child related abuses. Apuun further expressed her worries that the ordinance has not been approved by the solicitor general for over three years since it was submitted.

Dennis Okori, the Napak Resident District Commissioner said that the district security committee has started an operation to arrest parents whose children are being rescued from traffickers.

Okori noted that the move to arrest parents was developed after intelligence proving that parents are conniving with perpetrators to aid child trafficking.

He said that so far 35 children have been rescued in the last three months and five perpetrators have been arrested.

Okori noted that the district security committee is trying everything possible to put an end to child trafficking.

He said the government should consider punishing the perpetrators harshly because the current sentence of six months in prisons is not adequate.

Meanwhile, at least 320 street children have been integrated with their families while others taken to various primary schools in Karamoja by the Women and Equal Opportunities Desk Moroto Diocese.

Sr. Fernanda Nakoru, the Coordinator Women’s Desk Moroto Catholic Diocese they are working hard to ensure that the children are resettled with their relatives.

Nakoru said that they have faced challenges of children whose family members are not found and they end up owning responsibility yet there is no budget for handling such cases.

Nakoru noted that many of these children they resettled were found deployed to beg in the streets of Kampala while others are subjected to hard labour.

Nakoru also noted that they are trying everything possible to build a relationship with the children’s family members so that they are settled and they stay in a favourable environment.

Sr. Fausta Mugisha, the head teacher of Child Jesus Primary school in Moroto Municipality confirmed that over six former street children have been enrolled for studies and they are performing well in class.

Mugisha noted that when they received these children, some of them tried several attempts to escape from school while others lacked discipline but counselling has transformed them.

She also revealed that the children are now excelling in academics and are willing to aim higher in education.

John Paul Kodet, the LC5 Chairperson of Napak district noted that many children have run to the streets because of the influence from their friends and the economic gains.

Kodet said that there is a need for a comprehensive integration package to end the recycling of Karimojong street children.

Kodet proposed that the government take a responsibility of ensuring that all the school going children are taken to boarding schools so that they cannot think of escaping back to the streets.

Kodet added that there should be economic family support so that children are able to integrate into family businesses after school and forget about street begging.

He observed that several children have been integrated into their families by different development partners but unfortunately some of them have already escaped back to the streets due to the harsh environment in their homes.

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