The most vulnerable people in any society rely on the kindness and the resources of those around them. In some places, like the country of Uganda, many children have had little help from anyone. The social safety net of orphanages failed to make the improvements many hoped. New methods, however, along with the efforts of dedicated social workers are beginning to address previous failures. Many people believe the programs will give children the chance to have the future they need.
Life in Poverty
Uganda has the unfortunate title of the poorest country in the world. Over half the country lives below the established poverty line and about 30 percent lives in complete poverty. The result is a lower life expectancy than anywhere else in the world and parents that have no ability to care for themselves or their children. Extreme poverty has led to child labor, and even more tragically, child trafficking. Some desperate parents sell their children and others leave their children at orphanages in the hope they will at least have food.
Failure in Care
Ugandan orphanages too often fail to provide adequate nutrition, medical care, and education. Foreign donations that flow into Uganda may not even reach the orphanages or benefit the children even if it arrives at the right door. Overcrowding means that the best facilities meet basic survival needs but fail to give children enough attention.
Research shows that children raised in orphanages do not receive the loving human contact all people need. Human touch eases depression and reduces pain, and it has more value for infants and children. Without regular contact, babies and children can fail to grow or thrive. A high rate of infant mortality occurs in orphanages where babies do not get the hugs or other contact they need. To improve the lives of children, Uganda has started to close orphanages and work to keep families together.
Improvement for Children
The efforts to change the life of Ugandan children have included the establishment of training centers in neighborhoods around the country. Parents that visit the centers receive information about the realities of orphanages. Also available are classes that boost parenting skills and teach parents about nutrition and the importance of family bonding. The centers focus on the need of children for security, love, and education.
The efforts in Uganda will take time, but changes have begun. In time, families can work together to reduce poverty, improve their communities, and provide a better start for the next generation. Orphanages remain open in many parts of the country, but the numbers continue to dwindle.