‘Closing orphanages isn’t enough’: the centres supporting children and families in Uganda

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In countries without strong social protection systems, children are extremely vulnerable. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Working children are visible everywhere in Kampala. Even babies, too young to walk and wearing fouled, ill-fitting clothes, sit among the rubbish and hold out their hands as cars and people stream around them. Social work colleagues travelling in a taxi with me explain the babies are born into slavery. They tell me that the older children begging are also trafficked, and bring my attention to the men standing nearby, like shadows watching over their human property.

As we drive from one social service to another, Ugandan social workers point out realities that outsiders may not understand or even see. We pass a busy market with signs and stalls for fruit, vegetables and furniture – but just out of sight, I’m told, there is a stall with no advertisements, where desperate parents can sell their children to traffickers. The trafficked child can then be bought by anyone. The top price, the social workers say, is $15 per child.

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