Domestic trafficking of children continues to be an ongoing problem in Uganda, and aid agencies are working to return victims to their homes.
The International Organization of Migration, or IOM, in partnership with Uganda Women’s Effort to Save Orphans and with Dwelling Places, said it recently returned 51 trafficked children to their extended families in the Karamoja sub-region in northern Uganda. IOM said the region is known as one of the poorest regions in the country, with extreme poverty and a population highly dependent on food aid.
Gerry Waite, spokesperson for IOM Uganda, said the rescued children - a group made up of both boys and girls - received food, shelter and assistance in Kampala. He explained what is involved in rescuing children from domestic trafficking.
“There are several stages to the return and re-integration process. Children who leave the streets of Kampala are housed in an NGO in the city, and receive care while awaiting the return back to Karamoja region, where they are from. They go through a process of family tracing and assessing the areas that the children will return to. Then they are given assistance to move back to the north,” said Waite.
He said of the 51 children rescued on October 15, 26 are boys and 25 are girls. The youngest of the group is three and the oldest is 15. The majority are between the ages of nine and 13.
The are many cases of abuse of the trafficked children, including beatings and rape. Waite said, however, the incidence of sexual abuse with this particular group is not high.
“The general impression in working with the children is not one of great trauma that is evident from the get-go. The trauma and realization of their experience, and their response to it may take some time to come out,” said Waite.
While the external trafficking of children is receiving worldwide attention, the internal trafficking of children is also a focus.
Waite said Uganda’s government is taking an interest in internal or domestic trafficking, and is also providing resources to help try to stop it.
To listen to the entire interview with Kim Lewis and Gerry Waite, click on audio.