KAMPALA – ChildFund International together with the AfriChild Centre of Makerere University have disseminated the findings of the Budget Analysis for Child Protection in Uganda.
Speaking at the dissemination at Sheraton Hotel, Timothy Opobo, Executive Director – AfriChild Centre and Moses Otai Country Director ChildFund noted that Uganda has one of the world’s youngest populations in the world, with more than half which is 56% of the total population under the age of 18 years and about 49% under the age of 15 (UNICEF, 2019).
They say that this population structure highlights an urgent need for deliberate and increased investment in child protection if these children are to fulfil their potential and contribute sustainably to the development of the country.
“Children continue to face several protection challenges including orphanhood, teenage pregnancy, child labour, an influx of street-connected children, and violence. The first-ever Uganda National Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) revealed that one in three girls and one in six boys, suffer sexual violence during their childhood, and 70% of boys suffer physical violence,” they noted.
UNICEF (2017) reports that 46% of girls were married before 18 years, and 12% before they turned 15 years, and at least 1 in 4 teenage girls are either pregnant or have a child.
According to the Ministry of Health, Uganda has a teenage pregnancy rate of 25% which is one of the highest in Africa. The Uganda Police Annual Crime Report of 2021 reveals that over 14134 children were reported to have been defiled in 2020 alone. This accounted for 7.2 per cent of all crimes committed during the year.
Experts say there is scientific evidence that the violence experienced during childhood can have a profound and severe long-term consequence on the identity and self-development of an individual.
“Children who are subjected to various forms of violence are more likely to have poor mental health, suicidal ideation, sexually transmitted diseases, become pregnant, become sexually exploited, harm themselves, and are also likely to repeat the cycle of abuse as adults.”
They say that the Government and civil society must ensure child well-being in the communities that they serve.
The analysis indicates that while Child Protection receives allocations from the Government of Uganda resource envelope under the “Youth and Children Affairs sub-Programme” of the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development (MGLSD), the budget allocation and spending on it for the past five fiscal years are characterised by a threefold undesirable trait namely: its low, it fluctuates, and the allocations are decreasing.
In the five (5) Districts of; Mbarara, Wakiso, Gulu, Katakwi and Busia where the study was conducted, the trends in budget allocation were found to fluctuate for Wakiso and Mbarara, static in Busia while Katakwi and Gulu recorded a declining trend in allocations to child protection.
“A review of Government budgets for the last five Fiscal Years shows that although the “Youth and Children Affairs” sub-Programme budget nearly doubled from UGX 4 billion between 2017 and 2018 to UGX 6.1 billion and UGX 6.4 billion between 2018 to 2019 and 2019 to 2020 respectively, there was a sharp decrease in the fiscal year 2020 to 2021 by 29.2%, an equivalent of UGX 1.9 billion,” shows the report.
While the national budget has substantially grown over the review period, the proportional allocation to child protection as a percentage of the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development budget indicates a decreasing trend with its share in the national budget oscillating between 0.01% and 0.02%.
Experts say that the deficiency in funding to the child protection structures has greatly hampered the level of response to child protection risks and the level of support that victims get for their wellbeing.
“Many have not been able to receive any form of justice due to the lack of funding to facilitate the different processes it takes. This, unfortunately, is something all actors in the child protection space have always known and have spoken about in different forums across different levels from the national to the local level.”
The event was officiated by Amos Lugoloobi, state minister for finance and planning who said, “51% of the pregnancies are children. Imagine children taking care of children. That’s the big issue in regards to what we are discussing today, child protection. How do we protect our children?”
“I will fight as much as possible to make sure that some commitments are made,” he pledged.
Mr. Tawanda Chinembiri, Social Policy Manager at UNICEF Uganda said that children across the globe are going through a difficult time, especially after the effects of the pandemic.
“As we talk about allocation of resources, we should also be invested in making sure the investment works and also gets too hard to reach areas.”
He said that UNICEF continues working together with the government and AfriChild Centre to continue ensuring the well-being of children in Uganda.
The report calls for a government “substantially” increase of funding to all child protection structures from the national to District level for effective prevention and response to child protection risks. “These funds should be gazetted for child protection activities and not simply lumped up with other priorities.”
Also, the report wants the government to embrace a coordinated systems approach to child protection that links all child protection actors.
“All the relevant line Ministries, Departments and Agencies should have a clear understanding of their role in child protection and prepare their budgets accordingly.”
Experts also want the Ministry of Gender to take the lead in sensitizing both political and technical stakeholders at the national and District level on the importance of child protection in the socio-economic and political transformation of the country
They also recommended a substantial investment by child protection stakeholders needs to be made in studies that explore the economics of child protection; cost of inaction studies, cost-benefit analyses, value-for-money evaluations, and cost-effectiveness studies.
They also advised that the Ministry of Finance should develop budget/expenditure markers for both budget formats and the chart of accounts.
“This will enable effective tracking of funds allocated to child protection across the different sectors.”