By Isaac Mutema
The Uganda government’s Youth and Children Ministry is running on what is demonstrably a shoestring budget. Its current budget is a paltry one hundred and forty million shillings (shs140m). This translates to slightly above thirty-six thousand United States dollars.
To put into perspective the dire cash straits this important ministry is stuck into, its first quarterly budget allocation was a mere ten million Uganda shillings (shs10m).
The figure above would translate to less than two thousand and five hundred United States dollars. Yet, that is what this ministry was expected to use to cover its obligations for four months.
This chilling state of affairs came to light as the line Minister, Sarah Mateke interfaced with the Gender, Labor and Social Services Parliamentary Committee last week.
The Committee led by Kyegegwa district Woman MP Flavia Rwabukoro Kabahenda had tasked Mateke to explain the heavy presence of young Karamajong girls on the streets and what she was doing to contain the shameful situation.
Quoting the pitiable budget allocation to her ministry and the fact that a mere ten million shillings have been dispatched so far Mateke reasons: “As a Ministry, we are financially hampered to do anything to ameliorate the problem at the moment.”
Turning to the government, the Committee’s Chairperson Hon Kabahenda urges the authorities to move with speed and seriousness to find a solution to the shameful state of affairs.
She recommends to the government strengthen security in Karamoja to deter people engaging in the trafficking of children looking to use them to beg on the streets on their behalf as well as to sell them as domestic maids.
Blaming the ongoing problem on the lack of social services such as schools and health centres in Karamoja, Kabahenda tasks the Education and Sports Ministry led by First Lady Janet Kataha Museveni to set up enough schools and vocational institutions to keep the children skilled and in school.
Hon Rosemary Nyakiokongoro while appreciating the fact that the human traffickers have worsened the influx of the Kalamajong children into Kampala and other urban centres, she notes that irresponsible parents and guardians are large to fault.
Coming to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Committee members task police to heighten deployment in Karamoja to investigate, arrest and prosecute all persons involved in the of trafficking children.
Mawogola’s South MP, Gorreth Namugga Mawogola submits that the government should give priority to Karamoja when it comes to the Parish Development Model funds.
On her part, the Minister of Gender Betty Amongi calls upon political leaders to address issues of traffickers, perpetrators, parental connivance and manipulation to end the problem of street children.