Information and stories addressing children.

UNICEF's pledge to help children The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it physical, social and economic impacts that have been felt worldwide. Developing countries, in particular, are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. Furthermore, women and children are disproportionately affected by the impacts of COVID-19. In September 2020, UNICEF called on the international community to take action “to prevent this health crisis from becoming a child-rights crisis.” UNICEF’s pledge to help children during the COVID-19 pandemic targets 192 vulnerable countries.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Children’s Health

Children are not as vulnerable to the direct physical impacts of COVID-19, but nevertheless, children worldwide suffer from the indirect impacts of COVID-19. The BBC reports that in South Asia, the disruption of essential services such as nutrition and immunization programs has led to 228,000 deaths of children younger than 5. During COVID-19, “the number of children being treated for severe malnutrition fell by more than 80% in Bangladesh and Nepal.”

Furthermore, “immunization among children dropped by 35% and 65% in India and Pakistan respectively.” In 2020, across South Asian nations, India experienced the highest increase in child mortality at 15.4%. The COVID-19 virus has abruptly halted many essential programs and services that helped safeguard the lives of vulnerable children in developing countries.

The disruption of health services has also affected adolescents battling diseases such as typhoid, malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The BBC reports almost 6,000 deaths across South Asia stemming from the inability to access the required treatment. The deficiency in medical services also resulted in 400,000 unwanted pregnancies in teenagers due to inadequate access to contraception.

Child Labor and Child Marriage

The COVID -19 pandemic has resulted in widespread unemployment and reduced household income, causing a rise in cases of child labor, reports Human Rights Watch. Parental deaths stemming from COVID-19 leave children orphaned, unable to have their basic needs met. UNICEF warns the international community that “school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage.” The organization estimates that 10 million more girls are now at risk of child marriage due to the impacts of COVID-19.

The Impacts of School Closures

At the peak of COVID-19 in 2020, 91% of all students across more than 188 countries could not receive an education due to school closures. School closures deprive children “of physical learning opportunities, social and emotional support available in schools and extra services such as school meals.” Children from disadvantaged backgrounds face more barriers than children from more affluent families. These vulnerable children are at risk of losing the most in terms of educational progress.

The UNICEF Pledge

UNICEF has committed to work alongside “governments, authorities and global health partners” to ensure medicines, vaccines, nutritional resources and other vital supplies reach the most vulnerable people. UNICEF is prioritizing safe school reopenings, ensuring all safety protocols are in place. Where schools cannot reopen, UNICEF is working to develop “innovative education solutions” and provide remote learning support.

Since a lack of internet connectivity and electricity presents a barrier to online learning in impoverished communities, UNICEF has committed to ” bridge the digital divide and bring internet connectivity to 3.5 billion children and young people by 2030.” UNICEF is also working with governments and partners to ensure that children’s rights form a central part of COVID-19 response plans.

As the pandemic continues, the future is still unclear. During an unprecedented global crisis, UNICEF’s pledge to help children during COVID-19 shows its ongoing commitment to upholding children’s rights globally.

– Jessica Barile
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in FijiFiji is an archipelago or chain of islands. Many tourists worldwide know its remote beaches as a tropical paradise. While Fiji’s geography makes it a popular vacation spot for celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Tony Hawk, its geography has adverse effects on the children living there. However, organizations are taking steps to combat child poverty in Fiji.

Child Poverty in Fiji

Child poverty in Fiji is widespread throughout its rural areas. The United Nations released a report that displays rural child poverty rates at 40.92%, almost double urban rates of 22.22%. The extent of the discrepancy between those living in rural and urban areas is clear. There is a similar difference in the ages of those experiencing poverty in Fiji. The United Nations report highlights that 32.1% of children younger than the age of 14 experience poverty.

Poverty in Fiji has an unparalleled effect on young children in rural areas. This has led to a stunting rate tallied at 7.5% among infants and young children in 2004. Infants and young children are not the only ones affected by malnourishment as 22% of adolescents in Fiji were underweight as of 2005.

The Effects of Geography on Child Poverty in Fiji

In Fiji, there is a clear connection between poverty, geography and education. Fiji’s remote location impacts the price of uniforms, books and transportation. Although education is free up to the second level, the secondary costs of education present additional barriers for children living in poverty.

Even if rural Fijian families scrape together money for their children’s education, underdeveloped road and sea transportation prevent easy accessibility. Children often have to travel through three or more towns on foot to reach the nearest school.

Furthermore, children do not receive consistent protection against violations and abuse. Many children work as domestic servants and face domestic or sexual violence. Authorities underreport these conditions, and oftentimes, local authorities dismiss the crimes with little supervision from the country’s federal policing system.

Solutions to Child Poverty in Fiji

Many efforts are in place to help combat child poverty in Fiji. Several Fijian children in poverty reside in rural areas where the lack of access to quality education perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Understanding this issue, the Australian High Commissioner administered the Australian Direct Aid Program. The program seeks to help improve educational opportunities for these children. This project gifts items like new furniture, library books, water tanks and dormitory renovations that provide better education resources to students in rural Fiji.

Similarly, help from volunteer groups such as the Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross and student initiatives, such as Rustic Pathways, greatly impacts these Fijian communities. For example, the Peace Corps states that close to 90% of the communities improved in livelihood security and sanitation.

Another significant step in combating child poverty in Fiji occurred when Fiji joined the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership. The partnership made access to clean water a constitutional right. This led to 70.1% of Fijian households having access to clean water. Increased access to clean water means children can go to school and receive an education instead of spending time collecting water for the home.

Moreover, the World Bank has approved the Fiji Transport Infrastructure Investment Project. It awarded the Fijian government $50 million to make improvements to land and sea infrastructure. The expected outcome is easier and safer travel, which in turn, allows children facing poverty in rural areas of Fiji better access to education.

The Future of Poverty in Fiji

Fiji’s geography negatively influences impoverished children within its borders. Through improvements to the education system, increased sanitation, access to clean water and better infrastructure, children facing poverty in Fiji have a greater opportunity to attend and complete school. Through education, children are able to break cycles of poverty.

– Lily Vassalo
Photo: Flickr

Children In Tanzania In 2016, estimates determined that three out of every four children in Tanzania experience poverty or are underprivileged. This means that most children in Tanzania do not experience high-quality living conditions. For example, children in Tanzania frequently lack access to healthcare, education and basic necessities such as food, water and shelter. They may also experience domestic violence.

Of adolescents, the age group hit the hardest are those aged 5-13. In this age group, 73% of children experience deprivation in three or more dimensions. Dimensions are categories that classify different types of poverty. These dimensions are sanitation, protection, housing and education. Poor access to sanitation affects this age group the most (77%) followed by limited protection, housing and education, all lying in the high 60% range.

The Future Stars Academy (FSA)

Future Stars Academy (FSA) is a nonprofit organization that began in 2009 and works out of Arusha, Tanzania. In 2019, the organization had 200 members and saw its members’ school attendance increase by 15%. FSA prioritizes education with the understanding that education is a way out of poverty.

FSA makes an impact by combining a passion for sports with a strict education policy. Education is one of the most important factors in ending global poverty. Education leads to outcomes that positively impact poverty. Some of these outcomes include economic growth, lower income inequality, reduced infant and maternal deaths, decreased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and reduced violence at home and in society.

Many people all over the world support and participate in soccer, sometimes referred to as football. For FSA, soccer is a way for underprivileged children to develop mentally and physically, giving them the opportunity to live sustainable and healthy lives. The organization believes that soccer can inspire underprivileged children and help them develop into productive citizens with the opportunity to escape poverty. The organization focuses on three core activities: training, education and competition. It works with children aged 6-20, targeting the age group hit hardest by child poverty.

FSA gives youth the opportunity to refine their soccer skills and compete competitively at a certain level. This gives children something to strive for and encourages healthy lifestyles in order for participants to succeed in the sport. Coaches at FSA use the children’s passion for soccer to hone in on other important life skills and values such as teamwork, dedication, discipline and confidence.

FSA’s Success

For FSA, the combination of fun and education has, so far, been successful. The policy of “No school – No play” keeps children in Tanzania on track to progressing toward a better life. The FSA has provided dozens of senior players with the opportunity to play for top tier soccer teams or earn coaching positions where they then have the ability to help children in similar situations.

Education is an extremely important tool for reducing rates of poverty in Tanzania. Many organizations, such as UNICEF, believe that instilling education at a young age is the most effective way for it to be a tool in helping underprivileged children escape poverty. FSA is one of many organizations working to promote the importance of education for children in Tanzania.

– Haleigh Kierman
Photo: Flickr

Children in Haiti
Children in Haiti face a myriad of shockingly harsh challenges, with more than 60% of the population living in extreme poverty. Roughly 70% of all children in Haiti are extremely deprived, lacking access to at least one of the following: clean water, food, adequate shelter, healthcare or schooling. With 46% of Haitian children living in absolute poverty, organizations have stepped in to help fulfill the basic needs of children.

Inadequate Shelter and Diseases

More than 50% of children in Haiti lack adequate housing. They often share rooms in the home with family members, with crowding as severe as five people to a room. These rooms have dirt floors and roofing made of leaves, which cannot withstand the rains of Haiti. In addition, 40% of all children do not have toilet facilities.

Furthermore, more than 1.5 million children in Haiti are not immunized, leaving them at risk of deadly diseases. Many of these children also have no access to medical care and more than 800,000 children lack sufficient clean water. As a result, children often resort to drinking contaminated water from ponds and dams.

Starvation and Mental Health Issues

Inadequate food and nutrition lead to severe consequences: more than 75,000 children who survive past the age of 5 could potentially suffer permanent health consequences. Haitian children often lack access to nutritious foods that provide the necessary vitamins vital for growth such as zinc, vitamin A and iodine.

Children in Haiti also suffer symptoms of PTSD due to the terrifying impacts of major catastrophes, including the 2010 earthquake. Limited general healthcare in Haiti means mental healthcare is also lacking. Many children who survive earthquakes and other natural disasters are at risk of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, delusion and bipolar disorders due to the stress ad trauma endured.

Other conditions, such as homelessness and sexual abuse, can also contribute to mental health concerns. A 1991 study found that thousands of children lived in the streets of Port Au Prince, Haiti. The average age of Haitian “street children” was 11 and half of the children studied had used drugs. Furthermore, girls in Haiti are at high risk of rape and sexual abuse.

Hope Song Refuge

The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Anita Frew of Hope Song Refuge in Haiti. Dr. Frew typically spends six months of the year caring for children and mothers who cannot care for themselves in Haiti, apart from 2020 when COVID-19 prevented her travel.

Dr. Frew explains how mothers struggle to feed their children. The men in the household often leave because they cannot care for their families and there are limited work opportunities in Haiti. Without access to food, yet yearning to satisfy the pain in their children’s stomachs, some Haitian mothers make cookies out of mud and contaminated water.

The cookies are left out in the sun to dry and are then fed to the children. The children receive no nutritional benefits and often become ill because of the diseases carried in the water. When mothers feel they can no longer care for their children, they may abandon them. It is not uncommon to see abandoned children on blankets on the side of the road as mothers give up hope.

Some desperate mothers even give up their children to traffickers who convince them that their children will have better work opportunities and an improved quality of life outside of Haiti. Traffickers take Haitian children to countries such as the Dominican Republic where the children are sold into child prostitution or slavery. The work of Hope Song Refuge in Haiti seeks to prevent child trafficking by aiding mothers and their children.

Hope for the Future

The harsh circumstances that the children of Haiti face are due to the many tragedies arising from poverty. Starvation and disease are part of the daily lives of many children. The children of Haiti who do not perish from disease or starvation are subject to abuse and often struggle to have their basic needs met.

Despite these conditions, however, there is hope. Dr. Frew’s mission was successfully able to save a child from a human trafficking situation. The Haitian Border Police have also worked to lower the number of trafficked children. Working in partnership with the Haitian Social Welfare Agency, the border police have arrested more than 50 potential traffickers since the agencies began reporting in 2017.

These efforts show a promising trend of reducing child trafficking and lifting Haitian children out of poverty. Moving forward, the government and humanitarian organizations must make addressing child poverty in Haiti a greater priority.

– Carolyn Lancour
Photo: Flickr

School Feeding Program in RwandaRwanda is a small, densely populated country in Africa, located just south of the equator. Though the country has made great strides in poverty reduction since the 1994 genocide, 55% of the population still lived in poverty in 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic halted a period of economic boom and, as a result, the World Bank expects poverty to rise by more than 5% in 2021. International aid and development programs in Rwanda are more important than ever, especially when it comes to providing reliable, nutritious food sources. Chronic malnutrition affects more than a third of Rwandan children younger than 5 and the World Food Programme (WFP) considers nearly 20% of Rwandans food insecure. One key initiative aiming to eradicate malnutrition in Rwanda is the WFP’s Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda.

History of the Home Grown School Feeding Initiative

The WFP’s Home Grown School Feeding initiative works with local governments, farmers and schools to provide nutritious, diverse daily meals for students and enrich local economies. These Home Grown School Feeding programs currently operate in 46 countries with each program tailored to the needs of local people.

The Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda began in 2016, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Mastercard. The program serves daily warm meals to more than 85,000 learners in 104 primary schools. The program benefits both students and their families in several major ways.

5 Benefits of the Home Grown School Feeding Initiative

  1. Improves Nutrition. Agriculture is the basis of Rwanda’s economy, but desertification, drought and other problems are decreasing harvests. As a result, many families struggle to grow enough food to feed themselves. The Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda provides students with meals of either maize, beans or hot porridge. The school-provided meal is often the only regular, nutritious meal available to many students.
  2. Improves Hygiene. Along with kitchens and ingredients, the WFP also supplies schools in Rwanda with materials to teach basic nutrition and hygiene. One strategy includes installing rainwater collection tanks and connecting them to handwashing stations. Additionally, WFP workers build or renovate bathrooms at each school. Connecting the school to a reliable water supply also benefits the local community by decreasing the distance villagers travel to access water. School handwashing stations are also open to the community, improving health and hygiene for everyone.
  3. Improves Focus, Literacy and School Attendance. According to Edith Heines, WFP country director for Rwanda, “a daily school meal is a very strong incentive for parents to send their children to school.” In primary schools where the WFP implemented the Home Grown School Feeding Program, attendance has increased to 92%. With the implementation of the program, students report increased alertness in class and better grades and performance. One child from Southern Rwanda, Donat, told the WFP that before his school provided lunch, he was often so hungry that he did not want to return to school after going home at lunchtime. Now that his school provides lunch, he looks forward to class each day. Literacy rates have also improved dramatically at schools where the program operates and the WFP reports that student reading comprehension has increased from less than 50% to 78%.
  4. Teaches Gardening and Cooking Skills. The WFP develops a kitchen garden at every school involved in the Home Grown School Feeding program. Children participate in growing and caring for crops, learning valuable gardening skills that they can take home to their parents. Children are also instructed in meal preparation and in proper hygiene.
  5. Diversifying Crops at Home. Students also receive seedlings in order to provide food at home and to diversify the crops grown in food-insecure areas. Crop diversification can help improve soil fertility and crop yields. Sending seedlings home also promotes parent and community involvement in the program, ensuring the program’s long-term stability.

Looking Ahead

The Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda has improved the quality of life for many children living in poverty as well as their families. By fighting to end hunger in food-insecure areas of Rwanda, the WFP has improved hygiene, nutrition, school attendance, literacy, crop diversity and more. The continuation of the program in Rwanda and in other countries around the world will enable further progress in the fight against global poverty.

Julia Welp
Photo: Flickr

Improve Girls' Education in NigeriaFor women in Nigeria, education is a privilege because not all of them have access to it. Some people in Nigeria see education as a commodity and there are many children currently out of school. The Malala Fund estimates that 30% of girls aged 9-12 in Nigeria have never been to school. The children who are in school are more likely to be male. Some families have faced violence for sending their daughters to school. Nigeria faces several challenges in education but organizations are fighting to improve girls’ education in Nigeria.

Fears of Retaliation

In 2018, 13.2 million Nigerian children were out of school and 60% of them were girls. At the time, this was the highest number in the world. Many parents cannot afford to send their children to school and often do not have access to transportation. Free primary education helps, but it is not enough. Others fear retaliation from sending their daughters to school. In 2018, Boko Haram abducted 110 schoolgirls as a message to parents. Boko Haram was very vocal when speaking out against Western education.

In 2021, Boko Haram still controls much of the northeastern part of Nigeria. Boko Haram has a distaste for Western education. In fact, the Islamist militant group’s name loosely translates to “western education is forbidden.” The 2018 kidnapping of 110 schoolgirls was not the group’s first attempt to stop girls’ education in Nigeria. Almost seven years ago, Boko Haram “took 276 girls from their school in Chibok in northeast Nigeria.” Many of these girls are still missing. Inciting fear is one of the ways Boko Haram keeps parents from sending their daughters to school.

Societal Norms

Girls accounted for 60% of children out of school in Nigeria. Poverty, child marriage, societal norms and violence are some of the reasons this rate is so high. Some of these girls had never been to school at all. Not seeing the value in sending their daughters to school if students are not receiving a quality education, families frequently marry girls off instead. Girls’ education in Nigeria has societal impacts as well. When girls have a secondary education, child mortality rates drop, child marriage rates decline and the lifetime earnings of girls increase. These positive outcomes help better society.

Ties With Poverty

One can also tie the lack of girls’ education in Nigeria to its poverty rate. In 2019, the poverty rate in Nigeria was 40% of the population, which equaled roughly 83 million people living below the poverty line. Northern Nigeria has low-quality education, which often means girls often do not get the education they need to thrive.

Period poverty is another factor that has impacted girls’ education in Nigeria over the years. Not being able to afford menstrual products has discouraged girls from going to school when menstruating. Menstrual products are a luxury that many cannot afford. Period poverty leads to many girls and women skipping work or school. Poor menstrual hygiene can lead to urinary tract infections and period poverty can cause depression or anxiety. All these factors can affect a girl’s education.

Previous Projects to Improve Girls’ Education in Nigeria

The Girls’ Education Project initially began in Nigeria in 2004. The focus was on supporting the Nigerian government in its efforts to achieve universal basic and primary education. A subsection of the project was the Girls’ Education Project 3 Cash Transfer Programme. Nigeria implemented it from 2014 to 2016 to improve girls’ education in Nigeria. The program mitigated the impact poverty had on girls’ enrollment in school. Through this program, social and economic opportunities for girls increased. More girls in Nigeria also completed basic education.

In 2020, UNICEF in Nigeria received a grant of $140,000. The grant went toward an online digital platform and strengthening states’ radio and television education programs as well as providing activity books, worksheets and assessment cards. The aid came amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a major impact on the education of children. UNICEF also provides “psychosocial support to children and teachers” and secures wash and hygiene resources for schools.

Today’s Efforts

UNICEF has implemented a program that aims to give all children access to quality education in a safe learning environment. This will take time, but its goal is to help the government achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The key areas of focus for the program are access, learning and skills for emergencies and fragile contexts.

This means providing “gender-equitable access to quality education from a young age, quality learning outcomes and skills development and improved learning and protection for children in emergencies and on the move.” In 2021, 60 million schoolchildren gained access to primary or secondary education.

UNICEF has also established a girls’ education program that focuses on gender equality in education. By giving girls access to a safe education, inequality is reduced, allowing girls to reach their full potential. UNICEF helps governments and schools eliminate gender gaps in education, focusing on teacher training and removing gender stereotypes from learning materials. With help from organizations such as UNICEF, girls’ education in Nigeria will soon become commonplace.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Childhood Malnutrition in NepalChild malnutrition in Nepal, a relatively small nation in Asia, has been a persistent issue. The lack of food throughout the country has significantly contributed to illness and death. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has worsened. Though there have been multiple failed government attempts to reconcile the food supply, Nepal is slowly finding its way back to proper nutrition for children with the help of organizations such as UNICEF.

Child Malnutrition in Nepal

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, Nepal ranks as the 148th most impoverished country in the world out of 189 countries. It continues to struggle with low general well-being because of civil unrest, a difficult geographical landscape and poor infrastructure. A combination of these factors has also impacted food availability. Food that is available often lacks the nutrients necessary for children to maintain proper health and growth. As a result of malnutrition, children battle stunted physical and mental growth, severe weight loss and compromised immune systems.

In addition to poor nutrition, many children are also exposed to contaminated water, which can lead to chronic diseases. According to the Nepali Times, a recent Johns Hopkins University survey showed that severe malnutrition impacting children younger than 5 could cause 4,000 childhood deaths a year due to insufficient food from lack of income caused by the pandemic. A quarter of Nepal’s population already lives under the poverty line. The pandemic has pushed more families closer to impoverishment.

The Solution

Due to multiple failed government efforts to help assist families, it is clear that part of the issue lies in the poorly structured national, provincial and local governments. Though the government has made efforts to tackle malnutrition in Nepal, including the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Plan that led to major strides against child malnutrition in the past, the issue persists.

To combat child malnutrition in Nepal, UNICEF has partnered with the government of Nepal in order to treat malnourished children with nutrition response and recovery actions. It has also taken the initiative to educate and provide resources for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Nutrition education aims to raise awareness of the importance of ensuring infants receive essential nutrients.

Furthermore, UNICEF is helping the government of Nepal to strengthen its response to prevent more malnutrition in the country. Nutritional assistance is also provided in the form of micronutrient powder for children and iron folate supplements for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

The Road Ahead

Though child malnutrition in Nepal has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still hope. With help from UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations, Nepal has a chance to address this persistent issue. Moving forward, it is essential that the government and humanitarian organizations continue to prioritize child malnutrition in Nepal.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

Save the Children Aids Nepal In 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc in Nepal. The devastation left more than 22,000 people injured and almost 9,000 people dead, with hundreds of thousands of more people facing extreme poverty. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may prove to be an even more severe humanitarian crisis for the country. With more than 600,000 reported cases as of July 2021, the severity of the pandemic in Nepal is significant. In an effort to improve the country’s dire state and protect vulnerable populations such as children, Save the Children aids Nepal during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Impact of COVID-19 in Nepal

Nepal’s status as a landlocked nation with a medical system closely tied to India has resulted in serious healthcare concerns. Chief among these concerns is a lack of essential medical resources like oxygen tanks and COVID-19 testing kits, both of which are critical in the fight against COVID-19. Nepal normally obtains these supplies through India, however, the severe COVID-19 outbreak in India means India has minimal resources to spare.

Maggie Doyne is the co-founder and CEO of a nonprofit in Nepal, BlinkNow. Doyne, tells CNN Canada that “All of our medicines, all of our oxygen tanks, our ambulances, our food supply relies on India. So, you really can’t have a landlocked Himalayan country so reliant on another country that’s really struggling.” The nonprofit operates a school and a children’s home, among other facilities, in Nepal. It has also been one of the groups attempting to provide aid on the ground. In direct response to the country’s surge in cases, BlinkNow increased emergency food bank supplies available for vulnerable families and people out of work.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Children in Nepal

One particularly vulnerable population in Nepal is children. The Human Rights Watch and two partnering organizations released a report in May 2021 examining how COVID-19 impacts children. After speaking with 25 working children in Nepal, nearly all of them agreed that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their family’s financial stability. The children interviewed ranged from 8 to 16 years old.

The children worked jobs in construction, carpentry, mechanics and more, in an attempt to financially support their families. Many of the children work long hours, sometimes totaling 12 hours per day, which causes them pain, dizziness and fatigue. The use of child labor has increased in the country since the pandemic has forced lockdowns and school closures. Even as schools reopen, many children remain working to help supplement their parent’s income.

Save the Children Aids Nepal

Save the Children is taking action in Nepal to minimize COVID-19’s impact on children. The global nonprofit is dedicated to preventing child suffering, with efforts ranging from malnutrition prevention to emergency response measures. The nonprofit recently expressed concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on children in Nepal. School shutdowns hold back Nepalese children educationally and socially.

Not receiving an education hinders the chances of breaking free from poverty, according to Jennifer Syed, the country director for Save the Children in Nepal. Syed says that “The economic impact on households hurts children the most — they’re the ones who suffer the worst malnutrition; it’s the young girls who are forced into child marriage to reduce the financial burden on their family.”

To assist, Save the Children is donating more than 50 oxygen concentrators and 20,000 rapid testing kits. This will help Nepal’s government in the fight against COVID-19. In addition, Save the Children’s website states, “a further 100,000 PRC test kits, 200,000 rapid test kits and 1,000 oxygen concentrators will be given to the Ministry of Health and Population under agreement with the Global Fund.”

The Road Ahead

Save the Children’s efforts are essential to assist a country that has now surpassed India in COVID-19 related deaths per capita. The organization is also supporting Nepalese children through campaigns that promote personal protection measures and offer mental health support. Hopefully, Save the Children’s efforts will inspire aid from others in the near future as Nepal continues to fight the devastating repercussions of COVID-19.

Brett Grega
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Bhutan Forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation of children are forms of human trafficking occurring around the world, including Bhutan. Limited research means precise statistics on human trafficking in Bhutan are hard to find. The Royal Government of Bhutan has not accepted the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, a treaty that 147 states signed and enforced in 2003. This often leads to Bhutanese courts dismissing charges that meet the international definition of human trafficking.

The Definition of Human Trafficking

The international definition of human trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud or coercion) for an improper purpose.” Bhutan’s definition is an individual who “recruits, transports, sells or buys, harbors or receives a person through the use or threat of force or deception within, into or outside of Bhutan for any illegal purpose.”

Human Trafficking in Bhutan

According to the U.S. Department of State, “Bhutan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.” The U.S. Department of State upgraded Bhutan to its Tier 2 Watch List because of several positive signs of progress. For instance, Bhutan convicted one person under the human trafficking statute and appealed dismissed trafficking charges in another case. Furthermore, Bhutan investigated “reports of labor exploitation” and worked to implement “anti-trafficking training and public awareness events.”

Bhutan is on the Tier 2 Watch List, which means that the country does not completely comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. However, it is making an effort to meet the standards set. Bhutan has this designation because there is not enough evidence supporting the successes of the government’s actions to combat trafficking and estimates determine that the number of victims is significant or increasing.

Tier 1 refers to countries that fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and Tier 3 includes countries that do not comply and are not making an effort to improve. Bhutan was designated as a Tier 3 country in 2019 and ranked as a Tier 2 country from 2013 to 2017. Bhutan has been on the Watch List as of 2018. While it appears the Royal Government of Bhutan is making strides, evidence is scarce regarding the success of its anti-trafficking measures.

Protecting and Assisting Victims

Project hope was founded in 2004 by Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck. In 2019, Project Hope changed to Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW). Project Hope formerly protected children from labor exploitation by providing shelters. However, the program expanded to RENEW, which not only gives shelter to both women and children but also provides counseling and rehabilitation to victims. Women and children are often the victims of human trafficking, necessitating a program with a special focus on them. From January 2020 to December 2020, the program provided counseling services to 39 people affected by human trafficking.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Office funded a $750,000 program to help the Bhutanese police investigate human trafficking in Bhutan. The UNODC is responsible for implementing the program. The program helps enforce the Standard Operating Procedure for Multi-Sectoral Response to Address Trafficking in Persons in Bhutan. So far, the program has provided training for 16 journalists, 82 police officers and 95 prosecutors. The program also includes training so that people know how to protect themselves from human trafficking when working overseas.

Communication Through Task Forces

Organization is essential for efficiency and the Child Labor Task Force focuses on organizing efforts from multiple agencies and ministries. Government officials, international organizations, civil society organizations and the private sector make up the Task Force. However, a lack of research on its activities means its efficiency is unclear.

Monitoring trends of human trafficking in Bhutan, advising policies to implement and organizing anti-trafficking efforts are some of the main responsibilities of the Trafficking in Persons Special Task Force. The Department of Law and Order leads it but other government agencies and civil society organizations help the task force.

Eliminating Human Trafficking in Bhutan

Continued improvements and diligence are essential to eliminating human trafficking in Bhutan. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of State recommends several possible and plausible solutions. These include:

  • Use the international definition of human trafficking
  • Train and educate people to improve proactive victim identification
  • Create and publish an assessment of any and all forms of human trafficking in Bhutan
  • Increase funding to projects helping victims
  • Educate labor inspectors to identify cases of forced labor
  • Increase investigations and prosecutions of traffickers and increase sentencing
  • Eliminate recruitment fees for workers and investigate contract switching or cases of not paying wages

Human trafficking in Bhutan can decrease even further with solutions created by organizations and programs already in place. Cooperation, organization, enforcement and education can and are undergoing improvement, especially in the last few years. However, more clear evidence is necessary to fully understand the full picture.

Alex Alfano
Photo: Flickr