By Arthur Arnold Wadero
More than 14,000 children have been defiled since the Covid-19 pandemic forced the country into the first lockdown last March, the government has said.
Mr. Martin Kiiza, the Executive Director of National Children Authority (NCA), made the revelation at Parliament yesterday during the launch of a mass vaccination campaign for teachers and learners.
He also said17,000 cases of domestic violence were recorded.
“These are issues we need to put into consideration to ensure we mitigate this [situation] and ensure that our children go back to school,” Mr. Kiiza said.
“Children are vulnerable to abuse. They have been staying within the communities and the wrong characters are also within, so they take advantage of our innocent children,” he added.
The authority, which was established in May 2016 by the Children (Amendment) Act 2016, advises the government on the formulation of a national child protection policy and child rights programmes in the country.
The NCA study identified Mayuge, Kabale, Rubanda, Rukungiri, Kamuli, and Butaleja districts as hotspots. Others are Kisoro, Kanungu, Rukiga and parts of Teso Sub-region.
“Between March 2020 and July 2021, teenage pregnancies recorded were 2,628 cases. Defilement cases, in particular, were 25 [in Kabale],” Mr. Kiiza said, adding that 42 defilement cases were recorded in Kanungu.
He said Rubanda was particularly worrying with 302 cases and 216 cases of domestic violence registered from July 2020 to August 2021.
The Kyegegwa Woman MP, Ms. Flavia Kabahenda, said the statistics underline the importance of increasing the uptake of Covid-19 vaccines to remove children and women from harm’s way.
“We have been getting information from [the] government that we have a bumper vaccine, close to nine million vaccines. Can we declare two days of holiday to ensure that the whole country is vaccinated?” Ms. Kabahenda said.
To that effect, the NCA joined the Parliamentary Forum on Children to encourage all teachers and learners that are eligible for vaccination against Covid to get inoculated.
The government has tentatively set the date for reopening schools to January 2022.
To get there, at least 330,000 learners that are above 18 years as well as 550,000 teachers will need to be jabbed. So far, about 269,945 teachers have received the first dose, with 96,653 more fully inoculated. This has left a deficit of 280,055 teachers who are yet to be vaccinated.