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

Educating Children to Become World CitizensThere has been generally positive growth in the awareness of global issues for a long time now. Global poverty is one such issue. Cases of successful poverty reduction can be used as inspiration for encouraging global engagement from a young age. Educating children to become world citizens may very well inspire them to become future leaders for positive changes worldwide.

However, the subject of poverty can be a difficult concept for students to grasp. It is especially challenging for those who have no exposure to a world beyond their own. Teachers who feel passionate about exposing children to global poverty must consider the age of their students. Depending on the class’s age, teachers can determine the best methods and approaches for introducing such an important topic.

Potential Curriculums

  • Ages 6-10: For children at such a young age, the concept must be sensitively introduced. One such way to do this is by framing poverty through a story. A storybook allows children to make comparisons between someone their own age living in poverty and their own lives. Afterward, the lesson encourages them to ask questions and relate their own experiences to what they are learning about.
  • Ages 11-13: Children at this age are already more aware of the small differences between themselves and others. This awareness makes 11-13 the perfect age range to introduce children to cultures apart from their own. For the lesson, instructors may assign children a specific country that is facing extreme poverty and ask them to research schools in that country. Students may then compare the resources, teacher’s education and accessibility of the school they are researching to their own school. Documenting these differences in a notebook allows the children to then use the notebook as a reflection of what they have learned.
  • Ages 14-18: As young adults explore their lives and their futures, they are excited to explore different and new concepts. They are also developing their own opinions about their passions and beliefs. Exposing them to different artistic observations of poverty through documentaries and photography helps young adults see impoverished countries as unique and vibrant rather than poor and helpless. Additionally, young adults become more aware of their own finances at this age. Students making their own money for the first time are able to sympathize with lessons on the economy of poor countries, such as microfinancing and budgeting less than $1 a day.

Organizations Educating Children to Become Global Citizens

Exposure is critical when educating children to become world citizens. Introducing pertinent organizations and speakers who have been affected by global poverty or work closely in fighting it makes lessons come to life.

  • Edutopia, founded by George Lucas, this foundation is on a mission to transform education. One of its goals is to provide children with the knowledge that will help them in the real world when they grow up. The website provides teaching strategies including how to diversify what students are taught. The 5 Minute Film Festival is a resource through Edutopia that gives teachers access to various documentaries. The festival also includes the Change Series, published by the creators of the documentary Living on One Dollar. This includes episodes on the challenges developing countries face. Some such challenges include access to clean water, resources for natural disasters, and the prevalence of malnutrition.
  • CARE is an organization that works to make a difference in countries facing extreme poverty. They recognize education as a primary resource in poverty eradication and provide a toolkit for teachers addressing some of the major challenges in making poverty a thing of the past. CARE uses the United Nation’s Millenium Development Goals as guidelines for lessons and activities such as women empowerment, disabilities and diseases. 
  • TV Programs: Journalist David Brancaccio hosts PBS NOW, a program that addresses domestic issues but also goes beyond by looking at the world as a whole. The show addresses foreign affairs, the environment and health. Teachers can use the show’s various topics, such as child brides and climate change, to assist in educating children to become world citizens.

Hope for the Future

Children’s rising interest in international issues from an early age allows them to see the world from a different perspective. There has already been a lot of success in reducing global poverty. Yet, understanding challenges across the globe is often overlooked – even by people in wealthier countries that are given the luxury of education. By exposing children and allowing them to explore the world, teachers are educating children to become world citizens.

Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty Affects Different Age GroupsExtreme poverty affects people all over the world in many different ways. Some countries experience endemic poverty where it is incredibly hard for their citizens to overcome their circumstances and break the cycle of poverty. On the other hand, some countries have been able to reduce their poverty rates due to economic growth, development and investment. However, regardless of these differences, many countries align on how extreme poverty affects different age groups.

Poverty’s Effect on Children and Teens

Firstly, adolescents are one of the most vulnerable age groups to be affected by extreme poverty. UNICEF reveals that 148 million children under the age of five are underweight; 101 million children are not enrolled in schooling, and almost nine million children under five years old die each year. These statistics are incredibly revealing especially when paired with the fact that malnutrition, lack of clean water and proper sanitation, diarrhea and pneumonia are the main causes of death among children.

Secondly, teenagers and young adults also experience difficulties in overcoming extreme poverty. For instance, lack of education and proper schooling is a major issue for many countries around the world. These young adults that are not in school may become subject to child labor or even become child soldiers in many countries. According to the UN Secretary General’s Global Initiative on Education, “Basic literacy and numeracy skills could lift 171 million people out of poverty, resulting in a 12% cut in global poverty.” This information elucidates the essential role primary education plays in breaking the cycle of poverty that many youths face in low-income countries.

One way to ensure adequate school enrollment is by supplying meals for children and teens. The World Food Programme explains how providing daily meals to children in school creates an incentive to send children to school. Not only do these meals increase attendance and decrease dropout rates, but they also improve children’s academic aptitude. Consequently, children acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to secure future jobs and escape extreme poverty.

Poverty’s Effect on Adults

Lastly, extreme poverty affects different age groups, the detrimental effects of which are also seen in adults. The main impact is the significantly lower life expectancy seen in lower-income countries. Life expectancy is “20-24 years lower in poor nations” for both men and women than it is in developed countries. Additionally, poor countries tend to have a higher maternal mortality rate for a variety of reasons ranging from improper and lack of healthcare and poor nutrition during pregnancy.

Although the way extreme poverty affects different age groups may seem separate and diverging, teenagers and adults face many similar hardships. For instance, illiteracy is a huge barrier to obtaining and maintaining a job. The World Literacy Foundation (WLF) explains that without basic literacy skills, tasks such as composing emails, reading daily memos, checking a bank account and even applying for a job in the first place become difficult. These examples do not even include the requirements of many white-collar jobs, such as interpreting data and spreadsheets or reading documents.

As a result, many citizens of developing countries cannot receive comparable income to those in developed countries. This leaves these poor citizens open to food scarcity and extreme poverty (working for less than $1.90 a day). These issues are especially taxing for adults with families and more than one mouth to feed.

Additionally, while children are more likely to die from malnutrition and lack of sanitation, many adults face similar realities. Poor nutrition can weaken one’s immune system, muscles, bones and sleep cycles which all contribute to the body’s healthy daily functions. If these body systems are not well-maintained, adults can struggle and even die from preventable diseases and health complications.

Organizations Working to Help

There are many organizations worldwide working to lift children out of poverty, such as the WLF, UNICEF and International Child Care (ICC). The former two work to improve education for young children, while the latter strives to improve health for children and their families. There are also numerous organizations that help young adults and adults, including End Poverty Now, Oxfam International and Global Citizen. These groups mainly work to tackle the systemic cycle of poverty by improving healthcare and income equality.

Poverty affects different age groups pervasively and it is difficult to alleviate. Impoverished people of all ages experience conditions and hardships that many developed nations do not face. To enact and obtain real economic and social change, it is essential to understand how extreme poverty affects different age groups. Then, governments, organizations, businesses and people around the world can work to implement strategies and policies to bring all ages out of poverty.

Sophia McWilliams
Photo: Pixabay

malnutrition in latin american children
Families residing in Latin America are currently experiencing a problem with nutrition, specifically with children being drastically underweight or overweight. This issue stems from inadequate health education, lack of access to healthy foods, and in some poorer communities, no access to any food at all. Reports in 2018 determined that 20% of children under the age of 5 were not growing at a normal pace due to some form of malnourishment. As a result, these children faced stunted growth and/or obesity. Organizations are tackling this issue by addressing poverty as the root cause of malnutrition in Latin American children.

How Poverty Leads to Malnutrition

In 2017, 184 million Latin Americans were living in poverty while 62 million were experiencing extreme poverty, creating an increased risk for child malnourishment. Low-income households often cannot purchase food, afford healthy foods or are food insecure, which perpetuates unhealthy development. This means children in poor homes are unable to consume the required number of food groups to support their growth. The poorest Latin American countries have it the worst. In 2019, one in two Guatemalan children under the age of 5 had stunted growth.

Children in marginalized households also face obesity. Obesity can lead to long-term health risks such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and mental health complications in adulthood. In 2017, 20% of children under the age of 20 were either obese or overweight in Latin America. A major reason for the continent’s growing obesity rate is the marketing of inappropriate diets. The U.N. highlighted a common marketing trend in Latin American countries: the cheaper choice receives heavy promotion, therefore outselling the healthier choice. This creates a higher demand for processed foods. Processed foods are more readily available in grocery stores than nutritious foods, perpetuating unhealthy habits among children in poverty.

Who is Helping?

There are many organizations that are working to end malnutrition in Latin American children. The nonprofit Save the Children currently has multiple programs in action that specifically target child malnourishment in Latin America by uplifting inclusive markets and strengthening household incomes. So far this nonprofit has provided over 350,000 Haitian children with vital nourishment. Kids Alive International also reaches out to vulnerable children by providing nutritious meals in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti and Peru.

UNICEF calculated in 2019 that malnutrition affected 5.1 million children under the age of 5, with children from the poorest households being four times more likely to experience malnourishment. UNICEF is working toward making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality for Latin American children. It hopes to end poverty and the effects of malnutrition by 2030.

Malnutrition in Latin American children continues to be a health crisis with poverty being a primary source. Every child should have the right to healthy food and a healthy lifestyle. International aid helps make those rights a reality.

Radley Tan
Photo: Pixabay

U.S. Virgin IslandsThe U.S. Virgin Islands’ (USVI) tourism industry was just beginning to recover from back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria, which swept through the island in 2017. Its economy—including schools, hospitals and hotels—was just starting to rebuild and reopen. The aftermath of these hurricanes coupled with the coronavirus leaves the USVI ill-prepared for the financial woes of a lagging travel season. However, additional aid and outside support are alleviating the USVI economy.

Home to roughly 105,000 people, the USVI’s population faces an unknown level of poverty; the most recent data fails to account for the hurricane destruction. It was last reported in the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau that 22% of the USVI population lived below the poverty line. However, it is likely that the estimate has risen since the hurricanes and will continue to rise due to global economic impacts from the pandemic.

A High Price for Paradise

Located off the east coast of Puerto Rico and Miami, Florida, the USVI is dependent on the outside world. The island welcomes cruises and flights filled with tourists to its resorts and imports most of its food and supplies. Only 2% of the USVI’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from agriculture, compared to 20% of its GDP generating from industries that include tourism.

But for islanders, the imbalance between these two markets further contributes to a high cost of living and financial insecurity in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Importing food is costly for USVI citizens. In order to make repairs from the hurricane destruction to buildings and homes, supplies must also be imported. Despite the high cost of living, incomes in the USVI are lower than in the U.S.—about 25% lower than the U.S.’s median income; workers in tourism industries are paid low wages.

Due to travel restrictions from the coronavirus, the global tourism industry is predicted to lose between 850 million and 1.1 billion tourists this year, placing over a hundred million jobs at risk. The unemployment rate already sits at nearly 11% in the USVI; this event is likely to place greater pressure on an already stretched-thin economy.

In the aftermath of the hurricanes, the USVI’s health care system has also developed a dependency on the mainland. Due to the lack of patient beds, facilities and a dwindling nursing staff, some patients have to fly to the U.S. for surgical procedures. This becomes another factor that increases the cost of living for some residents. Fortunately, USVI hospitals have not had high coronavirus cases. The Virgin Islands Department of Health has reported only 156 active coronavirus cases and six deaths.

Child Development in the U.S. Virgin Islands

According to the U.S. Virgin Island’s 2016 Kids Count Data Book, 37% of children live in families below the poverty level. Examining single-parent households, single mothers are more at risk of falling into poverty, representing 76% of all families in poverty.

Impoverished conditions significantly impact the education of children. Although many children come from poor families, school is no longer an escape from their everyday reality. NPR reported in 2019 that education facilities damaged by the 2017 hurricanes were still unrepaired, inhibiting students from moving forward in their education.

Students are either learning in hazardous building conditions or attending half-day sessions. As a result, teachers have reported that their students have fallen behind academically despite how the USVI education system was already struggling before the hurricanes hit.

According to a 2014 academic assessment test for USVI public schools, upon completing a literacy assessment, 59.4% of USVI students performed below the test standard. As for the Mathematics assessment results, 74.1% of students were below the test standard. Now, the coronavirus is likely to further prolong the pause on its children’s education.

The Good News

Progress in recovery and rebuilding has continued in the USVI, but full economic recovery is still years away. The USVI government estimates it will need $7.5 billion, almost twice the territory’s GDP, to rebuild the U.S. territory.

All Hands and Hearts, a non-government organization that dispatches volunteers to areas ravaged by natural disasters, sent nearly 2,000 volunteers to the USVI to restore homes and schools damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. On the USVI island St. John, the volunteers’ work positively impacted 24% of the island. In July 2019, the U.S. Virgin Islands disaster relief program marked its completion by leaving behind structures built to outlast upcoming storms.

In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has been providing aid to the U.S. Virgin Islands since the 2017 hurricanes, is continuing to support the USVI. Just this past January, FEMA approved over $2 billion in Public Assistance funds for the USVI. It will be used to restore homes and hospitals damaged by the hurricanes in 2017.

 

Grace Mayer
Photo: Wikimedia

Addressing the Issues Surrounding Ireland’s Impoverished ChildrenEconomic hardship is an all too real and frequent issue across the world. It has been known to create harmful factors such as corrupt governments, homelessness, hunger, limited to non-existent access to healthcare and an overall lower standard of living. However, as negative as these factors can be for those affected by poverty in general, it is especially detrimental toward children. The plight of Ireland’s impoverished children serves as one such case in which rampant economic penury has served as a severe detriment to their overall quality of life.

Ireland and the 2008 Recession

Irish children are one of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups within the region. Granted, Ireland suffered and continues to be burdened from persistent economic difficulties since the 2008 recession. Since then, more than 689,000 Irish people are reported to be in the poverty range, according to the 2019 Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC). Additionally, of these people living in poverty, 202,000 are shown to be children.

The gradual process of economic recovery since the 2008 recession has shown to be beneficial to the more general population, rather than vulnerable groups such as children. In fact, one report from the 2011 annual census found that 9.3% of children were living in perpetual poverty, with an additional 22% listed as going to school hungry. Conditions have unfortunately worsened since this census.

Moreover, whereas infrastructure has been invested in other important aspects of economic stability, such as industrial and technological growth, the same cannot be said for all aspects of economic stability. Specifically, the areas of health, housing and education were cut substantially in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, and there have not been suitable efforts to restore them to their previous levels.

These government cutbacks, unfortunately, do not even refer to some of the most disadvantaged subsections of children. For instance, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights Nils Muiznieks reports that the Travelers experienced disproportionate drawbacks in housing (up to 85%) and in education (up to 86%). These drawbacks are especially harmful to the children in this group.

These unfortunate circumstances may not be in place forever. New initiatives and actions have been taken to mitigate and heal the issues affecting Ireland’s impoverished children.

No Child 2020: Addressing Child Poverty in Ireland

One of the more prominent examples of this includes the initiative, No Child 2020. This initiative’s goal was to bring public attention and government action to child poverty in Ireland. Headed by The Irish Times, the following five issues were addressed through the initiative: child hunger, homelessness, accessible healthcare, education and access to culture and sport.

No Child 2020 made substantial success in terms of garnering attention toward the issues of child poverty in Ireland. A key example of this can be seen in the passing of the journal Social Justice Ireland, which published its very own list of issues that require government involvement to rectify the issues of child poverty. It should be further noted that of the 12 issues the journal listed, the need to “provide adequate payments for children to end child poverty” was highlighted.

As a result of these endeavors, the Irish government added an extra one million euros toward creating a pilot system providing free books to more than 50 primary schools. There has also been the provision of free dental care for Irish children below 6 years of old and free general practitioner coverage for Irish children below 8 years of age.

Looking Ahead

There is still far more to be accomplished to assist Ireland’s impoverished children. The Irish government still has not bestowed more medical coverage to low-income families altogether, nor The Irish Times’ request 20 million pounds per year for free school books to all of Ireland’s primary schools. Moreover, no official government action has been taken to better address the aforementioned dilemmas concerning child hunger, homelessness and sporting/cultural involvement.

If progress is to be truly advanced to address these issues, more financial investment and government action are required. According to Muiznieks’s 2016 report, significant “budgetary and economic redress” is critical to aid vulnerable groups such as Ireland’s impoverished children.

Still, the presence of the No Child 2020 and the Social Justice Ireland have shown development in the country. These initiatives have already contributed economically, educationally and politically toward resolving the obstacles of Ireland’s impoverished children. Who knows how many more initiatives or reformative actions these imperatives could inspire? Progress takes time but now that the issues of Ireland’s impoverished children are being acknowledged, there is hope that the reality of such progress continues.

– Jacob Hurwitz
Photo: Flickr

Keep Families Together Act
On June 19, 2018, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member, led over 190 House Democrats in introducing the Keep Families Together Act with the goal of ending family separation at the U.S Border. The Keep Families Together Act is a bill that prevents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from taking children away from their parents (with the exception of extraordinary circumstances). Examples of extraordinary circumstances would be terminated parental rights if it’s in the minor’s best interest to be separated or if there are concerns of risk to the child, such as trafficking.

Without the Keep Families Together Act

In Jan. 2019, the Federal Government reported that approximately 3,000 children had been separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border. Due to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, this number will only continue to grow unless the Keep Families Together Act passes. Nearly every adult that is caught attempting to cross illegally is prosecuted and nearly every child is taken from their family.

According to the New York Times, because of the absence of a formal tracking system and an influx that started in 2017, the actual number of children separated from their parent, guardian or family is unknown. It is believed that the separation of families is far larger than the administration had originally stated; possibly more than 700 children could have been separated before the announcement of the “zero tolerance” policy.

The Flores Settlement Agreement

As far as the treatment of children at the border goes, the parameters were set out in the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement. The agreement was born from a lawsuit that was “filed in 1985 that challenged the federal government’s treatment, detention and release of immigrant children.” The agreement requires that children be released to a parent, guardian or program. If no such person is available, then the government is required to detain the child in the “least restrictive” setting, but for no more than 20 days.

Later, in a 2016 federal court decision, the Flores agreement would cover children with guardians as well as those without. However, the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy has led to the arrest of parents and guardians who are criminally charged at the border, making it impossible to keep the children with their families. As of 2018, a federal court decision ruled that these children must be reunited with their parents.

The Effects of Separating Families

This raises the question, how does being taken away from a parent or guardian affect a minor’s mental health and wellbeing? A minor who is separated from their parents experiences much more than just discomfort and stress. Children endure extreme psychological stress and lack vital emotional support. Having no foundation from a loved one or guardian during such a vulnerable time could lead to significant anxiety, depression, traumatic stress and many other disorders.

Families are fleeing to the U.S. for refuge, but they face danger on their journey as well as at the border. Without the Keep Families Together Act, parents, guardians and loved ones will continue to be separated from their children. Instead of harvesting a harsh environment for families running from danger, the Keep Families Together Act would be in place to help create safety and asylum for those in need.

Contact State Leaders and advocate for the passing of the Keep Families Together Act. An email, phone call or letter only takes a few minutes and can make a big difference. Learn how to call state senators and representatives here (https://borgenproject.org/call-congress/) and email here (https://borgenproject.org/action-center/).

Malena Larsen
Photo: Flickr

Gaming for Good
The video game industry is a $10.5 billion per year industry. With the level of financial power held by this form of entertainment, there is a great opportunity for gaming to become a major force for good. Gaming For Good is an organization that seeks to fulfill this opportunity. The organization encourages players to purchase “points” through donations made to charitable efforts by Save the Children International. These points can then be spent on games such as Psychonauts, Splice and Worms Revolution.

Gaming for Good was founded by Bachir Boumaaza, better known by his online nickname “Athene.” Athene has been described within gaming media as “the best gamer in the world,” and holds records ranging from the first to reach level 60 in Diablo III to the most hands of online poker played in one month. This organization is a way for the online celebrity to take what is clearly more than a hobby for him and use it to make a difference.

This method is working incredibly well. Along with partnering with major gaming media such as Twitch TV, the site won a Webby Award in 2013. More importantly, the charity has been an absolute powerhouse in terms of fundraising. In 2013, the organization reached $10 million in donations. The organization’s recent support of charity efforts in Nepal came with a request of $200,000. It raised over $805,000 for relief in Nepal thus far.

Everybody has a hobby. For some it is collecting, for others painting and, for many, that hobby is gaming. With gaming being such a successful industry, this organization does something amazing by mobilizing that success to promote change in the developing world.

Gaming for Good can be visited here.

Andrew Michaels

Sources: Polygon, Kotaku 1, Kotaku, Save the Children , Webby Awards, Save the Children
Photo: Dual Shockers