In Uganda, illegal orphanages are a big business and needy children are often the lure.
Today, there are at least 300 unlicensed children’s homes throughout Uganda operating without government oversight. Their goal: foreign donations.
Websites and Facebook campaigns draw people in from around the world, asking them to sponsor children, volunteer, or sign up for travel packages.
The campaigns work. Uganda’s unregulated orphanages pull in nearly a quarter of a billion dollars a year from international donors — mainly from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe.
“The people here that decide to operate a home, they get unsuspecting people to pay,” Mondo Kyateka, an assistant commissioner for the government ministry tasked to regulate children’s institutions, told VICE News. “And they use donated money to make themselves richer.”
The promise of financial windfall has pushed homes to recruit as many kids as possible — often forcing children to share beds in overcrowded dorm buildings without adequate supervision. A lack of government oversight combined with the open door to foreign volunteers means there’s no safeguard to protect children from abuse.
Often, the children aren’t even orphans.