child poverty in northern IrelandPrior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the official percentage of children in Northern Ireland living in relative poverty was 22%. Although this is slightly lower than the 2018/2019 estimate of 24%, the raw number this figure translates to is staggering: approximately 100,000 children are living in relative poverty. While child poverty in Northern Ireland was decreasing, the pandemic will likely spark a long-term rise. The Resolution Foundation estimates that an additional 13,000 children could fall into poverty within the next four years. Fortunately, the government and major nonprofit organizations are working to address this issue.

Key Government Steps

The government has taken steps to minimize the effects of the pandemic on child poverty in Northern Ireland. For starters, the Minister for Communities committed to continuing welfare mitigations from the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, the department also announced the extension of the 2016-2019 Poverty Strategy to May 2022, allowing for more thorough, long-term engagement in addressing child poverty.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education adopted a “cash-first” approach for free school meals. This reduced the burden for impoverished families by ensuring their children received food at school. Additionally, the government helped thousands of children with a “£20 uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits.” This policy is part of the government’s ongoing support to local charities in Northern Ireland’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

Action for Children

Action for Children is a U.K. children’s charity aimed at helping Ireland’s most vulnerable children and adolescents. The charity’s widespread impact throughout the last year cannot be understated as it has supported more than 15,500 children and families. The charity has helped grow the Belfast fostering service and support children at risk of homelessness. Furthermore, it has been instrumental in providing mental health support outlets, helping to improve the emotional wellbeing of children suffering from the effects of poverty. The efforts of Action for Children positively impact children across the country.

Save the Children

Save the Children, a leading humanitarian aid organization for children, has also played an essential role in fighting child poverty in Northern Ireland. During the past year, in collaboration with local groups, the organization has provided vouchers that cover the costs of essential household items and food to help more than 3,900 children. Additionally, Save the Children has produced child poverty reports that include survey data and interviews with suffering families. The Northern Irish government is utilizing these reports to help it determine what anti-poverty policies to implement next.

Proposed Steps for Further Action

Save the Children outlined a list of recommendations in its 2021 report on child poverty in Northern Ireland. The report proposes that the government should take three key steps:

  • Strengthen the welfare mitigations package, including providing added packages for families that are not part of the two-child welfare limit.
  • Initiate the policies put forward by the Anti-Poverty Expert Advisory Panel for the Anti-Poverty Strategy.
  • Continue to support the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits by extending it beyond the current cut-off point, which is September 2021.

Moving forward, it is essential that the government take these recommendations and others into consideration. With continued efforts by the Northern Irish government and humanitarian organizations such as Action for Children and Save the Children, child poverty in Northern Ireland will hopefully decrease in the coming years, in spite of the pandemic.

– Gabriel Sylvan
Photo: Flickr

Child Homelessness in Cameroon
A violent civil crisis over regional separatism, known as the Anglophone Crisis or Cameroonian Civil War, has decimated the Central African nation of Cameroon since 2017. One of the most disheartening consequences of the conflict is the extreme number of homeless children. As of 2019, Cameroon had over 900,000 internally displaced people, 51% of whom were children. Child homelessness in Cameroon has been a serious problem for many years, but the government has redoubled its efforts to combat housing shortages and population displacement.

Street Children

Homeless or impermanently housed “street children” are a growing problem in the urban centers of many developing countries. In Cameroon, where about 37.5% of the population lives below the poverty line, street children have been a prominent humanitarian concern for years. The escalation of the Anglophone crisis has produced significant increases in the number of children fending for themselves on the streets of Cameroon’s cities. In the past 10 years, the number of street children increased from around 1,000 to over 10,000.

A study that researchers at the University of Kwa Zulu-Natal conducted found that most street children in Cameroon subsist on less than $0.85 USD per day. Many street children rely on begging, drug use and sex work to survive their harsh conditions. Less than 1% of the street children who the researchers surveyed considered the public’s attitude toward them to be supportive. These children are dangerously vulnerable, especially in active war zones. Conflict-induced devastation is one of the most significant causes of child homelessness in Cameroon.

Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Cameroon, worsening conditions for all citizens but hitting street children especially hard. Urban centers are less sanitary and more harmful than ever before, something that the homeless and under-housed feel most keenly. Over 40,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have occurred in Cameroon and over 600 deaths.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated the worst impacts of the Anglophone Crisis. As the global health crisis distracted the international community, both the military and armed separatist groups enacted more violence on civilians. This behavior endangers civilians directly but also causes many to flee their homes out of fear for their safety, increasing the number of Cameroon’s homeless dramatically. This surge in displaced individuals also stretches Cameroon’s already thin resources even more direly, worsening conditions for those already homeless.

Though the pandemic has increased the instability of living conditions for those on the streets, it has also given Cameroon’s government a stronger incentive to house street children, accelerating existing plans to provide housing to those who violence or poverty have displaced.

Initiatives to House Street Children

Cameroon’s Ministry of Social Affairs is partnering with the Ministry of Health to house and support thousands of street children while screening them for COVID-19 in the process. It began clearing the streets in April 2020, with plans to find housing for 3,000 street children in the near future.

The children will either return to their families or enter housing or job training programs to develop skills like cooking and sewing. Regardless of their specifics, this program will provide shelter, safety and opportunities to thousands of street children. This initiative will house not only displaced or abandoned children but also orphans and children who are seeking asylum from nearby countries.

Street Child, a U.K. charity, is also working in Cameroon to help provide protection and education for homeless children. The organization emerged in 2008 and operates by partnering with local organizations in areas with high rates of child homelessness to make education more accessible. Street Child has helped over 330,000 children go to school. Now the initiative is working with local organizations and the Cameroonian government to help provide COVID-19 relief, and developing specific programs to improve the wellbeing of children who the conflict has directly affected. Street Child focuses on expanding access to education and alleviating the symptoms of child homelessness in Cameroon.

– Samantha Silveira
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Canada
While Canada is one of the world’s more developed economies, the country has had serious issues with its child poverty rates. Child poverty in Canada sits at the 23rd position out of 35 industrialized nations when comparing the gap between overall poverty rates to child poverty rates.

Facts About Child Poverty in Canada

In Canada, 26% of children— a little more than one out of every five children — suffer from childhood poverty. This number puts Canada in the bottom third of industrialized countries with child poverty, representing 1.3 million children. 8% of impoverished children under the age of 6. Furthermore, one-seventh of people in homeless shelters are children. One in every three food bank users is under the age of 18. These statistics illustrate the staggering number of children suffering from poverty. While Canada has been making strides to address the issue, it needs to do much more work.

Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty

Campaign 2000 is a movement that formed in 1991 over concerns that the government was not doing enough to address child poverty. It is a network of organizations that work on addressing poverty and issues children face across the country. The organization initially committed to eliminating child poverty by the year 2000 during an All-Party Resolution in the House of Commons. The pledge to end child poverty in Canada underwent renewal in 2009 and in 2015 and continued through this movement.

The group also works on advancing public and government consultations and making long-lasting changes through lobbying and advocacy. Campaign 2000 specifically focuses on ensuring that all actions are bipartisan and can be supported by everyone. Through all these actions, the group aims to raise the basic standard of living for all Canadian children so that none live in poverty and all can become active and contributing members of society. This standard includes affordable and safe housing. Finding ways to strengthen family support ensures that families can provide the best care for their kids.

Next Steps

While Canada has made progress throughout the past few years, there is much room for growth. UNICEF believes there are two main steps that the government needs to take.

The first is to increase transfers and tax benefits that go towards children and resources for children. By increasing the Child Tax Benefit to a minimum of $5,000, thousands of children in Canada would be lifted out of poverty. These children would gain the resources necessary to become active members of society and have stable food and housing.

The second is to create a formal definition of child poverty within the nation. By doing so, local governments should each create a strategy to eliminate child poverty in Canada. At a minimum, the goal should be to push it down to 5% to match the lowest level of any industrialized country.

Canada sits in the bottom third of industrialized countries in terms of child poverty rates. Canada needs to make a lot more progress, but organizations like Campaign 2000 are working toward it. Moving forward, the Canadian government needs to take a firmer stance when it comes to addressing child poverty in Canada and adapt policies and benefits in order to ensure Canadian children aren’t suffering.

Manasi Singh
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Guatemala: An UpdateIn Guatemala, more than 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. Families of four or more live in small one or two-room huts — if a shelter is available at all. On average, a child is abandoned every four days because families do not have the means to take care of another child. Homelessness in Guatemala often forces people to sleep under benches or in the dirt.

Street Children

Among the homeless individuals in Guatemala, 7,000 of them are children and adolescents left to survive on their own. Many street children turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, which adds to the cycle of homelessness in Guatemala. Violence directed towards street children is not uncommon. The Guatemalan police’s use of deadly violence toward these children remained unchecked until the early 2000s, but the threat of physical harm has not been yet been completely abolished.

Homelessness in Guatemala is a ripple effect that has cyclical consequences for the children of the impoverished. It is often necessary to work instead of going to school. The little income they make working often does not stretch far.

More than a quarter of the population of children in Guatemala are actively involved in child labor out of necessity. One in four children under the age of 15 is illiterate. Chronic malnutrition and hunger are a consistent part of life. Without access to proper education or nutrition, the children of the impoverished do not have the ability to move forward.

Inadequate Housing Plagues Families

Traditionally, Guatemalan culture revolves around family. Tight-knit communities are hindered by a lack of funds, nutritional food and educational opportunities. Those with shelter often live in small huts with a tin roof and dirt floors. Children, parents and grandparents often live together without running water or electricity. Diseases plague newborns and small children due to an inability to keep housing sanitary, leading to high infant death rates. Medical care is frequently nonexistent.

Cooking is done over an open fire kept inside the home, leaving the women and children breathing in smoke for hours at a time with no ventilation. Some houses are made from straw or wood, both of which are extremely flammable and pose an additional risk to families inside while food is being prepared. As a result, respiratory illness affects a large portion of the poor population and the idling soot becomes toxic for the entire family. Without running water, there is no way to properly clean the soot and, without electricity, there is no other option for families to cook food.

The Plight of the Indigenous Woman

Half of the homeless in Guatemala are indigenous women. Indigenous impoverished women not only suffer the fallout of poverty but face racism and gender-based violence.

Compared to the rest of the country, including non-indigenous Guatemalan women, indigenous women have a higher chance of having multiple unplanned children, living in poverty and being illiterate. The birth mortality rate for women of native heritage is double that of non-indigenous women, who also have a life expectancy of 13 more years compared to that of indigenous women. These women are malnourished and underpaid. The inequality trickles down to their children who face food insecurity, a lack of education and, if they are young girls, the same fear of violence and racism their mothers have endured.

Housing Aid in Guatemala

Basic human necessities are not available for many in Guatemala and haven’t been for generations. However, The Guatemala Housing Alliance is focused on providing proper shelter to families and works in tandem with other groups aiming to help education, food insecurity and sexual education for the impoverished in Guatemala.

The Guatemala Housing Alliance built 47 homes with wood-conserving stoves that eliminate the danger of open-fire cooking. It installed flooring in 138 homes that previously had dirt floors. The foundation also offers to counsel young children and has hosted workshops for women to speak openly and learn about sanitation, nutrition and their legal rights.

Even amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Guatemala Housing Alliance is still hard at work. It provided 1,340 parcels of food, and each parcel supports a family of four for two weeks. With the organization’s many goals, individuals who are homeless in Guatemala are slowly but surely being given access to a plethora of resources that can help improve their quality of life.

– Amanda Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Homeless Youth in CanadaThe plight of homeless youth in Canada is a recent issue in the public eye. The increased representation and awareness have garnered celebrity support, such as from Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. The married couple has committed to donating $500,000 in total to the cause. Covenant House Vancouver and Toronto, foundations dedicated to opening their door to the homeless youth in Canada, are the lucky recipients.

The Issue

The first majority study done on homeless youth in Canada, “Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey,” was conducted just four years ago in 2016. A recent study found that the youth make up around 20% of the entire homeless population in Canada.

These children often experience housing instability and child abuse prior to their homelessness experience. Once on the streets, children under 16 — around 40% of the homeless youth in Canada — struggle through increased adversity. Further, various forms of oppression often couple homelessness. A staggering number of these children identify as POC, LGBTQ+, and of many other marginalized groups.

However, organizations and philanthropists alike have stepped up to address this dire situation.

Covenant House

Covenant House is an international organization that provides support and aid for homeless youth in Canada. The organization’s mission statement is: “Covenant House launched a federation-wide initiative to design and implement a cutting-edge, data-informed strategy to help even more of our kids achieve meaningful, long-term outcomes.”

It especially focuses on offering services to members of the LGBTQ+ community, POC, and abuse victims. The organization provides more than just direct support for these young individuals. Covenant House commits to restructuring data processing regarding homeless youth, reviewing methods of information analysis and generation, and finding the best performance measurement strategies. The organization works toward short-term as well as long-term change.

Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s Involvement

The serious issue of youth homelessness in Canada deeply struck Ryan Reynolds, a Canadian himself. In response, Reynolds and Blake Lively decided to donate $500,000 to the cause. The couple even matches donations up to $375,000 before the end of 2020 to encourage others to donate.

The choice of where the funds should go was a personal one. Reynolds has a long-time relationship with the Covenant House. The dedication they put into their work and the extensive impact they wield in the community inspired his “investment.”

In the interview done by Covenant House, he described the donation as an investment rather than a monetary donation into homeless youth in Canada. Reynolds stated, “The young people who pass through the doors of Covenant House more often than not have a story marked by extraordinary trauma. They are so much more than that trauma. They have so much to offer the world. Matching this gift is saying you believe in them. You believe in the power of compassion to transform the trajectory of a human being.”

The CEO of Covenant House Vancouver, Krista Thompson, expressed her gratitude for the donation and continued relationship with the couple. Thompson remarked, “Ryan and Blake truly understand that young people who are facing homelessness deserve unconditional love and absolute respect.” The money will be used to assist with youth experiencing homelessness and fund much of the research that is occurring to combat the issue of homelessness as a whole.

Manasi Singh
Photo: Flickr

Open Heart OrphanageIn the midst of COVID-19 sweeping through Uganda, six children at Open Heart Orphanage have died. However, it was not the virus that claimed their lives. The tragic deaths were a result of hunger and fever, collateral effects of the pandemic.

Food Struggles During the Pandemic

The people of Uganda must fight to stay healthy during the pandemic as well as combat food insecurity. The issue of food affordability is not only an organic result of the pandemic. Back in April, four Ugandan government officials were arrested for conspiring to inflate COVID-19 relief food prices. The effects are far-reaching. According to UNICEF, 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from life-threatening malnutrition in 2020.

The Hidden Victims

Uganda has consistently ranked among the countries with the greatest number of orphaned children in the world, and it has not gone without its controversy. Last year, VICE reported that there are at least 300 “children’s homes” operating without government oversight. Four out of five of these orphans have at least one living parent. Questions arise over the exploitation of these children and the quality of the care they receive. During the coronavirus pandemic, the children are even more vulnerable. Orphans are oftentimes the faces of Facebook scams targeting donors from Western countries.

Children are the “hidden victims” of the virus. They are not particularly susceptible to contracting the disease, but they will be the ones to bear its effects on the social and economic systems. Domestic struggles within the family, surging food prices and a shortage of available medical care have led to malnutrition and displacement, especially in developing countries like Uganda. The result is many children are being left in orphanages.

Open Heart Orphanage

The Borgen Project interviewed Hassan Mubiru, a pastor at Open Heart Orphanage in Bulenga, Kampala, Uganda. Its mission is to help orphans experience a full and productive life. Currently, the organization serves 175 “needy” or orphaned children. The Christian nonprofit aims to provide these children with education, medical assistance, housing, clothing, food and water and the love of God. Due to the pandemic, there have been some obstacles in achieving these goals.

“Coronavirus has crippled most of our activities because we were absolutely unprepared when the lockdown was announced,” said Mubiru. The pastor explains that the organization has always worked below its budget and did not store supplies ahead of time. When COVID-19 hit, they did not have enough resources to sustain themselves.

Even more challenging was the shortage of volunteers. Mubiru stated, “Those who used to individually help are no longer helping. We cannot guarantee salary or their payments.” Unstable payments met with mandates to stay in quarantine have deterred many volunteers from coming to Open Heart Orphanage.

Mubiru says that the biggest issue for Open Heart Orphanage is the lack of available food. “It is extremely difficult or impossible to get food as prices went higher and almost nothing was coming into us. We have so far lost six children due to hunger and fever since the pandemic started. These are things we would have prevented if we had enough food and means of getting treatment in time.”

Open Heart Orphanage strives to help children reach their fullest potential. The nonprofit is a stepping stone for the children and not a final destination. Mubiru believes that children are better off in a home than an orphanage, especially in these times. Mubiru emphasized, “We encourage families to adopt even if this is another crisis because the law governing adoption is tough and high fees.”

Miska Salemann
Photo: Flickr

Kick for Trade, Teaching Life Skills with Football in Developing CountriesThe International Trade Center and UEFA Foundation for Children have partnered up to teach children entrepreneurial skills through football in developing countries. This initiative was brought on by a need for children in poverty to overcome external hiring factors, such as skills mismatch or a lack of financing. Worldwide, 59 million teens and children are unemployed and almost 136 million are employed yet still living in poverty. Football was chosen as a conduit to address these issues because it is increasingly recognized as a sport used for community development and to address social issues. This program, Kick for Trade, uses the sport to teach life skills in developing countries, including Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

Kick for Trade

The Kick for Trade curriculum was unveiled in August 2020 at UEFA headquarters to honor International Youth Day. The program had initial pilot projects in Gambia and Guinea in 2019, and after its success, additional projects were planned to take place in Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. Unfortunately, COVID-19 derailed Kick for Trade’s plans in these countries. However, the program is expected to be implemented as soon as it is safe to do so.

Once implemented, the program will feature trained life-skills coaches who will teach 11 sessions each on youth employability and entrepreneurship. The goal of the program is to teach skills like leadership and teamwork to children through football in developing countries. Specifically, the life skills of problem-solving, creative thinking, communication, interpersonal skills, empathy and resilience. The lessons require minimal equipment, making the program accessible for any child who would like to learn life skills in order to be more employable.

Kick for Trade’s Projects in Developing Countries

Kick for Trade is expected to teach 1,500 children employment skills throughout the selected countries. UEFA has helped one million children worldwide through its various programs since its creation five years ago. These programs span 100 countries, reaching all five continents. The specific Kick for Trade programs in developing countries will highlight different targets depending on the country.

Uganda was chosen for the gender equality project that uses football in developing countries to reduce women poverty and improve education for girls. More than 75% of Uganda’s population is below the age of 30, and the youth unemployment rate is 13.3%. This program is an effort to decrease the gender gap to decrease unemployment levels for youth.

Angola was chosen for UEFA’s project on health improvement and crime prevention for at-risk children. Communicable diseases account for 50% of deaths in Angola. Teaching children proper health techniques is an effort to lower this statistic.

The UEFA saw that Cameroon could benefit from its ethnic integration project. This project focuses on using football in rural areas to promote peace. Since 2016, Cameroon has experienced protests and violence as a result of the division between the Anglophones and the Francophones. Encouraging peace between children will hopefully help to end this violence.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo will be home to Kick for Trade’s project that aids children living on the streets. This project aims to intervene as early as possible to provide homeless children with the assistance they need. In the capital city of Kinshasa, almost 30,000 children under the age of 18 are homeless. Homeless children are often recruited by law enforcement officials to disrupt political protests, causing them injury or death. They are also often taken advantage of by adults and older children. This program works to take vulnerable children off the streets and provide them with a safe place to live, improving their quality of life and future prospects.

These programs will be rolled out once it’s determined safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully, these programs will continue to positively benefit children looking for employment in developing countries.

—Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr

Education in Sierra LeoneMany important improvements in educational outcomes have occurred in Sierra Leone since 2015, especially for women and children. The country is bouncing back from the civil war, Ebola crisis and other serious challenges. This progress is partially owed to organizations that help children go to school. Several NGOs and community-based actors support education in Sierra Leone. Here is a small glimpse into the work of many.

4 Organizations Improving Education in Sierra Leone

  1. Street Child: Street Child’s goal is to improve the educational prospects of the world’s poorest and most marginalized children. Since its founding, the organization has helped more than 250,000 children escape poverty and go to school.  It originally started by improving education in Sierra Leone, where it began a project for 100 children in a small northern village. It has since expanded to serve children in ten other countries. Some of its work involves providing young girls with school supplies and giving families financial support. The organization also trains teachers and supplies classroom materials.
  2. Mother’s Club: After setbacks and challenges from the Ebola outbreak, mothers in Sierra Leone began organizing to ensure their children would receive a full education. Mother’s Clubs are village and community-based networks that sell products to fund their children’s schooling. Profits from farming, tye-dyeing, gardening and soap making pay for school supplies, books and uniforms. Thanks to these self-starters, with aid from international partners like UNICEF, communities can help drive positive educational outcomes.
  3. Girls Access to Education (GATE): Funded by U.K. Aid and its partners, Girl’s Access to Education (GATE) aims to help girls from disadvantaged households go to school and enables out-of-school girls to resume their education. Importantly, it also empowers communities to create their own solutions. The net enrollment rates in both primary and secondary education have consistently increased since 2013, due in part to their work. Where the literacy rate for girls ages 15-24 was less than 40% in 2005, that figure rose to 62.7% in 2018. The gap between male and female literacy rates continues to drastically decrease as well. This speaks to an overwhelmingly positive impact on Sierra Leone’s children and youth.
  4. Teach for All: Teach for All is a network of education partners and nonprofits who work together to help inspire change on a global scale. The organization announced Teach for Sierra Leone as its latest partner in July 2020. Similarly to other actors, Teach for Sierra Leone is community-driven and recognizes educational disparities in the country as an urgent issue. They aim to bridge education gaps by recruiting women and teachers from under-resourced schools whose efforts will help break the cycle of global poverty.

A Brighter Future

Overall, these organizations play a critical role in improving access to education in Sierra Leone. Currently, many schools have been disrupted due to COVID-19, but now radio lessons bridge the learning gap until reopening. So long as outside actors continue to provide foreign aid, assist in educational outcomes and empower communities, children in Sierra Leone will be able to reach their fullest potential.

Rachel Moloney
Photo: Flickr

Pakistan is located in South Asia and controls part of Kashmir. The nation was first founded in 1947 during the partition of India, leading to lasting tensions between the two countries. Due to an ethnic civil war in 1971, East Pakistan became the country of Bangladesh. Today, Pakistan is one of the most populated countries worldwide. It has a robust reputation, as well as cultural and religious history. The nation relies on many natural resources for economic growth. These include minerals and oils, as well as traditional textiles that are known worldwide. Even with natural resources, there is rising homelessness in the country. Here are seven realities of homelessness in Pakistan.

7 Realities of Homelessness in Pakistan

  1. Pakistan is one of the top seven most populous countries: Currently, Pakistan is estimated to have a population of 220 million. With a growing population, the nation faces limitations to shelters and standards of living. The gap between those who are homeless and those living well off in urbanized areas only seems to be increasing. Researchers categorize 20 million people as being homeless in Pakistan. Statistics show that 35% of the total population live under the poverty line, while many barely stay above the poverty line. The conditions of homelessness in Pakistan disproportionately affect women and children because of malnutrition, healthcare and access to education.
  2. Homelessness in Pakistan disproportionately affects women and children: Of the population that is without stable shelter, women and children are the most affected. While living in temporary housing and slums, the homeless population is not receiving proper nutritious food. This leads to health issues, especially for young children who don’t have access to proper healthcare. Additionally, women and children aren’t going to school because they spend their day finding short term work, protecting their shelter and selling goods on the street.
  3. Natural disasters have a lasting effect: Over the past two decades, Pakistan has felt the effects of multiple natural disasters, from the lasting effects of an earthquake to yearly flooding. In 2005, northern Pakistan was dealing with the aftermath of a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, leaving 3.5 million people homeless, generating severe damage to the whole region. Even with the government’s help, many of those affected by the earthquake were left searching for employment and moving into temporary shelters/slums. Additionally, in 2010 Punjab felt the devastating effects of flooding that displaced at least 10 million people. Following the 2010 natural disaster UNCHR was quick to provide relief via materials for tents, food, etc. The region is still recovering from the damage and experiencing floods yearly. Damages from the floods sweep away temporary shelters, slums and require those without a home to constantly relocate.
  4. Multidimensional poverty is a factor for homelessness in Pakistan: In 2016, an official report by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform was released on multidimensional poverty being a factor in the poverty index, concluding that 39% of Pakistanis are living in multidimensional poverty. The percent has decreased over the past decade, but the progress is disproportionately effective from urban to rural regions. This index pertains to not only income and wealth but includes healthcare, education, living standards, etc. The report creates a path to understand how those in poverty may remain under the poverty line or become homeless due to outside factors. By creating these index factors, the government plans to help determine where the need lies for improvement throughout Pakistan.
  5. Imran Khan’s initiative for shelter homes: The current prime minister of the country had led his campaign on bettering situations for those under the poverty line and creating adequate housing situations for those suffering from homelessness in Pakistan. The goal of his initiative ‘Panagah’ (shelter homes) is to create shelter for the homeless and those in poverty across the country. The initiative is still underway, with multiple shelters that have been built or bought. His plan describes a five-year timeline and the initiative was first accepted in 2018. But many regions are waiting for those promised accommodations for the homeless population to reach their regions of Pakistan.
  6. FINCA international organization: FINCA is a nonprofit organization that is headquartered in the USA. The organization works on market-based solutions for people who are homeless or living in poverty internationally. Its work to uplift communities is prevalent in countries such as Pakistan with solutions provided from three categories: microfinance, social enterprise and research. As of recently, the organization has given small loans and savings accounts for 1,128,248 homeless/poverty clients to successfully create financial stability with reasonable and successful planning. Introduced to Pakistan in 2017, a mobile money platform called “SimSim” is an impactful tool for change. It allows quicker depositing, transfer and organization of money for those creating stable work for themselves. It has also provided donations to The Institute of Public Health in Punjab to help diagnose and combat COVID-19 via kits in poor communities. FINCA can be found in South Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Eurasia. The organization works to aid families to become educated and create self-sustaining work for themselves and their communities.
  7. Save the Children: Save the Children is an international nonprofit organization that focuses on providing a healthy start and opportunity in life for vulnerable children. In Pakistan, the group supported children who were displaced during the natural disasters and conflicts of 2005 to 2010. The nonprofit’s goal is to provide shelter kits, food, education and medical aid to children for over 30 years. It works with local authorities to rebuild communities of poverty. Save the Children has rebuilt 102 schools and 181 temporary learning centers in Pakistan. The nonprofit also protects and supports the basic needs of over 600,000 children.

Even with an abundance of natural resources, Pakistan still suffers from a large homeless population. The country is working to better their living standards. Natural disasters and the poverty index are key to understanding the factors involved in the displacement of families living in poverty. These seven realities of homelessness in Pakistan bring context to the issue. They also highlight where the country and organizations are putting forth efforts for change.

– Sumeet Waraich
Photo: Flickr

Kenya, a country bordering Somalia and Ethiopia, has faced increasing obstacles combatting homelessness. With over 2 million citizens fighting homelessness in Kenya, the problem is only worsening. However, newly implemented organizations are seeing rapid improvements through their aid those in need.

The Problem in Numbers

It is estimated that in the near future, the homeless population will rise by over 200,000 people. Of the 2 million Kenyans without proper shelter, over 50% comprise of children. Most of these children spend their lives on the streets, struggling to make ends meet.

It’s important to know that only 2% of the formally constructed houses target lower-income families. This leaves over a million citizens in Kenya without the opportunity to find a home. Adding to the problem, 68% of Kenyans are without land documentation or tenure security which hurts their ability to find a home and house their families.

Leading Causes

A variety of factors have led to the rise in the homeless population. A primary factor is the commercial interests of businesses and other groups, which have displaced hundreds of thousands of Kenyans. Under these severe land shortages, Kenyans must cram themselves in slums, as the cost of land continues to increase. As a result, certain groups may resort to violence as a means of garnering more land. Some communities have reported sightings of Tharaka herders, who often fight others for land. River Naka, a place filled with farmers, was raided by these herders and left hundreds homeless.

Recently, despite the spread of COVID-19, more than 7,000 people from land in Nairobi slums were evicted, forcing them into homelessness. The government believed these individuals were living on “public land” and acted accordingly.

Consequences

Various issues have stemmed from the severe homelessness problem in Kenya. Kenyans who are homeless often only have one meal a day. Malnutrition commonly occurs among homeless youth because of this food shortage. Another problem is the increase in theft as adults and children forced to live on the streets steal money and food to feed themselves. Due to police intervention, thousands of homeless Kenyans face severe consequences in jail.

Another major problem stemming from homelessness in Kenya is HIV/AIDS. With no access to proper medical treatment, the homeless community in Kenya are frequently exposed to the deadly virus.

The Road to Change

There are an estimated 250 organizations in Kenya that look to help combat homelessness in Kenya. One of the more prominent organizations is Habitat for Humanity which provides for the needs of Kenya’s slums. Habitat for Humanity hired numerous volunteers to build affordable housing for low-income families battling homelessness. They promote the idea of homeownership to low-income Kenyans in order to help them find stable housing and therefore escape poverty.

Another successful organization is Kenya Children of Hope, which seeks to rescue homeless children from the streets. In one month alone, Kenya Children of Hope has saved over 300 children, placing them under safe care.

Looking to the Future

Even with hundreds of organizations pitching in to help combat homelessness in Kenya, governmental intervention is key to make more serious progress. The consistent evictions along with the land restrictions increase the prevalence of homelessness.

For Kenya’s government to reach a future with a reduced homeless population, they must act in an empathetic manner in cases of land distribution. They must also prioritize the well being of their citizens in the COVID-19 pandemic. If the numerous organizations looking to end the homelessness in Kenya were to receive substantial aid from the government, hundreds of thousands of Kenyans would greatly benefit.

– Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: Flickr