UGANDA: Salesians at Don Bosco CALM assess needs of street children during the coronavirus pandemic
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries at Don Bosco CALM, located in the town of Namugongo just northeast of the city of Kampala in Uganda, are working to keep youth in their programs safe while assessing what is happening with street children in the surrounding community. Salesians with Don Bosco CALM have also offered food support to the vulnerable families of beneficiaries of their programs.
For the street children in Uganda, the situation due to the COVID-19 virus has is very tense. Youth cannot access clean water and have no money to buy soap or sanitizers. Recently, a survey conducted by the government of Uganda within the districts of Kampala, Jinja, Mbale and Iganga indicated that there are more 30,000 street children.
“Before the virus, it was common to find street children sitting on verandas around most parts of the Kampala, waiting for the traffic to stop vehicles so they could beg,” explained Father Elie Nyandwi, director of Don Bosco CALM. “Others survived by searching dust or garbage bins for food while others pickpocketed unsuspecting people. Some others sold illegal drugs and stole from houses or shops around or beyond Kampala.”
Fr. Nyandwi sent Felix Rugaba, one of the social workers from Don Bosco CALM, out on his bicycle to assess how street children are coping with the current situation in Kampala.
Rugaba found children in hideouts in desperate conditions, wondering how they will survive the coming days. Talking to them was not easy because they fear most outsiders. Rugaba managed to talk to two street children who asked him not to reveal their names.
He spoke to a 15-year-old boy, Richard (not his real name), who revealed that life in the lockdown is not easy because they have nowhere to go and don’t know what to eat. In addition, Richard is also worried about the virus. He said, “We do not have water to drink, to wash our body, we do not have soap or sanitizers to wash our hands…the government should send us these items to help us survive in these difficult moments.”
Rugaba also spoke to a 12-year-old girl, Justine (not her real name), who also wonders how she will survive in this tough situation. She left home when she was 10 years old after being mistreated by her mother. Justine is worried about what will happen to her in the coming days. She said, “The government should help us because we have nowhere to go.”
Salesians at Don Bosco in Uganda are concerned about the street children and are looking for any local or foreign support to help ensure that street children are safe and have access to the services they need to survive the virus.
Nearly 21 percent of the population in Uganda lives below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. This number rises to 33 percent for those living in the northern region where poverty is greatest. While the country has seen some economic growth as well as improvement in its UN Human Development Index ranking over the last 20 years, the country still ranks near the bottom at 159 out of 189 countries. After decades of war left many displaced, the people of Uganda face many significant challenges as they work to rebuild their country.
Uganda’s literacy rate has improved with 73 percent of the population literate, but only 23 percent of Ugandans go on to acquire a secondary education. According to UNICEF, one of the biggest challenges in the country is combating the serious increase of HIV/AIDS that has left millions of children orphaned.
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Salesian Missions – Uganda