No Place for Children – Kampiringisa
Kampiringisa National Rehabilitation Centre is Uganda’s only juvenile detention centre (prison for children). It is located in the Mpigi District on the outskirts of the capital city, Kampala. The centre run by the Ugandan Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development is mandated to detain young males and females in conflict with the law from the ages of 12 to 18, however it also houses many children under 12 (as a result of children not having birth certificates) and often hundreds of street children who have not been convicted of any crime but merely rounded up and dumped from the streets of Kampala. The street children, including babies and toddlers, are housed with and looked after by much older offenders, potentially putting them at serious risk. By any standards, the conditions at Kampiringisa are appalling. The multiple buildings on the complex have not been maintained and most have peeling paint, broken windows and no light bulbs. The toilets are overflowing and non-functioning. The kitchen is covered in black sludge and unable to be used. There is no running water as the water pump broke many years ago and has not been replaced. The mattresses are filthy and are often used by two or more children at a time with thread-bear and dirty blankets. Overall hygiene standards are extremely poor. There are no onsite medical facilities and many children appear ill. Despite residing on a 377 acre piece of fertile arable agricultural land owned by the government, Kampiringisa National Rehabilitation Centre struggles to adequately feed the children due to limited food and budget allocations from government. The unused fertile land sits just outside of the compound and could potentially provide an abundance of nutritious food for the children in detention. The kitchen area used by the children at Kampiringisa has been relocated outside and managed by the children themselves. The stove did not appear safe or hygienic and the fire was open and the cauldrons were too big for children to carry or clean safely. There was no adequate drainage around the food area or for cleaning the dining hall and many flies were congregated around the food and the dining room floor. The children appear to be eating one meal of porridge and one meal of posho and beans per day and the general nutritional health of the children seems compromised. Kampiringisa National Rehabilitation Centre is grossly understaffed. In October 2010 it was operating on a skeleton staff of 18 with 22 positions vacant. During a visit in October 2011, even less staff were present and those individuals on duty appeared disinterested in the welfare of the children. Corporal punishment in the form of caning was routinely used for disciplinary reasons at Kampiringisa and there are isolation cells present that have been and apparently continue to be used for punishment and detoxification (October 2010). There is little or no planning around the welfare, rehabilitation or ongoing training of the children in care at Kampiringisa. Although vocational training rooms were constructed, they appear not to be equipped or in use and there is no evidence that the individual needs of children are taken into account. Children wander aimlessly around the complex with little or nothing to occupy them.
There are not enough staff with the right skills and motivation to mind the children; hence service provision to the children suffers to the extent that sometimes the older children take on the responsibility of cooking the meals and looking after the younger ones. If the conditions at Kampiringisa are not addressed, the centre risks disease outbreaks, injury or abuse of children, proliferation of violence, avoidable accidents, lawlessness among inmates and repeat crimes for those who depart detention. These can directly be attributable to poor nutrition, sanitation and lack of rehabilitative services provided to the children. Furthermore, the continued practice of rounding up and dumping street children from Kampala at Kampiringisa must be addressed. These children should not be put in “prison” where they are housed alongside young offenders and subjected to an unsuitable and unsafe environment. Please note that the above description of conditions at Kampiringisa is based on Sustain for Life visits in 2011 and 2012 and from our consultant Marianne Moore’s report A Review of Ugandan Remand Homes and the National Rehabilitation Centre Sustain for Life and our partners hope to make a dramatic difference to lives of the children who are unfortunate enough to find themselves at Kampiringisa. Please click here to learn more.