Many child headed families in Kabarole district are surviving on their own because of lack of a policy to support them.
Child-headed families are homes in which children have assumed the role of their parents. Records from the probation department show that Kabarole district has more than 400 child headed families. Some of the children’s parents died from HIV/AIDs and conflicts like the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) insurgency.
Despite the high number of child headed families, the district has no plan for the children. The child headed families are neither given any form of support nor provided for in the district budget. As a result, the elder children are left to look after themselves and provide for their siblings. They find a big challenge to meet their basic needs such as school fees, clothing, clean water, housing and basic household supplies.
In Rubona Sub County, where there are 30 child headed families, 17-year-old Francis Muhereza‘s father was abducted by the ADF rebels in 1998 and since then he has never been seen again. Muhereza looks after his two young sisters with difficulties. He says that he has even failed to take advantage of the Universal Primary Education programme, because he doesn’t have money to purchase school uniforms and scholastic materials for himself and his siblings.
According to Muhereza, whenever his two sisters get sick, he has to beg for transport to take them to Fort Portal Referral hospital, which is 15km from Rubona, for free treatment. Muhereza says that he was forced to drop out of school and find casual work, in order to make sure his sisters get what to eat. He says that he collects water and cleans compounds and earns 2,000 shillings a day.
//Cue in: “I lost both my parents..."
Cue out: ...buy food and clothes."//
Beatrice Balinda, a resident of this village says that the area has been invaded by children who are becoming a threat to the community. She says that some of the children engage in theft for survival. She says that the sub county and district authorities have done nothing to address the problem.
Fred Balisanga, the district senior community development officer, says that for the past two years they have been budgeting for child-headed families but the district has never released any funds. Balisanga says that they have requested the district NAADS department to provide maize, beans, groundnut seeds and cassava stems, which will be distributed to child-headed families for planting.
//Cue in: “We played our part…”
Cue out: “…I think NAADS can help."//
In a telephone interview, Bernard Mukasa, the director of the Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children (OVC) Secretariat in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Affairs said that each district is supposed to develop and implement the National OVC strategic plan aimed at improving the lives of OVCs.