Source: Annual Report 2014
The two goals in Uganda are:
Reduced childhood mortality and morbidity among young rural children growing up in unhealthy physical environments
Up to 75% of the disease burden in Uganda is linked to poor personal hygiene and inadequate sanitation. This is a major factor behind Uganda’s national under-5 mortality rate of 90 per 1000 live births – a figure as high as 200 per 1000 in parts of the Northern region. Diseases directly associated with poor environmental health such as diarrhea, pneumonia, meningitis and tetanus are the greatest killers of newborns.
The aspects of the physical environment we find most critical to improve include: access to safe water (1/3 of all households have no access to safe water sources and 28.4% of people walk over 1km to water, where the average wait time is 28 minutes); sanitation (85.8% of the population use pit latrines and nearly 11% have no toilet); and hygiene practices. We elected to focus on rural areas because that is where 90% of young children (9.6 million) are living. We also believe that addressing this goal will provide a strong foundation for our work in violence reduction and early learning, as we know that high child morbidity is an impediment to success in both areas.
Reduced violence in families with young children in rural areas
Violence in the family is the most prevalent form of violence experienced by young Ugandan children, both as victims and witnesses. Over 70% of women and 60% of men aged 15-49 agree that a man can beat his wife. Rates of violence are higher in rural areas, where 70% of married woman (compared to 54% in urban areas) reported having experienced violence. Given these statistics, it can be said that an estimated 6.7 million rural children under 8 have been witness to violence against their mother.
Smaller studies, including those commissioned by the Bernard van Leer Foundation, suggest that the prevalence of violence against children is even greater in magnitude. The most common forms of violence against young children include caning, slapping, pinching, kneeling, burning, humiliation and denial of food. We will be focusing on the stress faced by parents due to livelihood struggles and on prevailing social norms, and we choose to focus on rural areas as poverty is greater than in urban areas.
Highlights from 2014
- Over 40 businesses signed up to champion investment in early childhood development following the country’s first-ever private sector summit on young children.
Mobilising Ugandan businesses to champion investment in early childhood and build a strong foundation for Uganda
One in three Ugandan children under 5 is malnourished and fewer than one in ten goes to preschool. Ugandan businesses need to take an interest now in how their future workforce is developing, says Patrick Bitature, a prominent entrepreneur and the new board Chair of the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU): ‘Longterm private sector growth in Uganda is premised on investing in young children.’
That’s why PSFU, which represents both large and small businesses, has partnered with the Bernard van Leer Foundation to advocate on behalf of Uganda’s youngest citizens. In February 2014 they launched the Early Steps programme to attract private sector involvement in early childhood across the country. In October, PSFU hosted Africa’s first-ever summit for business leaders on early childhood in Kampala.
At the local level, Early Steps is working with communities in the districts of Kumi, Apac and Nakapiripirit to mentor village savings and loans associations and support other Foundation partners in work that reaches over 6000 children. This includes collaboration with Foundation partner Health Child, which is training childcare workers for co-operative care groups, and the Center for Domestic Violence and Prevention, which supports responsive fatherhood clubs.
At the national level, PSFU is engaging with Government ministers and building a coalition of business champions for young children. Corporate members commit to child-focused corporate social responsibility and family-friendly employee policies. PSFU has also received mentoring and capacity-building support from ReadyNation, another Foundation partner that performs a similar function in the United States business community.
‘Business leaders care, but they need to know why they should get involved,’ says Godwin Othieno, Programme Design Officer of Early Steps. ‘We’ve tried as much as possible to simplify our messaging, without getting too technical. For example, we’ll say, “You cannot afford to ignore children – either as consumers or as a future labour force.” Or “If you want to have a business tomorrow, invest in young children today.” We’ll explain that key employee attributes such as creativity or innovativeness are developed in the earliest years.’
In less than a year, Early Steps has achieved significant visibility: 43 associations and businesses have signed up, and PSFU partnered with UNICEF Uganda to host a Children’s Rights and Business Principles event attended by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.
Says Godwin Othieno: ‘We want to see businesses speak up in support of early childhood. This will go a long way because in Uganda, the sectors that support young children aren’t enough. We’re already seeing more involvement from the Government in response to the advocacy of our business leaders. A lot of progress still needs to be made and the private sector can make a very big contribution.’
Do you have comments on our goals in Uganda? Please contact our Programme Officer for Uganda, Karisia Gichuke: email@example.com.