Children in Uganda’s urban areas may be better off with their greater access to social services compared with their rural counterparts but they are also more vulnerable to homelessness, exploitation and abuse.
A report by Unicef Uganda and the Office of the Prime Minister adds that girls in urban areas also stand a higher risk of exposure to HIV and Aids.
“Urban children are more likely to live in overcrowded conditions, with 62.3 per cent of households using one room for sleep compared with 42 per cent in rural areas,” the report says.
Sanitation also remains a challenge for many urban dwellers with families sharing one latrine with up to 20 households. At least 57 per cent of Uganda’s population is made up of children and young people under the age of 18.
Despite the harsh living conditions in urban centers, many Ugandans are increasingly leaving their village to settle in towns and the city, with the report noting that urbanisation in Uganda is occurring at a rate of over five per cent per year.
“At this rate, it is estimated that about 30 per cent of the country’s population will be urban dwellers by 2035, up from the current 20 per cent. A high proportion of these urban dwellers will be children and youth,” the report notes.
Although a big percentage of this rapid urbanisation has been in small and secondary urban centers, the report notes that the greater Kampala metropolitan area is home to more than 50 per cent of Uganda’s urban dwellers.
The national population and housing census 2014 puts Kampala’s population at 1.5 million.
Even in the greater Kampala area, about half of the dwellers live in slums with inadequate housing, poor sanitation and limited access to basic services like education and employment.
“These challenges threaten to undermine our national potential and trap millions of children in poverty, and must take action now to develop programmes that ensure children in urban areas are protected to achieve their full potential,” said Christine Guwatudde, the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Patrick Musoke, the deputy director in charge of strategy management at Kampala City Council Authority said inclusive growth of cities and urban centers should be linked to affordable housing programmes and access to other pro-poor social services.
“We need to upgrade slums so that when people move from rural to urban areas, they do not get into worse living conditions than those they left in the villages,” said Mr Musoke.