After a year long preparation, the International Conference on Child Poverty in Africa finally took place from 10th -12th September, 2018 in Kampala, Uganda attracting a global array of researchers, policy and civil society stakeholders.

The Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), UNICEF Uganda and the Global Development Institute (GDI)- University of Manchester conceived the idea on basis that while there has been substantial progress in reducing global poverty in recent years, hundreds of millions of vulnerable children remain trapped in extreme poverty.

In light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ensuring no one is left behind, the conference aimed at contributing to global efforts to end child poverty by generating key insights on practical actions, programmes and social policy interventions that have made a tangible difference in the lives of Africa’s poorest children.

The workshop was structured around Child poverty and deprivation, Child-sensitive social protection, Public finance for children and Child rights governance.

Sarah Sewanyana, the Executive Director EPRC noted that whereas Ugandan children continue to face a multitude of challenges, government through vision 2040 and the subsequent 5 year National Development Plans is committed to safe guarding the rights of children.

International Conference on Child Poverty

Doreen Mulenga the Country Representative UNICEF Uganda noted that 55 percent of children aged below 5 (3.7 million) are living in multi-dimensional poverty, deprived of many basic services and fundamental rights to health care, nutrition, education, water and sanitation required for them to develop to their full potential.

The conference featured 18 parallel sessions, keynote addresses, and panel discussions exploring child poverty and vulnerability and key issues such as governance and human rights.

Kehinde Omotoso, from the University of Pretoria South Africa presented a paper, “Exploring changes in Child Multidimensional poverty and Deprivations in post-Apartheid South Africa”, and noted that deprivation associated with household economic inactivity contributes the highest share to the overall Child Multidimensional Poverty Index.

To avert this, several papers shared at the conference in the same line suggest prioritizing the development and protection of children, encouraging higher education, provision of more shelter and sanitation infrastructure by governments and development partners.

However, such solutions are sometimes hard to implement. Diego Angemi the Chief, Social Policy and Advocacy, UNICEF Uganda on his presentation "Rethinking Public Finance for Children: Monitoring for results, Evidence from Uganda", noted that even though education is cheap in Uganda, students, especially girls, were not attending school due to violence and emotional abuse in schools leading to low completion in some parts of the country.

On special needs education, Ahereza Noah, the Sign Language Programme Coordinator at Uganda National Association of the Deaf indicated that deaf people in poor and developing countries do not have access to good education.

Across Uganda for instance, schools for the deaf are normally staffed by hearing teachers who do not have adequate access to the Ugandan Sign Language. In mainstream schools, the deaf children have even less access to the curriculum. Ahereza recommends use of peer-to-peer deaf multi-literacies approach in skilling deaf children since it is cost effective and empowering.

Other presentations raised concern about child exploitation often entailing participation in dangerous labour conditions such as artisanal and small-scale mining as a result of death of parents, divorce and extreme domestic poverty.

Ending this scourge according to studies shared at the conference will require multi-level interventions, community-embedded development and social protection work.

Richard Morgan, the Director of Child Poverty Global Initiative, Save the Children Chair asserted that children need to be prioritized in national strategies, if the global community is going to end poverty as promised in SDG 1 and that Social protection should be expanded to cover child-sensitive issues.

This according to Morgan entails improving access to quality public services, especially for the poorest children, pushing for ‘decent work’ for young people as well as mapping of needs.

Moving forward, the conference offered good academic reflect on the numerous issues pertaining child policy, welfare and growth, which call for unified actions and not operating in silo to redeem the lives of millions of African children caught in the hooks of poverty.

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