Gov’t fast-tracks family policy to shield children with disabilities

Gov’t fast-tracks family policy to shield children with disabilities
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Experts have raised concerns about the lack of readily available statistics at the district and regional levels in Bunyoro.

This hinders efforts to understand and address the severity of sexual abuse faced by children living with disabilities.

These concerns were highlighted during the unveiling of a policy brief by the Uganda Child Rights NGO Network (UCRNN), which addresses the urgent issue of teenage pregnancy among children with disabilities.

The study focused specifically on the regions of Hoima, Kakumiro, and Buliisa.

Experts emphasise that children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, leading to early pregnancies and the troubling trend of young children becoming mothers.

The prevalence of this issue in the region is escalating, as indicated by a policy brief report released by the Uganda Child Rights Network NGO (UCRNN), which states that teenage pregnancy among disabled girls is high in the Bunyoro sub-region.

According to the report, this issue is especially prevalent among those with intellectual disabilities, deaf-blind individuals, those with hearing impairments, and those with physical mobility disabilities.

Mondo Kyateka, the Commissioner for Youth and Children at the Ministry of Gender, noted that the government is committed to developing family policies that protect children with disabilities.

Mondo Kyateka, the Commissioner for Youth and Children at the Ministry of Gender

Kyateka explained that many wrongs begin at home, with discrimination against one child compared to another.

He emphasised the importance of ensuring equitable treatment for all children, regardless of their sex or disability, and stressed the need for a family policy.

"We are also striving to raise awareness among Ugandans. People should stop hiding children with disabilities behind closed doors. This will go a long way in ensuring that nobody is left behind," he said.

Kyateka mentioned that the government has established various structures, including the National Disability Council and the Equal Opportunity Commission, and has provided opportunities for individuals with disabilities to serve in the cabinet and be represented in Parliament, all aimed at protecting people with disabilities.

Damon Wamara, the Executive Director of UCRNN, informed the Nile Post that many of these cases go unreported and undocumented, making it extremely difficult to plan and provide the necessary support.

"Children living with disabilities are still being taken advantage of sexually, leading to early pregnancies and children becoming mothers at a young age," he said.

Wamara noted that there is currently a lack of statistics that can be easily tracked by districts and regions to accurately understand the gravity of the issue.

"Due to the fact that these children with disabilities are hidden away from the community and society, when they do become pregnant and have children, they are further hidden from society. The lack of statistics obscures the true extent of the issue in the area. There is something silent brewing in our community," he explained.

Furthermore, he added that the available statistics do not clearly indicate how many reported cases are actually related to children with disabilities, which has hindered efforts to implement effective programs and ensure the protection of these children.

"We need to find a way to mainstream and ensure that every child, including those with disabilities, is accounted for. Health centers and schools should provide data to capture these statistics. We also urge the Uganda Bureau of Statistics to include this in the upcoming census," he stated.

Catherine Kobusingye, the Executive Director of the Hoima Network of Child Rights Clubs, pointed out that in Bunyoro, disabilities are often perceived solely as physical disabilities, neglecting other invisible forms of disability.

She expressed sadness and frustration over this perception and noted the lack of sufficient budget allocation, particularly for social services catering to children with disabilities.

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