Illness and health seeking behaviors of street children in Kampala-Uganda
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In Uganda like in the rest of developing world, street children suffer from and are vulnerable to illness. This study therefore, investigated the illnesses and health seeking behaviors of street children in Kampala. The major objective of the study was to examine the health seeking behaviors of street children in Kampala. The specific objectives were to establish the common illnesses affecting street children, assess their health seeking behaviors and identify the challenges they face in the process of seeking medication. The study was conducted using both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection. Quantitative data was collected among 82 respondents (51 boys and 31 girls), and for qualitative data, 5 Key Informants and 6 In-depth Interviews and observations were conducted. Quantitative data was entered using EpiData software application and exported to SPSS for analysis. Respondents were between the age of 14-18 years (mature and emancipated minors on street). Findings from this study show that street children in Kampala suffer from a number of illnesses including; Diarrhea, Malaria, Headache, Stomachache, Cough and flue, Back pain, STIs, Skin diseases, Chest pain and Body injuries/burns. Further findings revealed that street children engage in risky behaviors and lifestyles including; prostitution, drug abuse, poor sleeping conditions, poor eating habits and some engage in child to child sex without protection which expose them to risk of contracting illnesses including HIV and AIDS. In addition, study findings revealed that street children have poor health seeking behaviors. Street children buy medicine and do self-medication, go to traditional healers, sleep off the illness and pray for healing when they are ill. In the process of seeking medication, results show that street children face a number of challenges including; long distances to health facilities, unfriendly nature of health workers, informal charges, and long lines while others are chased away from health facilities. The study recommends a peer to peer approach and skills development for capacity building among street children and continuous sensitization to help improve health seeking behaviors of street children.