A young boy of 10, forced by traffickers to engage in street begging, has been reunited with his parents by Hope for Justice in Uganda.
Peter*, who was born with several chronic illnesses, was recently reunited with his father, who had not even known whether his son was alive. (*Name changed to protect identity)
Peter received treatment at a community hospital and now a specialist facility to ensure a continued healthcare plan. Alongside his healthcare, Peter is also beginning to reintegrate into mainstream education and catch up on missed school time.
During his time at the Lighthouse, Peter received comprehensive physical and psychological treatments to aid his recovery. He was severely malnourished upon arrival, and was immediately admitted to hospital. He initially struggled to integrate with the other children and was continually in and out of the Lighthouse due to hospitalisation. Following months of extensive care, psychosocial support, and counselling, Peter made promising progress and Hope for Justice managed to trace his family.
Peter has expressed relief that this horrible episode has come to an end and that he is on his way to recovery, saying:
Peter was first referred to the Lighthouse when found on the streets of Fort Portal in Western Uganda by police. The officer who encountered him described Peter as “miserable, weak, and sickly”. Suspicions of trafficking and exploitation were raised when Peter revealed that he was from Eastern Uganda and missing home.
It was revealed that Peter had been trafficked from his home town along with several other ill children to beg on the street. They were moved from place to place and expected to meet daily financial targets set by their traffickers. If these targets were not met, the children would not be fed. Peter had many meals withheld, and was physically and verbally abused in punishment. He was forced to beg for hours on end in high temperature and would often faint from exhaustion and dehydration. Even when this happened, he got no reprieve; he would be briefly dragged into the shade but then quickly made to return to begging.
Peter was originally taken by his traffickers under a charitable guise. During a visit to his mother during a school holiday, a neighbour recommended that she induct Peter in a medical scheme designed to help children with chronic conditions from poorer backgrounds. Impacted by the financial toll of Peter’s extensive medical treatments, his mother agreed, unaware of the true, exploitative nature of the scheme.
Peter’s situation is highly troubling, though not uniquely so. Increasingly, young children with medical conditions are being exploited for street begging. These children are often from poorer backgrounds, allowing the traffickers to exploit not only the child’s vulnerability but that of their family. Peter’s parents are receiving positive parenting and holistic care as part of Hope for Justice’s reunification efforts, to decrease the possibility of retrafficking.
Hope for Justice is currently running an urgent appeal to allow us to take in and care for more child victims of trafficking who have been targeted because of chronic illnesses or disabilities. Find out more at the link below.