Youth needs and services in Kabarole district, Uganda:
Tumwebaze, Margaret Tusiime
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Background: Youth is a stage in life characterised by numerous challenges. There are many new issues to explore, understand and get to terms with for the youth. Physiological changes, social norms and legal laws to comply with, and peer pressure all impact on the youth simultaneously. The youth need a lot of support in order to go through this stage unscathed and also educated to handle adulthood. Some of the challenges result in new learned behaviours which may put the youth at risk of disease, crime or even death. Often, they are misunderstood, taken to be stubborn and rebellious. Yet they get insufficient support and facilitation. Purpose: To identify the needs of the youth in the rural Kabarole District, in western Uganda, and the services available to address them. Methods: The descriptive cross-sectional study largely collected qualitative data through in-depth interviews with 76 youths in four categories of youths (in-school; out-of-school rural and single; out-of-school rural and married; and urban youth) and one key informant from the District Health Office. Results: The needs ranged from basics (food, clothing, shelter) through attachment needs (parental care and guidance), health needs (medical care and counselling for self and family), protection needs (legal and social protection) to needs of desire (leisure, employment, respect in society, academic excellence, happy marriages, setting up developmental activities and to be successful citizens). Most needs of desire were above their current financial means. Their problems included sexual harassment, early and forced marriages, dropping out of school and lack of basic needs. Married youth had domestic conflicts and violence, rapid child bearing and unemployment. Service provision for their needs was very limited. They were government and private agencies, especially faith-based and NGOs. Their scope was limited to the protection, assistance, education and medical services for a few orphans and vulnerable children. Medical services were not always youth-friendly. Recommendations: The paper recommends the design of a comprehensive multi-sectoral programme to address the needs of the youth; adequate financial support to the providers of youth-specific services; enhancement of child-parent dialogue; and expansion of the scope of services.