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Limited Funding Undermining Role of Probation Offices-Study

Social Policy Analyst Prof. Narathius Asingwire observes that Probation Offices are constrained to conduct programs of rehabilitation and resettlement of street children, supporting children under alternative care, sensitization on children's rights, children in conflict with the law and providing food and non-food items to children in remand homes and institutions because of insufficient funding.

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Probation Offices in Uganda have been reduced to only recording child abuse cases and responding to evacuations reported through the Child Helpline due to limited funding for the sector.

Social Policy Analyst Prof. Narathius Asingwire observes that Probation Offices are constrained to conduct programs of rehabilitation and resettlement of street children, supporting children under alternative care, sensitization on children's rights, children in conflict with the law and providing food and non-food items to children in remand homes and institutions because of insufficient funding.

Prof Asingwire says he has reviewed the National budgets of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Gender and the respective local governments and local districts' budgets from 2017 to 2022 and found that although children's affairs funding nearly doubled from 3.77 billion Shillings in the financial year 2017/2018 to 6.36 billion Shillings in 2019/2020, it took a dive to 1.8 billion Shillings blast financial tear.

He says that low allocations affected the implementation of programs under Community-Based Services Departments. This includes assisting children, especially when they conflict with the law or when their rights are infringed upon, making inquiries about the children's cases to enable the courts to make appropriate judgments and sometimes facilitating court processes in cases where supervision orders were needed.

He recommends that the funding to the Ministry of Gender should be increased to at least 12 billion Shillings, specifically allocated to Child protection programs.

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Although these issues are spread in different sectors including, Education, Health, Gender and the judiciary, this study focused on Youth and Children's Affairs programs under the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, the main Ministry that deals with children's affairs.  They also worked with different local governments which reported relying mainly on Civil Society Organizations to implement rescue and rehabilitation programs.

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Recently when the government rescued children from the streets of Kampala, the Director for Gender at KCCA Godwin Gumisiriza said that they conduct the rescue not only depending on the need but also on the availability of resources, transport and providing for their welfare at rehabilitation centres.

Timothy Opobo, the Executive Director of AfriChild Centre, an organization that conducts research on issues around children says that government should at least double the funding to the Ministry of Gender and specifically to programs on child protection.

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Margaret Makhoha, the Chairperson of the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Children says the study is an eye opener on how much lip service the country is offering to her largest population. She says as a committee, they would review the document and use it to advocate for increased fund funding for Children Protection programs.

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Tororo Woman Member of Parliament Sarah Opendi says that the government needs to prioritize child protection issues adding that while parliament passes the budget, the allocations are determined by the priorities of the executive and the Ministry of Finance.

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Moses Otai, the Country Director of ChildFund International in Uganda says that the welfare of children was even more affected during the COVID-19 lockdown when schools were closed and children were exposed to different forms of abuse and exploitation. 

Otai says that the need to protect children is urgent, adding that if the Children aren't well protected, Uganda is likely to raise a generation of violent children, delinquents, and children traumatized due to abuse and other effects.

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The State Minister for Finance Amos Lugolobi acknowledged that there are child protection issues that need keen attention. He however says that they have not been focusing on child protection because the local government didn’t flag it as an issue during consultations undertaken by the ministry in the previous budget cycle.

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