WHERE ARE THE CHILD PROTECTORS
Born in a family of five children, Ajok Hawa has not had the privilege of growing up like her siblings. At the age of six, Ajok can be mistaken for a frail three year old disabled child tacked away in Lapalanwen, Lamwo parish about 9km from Palabek kal Sub County Lamwo-Uganda. Living with the mother and stepfather with two wives, Ajok has undergone an unimaginable case of child neglect. On a day to day basis, she is normally left with her two year old sister for over five hours when their parents have gone to the gardens without breakfast or something to eat. The situation has been worsened by food insecurity situation due to delay of rains in the first season where people barely planted crops.
Because she is unable to walk, Ajok requires help to ease herself or bathe but hardly gets the help she needs so most times, she ends up easing on herself and has to wait for the mother or elder sister to come and clean her up. The Family has resorted to having her remain without clothing for most times “to reduce the burden of washing her soiled clothes.” which she barely has. Ajok also goes for days without bathing as no one is willing to take good care of her.
The outside world is not known to her as her only domain is the compound around home and yet by this time, she should be in primary one learning like other children and playing with peers but is being deprived of these rights. When contacted about the plight of her child, the mother told COW Foundation Field Officer that she cannot afford necessities for Ajok as she can barely feed or take care of all her children. Coupled with that, the father of Ajok is not willing to give any kind of support to them. "If only I could get someone to help me take care of Ajok cause the burden is too much for me" Ayaa Dorine, Ajok’s mother.
The Local Council of the area is indifferent about Ajok’s condition while the Child protection Committee in the area is non-existent.
The hut in which Ajok and the mother have been living in.
post war era has seen over dependency on NGOs, lack of knowledge and
interest of office bearers of these lower structures to carry out their
duties in protecting OVC from harmful conditions. It is time for all
stakeholders therefore to critically think about the functionality of
these Child protection structures and how to make them sustainable while
also focussing at parents and community on the upholding of children’s
The hut in which Hawa and the mother sleep is an incomplete structure which exposes her to the cold and rain a recipe for pneumonia and other health related conditions.
The stepfather however is constructing another structure to accommodate the family nearby.
Due to neglect, she has wounds from burns acquired as she looked for something to eat around the fireplace. Despite these conditions, she has never been taken to hospital for treatment.
Ajok’s wounds not taken care of. (Photo by COW Foundation).
There are many children with Ajok’s vulnerability status whose plight are not known in the district and sub region as a whole.
Government and development agencies set up structures right from the grass roots to national level to address such issues such as the Local Councils (LCs), Child Protection Committees (CPCs) Probation and Social Welfare Office etc. the question however remains, where are these structures to protect the "Ajoks" of Uganda and what are the gaps?.
Children of the World Foundation (COW Foundation) is a child focused Community based organisation in kitgum focused at creating an enabling environment in which OVC are protected, cared for and supported holistically. It is currently engaging stakeholders such as the Community Development Office, Local council and development partners in addressing Ajok’s plight.
COW Foundation believes in partnership and networking to achieve it's goal. Stakeholders interested in giving any kind of support for this noble cause are highly welcome.