Refugee Law Project Working Paper No. 13 - Child protection in the context of displacement: Ntoroko County, Bundibugyo District, Uganda
This report draws upon material collected during field research in Ntoroko County in October-November 2004, as well as workshops conducted in Bundibugyo, Rwebisengo, Karagutu and Ntoroko in November 2004. It was written by Christina Clark, Research Associate at the Refugee Law Project (RLP), with funding from Save the Children in Uganda (SCiU). The research team also included Jane Akello, RLP; Joan Aliobe, RLP; Vanensio Bamwitirebye, Child Concern Initiatives Project; Richard Baluku, The Organisation for the Emancipation of the Rural Poor (TOERUP); and Eveleen Kinyonyi, TOERUP. John Ekwamu and Winifred Agabo of RLP led the training team. Geoffrey Oyat and Charles Kashungwa from Save the Children in Uganda (SciU) provided support to the research team in Kampala and in the field. Richard Furrer, RLP and Fred Luzze, SCiU were involved in the initial conception of the research initiative. The author is also grateful to Lucy Hovil, Jesse Bernstein and Zachary Lomo of RLP, and Fred Luzze and Ben Bataringaya of SCiU for their ongoing support and helpful comments on earlier drafts of the paper.
This research would not have been possible without the participation of local and district authorities, education, health and NGO representatives and many Congolese and Ugandan children and adults. The author wishes to thank each of these individuals for their willingness to share their time and experiences, and hopes that this paper adequately reflects the issues that they so eloquently raised.
Against the contextual backdrop of conflict and displacement in western Uganda and neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), this report highlights child protection issues in Ntoroko County, Bundibugyo District. Using participatory, qualitative methods, a team of six researchers gathered data from refugee and national adults and children in Kanara, Rwebisengo and Karagutu sub-counties. Research findings reveal major barriers to accessing quality education for children in the County, particularly for girls and Congolese children. Malaria, cough, worms and cholera are the main health issues facing children, due primarily to poor sanitation and lack of access to clean water. Child abuse, neglect, rape and defilement are widespread in the county, but response from local authorities has been inadequate, contributing to a culture of impunity. While all children in Ntoroko County face these child protection issues, refugee children encounter additional challenges because of language barriers, lack of social support structures and discrimination.
In order to address these issues, the report offers the following recommendations:
1. Local and international NGOs should strengthen the capacity of community-based organisations (CBOs) to monitor, report on and address child protection issues.
2. Local government structures and CBOs should facilitate the participation of children and young people in decision-making.
3. District, sub-county and local education authorities should improve access to quality education for all children in Ntoroko County. The Ministry of Education should increase its supervisory and monitoring activities in Ntoroko County.
4. District, sub-county and local health authorities should improve access to quality health services in Ntoroko County. The Ministry of Health should increase its supervisory and monitoring activities in Ntoroko County.
5. Police, parents and community leaders should promote greater awareness of, and action against, child rape, defilement and marriage.
6. All police officials should be trained on juvenile justice requirements and should work towards their implementation.
7. Local authorities, NGOs and CBOs should develop recreational activities, microfinance opportunities and income-generating initiatives for children who are out of school.
8. Local authorities, community leaders and CBOs should facilitate dialogue between Congolese and Ugandans, promote inclusive community activities and provide mechanisms for dispute resolution and reporting incidents of discrimination in service provision.
9. Given the history of displacement in region, and potential for further displacement in the future, the Ugandan government and local leaders should strengthen the capacity of communities in conflict and disaster preparedness. 10. Local authorities, community leaders and CBOs should strengthen and improve the capacity of families to earn income and expand their functional knowledge of child welfare.
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