VoiceMore group in Uganda.
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VoiceMore in Uganda

VoiceMore youth in Uganda are campaigning for better protection of orphans and children who have been separated from their families.

Protecting separated and orphaned children

From 2018 to 2020 in Northern Uganda, War Child supported two VoiceMore groups made up of half local Ugandan young people and half South Sudanese refugee young people to choose an issue they wanted to solve. The young people decided to focus their project on the protection needs of orphan and separated children. This was because they felt these children were in the most in need of support. 

VoiceMore youth orphans were being prevented from accessing their rights.They reported that: 

  • Orphans were being forced to work, either doing dangerous jobs or spending hours on domestic labour. 
  • Those children often didn't have any clothes and could be seen on the streets partially naked, wearing little more than rags. 
  • Some female orphans as young as 12 were engaging in survival sex for money or food. 
  • Orphans were not able to go to school or access health services due to fees and the requirement to be accompanied or enrolled by an adult. 

Watch this video to hear the young people explain the issues orphans were facing:

Understanding the issue 

The group conducted the first ever youth-led count of orphans in both the refugee and host communities. Using random sampling in BidiBidi Refugee Settlement, the group found that NGOs and the Government were underestimating the number of orphans and separated children. They also found that: 

  • 54% of households had at least one orphan or separated child. This was 58% in the refugee population and 51% in the host community. 
  • 25% of children in the settlement were orphans or separated children. 
  • Only 12% of refugee households and 4% of host community households with orphans were receiving any form of support. 
  • Host community children were most likely to have been orphaned because of illness, compared to refugee orphans who were most likely to have lost their parents to war.  
Some caregivers, whenever these children are sick, they don’t take them to hospital because they feel ashamed accompanying a child who has dressed in very dirty old clothes to hospital with fear that health personnel will quarrel with them for dressing a child poorly. They often send the children alone, unfortunately, when the child reaches the hospital, they are then just sent back to their caregivers and do not receive any treatment at all.
A VoiceMore participant in Uganda.

Youth-led action to protect separated and orphan children 

Since conducting this research the group have been campaigning for more to be done to combat the mistreatment of orphans and separated children. The following changes have been initiated by VoiceMore action: 

  • Orphans have improved access to healthcare. Health care professionals no longer turn children away who present without adults, and instead begin treatment and then use the village health teams to ensure treatment follow up. 
  • Headteachers have committed to, and been mandated by the District Education Office, to increase staff capacity in specific child protection relevant to orphans. This includes setting up Teacher Parent schemes to offer adult focal points to orphans for reporting and encourage and support them with their learning. 
  • Referral mechanisms for reporting concerns about orphans have been strengthened across service providers in the community, including via a toll-free helpline. 
  • Data on orphans will be collected by schools, health care providers and NGOs. This will be stored centrally at District level to ensure that families with orphans and orphan headed households are included in aid distribution, and also to be able to follow up and monitor the orphan's access to their rights. 
  • Orphan caregivers, from both the refugee and host community, are being invited to join other NGO programmes specific to positive parenting and accessing resources to support children's development. 

The Uganda VoiceMore groups have been run in partnership with our sister agency War Child Holland.

Hear more about the group’s work and their recommendations for change by downloading the full and summary reports.

Download the reports

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Young people around the world are taking action against the impacts of conflict and we believe they are the future for change. That’s why we support youth-led campaigning.