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

homelessness in the Philippines
The Philippines is one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia, yet it is facing a homeless crisis. There are approximately 4.5 million homeless people, including children, in the Philippines, which has a population of 106 million people. Homelessness in the Philippines is caused by a variety of reasons, including lost jobs, insufficient income or lack of a stable job, domestic violence and loss of home due to a natural disaster. The government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working to address this issue.

Causes of Homelessness

In the Philippines, families end up homeless for many reasons, including:

  • Poverty: Although the unemployment rate in the Philippines is low (5.3% in March of 2020), 16.6% of Filipinos’ wages remained below the country’s poverty line in 2018. Low income can make it difficult for many families in the Philippines, especially those living in Manila, to pay rent.
  • Domestic violence: Women and children in the Philippines are in danger of domestic abuse, exploitation and trafficking. Approximately one in five women between the ages 15-49 in the Philippines experience domestic violence in their life. Women who escape their abusive partners could lose their source of income and have difficulty finding a place to stay. Shelters for women tend to have long waiting list.
  • Human trafficking: In the Philippines, there are approximately 100,000 people trafficked each year. Many trafficked victims are promised jobs in the cities. However, after moving to a city, they are exploited and forced into prostitution.
  • Natural disasters: In addition, some families have lost their homes due to natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes and volcano eruptions. In 2019, more than 20 typhoons battered the Philippines. One of the typhoons that hit the country damaged over 500,000 houses. A volcano eruption that happened in January impacted half a million people and forced the relocation of 6,000 families.

Types of Homeless Families

According to the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Homeless Street Families (MCCT-HSF) program, homeless families fit into four different categories:

  • Families on the street: “Families on the street” represent 75% of the homeless population. They are families who earn their livelihood on the street, but eventually return to their original communities. This category includes both “displaced homeless families” and “community-based street families”.
  • Families of the street: “Families of the street” are families who live on the street for a long time and have created communities among themselves. They perform daily activities, like cooking, bathing or playing in the public spaces they live in. They are visible by their use of a “kariton,” also known as a pushcart that contains their family’s belongings, which they move around within Manila.
  • Displaced homeless families: “Displaced homeless families” are families who have lost their homes due to natural disasters or live in their communities. They are families who leave their rural communities of the Philippines to find a job in the cities. This category also may also include families and children who may be escaping abuses at home. Displaced homeless families may also push around a kariton that contains their personal belongings.
  • Community-based street families: “Community-based street families” are families who are from rural communities, but move to urban areas for a better way of life; however, they often end up returning to the rural area they are from.

Homeless Children

Homeless children are among the most vulnerable of the homeless in the Philippines. There are approximately 250,000 homeless children; however, that number could be as high as 1 million. Children leave home and end up on the streets because of the excessive beating from their parents, poverty or sexual exploitation.

When children are on the streets, they can face problems such as sexual exploitation, abuse and prostitution. Although victims of circumstances beyond their control, children who live on the street are often viewed as criminals or future criminals resulting in discrimination from the police. Additionally, to numb their pain and their hunger, some children may turn to drugs. Both the external and internal factors that children face make it very difficult for them to escape the street life.

Addressing Homelessness in the Philippines

The government, NGOs and religious institutions are working help the homeless. Government programs include the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Homeless Street Families program (MCCT-HSF). This program provides financial support, such as housing grants and funding for health and education, to homeless families in Metro Manila.

To help street children, ASMAE-Philippines travels the streets of Manila to teach kids on the basics of hygiene. The organization also provides children with school support, as well as supporting other NGOs in the area. Kanlungan sa ER-MA Ministry, Inc. is another organization that works to educate street children, though projects that teach children about hard work while providing them with an income.

Although the government and NGOs have made efforts to help the homeless population, much more still needs to be done. Moving forward, these initiatives need to be increased in order to significantly reduce homelessness in the nation.

– Joshua Meribole 
Photo: Flickr

child homelessness in Egypt
Egypt is a presidential republic in North Africa. Famous for its history, archaeological values and vast deserts, Egypt is one of the oldest countries in the world. However, Egypt went through a period of political, societal and economical turmoil during the 2010s. By 2011, former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down from his office, and between 2011 and 2018, the nation went through multiple presidents. All of this political and societal turmoil contributed to homelessness. In particular, child homelessness in Egypt is a pervasive issue.

Child Homelessness in Egypt

Child homelessness is an issue that has plagued the country for a long time. According to a survey conducted by Egypt’s National Center for Social and Criminological Research, there were an estimated three million homeless children in Egypt in 2011. The Egyptian government took measures to combat child homelessness, however. In 2003, the government adopted a new national strategy that aimed to protect and rehabilitate homeless children, also known as street children. This initiative aimed to alleviate child homelessness in the country through multiple coordinated projects between the government and NGOs.

While this initiative saw a relative amount of success, it is clear that there is still a long road ahead of alleviating child homelessness in Egypt. These homeless children are often in danger of sex trafficking, street begging and forced labor.

Life for Street Children

Poverty, unemployment, family breakdown, child abuse and neglect are some of the main causes of Egypt’s child homelessness crisis. While not all street children lack a stable family and a home to return to, the majority of the street children still live, work and sleep in the streets. A young woman interviewed by France 24 in 2017 said that she left her parents’ house when she was six years old because her father abused her. She has lived on the streets ever since. Unfortunately, this young woman’s story is not uncommon among street children.

However, life on the streets is still harsh. Many people in Egypt view street children as drug-addicts and criminals. As a result, there seems to be a general hesitation in donating to the NGOs and shelters that are trying to assist the homeless street children of Egypt. According to a 2010 study that interviewed a total of 857 street children in Cairo and Alexandria, 93% of the children stated that they faced harassment or abuse on the streets. Furthermore, the study found that 62% of the children used drugs. Among adolescent girls 15 to 17 years old, most of them stated that they had suffered sexual abuse.

Government Efforts

Fortunately, there are programs in place to help the street children of Egypt. In 2016, the government launched a project aimed to build shelters and educate street children. Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity also launched the “Children Without Shelter” program. Ministry workers train street children in first-aid and try to collect any paperwork or identification which they can use to move the children into a shelter. Getting children into shelters is difficult because Egyptian law does not allow shelters to receive children who do not provide a birth certificate.

The government also created the “Protecting Homeless Children” program, which deploys 17 mobile bus teams that provide temporary medical and psychological services. If a child is able to be united with their family, a separate team keeps in touch with the child’s family.

Moving Forward

Street children of Egypt are the ones who are most vulnerable to homelessness in Egypt. These Egyptian street children, who ran away from abuse, neglect and poverty, face harsh realities living on the street. On top of lacking shelter and food, the homeless children of Egypt face discrimination and further abuse on the streets. Thankfully, the Egyptian government is taking measures to alleviate child homelessness in Egypt. Many hope for a future where child homelessness will be a story of the past in Egypt.

-YongJin Yi 
Photo: Flickr