September 15, 2006.
By charles kazooba
The World Food Programme (WFP) has vehemently denied allegations that it is feeding street children so that they do not leave the streets in Uganda.
The United Nations World Food Programme representative and country director in Uganda, Tesema Negash, said they only help street children attain vocational training as a pipeline to get them back to their communities.
“It is therefore not true that WFP has a programme that specifically discourages street children from leaving the streets,” Tesema Negash flanked by his junior administrators said while responding to concerns of members of parliament on the social services and agriculture committees on Wednesday 13.
‘There are allegations that WFP is providing food to street children, and as a result the numbers are growing. If you (WFP) really want to give them food why not take it to Kampiringisa (juvenile prison) so that those street children can follow it there,” the social services committee chairperson, James Kubeketanya, queried.
Another committee member, MP Jane Alisemera, reiterated: “Sometime back somebody used to bring bread every Friday. The street children would be gathered somewhere, and then given bread. We are encouraging those street children by giving them incentives. Instead they should be comprehensively rehabilitated so that they go back to their homes.”
But Purnima Kashyap, another WFP official clarified: “We do not support street children but we support former ones because we want them to go back home. We provide them food on condition that they go back to school.”
There is an influx of street children in Uganda many of whom have fled the civil conflicts in eastern Uganda and the war in the north of the country that was perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.
According to statistics availed by WFP to the press, the humanitarian organisation distributes over 8 000 tons of food to 130 000 children in the category of HIV/Aids street children and orphans annually.
The legislators were also unhappy that the street children if not cleared off the streets would create a negative image of Uganda prior and during the Commonwealth Heads of State Meet to be hosted by Kampala in November next year.
“WFP help us and desist from feeding those street children, CHOGM is on the way. We are trying to get them off the streets. But if you decide to feed them, do you think those kids will get off the streets?” MP Edward Bwerere Kasole wondered.
Uganda Bureau, AND