Children's press conference: Ugandan children speak out on the impact of COVID-19
COVID-19 is having a huge impact on children - from a rise in violence and abuse, to hunger and poverty, child labour and child marriage.
To properly address these issues we need to hear directly from children, and their views need to be taken into account by policy makers, donors, communities and NGOs.
With our partners in the Joining Forces coalition (made up of Child Fund, Plan International, Save the Children, SOS Children's Villages, Terre des Hommes and World Vision) we brought children from all over Uganda to take part in the first children's press conference, broadcast live on national TV. The children spoke about how they are affected and asked questions directly to Government representatives from the Ministries of Health, Education and Gender, and the Uganda Police Force.
NEEMA, 15, from Kakiri, wants to become an entrepreneur
“There is a rise in abuse of girls. What are you going to do to the men who impregnate girls in this period?
“The President says the Government will distribute TVs to villages to help children learn. But some villages don’t even have electricity. What will be done to help them?”
JUSTICE BARACK, 12, from Busia, is the Rt. Hon. Speaker for Busia Children’s Parliament
“Children are having to work and hawk goods, even to truck drivers, and the police isn't doing anything. What will they do?”
NAJIBU, 16, from Wakiso, wants to be an architectural engineer and help provide housing solutions in poor urban areas.
“Some government health centres nearby, like Kireka C, have no drugs. Why is it like that at this time?”
“What have the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education done to prepare so that children are kept safe when schools reopen?”
“When will candidates be able to do their exams?”
MARY, 16, from Moroto, is an advocate for girls rights
“Many children still do not have study materials. We don’t have TVs or electricity. How should we learn and what will be done to support us while schools are closed?”
PRECIOUS, from Wakiso
“Bars are closed but some parents have started selling alcohol from their homes. Drunk men come to the homes with bad motives. How are the police going to protect young girls at the home?”
Below: The Police Commissioner listens to the children's questions
JOSEPHINE, 19, from Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, is a youth journalist and child rights advocate
“There has been a big increase in violence against children, especially girls, since the start of lockdown, and it is going unpunished.
“Everyone else is involved in the fight against COVID-19. So how does the Government plan to involve children?”
GIFT, 14, FROM WAKISO, wants to become a doctor
“Children are sleeping on the streets and are forced to pickpocket and sell goods. How is the Government going to help them?”
“If schools restart, parents will be charged fees. But jobs are on hold, so most parents can’t afford them.”
“We want to know what is the current strategy to eliminate Covid-19. We just keep hearing about “wash your hands”, but is there more?”
JONATHAN, from Kampala
“Some vulnerable children have been given drugs to sell and use, like marijuana. How will you help them? How is the Government going to help parents and children who live in slums and have lost their jobs?”
“Some children haven't got home study materials yet. How will they be supported?”
“Some children who have allergies are afraid to go to hospital in case people think we have Covid.”
ALVIN, 13, from Entebbe, loves reading and debating
“The number of cases is increasing. When will we be able to go back to school? Children are bored. What is being done to make sure children are safe when they go back?”
LUCY, 16, from Napak
“How are we supposed to follow Ministry of Health guidelines if we cannot afford soap and face masks? To prevent Coronavirus, children need to be involved in decisions.”
JONATHAN, 14, from Wakiso
“Ever since schools were closed we stopped learning. The packs from the Government were not enough. Is this year going to be cancelled—when are we going back to school?”
“Some of my friends are now working in stone quarries to get money and they get into accidents. What is the police doing to help them?”
SHARON, from Central
“How are you going to protect girls from the increase in child marriage and sexual abuse?”
“Floods in Kasese ruined houses and a hospital. There is no clean water for people and risk of disease. What will be done to help children in the flooded areas?”
SHARON, 13, FROM Kakiri, wants to become a surgeon.
“Girls are getting dormant and pregnant during lockdown. When are we going back to school?”
JOSEPHINE, 13, from Wakiso
“We no longer have enough food. My parents can no longer go to work and can’t afford to give me, my brothers and sisters two meals—as it used to be before Covid19. We just have one meal a day and take tea without sugar because we can’t afford it. How will the Government help?”
“Some health workers ask for money when children go to hospital. What will the Ministry of Health do to stop that?”