Information and stories addressing children.

Save the Children South AfricaSave the Children is a humanitarian organization working around the world to help children living in poverty. One of its outlets in Africa, Save the Children South Africa, specifically aims to accomplish three goals in the country by 2030: end any preventable deaths of children under 5 years old, ensure access to quality education and stop all violence against children. While the nonprofit organization’s tireless work is extensive, here are four main ways it is working toward achieving its goals.

  1. Bridging the Gap: Save the Children South Africa is pursuing Goal 4 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” To achieve this, it is updating local curriculums with education on 21st-century skills. Recently, the organization partnered with Webhelp South Africa, Think Human Foundation and Share Think Human to create a three-year program at Zwelihle Secondary School in Umlazi. The program facilitates the acquisition of digital literacy skills and also provides networking opportunities along the way for successful employment upon graduation. Teachers also receive training to teach skills like digital literacy, CV writing and interviewing.
  2. Child Protection Program: Save the Children South Africa considers education on positive discipline techniques as a fundamental component of its mission. The organization’s Vikela Nwana program connected approximately 3,400 children and 13,500 parents and caregivers with anti-violence resources. The program offered workshops and webinars that focused on positive discipline, a model that encourages children to practice effective communication and patience rather than violence. More than 200 educators from 10 local schools received training from 12 partner organizations in 2021. These schools are now able to lead workshops in their communities, providing protection to children who need it.
  3. Health and Nutrition: In South Africa, acute malnutrition is responsible for a third of child in-hospital deaths. As part of its mission to end all preventable deaths of children younger than 5 years old, Save the Children South Africa frequently hosts events that focus on alleviating malnutrition and other health concerns. In 2020, the nonprofit organization hosted Child Health Awareness Day (CHAD) in the Free State village of Makwane. The organization has had a partnership with pharmaceutical company GSK in this region for years, providing service to the community. The event provided vaccinations, Vitamin A supplements and oral hygiene services to hundreds of children. Adults who attended had access to HIV testing and family planning consultations. Save the Children regularly hosts CHAD events, offering community members the opportunity to receive free life-saving services and education.
  4. Early Childhood Care and Development: In the KwaZulu-Natal province, Save the Children South Africa consistently collaborates with local Education, Health and Social Development departments. These partnerships direct funds and resources to over 100 Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers and schools. Aside from supporting the centers, educators, community leaders and parents also receive access to excellent childcare instruction. Children impacted by Save the Children’s work are guaranteed a safer environment from a young age.

Hope for South African Children

According to Statistics South Africa in 2020, an estimated 62.7% of South African children live in multidimensional poverty. Fortunately, Save the Children’s educational programs and resources in South Africa are providing children with the opportunity to regain their childhood by accessing education and experiencing safety.

– Rachel Smith
Photo: Pixabay

Child Labor in Cobalt Mines In 2014, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that about 40,000 children worked in mines in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with many of the children engaging in cobalt mining. Research by Amnesty International and African Resources Watch (Afrewatch) in 2016 found that constant exposure to cobalt dust leads to fatal respiratory diseases such as asthma and hard metal lung disease. Child labor in cobalt mines exposes children to the risk of developing diseases and injuries as they often work without the appropriate protective gear.

Poverty and Child Labor in Cobalt Mines

Cobalt is a type of metal commonly used in lithium-ion batteries. The DRC is the leading mecca for cobalt production as the nation holds more than 50% of the global cobalt reserves. The excavation fields are mostly small artisanal mines, often lacking resources and protective equipment, such as gloves and masks, necessary for safer mining activities. Due to poverty rates in the country, child labor is common in mining and other sectors. In 2022, close to 62% of Congolese people, equal to around 60 million individuals, survived on less than $2.15 a day, the World Bank highlights.

Despite the poor and hazardous working conditions, children continue to work in these artisanal mines out of necessity. Impoverished families struggle to meet their basic needs and cannot afford the cost of school fees, therefore, many parents push their children to contribute to the household income by working in small mines that operate under little to no regulations. Some children do not attend school at all and engage in mining work full time while others do attend school and engage in this work after school or on weekends.

Although the Congolese government enacted the DRC Child Protection Code of 2009, which provides” free and compulsory primary education,” the lack of sufficient government funding for education places the responsibility of paying non-tuition fees, such as teachers’ salaries and uniform costs, on parents. Parents have to pay between 10,000 to 30,000 Congolese Francs ($10-30) a month, an expense unaffordable for many.

The Child Labor Experience

The exact nature of child labor in cobalt mines differs from site to site. Generally, children excavate in ditches, work in rivers, turn and sort the metal and haul heavy materials. If children are too young to work alone, they work with their mothers, helping with digging or sorting. According to research by Amnesty International and Afrewatch, children work for up to 12 hours a day in the mining fields. Even schoolchildren work similar hours on weekends.

In 2015, Amnesty International and Afrewatch researchers interviewed 17 Congolese children who worked or still work in the mines. The child miners shared their experiences, with many recounting that the mining areas are often sweltering or drenched with rain, lacking any overhead protection. The interviewees also reported that some security guards hired by the mining companies physically mistreated them or stole their wages.

Ending Child Labor in Cobalt Mines

UNICEF and the Global Battery Alliance (GBA), “a public-private collaboration platform founded in 2017 at the World Economic Forum to help establish a sustainable battery value chain by 2030,” are working to end child labor in the cobalt mines of the DRC. One of the partnership’s aims is to reintegrate into education 500 children from Kipushi territory who exited work in the mining sector. Social workers working for UNICEF register the children in the civil registry and some are placed in foster care if necessary. Children who have experienced violence or abuse also receive counseling and medical services. In 2021, 271 former Congolese child miners returned to school.

In 2021, UNICEF collaborated with RCS Global Group to develop and distribute a toolkit to help prevent child labor in cobalt mines as part of their Mitigating Child Rights Deprivations in ASM (Artisanal Small-scale Mining) Communities Project. Mining companies and supply chain stakeholders utilize the toolkit for identifying infringements on child rights and implementing more effective social protection measures in the affected communities.

Hope for Children in the DRC

Several organizations are working to eliminate child labor in cobalt mines. Alongside other alleviatory initiatives, these organizations are pushing for appropriate regulations in the mining industry. These efforts will allow Congolese children to participate in education without having to bear their family’s financial burden.

– Amber Kim
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Solar Backpacks in BotswanaBotswana is a country in sub-Saharan Africa with an estimated population of 2.5 million people, one-third of whom live in rural areas. The nation has a power supply problem and still imports power from other Southern African countries to meet its needs. Although 77% of people living in the urban area of Botswana have access to power supply, 63% of those in rural areas still find it difficult to access electricity. To ease the impact of a lack of electricity on the nation’s rural schoolchildren, a local electrical engineer developed solar backpacks in Botswana.

Inadequate Power Impacts Academic Performance in Botswana

Across various African countries, academic performance tends to be higher among children living in urban areas compared to those in rural areas, often due to differences in access to social amenities, such as electricity. Many students in rural areas face long commutes to and from school, often resulting in limited time to complete assignments and study. Additionally, inadequate access to reliable sources of light, such as electricity, can further exacerbate this challenge. The consequence of this is that students in rural areas are not able to compete with their urban counterparts on a level playing field.

Solar Backpacks to the Rescue

Harnessing the potential of solar power in Botswana, Kedumetse Liphi, an electronic engineer and entrepreneur from Botswana, developed the Chedza solar backpack. Liphi recognized the impact of poverty on accessing resources and studying in rural areas. The idea for the solar backpack came after meeting a student from a low socio-economic background and realizing the potential of the abundant sunlight available during the day.

The durable backpack is made out of waterproof canvas and features a solar panel that absorbs light. It also includes an LED light and a USB port for charging small devices. The solar panel can store up to six hours of energy from the sun, making it possible to power digital devices for online learning.

Each backpack sells for $54, and as of March 2023, Liphi has sold more than 100 backpacks. While this price may be high for impoverished individuals in rural areas, efforts are underway to make the backpack more accessible through donations and partnerships with government and non-governmental organizations. One such organization, Botswana-based Dare to Dream, has already purchased 33 bags for its Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program for girls.

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development together with the Botswana Power Corporation and the First National Bank joined forces in launching a solar-powered backpack initiative in 2019. The initiative officially launched in August 2019 at the Ramonaka Primary School in the Kgatlend district. The initiative is also targeting other rural areas in Botswana. The solar backpacks in Botswana will support the educational activities of children at home and allow them to complete homework after daylight.

Hope for the Future

Solar backpacks in Botswana will not only help underserved schoolchildren pursue academic excellence but will also positively impact the environment by relying on renewable energy sources.

Botswana’s solar backpack initiative aims to improve educational outcomes among rural school students. By providing access to an alternative power source, educational success can become a possibility for these students. Overall, Botswana is working toward a brighter, more sustainable future for its youth.

– Chidinma Nwoha
Photo: Flickr

Charities Operating in KazakhstanHuman Rights Watch (HRW) calls attention to major issues affecting low-income families and disabled children in Kazakhstan. While it is access to state benefits for the former, the latter face barriers that exclude them from education. Child-focused charities continue playing a crucial role in alleviating these issues and addressing the needs of those affected. Here are five charities operating in Kazakhstan, acting as agents of change. 

5 Charities Operating in Kazakhstan

  1. Niyet: Niyet is a private nonprofit organization working to improve the living conditions of all children experiencing adversity, including orphans, children with disabilities and children from impoverished families. In 2018, Kazakhstan had about 26,000 orphans and children living without parental supervision. Meeting child support needs can play a significant role in helping to prevent family separations. Sourced from a comprehensive database of underprivileged children, the recipients receive donations from Niyet in the form of cashless support or personalized certificates. Two implemented programs, Food Basket and Road to School, offer these certificates in exchange for food and school supplies at partnered markets and shops. Magnum Cash & Carry is one of the accessible partnered retail stores, with more than 50 outlets in the Almaty region of Kazakhstan.
  2. ITeachMe: This is a public charity and development center based in Almaty that fights for the labor rights of disabled and vulnerable people. Created in March 2020, the organization teaches digital skills to boost the employability of its beneficiaries and help them better integrate into society. ITeachMe helps in placing young, disadvantaged people on the path to better economic opportunities. With multiple programs and 45 professional courses, the organization asserts that 90% of its graduates go on to secure employment. It delivers its free ITeachMe Program 6.0 in Russian, Kazakh and sign language. Under expert supervision, the educational course delves into programming, project management and more. The OrleTECH Program comprises more than 150 video tutorials and is available to individuals between the ages of 18 and 40 who are interested in learning how to design websites or test software. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ITeachMe provided emergency assistance. Through the support of the U.S. Urgent Action Fund, ITeachMe provided humanitarian aid to 80 underserved people living in cities and rural areas and supplied “life-saving medicines” to 26 people. ITeachMe also provided legal and psychological counsel through chatbots and instant messaging apps, which continue to function to this day.
  3. Botashym: Botashym is an organization with a focus on medical aid. Established in 2017, its goal is to raise funds to aid orphans, children with cerebral palsy, disadvantaged families and veterans. It provides its services both inside and outside Almaty. Children up to 13 years of age make up the priority demographic for rehabilitation. Whatever the disability, Botsashym informs parents of the latest clinics or treatment methods. Botashym helps to raise the treatment costs for selected children by creating individual profiles with targeted fundraising goals. In 2022, the nonprofit raised enough money to rehabilitate 16 children with different diseases of varying severity. The organization does not require the family of beneficiaries to bear any costs. Through treatment, children can improve both mobility and speech. Botashym is currently developing an Orphans Assistance program.
  4. Kasietti Zhol Foundation. This Astana-based nonprofit offers free rehabilitation services. Kasietti Zhol’s mission is to provide high-quality rehabilitation for children with cerebral palsy without requiring overseas travel. To accomplish this, the organization holds a worldwide School of Mentors initiative and organizes seminars aimed at educating and training professionals, social workers and parents on the latest rehabilitation methods. As part of its Healthy Children Project, more than 1,000 children received comprehensive rehabilitation at no cost in 2021. The #KazakhstanDoGood project brings awareness to the lack of rehabilitation for disabled children. In 2021, Kazakhstan had only 40 medical rehabilitation centers that were equipped to treat children with disabilities. More than 26,000 children are living with cerebral palsy in the country, yet only 20% manage to access rehabilitation. Families below the poverty line struggle to find treatment and usually have to wait for openings. In some cases, parents opt to leave their children in orphanages. For this reason, Kasietti Zhol opened rehabilitation centers in nine orphanages in Kazakhstan. Four children with special needs found adoptive families after treatment. The #KazakstanDoGood project aims to open 14 rehabilitation centers for children with cerebral palsy. Kasietti Zhol’s president, Gulmira Abeldinova, disclosed that from October 2022 to January 2023, the charity’s rehabilitation center took in 183 children for free rehabilitation. In 2023, it will concentrate on developing ways to address neuro-orthopedic disorders in children.
  5. Dara Foundation: Dosaeva Gulnar Yesengeldinovna established the Dara Foundation with the aim of enhancing the quality of life for underprivileged children through the creation of more efficient support systems. The foundation seeks to provide better assistance to those in need. The Mentors program offers three levels of mentoring: individual, corporate and coaching. At the corporate level, 34 organizations partner with Dara Foundation to introduce at-risk youth to various professions and offer workshops, internships and scholarships. Currently, there are 15 cities in Kazakhstan hosting the Mentors program and more than 200 orphans have partnered with mentors since 2014. Today, 138 children have finished internships and higher education courses through the Dara Foundation and more than 100 children have received individual coaching.

Looking Ahead

Many Kazakh children and families still face hardships but ongoing efforts of charities operating in Kazakhstan and the government of Kazakhstan bode signs of better opportunities and progress for the young generation. The results so far are encouraging and paint a positive outlook for the future.

– Clare Calzada
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in South Sudan
South Sudan, a North African nation that joined the U.N. in 2011, is one of the poorest and most conflict-ridden countries in the world with a GDP of 12 billion in 2015 and about 67% of the population living in extreme poverty in 2017. The younger population of South Sudan is particularly vulnerable, with around two-thirds of children requiring humanitarian assistance due to poverty, environmental risks and conflict. Child poverty in South Sudan remains an issue, but several initiatives are providing aid.

Leading Causes of Child Poverty in Sudan

  1. Conflict: Two civil wars in 2013 and 2016 have significantly contributed to the increase in child poverty in South Sudan. Displacement due to conflict has left several thousand children homeless and armed militias have recruited approximately 19,000 child soldiers since the conflict started. The violence caused by the civil wars has been a leading cause of internal displacement, with a total of 472,452 children affected.
  2. Education: In South Sudan, education rates contribute significantly to child poverty. Three out of five children have either never attended school or dropped out, which equates to one of the highest rates globally. The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened the situation by reducing school attendance rates.
  3. Climate: Extreme climatic conditions in the country also impact child poverty. Severe floods and droughts have affected the country in recent years, leaving 390,000 children without access to basic services and affecting 846 schools. Long droughts have led to child hunger, with more than 17,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
  4. COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to increasing child poverty issues in South Sudan. It also forced school closures and further aggravated the challenges in the education system. Reduction in global aid and humanitarian assistance due to the pandemic led to an economic crisis in the already struggling nation.

Taking Action

In recent years, South Sudan has taken action domestically. In 2018, the nation resorted to a peace agreement and implemented government reform to improve political stability. The leaders ackowledged establishing a stable government as the first step in securing a brighter future for the children of South Sudan.

Charities, volunteers and missionaries on the ground have played a crucial role in alleviating child poverty in South Sudan. For example, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) plans to vaccinate 2.7 million South Sudanese children against measles and provide 1.4 million children with access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation facilities in schools by the end of 2023. UNICEF also aims to treat almost 300,000 children in South Sudan for severe wasting on top of efforts to provide 75,000 children and guardians with “mental health and psychosocial support.”

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) has partnered with South Sudan since 2012 and runs initiatives to enhance the education system in South Sudan by offering financial aid through UNICEF grants and providing on-the-ground support. UNICEF provided a COVID-19 response grant of $7 million for 2020 to 2022 to secure “self-learning materials” for learners, create custom radio broadcasted learning programs for students of certain grades and launch a “back-to-school campaign” to motivate students to resume school attendance, among other efforts.

With financial support from the international community, efforts are ongoing to gradually end child poverty in South Sudan.

Looking Ahead

South Sudan’s children have endured years of hardship since the country’s independence from all spheres of life. Whether that be conflict, climate disasters or a lack of education, these children have lived through harsh realities and poor conditions. With the government and international charity organizations working to solve the issues of child poverty, South Sudan continues to see positive change. The government reforms have led to notable reductions in conflict incidents.

While there is still room for progress, ongoing efforts have seen success and present the children of South Sudan with hopes of a brighter future.

– Max Steventon
Photo: Flickr

Beauty Brands Contributing to Poverty ReductionBusinesses can positively impact their communities and play a significant role in the global fight against poverty. Fenty Beauty, Rare Beauty and Charlotte Tilbury are some of the beauty brands contributing to poverty reduction.

Fenty Beauty

The brand Fenty Beauty works alongside the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF). This foundation supports and funds children’s education, health and emergency response programs worldwide. Fenty Beauty supports its work through donations and 100% of donations go directly to the foundation.

Rihanna, the creator of Fenty Beauty, details her motivation for ensuring that her brand gives back to those in need. “My grandmother always used to say if you’ve got a dollar, there’s plenty to share,” says Rihanna. The global superstar created the CLF in 2012 to honor her grandparents. The foundation focuses on assisting communities in preparing for and withstanding natural disasters. Notably, CLF aims to help the Caribbean become the world’s first climate-resilient zone.

By working to establish resilience among communities, the CLF helps prevent future poverty among residents due to natural disasters. Many of CLF’s projects take place in Barbados, Rihanna’s home country. Beneficiaries include the Westbury Primary School, which the CLF helped to upgrade to a Category 1 shelter to provide temporary emergency shelter to the community during natural disasters. The CLF also helped to renovate the school library and provide technology for research activities.

Fenty Beauty stands as one of the beauty brands contributing to poverty reduction by improving the lives of those in the Caribbean and preventing poverty from deepening through its climate resilience projects.

Rare Beauty

Rare Beauty,  founded by Selena Gomez, has committed to helping address mental health needs globally through its Rare Impact Fund (RIF). Gomez allocates 1% of all sales to the RIF. The beauty company also works with other philanthropic foundations to increase access to mental health services.

Gomez created the RIF because of her own struggles with mental health. The RIF “invests globally in the most innovative and promising organizations in the field of mental health.” The organization has given more than $1.7 million in grant support to organizations worldwide since launching the RIF in 2020. The RIF has worked in North America, the U.K., Europe and Brazil to help more than 150,000 people seeking support for their mental health needs.

A study by Lee Knifton and Greig Inglis says poverty can contribute to poor mental health through the invoked stress, stigma and trauma. Mental health issues can also deepen conditions of poverty. “Mental health problems can lead to impoverishment through loss of employment, underemployment or fragmentation of social relationships,” the study says.

Through its commitment to expanding mental health resources around the world, Rare Beauty established itself as one of the beauty brands contributing to poverty reduction.

Charlotte Tilbury

Charlotte Tilbury Beauty, the cosmetic brand named after its creator, the British beauty entrepreneur and makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury, partners with Women for Women International (WFWI) to establish itself as a brand contributing to poverty reduction.

WFWI invests in women who are survivors of war and conflict. By providing these women with social and economic skills, WFWI works to transform individual lives and those in the communities the women reenter. The organization works in 14 conflict-stricken countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

In 2016, Charlotte Tilbury Beauty launched a collection of 12 lipstick shades, and to commemorate the product launch, the company pledged to donate more than $1 million to WFWI. In 2018, Charlotte Tilbury Beauty also supported WFWI on Giving Tuesday by donating 15% of all sales to the organization.

Looking Ahead

Beauty brands that take a stand against global poverty can significantly alleviate the immediate and long-term effects of this global epidemic. By providing resources, education and support to those in need, such brands can help address the root causes of poverty and empower individuals and communities to improve their own economic situations.

Furthermore, these efforts can create a ripple effect, inspiring others to get involved and generating greater awareness and advocacy for this critical issue. Beauty brands contributing to poverty reduction provide hope for a brighter, more equitable future for all.

– Brooklynn Rich
Photo: Flickr

Vulnerable Children In Guatemala
Guatemala is home to more than 500,000 orphans. Orphans, in addition to children living in extreme poverty in Guatemala, are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by gangs and traffickers. According to the World Bank, almost 60% of the population lived under the national poverty line in 2014. As a result of poverty and harsh living conditions, families sometimes abandon children and force them into child labor while other children endure neglect and abuse. According to Serving Orphans Worldwide, many of Guatemala’s abandoned children “wander the streets where they work and are more prone to suffer from exploitation.” Several organizations are working to safeguard the well-being of vulnerable children in Guatemala.

Child Labor in Guatemala

According to a 2021 report on child labor and forced labor in Guatemala by the Department of Labor (DOL), vulnerable children in Guatemala face exploitation and exposure to the worst types of forced labor, such as sexual exploitation as a result of child trafficking. The country of Guatemala has become accustomed to child labor with a large portion of its economy supported by it. According to the DOL, in 2020, more than 200,000 children between the ages of 7 and 14 engaged in child labor. The widespread conditions of poverty in the country force families to push their children into child labor to add to the household income.

Children from Guatemala’s Indigenous communities make up more than 50% of child laborers in the country and children residing in rural areas are more likely to engage in child labor than those in Guatemala’s urban centers. These rural children mostly engage in agricultural work under arduous conditions using dangerous equipment such as machetes. “Children as young as age 5 also work in coffee fields picking and carrying heavy loads of coffee beans and mixing and applying pesticides,” the DOL report says.

The DOL states that some parents send their children to work on the streets as performers. But, these children are at risk of traffickers selling them to criminal groups. The children work long hours on the street and must sometimes wear attention-grabbing body paint that is toxic to the skin.

Many vulnerable children in Guatemala are also exploited for sex work, with Guatemala being a “destination country for child sex tourists from Canada, the United States and Western Europe.” Gangs and trafficking rings usually target young girls for sexual exploitation. For this reason, young Guatemalan girls try to flee the country with their entire families to escape violence and exploitation.

In 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “reported apprehending more than 264,000 Guatemalans, including more than 185,000 people in “family units” – a parent or legal guardian traveling with a child – and more than 30,000 unaccompanied children,” the Guardian says. Many of these families sought safety in the U.S. away from violence and poverty in Guatemala.

All God’s Children International

While some seek to exploit vulnerable children in Guatemala, others are working to safeguard the human rights of these children. All God’s Children International (AGCI) has worked in Guatemala for more than two decades, beginning in 2001. AGCI is responsible for giving care to 1,400 orphans in Guatemala. The organization helped place 514 orphans in the adoptive care of “forever families” by way of the AGCI’s adoption program.

The organization now focuses on “family preservation efforts” to support vulnerable children and families in Guatemala. Through the support of a local Guatemalan ministry, AGCI has provided more than 3,500 women and children with “counseling and economic support” through community development initiatives.

AGCI’s Education Sponsorship Program allows donors to ensure children under AGCI’s care “attend school, remain within their family’s care, receive healthy meals to fuel their studies and save for their future education,” the AGCI website says.

While conditions of poverty and violence in Guatemala are not conducive to the well-being of children, organizations such as All God’s Children International are making a difference by positively impacting the lives of vulnerable children in Guatemala.

– David Keenan
Photo: Flickr

Child Health Care
Over the last three decades, maternal and children’s health has improved significantly worldwide. The newborn survival rate has almost doubled since 1990 and maternal mortality rates have seen a 34% decrease since the beginning of the century. However, progress in health care is not globally even. Maternal and child health care in developing nations is out of reach for many expectant mothers and young children, resulting in high mortality rates.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 95% of women who died during pregnancy or labor in 2020 came from low and lower-middle-income countries. Furthermore, around 79% of neonatal deaths in the same year occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia. In both instances, lack of quality health care is the leading cause of death. Poverty, low numbers of qualified medical professionals and poor sanitation and resources are among the key reasons that health care in developing nations has been slow to advance. Muslim Hands is working to improve maternal and child health care in developing nations through its maternal health clinics and educational programs.

About Muslim Hands

Muslim Hands is a U.K.-based NGO that supports poverty-stricken communities in more than 30 developing nations. The organization, established in 1993, began as a volunteer movement in Nottingham to support victims of the Bosnian war. Muslim Hands’ work soon spiraled from grassroots activism into an international aid movement.

Muslim Hands tackles poverty in numerous ways, from training teachers to establishing schools to building water wells worldwide. Providing maternal and child health care in developing nations is among the organization’s highest priorities in the fight against global poverty.

The Motherkind Campaign

Motherkind is Muslim Hands’ maternal health campaign. It emphasizes educating women on health care and providing maternal health support in high-risk countries. For example, the organization has developed midwifery training courses in Niger and health workshops in Indian villages.

A key focus of the Motherkind campaign is running maternal health clinics in Somalia and Afghanistan. Afghanistan and Somalia are among the developing nations with the highest infant and maternal mortality rates because health care in general is largely inaccessible in these countries. Motherkind clinics offer services to give children and mothers the best possible chance of survival.

In both countries, malnutrition is rife due to rampant poverty and barriers created by political conflict. In Somalia, persistent droughts have caused food insecurity, increasing the likelihood of malnourishment. To address this issue and prevent pregnant women from developing micronutrient deficiency disorders, Motherkind clinics offer micronutrient supplements like Vitamin A, foliates and iron to pregnant and breastfeeding women. This supports healthier pregnancies and, for breastfeeding women, ensures that babies receive the nutrients necessary for healthy development.

The lack of health centers and medical professionals in Somalia and Afghanistan contributes to high rates of maternal and infant mortality. The WHO estimates that nations need a minimum of 23 medical professionals per 10,000 people to provide adequate health care services. In 2021, Afghanistan had just 4.6 medical professionals per 10,000 people, falling critically below WHO guidelines. Moreover, 43% of the Afghan population does not have a health center located within a half-hour’s travel, severely limiting access to vital health care. As a result, 57% of births in Afghanistan occur without any health care professionals present.

Improving Childbirth and Infant Development

Muslim Hands is working to end unattended births through its community outreach program. Motherkind clinics train health workers to conduct home visits during pregnancy, assist during labor and provide postnatal care for mothers and infants. This outreach program helps women give birth safely while building meaningful bonds and trust between mothers, babies and health workers. The Somalia clinic assists 15-20 births each month and the Afghanistan clinic treats approximately 44,000 people annually.

Muslim Hands also provides child health treatments. A critical service it provides is vaccinations to protect children from easily preventable but deadly diseases. This is especially important in Somalia where some children are not vaccinated at all. This is due to both a shortage of vaccines, especially in areas where ongoing conflict has led to restrictions and the fact that some parents are uninformed or misinformed about the importance of vaccinations.

Motherkind clinics offer vaccines to protect children against diseases including tuberculosis, measles and tetanus. The organization also gets to the root of vaccine distrust by hosting discussion sessions to inform parents about the necessity of immunization and dispel misinformation surrounding vaccination. To date, Muslim Hands has vaccinated upward of 70,000 infants and children in its clinics.

The Motherkind clinic in Somalia also conducts nutrition screenings for children and disseminates advice to mothers on how to provide a balanced, nutritious diet for their children using local ingredients.

Looking Forward

Muslim Hands hopes to open more Motherkind clinics to continue improving maternal and child health care in developing nations. The organization is currently building a new health center in Mauritania, which will serve almost 2,000 people from four different villages. Additionally, Muslim Hands plans to expand its current health services to offer mental health care to women and children.

Despite uneven global development in maternal and child health care, Muslim Hands is working to provide better health care, support and resources for mothers and children in developing nations. The organization’s efforts to ensure that improvements in maternal and children’s health are felt on a global scale are helping to pave the way toward a more equitable future.

Mohsina Alam
Photo: Flickr

Health care in Guinea-Bissau
Like most countries across West Africa, Guinea-Bissau’s health care struggles have threatened the well-being of the country’s people. Several organizations are working to improve health care in Guinea-Bissau.

Health Care in Numbers

According to the World Bank, Guinea-Bissau spent 8.35% of its GDP on health care in 2019, an increase from 7% in 2017. The 2019 GDP expenditure rate was significantly higher than many other comparable African countries. For instance, the West African country of Nigeria spent only 3% of its GDP on health in 2019. World Bank data also shows that the country had 0.2 physicians per 1,000 people in 2020 and one hospital bed per 1,000 people in 2009. As a result of limited access to trained health care professionals and proper health care, life expectancy in Guinea-Bissau equaled 60.2 years compared to the global average of 73. However, life expectancy in Guinea-Bissau has improved by 9.93 years from an average of 50.3 years in 2000.

Water-Borne Illnesses in Guinea Bissau

Similar to many West African countries, the people of Guinea-Bissau suffer from inadequate access to clean water. According to UNICEF, 50% of hand pumps across the nation are dysfunctional. According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in Guinea-Bissau 2014, “75[%] of the country’s total population have access to improved drinking water source.” This forces a significant proportion of the population to use contaminated water for everyday uses such as drinking and cooking.

Guinea-Bissau has suffered frequent cholera outbreaks. As a result of the frequent consumption of contaminated water, cholera spreads quickly across areas with poorly maintained sewage and water systems. The cholera outbreak that occurred between 2005 and 2006 saw a total of 25,111 overall cases and 399 fatalities. Despite cholera being most prevalent in urban areas, particularly in the capital Bissau, most fatalities occur in rural areas. This is because of the lack of medical facilities located outside the cities. During the 2008 cholera outbreak, the World Health Organization reported that the “overall case-fatality rate stands at 1.9% and decreases below 1% for hospitalized cases” but “reaches 9% in remote areas.”

Maternal and Child Health in Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau struggles with providing adequate maternal and child health care. The World Bank says, in 2017, the maternal mortality rate stood at 667 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. However, this is an improvement from 1,210 in 2000. Maternal mortality in Guinea-Bissau is higher than its regional average — a consequence of underfunding and understaffing in the area of maternal health care in the country.

According to the Global Nutrition Report, “Guinea-Bissau has made some progress toward achieving the target for stunting, but 27.7% of children under 5 years of age are still affected, which is lower than the average for the Africa region (30.7%).”


Although Guinea-Bissau’s health care struggles have eased, charitable organizations are attempting to make further improvements.

In 2019, focusing on improving children’s health care in Guinea Bissau, UNICEF supported deworming and vitamin A implementation into the care routines carried out by community health workers. UNICEF has also made strides in combating acute malnutrition by supporting screening and treatment processes aiding children suffering from severe cases of acute malnutrition. These treatment centers have been set up in 78 health care facilities nationwide. 

Concerning water accessibility, in 2022, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) commissioned a new borehole in the southern province of Guinea-Bissau providing clean water for approximately 3,000 people in the region. Providing communities with safe drinking water helps limit the spread of waterborne diseases, such as cholera, which is prevalent in the country.

Looking Ahead

While Guinea-Bissau has significant health care challenges, with the help of charitable organizations addressing children’s health care needs and improving access to clean water, the intensity of Guinea-Bissau’s health care struggles can lessen.

– Freddie Trevanion
Photo: Flickr


Child Poverty in CzechiaIn Czechia, children are the most vulnerable to the effects of extreme poverty. Czech deputy prime minister and minister of labor and social affairs, Marian Jurečka, acknowledged in 2022 that child poverty in Czechia is a “huge problem.” The rate of children under 18 at risk of poverty and social exclusion has increased from 12.9% in 2020 to 13.3% in 2021 due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Czech presidency and nonprofit organizations are taking action to reduce the risk of child poverty and protect those most in jeopardy.

Groups at High Risk of Poverty

The youth most affected by poverty in the Czech Republic are socially disadvantaged. For instance, Roma children, children with disabilities, Ukrainian refugees or those from single-mother families.

The European Roma Rights Center and Forum for Human Rights filed a complaint in January 2023 to the European Committee of Social Rights, noting the government’s failure to provide Roma children and those facing poverty with accessible preschool education. Without accessible and affordable education and care, poverty could lead to a loss of educational opportunities and a decline in children’s overall well-being.

Policies in Action

The Czech Republic, along with its fellow European Union member states, is ready to fulfill these needs. The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan promises to decrease the number of children at risk of poverty by approximately 5 million in seven years (2030). Additionally, the European Child Guarantee, proposed in 2021, aims to meet the five basic needs of every child: “free health care, education, preschool education and care, decent housing and adequate nutrition.”

Reformation on the Horizon

Combating child poverty requires addressing children’s specific needs. The government will likely appoint an ombudsman (representative) for children soon in order to tackle specific needs and systemic issues. According to Diana Šmídová, the secretary of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, school reforms are underway focusing on teaching children’s rights. Free language lessons for Ukrainian child refugees and educational integration are also a priority. Appointed in December 2022, Lucie Fuková, the first-ever Roma commissioner in Czechia, is taking on the task of helping the Roma community integrate.

Alternatives to Institutionalization

Every year, more than a thousand children are sent to orphanages or state care institutions in Czechia. A notable 25% of these children are younger than 4. Czechia is one of the few remaining countries in the EU that still institutionalize children so young.

Children born in poverty are more likely to be placed in institutions because their families are unable to provide for them. This subsequent neglect and separation from their biological family can have detrimental effects on children’s development.

Roma children are also commonly removed from their homes and institutionalized as their families are more susceptible to eviction, or simply because of discrimination.

For these reasons, the Czech government is prioritizing foster families and slowly restricting institutionalized care. Such institutionalized care for children younger than 4 will be banned from 2025, save for certain exemptions, according to a national 2022 report. Substitute family and preventative care will be expanded to meet as many needs as possible. With supportive networks in development, an increasing interest in foster care is anticipated.

Nonprofits Making an Impact

Nonprofits like Charita Hvězda z.s. step in to provide additional support for children of at-risk families. In 2022, the organization assisted 293 families in need, 395 Ukrainian refugee families and 212 substitute families. Ukrainian families received the organization’s largest contribution of aid (44%). Assistance ranged from covering individual client expenses to donations of food and drugstore items.

Charita Hvězda’s main project, the Foster Care Warehouse, is located in Horoměřice and offers material help for all children from substitute or socially disadvantaged families. This includes baby food, playpens, toiletries and sports equipment.

As of 2018, this site serves as a meeting place for foster families and those in crisis, providing emergency care, information and numerous resources. Though Charita Hvězda is a non-governmental organization, it is the byproduct of a government initiative to support surrogate families and limit institutional care.

Refugees in Need

The Russia-Ukraine war has taken a particularly heavy toll on the young. Notably high, more than a third of global refugees forced out of their countries are children. Approximately 130,000 Ukrainian children are living as refugees in Czechia now, some unaccompanied.

In response to the growing numbers of refugees fleeing the conflict, the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA), UNICEF and civil society organizations created a disability cash benefit program in January 2023. This program targets vulnerable, refugee children: whether Ukrainian, Roma, unaccompanied or disabled. MoLSA and UNICEF began their collaboration in July 2022 and are expanding this plan to address specific needs.

According to Yulia Oleinik, head of the UNICEF Refugee Response Office in Czechia, the collective goal is to provide “4,000 refugee children with disabilities with financial benefits and support services.” Expanded psychosocial and mental health services for 25,000 at-risk refugee children, as well as their guardians, is another aim. Oleinik said that strengthening the social system will eventually “benefit all children in the Czech Republic.”

UNICEF is cooperating with MoLSA through March 2024. Together, the two partners have already provided grants for education centers, giving children up to age 6 access to community education. So far, 29 early education centers offering non-formal activities like integration groups and parenting support have reached more than 1,200 children and 1,500 parents across Ukraine and Czechia.

Dedication to the Cause

Money alone will not eradicate child poverty in Czechia. A strong commitment to seeing through key action plans and making them a reality is also necessary. With community support and nonprofit organizations providing further aid, Czechia can greatly reduce child poverty for at-risk groups and keep families together.

– Clare Calzada
Photo: Flickr