How orphanages in Uganda profit from children’s misery

Foreign volunteers are boosting an industry that sees the young and vulnerable as valuable assets. Helen Nianias explains how attitudes 
are changing

The World Today Updated 18 November 2020 Published 15 December 2017 3 minute READ

Helen Nianias

Freelance journalist

It can be a nightmare when the person sitting next to you on an aircraft decides to launch into conversation. And the flight from Entebbe to Heathrow is particularly chatty. Smartphones are unlocked and photos shown by young westerners returning from volunteering stints in Uganda, talking about how sweet the children they worked with are, how impoverished the orphanage and how eager they are to go back.

It’s this sunny enthusiasm that has helped Uganda’s orphanage industry to mushroom. In the 1990s there were 1,000 children living in orphanages, now there are thought to be 55,000. It is testament to how much volunteers want to help, but underneath the orphanage crisis lies the cynicism and naked profiteering of some unscrupulous people.

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