Enumeration of Children Living on the Streets in Uganda Across Four Locations: Iganga, Jijna, Mbale, and Kampala

Retrak - Hope for Justice


Around the world, very few reliable estimates exist of the populations of children living and/or working on the streets. These children are often missed by national censuses or other surveys as they may be absent from households, or live in vulnerable and transient households which are not included. In Uganda, a group of local stakeholders working with children on the streets, in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development (MGLSD) and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), were interested in undertaking an enumeration of the street population in Iganga, Jinja, Kampala and Mbale. These locations were chosen because it was thought that children move through Mbale, Iganga and Jinja in the east of Uganda towards the capital Kampala where there is a visibly large population of children on the streets.

A review of recent literature pertaining to children on the streets in Uganda revealed that there is a lack of reliable estimates on the numbers of children on the streets in Uganda. A figure of 10,000 children is cited in a number of studies, however the actual study that produced this figure could not be traced.

In line with several recent studies, this research project adopted the dual system estimate method to enumerating children on the street. This is a suitable method for estimating hard-to-reach populations as it does not assume that every individual will be found. Instead two counts are undertaken and the results matched in order to determine the overlap and thus the proportion that were missed. It is then possible to estimate the whole population by taking into account those who were missed. This was complemented by a small qualitative study to provide greater insight into the factors contributing to the presence of children on the streets and to their experiences on the streets.

The goal of this research project is to inform policy and practice in Uganda by providing an:

  • Estimate of the number of children on the streets in Kampala, Jinja, Iganga and Mbale;
  • Insight into the characteristics of these children; and
  • Exploration of children’s perspectives of their engagement on the streets.

The focus of this project was informed by a literature review and consultations with the Ugandan government and local stakeholders who are currently working with children on the streets, as well as through engagement with children themselves who were involved in Retrak’s programmes in Kampala.