KAMPALA: The Uganda Child Helpline, which records cases of child abuse and other child rights violations, has been extended to also capture cases of violence against women.
Fred Ngabirano, the Commissioner of Youth and Children Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, says they have found that most children who are abused come from families riddled with domestic violence.
This development comes amidst the declining use of probation services at the district level, where officials are supposed to handle such cases, something that became more visible during the recent COVID-19 lockdowns, which came with restrictions in movement.
Ngabirano says there was increased use of this helpline at the height of the first lockdown in 2020, and since then they have been recording more complaints than in the pre-pandemic era. The biggest number of cases recorded are of sexual assault and incest.
Speaking at an event organised by NGO Trans-Cultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) to mark the Day of the African Child, held every June, Ngabirano said they had started with the training of officials manning the line on Friday on how they could effectively handle the two issues concurrently and be able to quickly link the affected to appropriate solutions.
Officials say that when these cases are recorded, they always put the victims in touch with appropriate caregivers in their communities to offer the necessary support.
But, according to Taban Edward, a child care specialist at TPO, while a number of children suffer mental distress as a result of some of the violations that they report through the helpline, access to mental health services remains limited. He said in some of the 46 districts where the organisation operates, they have had to train their own mental health professionals to deal with cases when they are unable to refer them to hospitals.
Apart from that, he says they have embarked on training to impart parenting skills to families using tools like the Violence Curriculum in order to cut down on violence. The Violence Against Children (VAC) study highlights that 4 per cent of children still experience emotional violence, whereas 55 per cent of children have experienced physical abuse at some point.