Each of the three strategic goals of the Bernard van Leer Foundation has a clear range of manifestations affecting young Ugandan children. The three 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 135 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.
Young children (0-6 years) in rural areas spend their days in safe and stimulating environments near their homes
90% of Ugandan children aged under 6 are not in any form of early learning service. The majority of those that are enrolled are wealthy, urban and in private schools. Despite the fact that the thrust of the current government policy is on center-based pre-schools, we have elected not to put our efforts there because it has a de facto effect of excluding the rural poor and children under three and because it does an inferior job of addressing learning and nutrition in an integrated fashion – and this is important, given that 38% of children under five are stunted, 6% wasted, and 16% underweight.
Thus, we have elected to focus our efforts on a home visiting approach that integrates early learning content into the work of village health teams who represent a cadre of more than 200,000 volunteers. Given the limited work on this issue on the ground, we have chosen not to pursue a major scale-up at this time, but rather a focus on selected districts where we are also addressing the other two goals.
Do you have comments on our goals in Uganda? Please contact our programme officer for Uganda, Nyambura Rugoiyo: firstname.lastname@example.org