Understanding Child Migration in Karamoja: a Case of Lokopo Sub County in Napak District
Child migration in the context of this study set out to analyze and describe experiences of child migrants during transit, experiences at the destination points and the experiences of these child migrants from Karamoja upon return into their communities even when conditions at home did not demonstrate any significant change for the better. The study was purely qualitative using the case study research design. The researcher collected data through focus group discussions (FGDs) with parents, one-on-one interviews with former child migrants and Key Informant interviews (KIIs) with selected district, sub county and community leaders. Former child migrants were selected at random while parents and leaders were purposively selected. The Researcher employed mainly qualitative data analysis methods to identify key findings from the collected data, as well as to draw conclusions and make recommendations.
The findings indicated that the majority of the child migrants had experiences related to; accidents, livelihoods challenges like hunger and lack of resources like money to meet or access basic needs, transportation challenges, child labour and exploitation and accommodation related challenges. Livelihoods related difficulties like hunger and poverty were the major reasons why children choose to relocate from their homes in Lokopo Sub County to urban centres like Mbale, Iganga, and Kampala among others.
It was further discovered that child migration presents several experiences that are predominantly negative, ranging from human rights violation to livelihoods related. Unlike the previous objective, that mainly have livelihoods and transport related challenges, child migrants at destination points experience the former, including human rights violations; accidents, physical, emotional and psychological experiences; thefts and robberies; accommodation challenges, gender based related violations like rape, defilement; illness like malaria, and other hygiene related complications among others; and child labour and exploitation.
Illness or health conditions caused as result of violations like rape, defilement, physical and psychological torture or engaging in sexual related activities like prostitution; inability to access medication when sick that could easily led to permanent health conditions formed their experiences upon return. Some perceived return more positively, as most of them saw it as a moment of reunion with families, relatives and friends filled with happiness and joy.
Exploitation, human rights violations, poor accommodation, torture and contraction of sexually transmitted illnesses stood out as being what normally welcomes the child migrants. This is contrary to the assertions of neoclassical theory. While the children are pulled to towns in anticipation of incomes, they end up suffering.
Therefore in line with the above, the study recommends that the government continues working with other development actors like civil society organizations and the private sector to raise awareness on the dangers of child migration. The government should also strengthen its monitoring and enforcement role through the police and other local structures both district and sub county level.
Furthermore, the Government should establish or strengthen laws and policies against all forms of migration in Karamoja. Government needs to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of these laws and policies through the police, the district, the sub county and other community structures.