Prof Fred Ssewamala, a child health expert from Washington University, USA has challenged the government to dedicate resources towards alleviating poverty levels around the country.
Ssewamala reasoned that if the economic challenges affecting most Ugandan families were addressed, violence against children would be nipped in the bud.
“Unless we create structures that will allow people to move out of poverty, it will be tough for us to address the questions that affect our children,” said Ssewamala.
Adding: “413 million of the 736 million people living under extreme poverty conditions globally live in sub-Saharan Africa. The same region in the world has the highest number of young people between the ages of 5 and 24 years at any one moment in history. We can either seize the moment, or take advantage of it by using the big number of people to train them and then benefit from a demographic dividend. This dividend presents a big market and a large labor supply but if we neglect the big number of these young people, we shall then have violence. We need to invest in these children.”
Ssewamala was giving a keynote address during the launch of the second National Child-focused Research Agenda 2022-2026 that was held recently at Sheraton Hotel, Kampala.
A June 2021 study by the AfriChild Centre, an organization that informs policy and practice for the well-being of children in Africa established that there was a 65 per cent increase in violence against children cases. Cases reported through the child helpline increased from 219 in April 2020 to 619 by August 2020.
From the study, three common forms of violence against children like child neglect, and physical and sexual violence against children were registered. Child neglect cases increased by 61.4 per cent from 89 in April to 231 in August 2020.
Physical abuse cases increased by 63.1 per cent from 53 in April to 144 in August 2020. Sexual violence cases increased by 73.1 per cent from 61 in April to 105 in August 2020.
In her remarks, Sarah Nyirabashitsi Mateke, the minister of State for Gender, Labour and Social Development said the research agenda was expected to drive action and investments to improve child well-being in Uganda.
She added that the research agenda had been designed to produce evidence of value for policymakers, practitioners, donors, and researchers working to promote children’s rights and well-being in Uganda.
“Investing in child-focused research is critical in achieving the goals of the National child policy and action plan” she added.
According to the 2016 World Bank data, half of the children living in sub-Saharan Africa are living under extreme poverty levels. UNAIDS data also shows that sub-Saharan Africa has approximately 75 per cent of patients living with HIV/Aids globally.
According to the data, some AIDS patients are unaware of their status because they have not been tested for HIV/Aids fearing stigmatization from the community.