The Salient fundamental linkages between child trafficking and Food Security: The Case of Teso Region
By Regina Kayoyo, Emily Kennedy
A lot of research has been undertaken on the causes behind child trafficking and food insecurity. However, little or none has delved into the possible relationship these two could have with each other. Identification of the different forms of trafficking has to a large extent dominated and held captive the biggest percentage of research into this heinous, highly lucrative trade, with little or no diversion to investigate the role ‘food insecurity in the household’ has to play as a push factor in the promotion of human trafficking.
By definition, trafficking of children is the “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation.” In Uganda, this phenomenon has remained largely abstract as many have chocked it down to being non-existent, yet, according to the United Nations global report (UNODC, 2014), there is a continued increase in the number of detected child victims (increase by 5%), particularly for girls under 18 years. Katakwi and Soroti districts were in 2010 identified as sources of, transit and destination points for child trafficking within Uganda and across the borders of the country (Ujeo, 2010).
The general lack of awareness among the population on matters regarding child trafficking coupled with its complex nature (push and pull factors) has created an attitude of complacency towards this issue in the country.
Although the Eastern region wasreported to havehad a positive food balance, some districts such as Soroti were considered exceptions that were experiencing food stress surviving on one or two meals a day with a low and deteriorating dietary diversity.
Driven by the information gap on the dimension of food insecurity as a push factor in the causes of child trafficking, Food Rights Alliance in collaboration with War on Want Northern Ireland , SORUDA and WeDA our grassroot partners with funding from the Independent Development Fund sponsored a research study aimed to link the presence of food insecurity to the occurrence of child trafficking in the Teso Region.
The research was conducted with three categories of households. These were households with previous cases of child transfer, those at the risk of transfer and those that had been recipients of a transferred child. From group discussions held, community members indicated majority of the families in Soroti had transferred children and most of those in Katakwi had been on the receiving end.
While the report is still in its final phase, the evidence collected within the study indicates that there is a link between these two troubling aspects. The increased pressure placed on the household when food supplies are limited has left many parents in the region looking for alternative ways to care for their children. While most of the individuals interviewed in the process indicated that children were sent to other family members, there were other accounts of the child’s willingness to leave in search of a perceptively better life. In some instances, the childrenare sent out on a daily basis to work for food. And although sometimes this works to the child’s benefit, other times the outcomes aren’t so kind with reports of abuse and early marriages. Because the children provide labour out of the home in exchange for food, they are likely to keep moving from home to home, making them vulnerable to trafficking.
Under conditions of low food availability in a household, adults and children are usually affected in different ways, it is however, unfortunate to note that although food shortage is generally reported as a key driver to child transfers, there are no specific efforts or interventions in Katakwi and Soroti Districts that are addressing the problem of child trafficking with a close link to food insecurity. It is imperative that programs be designed and implemented in a multi-sectorial manner to address these problems. This thus calls for partners working in areas of food security and child protection programmes- that have often worked in different silos- to pull their resources together and harmonize solutions to help mitigate the vulnerability of our nation’s children to this trade.