Uganda: In Uganda, Vulnerable Children Lack Support At the Community Level, Survey Findings Show

Fewer than half of citizens say help is available for abuse/neglect, disability, or mental/emotional problems.

Key findings

  • More than half (54%) of Ugandans say parents are “never justified” in using physical force to discipline their children. Opposition to the practice has risen by 5 percentage points since 2017.
  • About the same proportion (55%) say the use of physical force to discipline children is an infrequent occurrence in their community, though 45% disagree.
  • Nearly six in 10 Ugandans (57%) say child abuse, mistreatment, and neglect are “not very frequent” or “not at all frequent” in their community, while 42% describe it as common.
  • But almost two-thirds (64%) say out-of-school children are a common problem.
  • Fewer than half of Ugandans say help is available in their community for abused, mistreated, or neglected children (47%), children with disability (44%), and children and adults with mental or emotional problems (36%).
  • A majority (54%) of Ugandans say their government is doing “fairly badly” or “very badly” at protecting and promoting the well-being of vulnerable children.

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development vision of “a world which invests in its children and in which every child grows up free from violence and exploitation” cuts across many of its goals, from providing education and health care to eliminating poverty, child marriage, and female genital mutilation (United Nations, 2015).

In Uganda, the government has backed protection, care, and support for all children with an arsenal of policies, programmes, and guidelines, including a National Child Policy, National Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children Policy, National Social Protection Policy, and National Parenting Guidelines. In addition to community-based services supported by nongovernmental oranisations, government support centres exist to address particular needs (e.g. for education and physical rehabilitation), though their coverage is still limited by resource constraints (Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, 2004, 2015, 2018, 2020; Ministry of Education & Sports, 2017; Truell, 2019).

Despite the government’s efforts, many Ugandan children confront enormous barriers to a healthy upbringing. According to the most recent Demographic and Health Survey, almost three in 10 children under age 5 are stunted due to malnutrition, 85% of children under age 15 experienced a violent disciplinary action during the previous month, and 43% of women aged 25-49 married before they turned 18 (Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 2018).

The Uganda Violence Against Children Survey reported that one in three girls and one in six boys experience sexual violence, while six in 10 girls and seven in 10 boys suffer physical violence (Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, 2017).