Uganda: Child Protection Assessment in Refugee-hosting Districts (May 2022)

  • The risks refugee and host community children most frequently reported to be concerned about over the past three months are child labour, physical violence, and child marriage.
  • The top three risks that refugee and host community caregivers reported having witnessed occurring in their communities over the past three months are child labour, child marriage, and physical violence.
  • Caregiver respondents reported an increase of several child protection risks in their communities during the COVID-19 period. In particular, these risks include children engaging in harsh and dangerous labour, substance or alcohol abuse amongst caregivers and children, and sexual violence against children.

Child Labour

  • In addition to reports of child labour, reports of harsh and dangerous labour have increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 period.
  • There are only slight regional differences in the reported prevalence of child labour and these regional differences are only present amongst the refugee community.
  • Reports show that adolescents (children between the ages of 12 and 17) are most likely to be affected.
  • Causes for the increase in child labour related to COVID-19 are economic and socio-economic (e.g., loss of household income) and failure to engage children due to extensive durations of school closures from March 2020 to January 2022.

Violence Against Children (VAC)

  • Proportion of caregivers reporting VAC occurring in their households is roughly similar across refugee and host communities.
  • Among caregivers reports of VAC are more common in the West Nile region as compared to the south-west of Uganda.
  • Physical violence and verbal abuse are the two most commonly reported types of violence.
  • Caregivers report that girls are more likely to be affected as compared to boys.
  • The main three causes of VAC as reported by caregivers are drug and alcohol abuse amongst adults, conflicts over resources, and high stress amongst adults.

Sexual Violence, Child Marriage, and Teenage Pregnancy

  • Rates of sexual violence as reported by caregivers are similar across refugee and host communities.
  • Rates of sexual violence as reported by caregivers do not vary at the regional level but are slightly more commonly reported by refugee caregivers in Imvepi, Kiryandongo, and Rhino Camp.
  • The five most frequently reported places where sexual violence occurs are all public places including firewood collection areas, the market, and areas both inside and outside of the community.
  • The three most common causes of sexual violence as reported by caregivers are COVID-19 related restrictions, lack of law-enforcement, and socioeconomic conditions.
  • Qualitative data strengthens findings from secondary sources indicating a rise in child marriages and teenage pregnancies during the COVID-19 period.

Psychological Distress

  • Nearly two fifths of caregivers reported having observed mainly negative behaviour changes amongst children under their care during the COVID-19 period and almost one third of children in each community reported the same about their caregivers.
  • Negative behaviour changes were more commonly reported in the West Nile region.
  • Causes of psychological distress were reported to most often take the form of a lack of food, extra hard work for children, and children not being able to go back to school.

Unaccompanied and Separated Children (UASC)

  • Separations were more commonly reported amongst the refugee community, most likely due to the increased risk of separation during flight or relocation.
  • Separations were more commonly reported in the West Nile region as compared to the south-west.
  • Data on UASC indicates that caregivers may have been under-reporting on this risk perhaps due to lack of clarity around the terminology amongst respondents.
  • The most frequently reported cause of separation amongst both communities was death or illness of the caregiver.

Service Provision and Barriers to Access

  • On average host community respondents reported much lower availability of services as compared to refugee respondents.
  • The availability of child protection services as reported by refugees in Kampala is very low.
  • Service provision is reportedly on average lower in the south-west as compared to the West Nile region.
  • NGO staff, government, and police working in the child protection sector reported that COVID-19 has impacted their ability to provide services and has simultaneously led to a decrease in the availability of funds, causing further strain on already stretched resources.
  • Service providers have reported both limited staff availability and capacity in the child protection sector.

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees