By Charlotte Muhwezi – Business Development Officer, World Vision in Uganda
World Vision, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Secretariat at the Office of the Prime Minister, and other partners hosted a High-Level Children’s Symposium on SDGs under the theme “The place of children in SDGs Implementation and Monitoring: Leaving no one behind during and post COVID-19”. The symposium was aimed at promoting meaningful participation and integration of children’s needs and interests in sustainable development discussions, especially during the COVID-19 recovery period.
It comes at a time when the 2021 Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development noted that the protection of children—already insufficiently addressed before COVID-19—has been further hampered by the crisis, poverty, inequality, and displacement. The forum highlighted that violence against children has not been sufficiently addressed in voluntary national reviews. The symposium thus sought to galvanise the efforts of different organisations to ensure children’s voices and experiences are reflected in Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) and all other accountability processes at regional and global levels.
Findings of the report, “Assessment of FY 2020/2021 Budget Responsiveness to the Aftershock effects of COVID-19 on Children across Key Sectors of Health, Education, Social Development and Livelihoods” show that only 2.4 trillion Ugandan Shillings (US$ 665 million), or 5.2% of the national budget, was allocated to child-focused interventions like health and education. Additionally, child protection, which falls within the Social Protection budget, received a meagre 3.8 billion Shillings (US$ 1.05 million).
According to the report's findings, child protection efforts have, and continue to face, significant challenges in terms of coverage, efficiency, and effectiveness due to low funding. The report further highlighted that only 12% of the respondents in the eight districts where the study was undertaken, had been able to access child protection services. It was recommended that the Government should mainstream child-focused investments into fiscal policy through a transparent and participatory budgetary process. Local governments were urged to increase allocations to community-based child protection services.
The guest of honour, Hon. Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, State Minister for Children and Youth Affairs urged parents to budget for their children’s livelihood at the household level before the Government can be put to task. “The Government needs to fund children’s activities as that will support greatly in addressing issues that affect the well-being of children”, she said. She further pledged to continue supporting causes that protect a child from violence.
H.E Rosa Malango, United Nations Resident Coordinator, and the keynote speaker at the event said, “COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on children causing disruptions to families, eroding children’s social support systems, and affecting their psychosocial well-being. In Uganda, about 1 million children who should have joined the school last February will have to wait until August 2021 and many may never make it back. The closure of schools affected the nutritional status of children as some households were unable to cope with the rising cost of food. Every day that girls were not in school, they were at risk of rape, defilement, unwanted pregnancies, HIV, and forced marriages, and as a result, hundreds of girls may never be able to complete their education.”
World Vision National Director Jason Evans said that “enabling children to meaningfully engage in development processes is vital to harnessing the huge potential that comes from a country having a dominant young population.” He went on to say that “it will be necessary for increased budgetary allocations to be made to children’s priority areas like Education, Sanitation Nutrition, Health, and Child Protection.” He added that “existing funding policies including Official Development Assistance are insufficient to enable children to have life in all its fullness.”
The different actors pledged to each play a fundamental role in protecting children from violence by delivering their respective mandate.