KAMPALA- Government on Friday announced the closure of 569 illegal children’s homes that have been housing over 50,000 children.
Ms Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, the State Minister for Youth and Children Affairs, said most of the homes were being operated as businesses and sometimes the owners traffic or pick children from the streets and coach them how to become better street beggars.
Ms Kiyingi said her ministry is drafting a law that would criminalise giving hand-outs to street children because the practice encourages more children to live on the streets.
“Some operators of these homes have participated in trafficking of children and we have resolved to close them unless one presents certification to operate such a home,” Ms Nakiwala said.
Out of the 569 closed homes, 150 are in Kampala City, 110 in Wakiso District, 70 in Mukono District while other districts like Luweero, Nakaseke, Buikwe, Masaka and Gulu have at least 20 illegal children homes.
Ms Kiyingi said police and officials from her ministry conducted a countrywide research in which it was discovered that children are dropped on streets to beg during the day and are picked in the evening to spend the night at the homes of their so called caretakers.
Citing an example of a girl who claimed living with her father, Ms Kiyingi said several children have been hoodwinked by their traffickers to denounce their biological parents.
She said some false caretakers have subjected several girls to sexual molestation and have infected them with various sexually transmitted diseases.
“I talked to one of the girls living on the street who took me to a person she called her father. I was surprised that the person she described as her father looked like a mentally disturbed person,” Ms Kiyingi said. “The girl warned me not to get close to him because she rapes them [the girls]. They confessed that several of them had been raped by this man.”
Ms Nakiwala said when the suspect was arrested, he was subjected to a medical examination which revealed he was HIV positive. She said that even his victims were tested and found HIV positive.
“We have him in custody. We have arrested several other suspects whom I cannot reveal for fear of prejudicing the ongoing investigations. But as a ministry, we are working with Kampala Capital City Authority and police to have all children off the streets,” she said.
Ms Jane Stella Ogwang, the acting Assistant Commissioner in Charge of Children Affairs, said all Chief Administrative Officers and Resident District Commissioners would be given a copy of the closed children homes for the effective implementation of the directive.
“We have procedures that are followed for one to acquire a license to operate a children home. But most of these homes illegally started operations even without authorization from in line authorities. We have 72 registered homes which can accommodate these children,” Ms Ogwang said.
She said the government had resettled 7,000 street children since 2007 and is ready to take care of an estimated 100,000 children who live on streets.
The government-run children homes, according to Ms Kiyingi are supposed to only care for the abandoned children for not more than three years.
The three years, she said, are enough for authorities to establish the parents or relatives of the children who are picked from streets.