Human Trafficking in Uganda
Uganda is a country in East Africa that resides primarily on a central plateau that the rainforest mainly covers. Uganda is home to approximately 43 million people and a very young population, with an average age of 15.9 years old. Because of Uganda’s prominent position in Africa, it is an important destination for international tourism and trade. With large economic inequality and limited access to employment opportunities, Uganda’s population has grown economically vulnerable. This economic insecurity has lead to high rates of human trafficking in Uganda, as black market traffickers exploit vulnerable populations.

The Situation

Human trafficking is the crime of using “force, fraud or coercion” on people with the aim of exploiting them for profit. The exploitation typically comes in the form of physical labor, acts of service or sexual favors. Traffickers use varied tactics to lure their victims, including violent force, manipulation, romance and promises of well-paying jobs.

Human trafficking has become a major problem in Uganda. According to the Trafficking in Persons Report from 2020, estimates determined that traffickers are currently exploiting 7,000 to 12,000 children through sex trafficking in Uganda. The report also outlines how human trafficking in Uganda primarily takes the form of forced physical labor and sexual exploitation.

Uganda lacks employment opportunities, quality education and social welfare systems to aid the nation’s young population. The lack of opportunities and access to resources has left young Ugandans who live in rural and underserved areas vulnerable to exploitation. Most young Ugandans emigrants go to the Gulf States to work as laborers, security officers, construction workers and other forms of untrained labor, putting them at risk of human trafficking syndicates. The criminal justice system in Uganda is not adequately prepared to handle international crimes of this scope and nature. Special expertise and the cooperation of the international community are necessary to apprehend and bring to justice human traffickers and their accomplices.

The Fight Against Trafficking

Currently, Uganda has not met the minimum requirements to eliminate human trafficking but has made significant efforts to do so. Necessary measures for Uganda to eliminate human trafficking are varied. They include greater scale and intensity of federal investigations into human trafficking and a focus on prosecuting traffickers on the judicial side. Outside of criminal justice, assisting survivors of human trafficking and allocating resources to NGOs that provide protective services to populations vulnerable to trafficking are both crucial to ameliorate the damage that human trafficking has done. To successfully combat the menace of human trafficking, the Ugandan government must prioritize both survivor resources and relentless prosecution of human traffickers.

Despite its difficulties, the Ugandan government has taken the initiative to combat human trafficking. The Human Trafficking Institute, which emerged in 2015, has dedicated itself to combating modern slavery by empowering law enforcement to stop traffickers. The Institute has met with Ugandan leaders and planned the creation of specially-trained anti-trafficking units dedicated exclusively to combating human traffickers and the criminal infrastructure that enables them. The Institute is currently working with the Ugandan government to conduct trafficking investigations and prosecutions of traffickers. In 2017, the Institute led the training of 175 judges, police and prosecutors in Kampala, Uganda. Working with the Institute, the Ugandan government approved a specialized Human Trafficking Department in the Ugandan police force. The Human Trafficking Department now has approximately 250 staff members across Uganda.

Progress & Future Efforts

In 2009, the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act became law in Uganda. Under the law, which prohibits sex trafficking of any kind and protects the rights of sex trafficking survivors, prosecution and conviction of traffickers have escalated considerably. In 2009, only a single human trafficker received a conviction in Uganda out of three prosecutions. In contrast, 2017 saw 50 prosecutions and 24 convictions of human traffickers and their accomplices in Uganda.

Nonprofits and advocacy groups have also played a role in the fight against human trafficking. Willow International is a nonprofit organization that Kelly Morgan founded in 2015, dedicated to fighting human trafficking in Uganda. After she visited the country and witnessed human trafficking firsthand, Morgan made it her mission to end slavery in Uganda. Willow International combats human trafficking in Uganda through advocacy, aftercare, partnerships, prevention and rescue. Hundreds of trafficking victims and survivors have benefited from Willow’s work, with an estimated 55,000 lives positively impacted through rescue, education and prevention efforts in Uganda.

These efforts by the Ugandan government and advocates from the world are promising and important initiatives. Legal reform and resources for vulnerable communities have helped Uganda’s underdeveloped rural population stand up to traffickers. Simultaneously, the Ugandan government has reaffirmed its dedication to fighting trafficking and cooperated with international organizations to implement its new initiatives. But Uganda continues to be an area with prevalent human trafficking, and as long as modern slavery continues in the country, the fight against exploited labor will and must continue.

Jose Ahumada
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in ChadLocated in Central Africa, the country of Chad is the fifth largest landlocked state and has a poverty rate of 66.2%. With a total population of approximately 15.5 million, a lack of modern medicine, dramatic weather changes and poor education have riddled the country with deadly diseases and resulted in severe poverty in Chad.

Poor Health Conditions in Chad Lead to Disease

The most common types of disease and the primary causes of death include malaria, respiratory infections and HIV/AIDS. Malaria, usually spread through mosquito bites, is a potentially fatal disease and is quite common in the country of Chad. Due to poor sanitation, Chadians are more susceptible to malaria; the most recently estimated number of cases was 500,000 per year.

Along with malaria, lower respiratory diseases contribute to Chad’s high mortality rate – the most common and deadliest of those being meningitis.  Lower respiratory tract infections occur in the lungs and can sometimes affect the brain and spinal cord. A lack of available vaccinations in the country has increased susceptibility to meningitis. Meningitis is most deadly in those under the age of 20, and with a countrywide median age of 16.6 years old, Chad has seen a rise in total meningitis cases and overall deaths.

As of 2015, there were an estimated 210,000 Chadians living with HIV. According to UNAIDS, there were 12,000 AIDS-related deaths just last year, along with 14,000 new cases. Those living with HIV/AIDS are at a higher risk of death with their compromised immune systems. They are unable to fight off diseases and, with the preexisting severe risk of malaria and meningitis, they are more susceptible to death.

Harsh Weather and Its Role in Food Insecurity and Disease

Due to its geography, Chad is one of the countries most severely affected by climate change. Approximately 40% of Chadians live at or below the poverty line, with the majority relying heavily on agricultural production and fishing. The drastic change in rain patterns and the consequent frequency of droughts have placed a significant strain on their food supply. Fishing in particular has been sparse. Lake Chad, the country’s largest lake, has diminished by 90% in the past 50 years. The rising temperatures in Chad have caused a decrease in both crop yields and good pasture conditions, placing more strain on those who depend on Lake Chad for food and the nutrients it adds to farming.

In addition to affecting poverty in Chad, intense weather patterns have also increased the number of infectious diseases. The infrastructure of the country has not been able to keep up with the rapidly growing population in urban areas. This results in poor sanitation. The sanitation services are overwhelmed during floods: which contaminates the water supply.

Lack of Education Affects Poverty in Chad

Despite the relatively large population, less than half of school-aged children are enrolled in school. With attendance rates so low, the literacy rates in individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 fall; currently, they only reach 31%.  According to UNICEF, attendance rates are astonishingly low; 8% for children in upper secondary school and 13% for lower secondary school. With education rates so low, income inequality, infant and maternal deaths and stunting in children continue to rise; as a result, the overall economic growth of the country declines.

Enrollment is low in Chad due to the lack of resources in schools. With the country in severe poverty, schools remain under-resourced, both in access and infrastructure. Some schools have no classrooms and no teaching materials. Furthermore, teachers are often outnumbered 100:1. As a result, the quality of learning decreases, as does the overall attendance rate.

As of now, only 27% of primary-school-age children complete their schooling. According to UNESCO, if adults in low-income countries completed their secondary education, the global poverty rate would be cut in half. Even learning basic reading skills could spare approximately 171 million people from living in extreme poverty. Educated individuals are more likely to develop important skills and abilities needed to help them overcome poverty. Education also decreases an individual’s risk of vulnerability to disease, natural disasters and conflict.

Poverty in Chad is widespread, and the rate of impoverished people will continue to grow if it is not addressed. Poor health conditions and a lack of education are just a few of the many problems people face; while the living conditions may seem dire in Chad, a gradual decrease in overall poverty rates proves that there is hope.

Jacey Reece
Photo: Flickr