Of our three African Rescue Nations, we’ve operated in Uganda the longest, pulling children from the darkness of exploitation into the light of freedom. During that time, we’ve learned a lot about what forces kids into sex trafficking.

Most of the children we help in Uganda are rescued from what we call “survival situations.”  These kids face crippling, multidimensional poverty to an extent that can be difficult to imagine for many. Because they walk a razor-thin line between survival and starvation, even the smallest expense can be enough to force kids into exploitation.

Time and again, survivors tell devastating stories that begin with a need for the same simple necessities. Today, we’ll discuss four of the most common financial needs that act as the catalyst for exploitation.

1. School Fees: she wanted an education

In Uganda, primary education isn’t free. Children must pay yearly fees to attend school. And when children are fighting to survive, their education is often the first expense sacrificed.

In Uganda, 80% of 6 to 12-year-olds attend primary school, and around 30% attend secondary school

Struggling kids face a conundrum: paying school fees gives them better prospects for future employment and a better life, but in order to make the payments, they may have no other option but to sell their bodies now. 

Conversely, often, if children forgo the fees and drop out, their prospects for legitimate employment plummet, forcing kids into the arms of abusers to make ends meet.

2. Housing: he was trying to pay rent

Homes in Uganda

Despite the meager accommodations, landlords still charge rent in slums. 

Without a stable source of income, keeping up with rent payments keeps some residents in a perpetual scramble to cover their next rent. What’s worse, some landlords know their tenants have no other options and force them to trade sex for rent. 

Brothels will also lure in children who are on their own with the promise of a room before revealing what they must do to keep it.

Escaping the often unfair or unscrupulous housing arrangements in the slum can seem overwhelming. Prices in more respectable parts of the city are out of reach, forcing children to do what they must to keep a roof over their heads. 

3. Medical care or items: she needed toiletries 

Medical care can seem wholly out of reach to families balancing on a thin margin of financial stability. A single injury or sickness can be enough to topple the family into financial ruin. 

There is no national health insurance coverage in Uganda, although private health insurance does exist; health insurance coverage is estimated at less than 0.5% of GDP

The problem is twofold: if a parent is injured or becomes too sick to work, they desperately need medical care to recover. But because the injury prevents them from working, they not only have no money to see a doctor, they don’t even have enough to buy food. In such situations, the responsibility for providing for the family often falls to the eldest child.

It’s not just unexpected events that cause problems. Adolescents who can’t afford simple things such as feminine products must stay home from school, further deepening their dilemma. 

4. Food: they were near starvation

The most basic need facing impoverished children is simple sustenance. If one or more of the above situations occurs, many children face the primary need to eat.

Cooking activities at a Destiny Rescue residential home in Uganda

Homeless children who haven’t eaten in days are far beyond worrying about school fees or rent payments. Desperate to just get their next meal, children in such acute poverty are often forced to sell themselves for only a few dollars. We’ve had several reports of kids who only sold themselves for enough money to buy a single meal.

While some children may face only one of these challenges, it’s far more common that they face a collage of economic difficulties that drive them to exploitation. One survivor shares her experience with multidimensional poverty here: 



Dalia shares her story


How we help

Considering all the individual factors in play, we take a multifaceted, personalized approach to each rescue. If we don’t address the vulnerabilities that drove a child to sexual exploitation, we haven’t really helped her. 

That looks different for each survivor. Survivors who’ve lost their parents need to be placed with a foster family, while others may have families that need help to become financially independent. Whatever the case, we create individualized Freedom Plans™ with the long-term goal that each of our survivors can stay free after rescue.

A Destiny Rescue agent talks to a group of teenage girls in a high-risk area about our program

Life after rescue can still be hard; there’s no easy answer for life in slums and extreme poverty. But with innovative economic solutions, groundbreaking counseling and the kind grace of God, we are slowly making a difference for these dear children. 

Will you join us in becoming a Freedom Fighter? Click the link below to start making a difference in the lives of exploited kids.

Give her back her childhood.

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Give her back her childhood.

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