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Mother-of-four Acullu Rose has not seen her daughter since the year-old left the family home in Atiak, northern Uganda, to travel to Sudan two months ago. Rose fears the teenager has been lured into a life of prostitution by a merchant from Sudan who was doing business in Atiak, a trading centre only 50 kilometres south of the border.
I know that I am poor — this war has really affected us — but I have tried my level best to provide for all my children. Child prostitution is already commonplace in Atiak, where girls as young as 11 can be seen selling their bodies on the street to survive. Typical of many border locations in Africa, travellers moving between the two countries fuel the sex industry. At the child protection unit in the Atiak sub-county local government, 15 parents have reported that their daughters have gone to Sudan and are calling on the authorities to intervene.
The girls are aged between 11 and 17; only one has since returned home. Okongo Gabriel, who is in charge of the unit, believes that there could be many more children who have left home for Sudan, but parents are afraid to come forwards because of what the community might say about them and their family.
The immigration officer in charge of the Nimule border station, between Uganda and Sudan, declined to comment on concerns over children crossing the frontier. Ojok Felix, a social worker with the NGO War Child Holland, says that his organisation has been meeting parents and sub-county authorities in order to find a way forward, and have located some of the girls whose families have reported missing to the police.
With the streets of Juba a dangerous place for young girls, where they risk gang violence as well as sexual exploitation, she warns that little is being done to assist these children. They have breakfast, lunch and supper at our centre. They wash and go to school, do homework and keep their books at the centre. Janet, not her real name, has been working as a prostitute ever since she was thrown out of her family home, aged After my grandmother died, my uncles refused to pay to send me to school and then threw me out of the house.