Since June 2012 Sustain for Life and partners, Children on the Edge in the UK and Adolescent Development Support Network (ADSN) in Uganda, have been supporting the inhabitants of the “Soweto” slum outside of Jinja, Uganda. This programme has dramatically improved the situation within the community of Soweto for vulnerable people by creating a safer community for children where their needs are met and rights protected, providing young people with the opportunities, skills and psychosocial support that will enable them to develop into healthy adults, and providing training and livelihood opportunities for adults through agriculture.
The slum prior to our support
Soweto, one of eight slums on the outskirts of Jinja, Uganda, is home to over 4,000 people who have largely been displaced by conflict. Cramped into 10 acres, these people are struggling for existence in difficult conditions. Unskilled in agriculture and with limited access to land and basic inputs, brewing and distilling alcohol had become Soweto’s primary economic activity. Girls were often responsible for this activity, whilst caring for young children who sat among the highly explosive containers and black sludge effluent that runs throughout the community. Malnutrition was rife and many babies and children were eating the dregs from the alcohol production as porridge. High HIV prevalence and the reliance on alcohol within the community had resulted in many vulnerable and orphaned children; most households are either headed by children or by adult carers who are elderly, sick or continuously inebriated. With no place to go throughout the day, children were left exposed to a range of abuse and with no place to play, they were found playing with machetes and in the mounds of garbage that littered the slum. Children in Soweto had little hope, with no sustainable livelihoods for their families, poor nutrition, no access to education and no safe place to simply enjoy being children.
Moving towards a better future for the community
This programme has provided pre-primary education for children under five and educational support for children who have dropped out of school through the creation of a child-friendly community centre. Children who have attended the centre have received nutritious meals twice a day which has reduced child malnutrition and improved health. The community has been mobilised through Community Child Protection Committees, accessing essential services and receiving sensitisation on child rights, parenting, family planning and child abuse. Vegetable gardens have been established to feed the community’s children and to provide a training centre for vulnerable households. The slum community of Soweto is changing. Children are healthier and many families are living health and more productive lives. Vegetables are now growing around many of the houses where rubbish stood before. Women who previously brewed alcohol are now practicing agriculture, now able to feed their families and generate additional income towards sustainable livelihoods.
Stay tuned for updates on this exciting project as we enter two where the community will eventually sustain activities through their own efforts.