Cursory: Two twins have caught the eyes of the media. Left to fend for themselves by their runaway father and a mentally unstable mother, the 7-year-olds choose to hustle for themselves, over experiencing what it means to have a normal childhood.
Aaron Opio and Doreen Acen, who are both seven years old, are not just children but also self-sufficient wage earners. They are both bare-chested, with their potbellies catching the attention of each visitor who enters the grass-thatched shack they call home. What they refer to as their home is a windowless building with few furnishings that has the capacity to elicit tears.
The twins claim that when night falls, and usually on empty stomachs, this is where they find solace to slumber.They live in Acyekitoyo Village, Kaga Parish, Ochero Sub-county, with little more than a torn-up piece of a filthy bedsheet, a half-piece of a dried-out mattress, and a cracked green basin.Opio and Acen’s mother, Christine Asege, is mentally ill, and they gave birth to Opio and Acen. Their father is unknown.
Their mother’s everyday routine include giggling near the Lake Kyoga shoreline at Akampala Landing Site in the Ochero Sub-county.The twins also have a sibling named Denis Eriku, who is nine years old and whose father is not known.Eriku conducts errands around the hamlet to make ends meet, occasionally herding animals for a day’s compensation of Shs 1,000.
That is the money Opio and Acen patiently wait for at the end of the day to have a meal,“Since yesterday, we have not had any meal, we have been looking at the footpath that leads back to the house we call home, for our brother to bring something but in vain. Perhaps he has gone herding. I am hungry, and the nights can be cold on an empty stomach,” Acen says in Kumam, her mother tongue.
The little twin girl (Acen) says at times they take days without seeing their mother.
“She was here five days ago with a piece of fish, perhaps from the landing site,” she says, looking at the winding road in anticipation of their brother Eriku’s potential arrival.
Ms. Joyce Alao, who lives about two kilometers from the home of these kids, claims that because all of Ms. Asege’s close relatives have passed away, her kids are in a state of “solitary confinement” with no one to turn to but well-wishers.
The custodians welcome the kids inside for a snack on a good day when there are leftovers from the lunch served at the neighborhood community school. But it’s uncommon to see such gesture.
“As a village mate, I don’t know when I last saw their mother. I no longer hear her giggle, because that is the sign that signals her presence,” Ms Alao says. The 60-year-old Alao says the village has many destitute children, whose biological parents are unknown.
“People come here from different parts of Teso to fish. With the nature and character of people, they sire children who are left to the fate of nature,” she explains.Ms Alao says the situation has worsened due to economic hardship.
“As a village, we have longed to know the father of these children but it has not been possible, nor does the mother know. We think she was sexually assaulted in the middle of the night, became pregnant, and the children who are now suffering as a result,” she informed this outlet.Opio claimed that some well-wishers had tried to enroll them in primary school but they chose not to go, due to lack of food.
“At the time when people were busy harvesting potatoes, we would move to homes to help peel, then they would give us a basin full of fresh potatoes,” Opio adds.
“Mummy is not there for us”, Opio says, as he laughs at a lake bird flapping its wings over their mud and wattle grass-thatched hut.
“We don’t have clothes, all we have is what we are currently putting on,” he adds.
According to Mr. Victor Rex Ekesu, the local government chair for Kaberamaido District, the issue of child-headed families has spread to Ngora and Soroti due to many factors, such as parent deaths and economic difficulties.
As a result, the older child usually takes care of the younger ones under these circumstances. Using the social support network that is part of the clan structure, Mr. Ekesu claims that leaders have attempted to persuade relatives to accept responsibility.
“The proportion of such child-headed families within the district, ranges between, one to two percent. You find a girl of 16 years being the breadwinner, and helping the other little siblings sail through the difficulties of life,” he adds.
According to Mr. Ekesu, community-based services have interventions at the district level and occasionally have assisted kids in easing the effects of social difficulties.
Thank you so much for reading. We will appreciate it if you share this with your loved ones.