I kicked off this year well and in first two weeks I spent time with media colleagues trying to wrap our heads around early childhood development. Through various engagements with UN foundation and UNICEF, I was both fascinated by the work and research around first six years of a child’s life and also taken aback at how much work we need to do as a nation to set our children on the right path.
Key focus was on poverty and it’s impact on children in Uganda. Although the proportion of the Ugandans living below the national poverty line declined from 31.1% in 2006 to 19.7% in 2013, according to the 2016 Poverty Assessment, many children still live in poverty. The proportion of the total number of poor people who live in the Northern and Eastern regions increased between 2006 and 2013, from 68% to 84%. Between 2005 and 2009, for every three Ugandans who were lifted out of poverty, two fell back.
These are the highlights on child poverty and the uphill task Uganda faces.
1: More than 50% of Uganda’s population are children. Uganda is the world’s second youngest nation after Niger.
2: Sadly, about 55% of Uganda’s children below five and 38% between 6-17 years live in poverty.
3: Child poverty is measured as children experiencing two or more deprivations ranging from health, education, shelter, water, nutrition, sanitation and information.
3: Women carry the most burden of early childhood care.
4: Most poor children in Uganda live in Karamoja and West Nile
5: Children living in female-headed households, orphaned or disabled are most affected.
6: Uganda is among the top 10 countries for high maternal, newborn and child mortality
7: Est. 3 million children between 3-5 years are not attending a pre-primary centre or school
I use this image because refugee children too don’t have these services
8: Income is not the best way of measuring child poverty; there are many deprivations children experience which income does not capture
9: Child poverty has consequences beyond the child and their households. Estimates show that Uganda loses 5.6% of GDP annually due to undernutrition
10: Uganda has a Social Protection Policy as of 2016. Social protection schemes go a long way to benefit children.
11: Violence against women in particular violence and discrimination against adolescent girls leaves many children at risk.
12: Uganda needs an integrated Early Childhood Development (ECD) policy. Also we need to recognise the gender dimensions in child care.
Our visit to Sharp Arrow ECD centre in Nansana, just 40 minutes from Kampala showed most fathers aren’t involved in early learning of their children.
Almost all early childhood learning centres in Uganda are privately owned and many children from poor households remain at home, start school late if they do at all.
In most of these privately run ECD centres, women are holding them up.
Teach Miriam who runs Sharp Arrow centre is one of the stars helping under privileged communities to give their children a best start in life!