Uganda: Beggars, Street Children a Burden in the City

Uganda: Beggars, Street Children a Burden in the City
The Monitor (Kampala)

COLUMN
19 July 2007
Posted to the web 18 July 2007

Andrew Nkurunziza

Over the years the number of beggars and street children on Kampala streets has grown tremendously.

Most of these unprivileged people come from upcountry in hope of better life in the city but end up on the streets.

The beggars and street children are common on Kampala Road, the Constitution Square, the traffic lights in Wandegeya and Shoprite Super and near Sheraton Hotel.

They are mainly children aged 3-18, disabled and surprisingly able bodied adults. There are physically handicapped beggars and those afflicted by leprosy.

Others are mothers who strategically place their children to beg as they monitor from a far. The other group is of young boys and girls aged 10-15. These are lone rangers commonly referred to as street children and to compliment begging, they engage in petty theft.

However, it’s rare to find able bodied males on the streets begging. Why do these people come to the streets?

Most of the beggars come to town to look for a better life or simply for curiosity and quest for adventure.

They believe Kampala is paradise on earth where everything comes easy and free. However, when these people reach the city, they find the opposite of what they expected and with their expectations dashed, they end up on the streets.

The disabled feel sympathetic persons can take pity on them and dole a little money their way. Many of the street children are either orphans or have run away from home mainly because they are mistreated by step mothers. Some girls run away from home because of unwanted pregnancies.

This lifestyle, if one may call it so, has adverse effects. The children are deprived of their rights and live a traumatised life and this may affect them later in life.

They are also exposed to diseases like scabies and Aids, especially among the adolescents. The girls are even raped and give birth to children who surely will also be street children, thereby perpetuating the cycle of street life.

The disabled beggars have also borne the brunt of recent demonstrations in the city. They have been trampled upon by the agitators and tear gassed as police disperses demos.

Because of the harsh life, the children resort to drugs such as marijuana, mairungi and inhale fuel fumes as a coping mechanism to extinguish hunger.

The beggars are also susceptible to accidents. At the Wandegeya traffic lights, many compete with vehicles as they scramble for handouts from motorists. So what must be done to check this phenomenon? The authorities should resettle these people where they can be made productive through engaging in income generating activities.

These people can do something for themselves; disability is not inability. The government should increase funding to Naguru Remand Home where juvenile delinquency cases can be handled better and the street youth rehabilitated.

There is need to enforce laws that would make streets begging illegal although I am aware there will be challenges to implementing this law.

With the run up to Chogm, the City Council has a big task to ensure Kampala reflects a good image of the country.

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