15-year-old heads family of three

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LIRA. Brenda Akello (not real name) heads a family of three at Akano parish, Ogur Sub-county in Lira District. The 15-year-old digs for neighbours in exchange for fresh cassava and beans which they use as daily meals.
As the eldest in the family, Akello dropped out of school last year to fend for her siblings. The family now relies largely on the little earnings she makes to survive.

Misfortune strikes
Akello’s father was a soldier of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces but died after a long illness in 2013. Her mother was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgents in 2004.
She returned home five years later but reportedly decided to abandon the family after she failed to cope with the responsibility of taking care of the children.

“We do not have enough land to cultivate our own food, so the money we get after cultivating people’s gardens is what we use to buy food,” said a 13-year-old Joe, Akello’s younger brother.

Like thousands of child-headed families across the country, this family at Akano only has four plastic plates and cups and a pair of bed sheets. But the children are proud to call the half-roofed hut home.
More than 13 million children in Uganda are living under unbearable conditions and on the streets, according to National Population and Housing Census 2014.

Of the 7.2 million households in the country, about 28,800 are child-headed and face severe financial constraints that quite often relegates them to drug and substance abuse, transactional sex and involvement in criminal activities.
The country’s population stands at 34.9 million people, according to National Population and Housing Census 2014, with an average annual growth rate of 3.03 per cent.

Forty-nine per cent of Uganda’s population is under the age of 15 with 18.5 per cent being under five. Children between the ages of zero to eight years number approximately 10.7 million.

National plight
Suffering. More than 13 million children are living under unbearable conditions and on streets, according to the 2014 census report. Of the 7.2 million households in the country, about 28,800 are child-headed and face severe financial constraints.

©Alleastafrica and Daily Monitor

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