Free Childcare in Portugal
The Portuguese government recently began a new program to introduce free childcare for all children one year and younger. The government also plans to open up free access to childcare to more children in the future. In three years, all children up to the age of three, as well as some children in primary school will be eligible to receive free childcare.

History of Free Childcare in Portugal

Free childcare in Portugal was previously available only to low-income citizens but has now been extended to all children, regardless of income. Not many other European countries offer free childcare to all citizens, regardless of income, making it a revolutionary step forward. This measure was introduced to increase the birth rate in Portugal, which is currently one of the lowest in the world. In addition to free childcare, the Portuguese government will be providing free textbooks and free computers to support eligible families.

Childcare Costs and Poverty

People often disregard childcare when discussing the causes of poverty for families. The costs that childcare imposed are significant expenses for low-income families and parents. In the EU, childcare is very popular with an average of one-third of children under the age of three participating in childhood education or childcare per country. For three-to-five-year-olds, the number rises to almost 90%.

Despite its necessity, childcare is extremely costly. According to data collected in 2019, gross childcare expenses in Portugal were almost 40% of a woman’s median income. Although childcare allows parents to work a full-time job – especially single parents – it also makes it difficult for families to crawl out of poverty. Moreover, it also continues a cycle of generational poverty that puts children at a higher risk of food insecurity, lack of access to good schools, and more.

It is because of this that free childcare in Portugal is such a significant act in the country’s fight against poverty. As Ana Mendes Godinho, Portugal’s Minister of Labor, says, free nurseries can “be lifesavers for many children, allowing them from the beginning to be part of a collective system that integrates them, namely fighting child poverty and cutting intergenerational cycles.”

The Benefits

Research has suggested that early childhood education for low-income children carries future wage benefits and health benefits. It also boosts family income and promotes the well-being of the child. Childcare also has numerous benefits for parents, as it makes it easier for parents to find employment. Additional research has shown that families with access to affordable childcare have a higher rate of maternal employment, which could help lower the gender pay gap between husbands and wives.

The new measure to increase the accessibility of free childcare in Portugal will not only relieve a burden for many families but partake in the fight against intergenerational poverty.

– Padma Balaji
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in Iraq
Although the statistics regarding child poverty in Iraq are exceedingly high, specific foundations aimed at finding solutions for this ever-growing issue (particularly, in a post-2020 world) are fairly difficult to come by. The COVID-19 pandemic created even more barriers to education, success and safety for children in Iraq, but the groups that do exist are working to shrink these numbers.

COVID-19’s Effect on Child Poverty in Iraq

 The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically complicated the lives of Iraq’s youngest population in poverty, subjecting parents to make difficult decisions about the education and safety of their children.

About 4.5 million Iraqi citizens fell into poverty after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This extreme increase in numbers has led to “[l]osses to jobs and rising prices[,]” and the national poverty rate is now sitting at 31.7%. Because of this increase, the amount of children that live below the poverty line has almost doubled.

The combination of “low computer ownership, limited access to internet and poor connectivity” had left millions of children without education during the earliest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who could access their classwork, however, were also not receiving adequate education because their educators struggled with similar issues and failed to connect with their students. Following the economic impact of the pandemic, many families in Iraq are sending their children to work or, in more extreme cases, marrying them off in order to gain any form of protection or currency for themselves or their children.

Child Poverty in Iraq and its Connection with Sex Trafficking

Hardships, whether stemming from lack of resources, money, or education, left many children circulating in the ring of sex trafficked victims.

Due to Iraq’s large population, its staggering number of children (47%) are consistently at a greater risk of sexual exploitation. Some children resort to “survival sex” in an attempt to break free from the cycle of abuse that they experience. Examples of “survival sex” include superiors forcing young boys to grant them sexual favors to earn their work wages. Families that find themselves below the poverty line can, in an attempt to “protect” their daughters, marry them off in order to receive a “bride price,” or “an amount of money, property or other form of wealth ‘paid’ to the parents of a woman for the right to marry their daughter.”

The Iraqi Children Foundation

The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) is an organization that aims to eradicate these issues. Its mission “to intervene with love and hope in the lives of children who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation by [criminals], traffickers, and extremists,” is possible by providing accessible resources to struggling families. The ICF aims to give every Iraqi child a voice and to restore their sense of worth.

A pair of Americans who worked to provide basic necessities for disadvantaged Iraqi children founded the Iraqi Children Foundation in 2007. Since its creation, the ICF continues to hold an abundance of annual events in order to raise funds and awareness towards the issues facing the population of children in Iraq. In 2022, the Foundation celebrated 10 years of its In Their Shoes 5K, where hundreds of participants walked in Washington, DC to support the benefit project. The ICF’s Annual Report relays that 2021 was its most successful year thus far, nourishing more than 500 children and protecting thousands from abuse and child labor.

– Aspen Oblewski
Photo: Flickr

Children of Sierra Leone
In Freetown, Sierra Leone, the morning that Gbessey’s mother died, Gbessey was only two days old. Gbessey has All As One (AAO) to thank, the organization which has helped over 35,000 women, children and families with medical care and other services. Gbessey has been at the All As One Children’s Center ever since and turns 13 years old this year. Like so many other poor children of Sierra Leone, Gbessey has AAO to thank for their tenacious pursuit of access to health, education and social security networks.

Sierra Leone Civil War

John Bellows and Edward Miguel, scholars at the Dept. of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, in their article on war and collective action, said that the effects of the Sierra Leone civil war on institutions, politics and social norms have been more devastating than the economic effects.

During the height of the war in 1992, people looted and destroyed medical facilities in the country. Although pregnant women have the legal right to free health care, the country has been unable to provide it. There are only about 22 physicians for every million people and about 60% of the rural population without adequate access to clean drinking water.

Filling the Gaps in the Social Safety Net

AAO, as an organization, works toward filling the gaps in the social safety net in Freetown, Sierra Leone. AAO focuses its efforts on the many orphaned and abandoned poor children of Freetown. In the AAO Children’s Center, employees provide exceptional care beyond shelter and nutrition.

The organization also vows to offer supplementary medical treatment and education for those children that are under their care. Registered nurses are available when necessary, as well as local doctors who are called when further medical treatment is needed. It also seeks to hire local teachers to enhance the learning of students as well as with implementing subject matter relevant to their lives.

Further, not only does All As One provide medical attention and education for the children under their care, but they also work to attend to those in need in the surrounding community of Freetown. On top of the 200 children of Sierra Leone it aids around the clock, the organization receives between 200 to 300 requests for assistance each month from families who are not already in the programming.

All As One’s Origins

Deanna Wallace and Steven Amara started All As One in 2000 to provide care to the abandoned and neglected poor children of Sierra Leone. What makes AAO a community-based organization isn’t just their efforts to maintain social welfare but also their collaboration with community businesses like JA Resorts & Hotels. Amara has thanked JA Resorts & Hotels for “their support and the generous gifts they have made at the times when we most need it. [JA Resorts & Hotels] have helped to keep our doors open,” Discovery Magazine reported.

Although on paper, the poor children of Sierra Leone may seem to be completely helpless. However, the people of All As One have given them a different story to tell. That story is one of resilience, community engagement and emergent response to the crisis at hand, all around the clock.

– Joy Maina
Photo: Unsplash

Child Poverty in Ukraine
The impact of war is increasing child poverty in Ukraine at an unprecedented pace and redefining what it means to be a Ukrainian child in need. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine forces nearly two-thirds of Ukrainian children to flee their homes, refugee crisis milestones not seen since WWII are being reached. UNICEF estimates that the war has resulted in 4.3 million displaced Ukrainian children, with nearly 2 million of those children now refugees.

Poland Responds as Child Poverty in Ukraine Reaches Its Borders

Response by European countries has been swift and impactful. Many have opened their borders to those fleeing Ukraine, including Romania, Germany, Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, the Czech Republic and more. The largest influx of refugees by far has been in Poland, with nearly around 3 million Ukrainian nationals crossing its border, 1.1 million of whom are children.

Poland’s response has been remarkable. In addition to opening its borders to millions of Ukrainian refugees, the neighboring country has enacted new governmental protections as a way to support those fleeing Russian aggression and curb further social and economic trauma. In March 2022, the Polish parliament passed an act offering legislative and financial support for Ukrainian nationals entering Poland.

Social and Financial Benefits

  • A Home Away From Home – As a result of the new law, all Ukrainian nationals who enter Poland due to the Ukrainian invasion, have a right of residency to remain in Poland for 18 months. There is also an option to extend residency benefits an additional 18 months, should it be necessary.
  • Financial and Social Benefits – Families receive monthly stipends per child as well as financial assistance to pay for school supplies and nursery school. Ukrainians receive cash allowances for subsistence and businesses that assist in supporting displaced Ukrainians will also receive financial assistance for 60 days. Additionally, all Ukrainian refugees have access to the Polish health care system.
  • Education for All Children – Under the new act, Ukrainian children receive the same educational opportunities as Polish nationals. Language accommodations for children who do not speak Polish are provided, while college-age Ukrainian nationals are able to continue their higher education at Polish universities.
  • Work Opportunities – Ukrainian refugees can legally work in Poland, without having to apply for work permits, thus enabling them to provide financial support for their families by having access to the Polish labor market.
  • Open Hearts and Homes – In addition to the new law that parliament passed, many Polish families are hosting Ukrainian refugees in their own homes. By providing food and shelter, Polish citizens are trying to right many wrongs they fear could threaten their own families in the future.

Looking Ahead

As the war in Ukraine continues, measures like these will help Ukrainian children counter the long-term effects of war. More work is necessary, however, as the U.N. fears that the Russian invasion will undo 18 years of economic growth, with most Ukrainian families now at risk for extreme poverty and vulnerability within the next year. While Poland has offered generous subsistence, concerns about the sustainability of such efforts are many.

With many European countries opening their borders to refugees and taking on similar measures, progress in alleviating child poverty in Ukraine is transforming into a global response.

– Michelle Collingridge
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Sri Lanka Child poverty occurs when children from low-income families lack the resources necessary for their overall development and well-being. In 2019, 9.2% of Sri Lanka’s population lived below the poverty line of $3.20 per day. Child poverty in Sri Lanka is one of the major issues the nation is trying to tackle. Based on data from 2019, Sri Lanka’s Child Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) indicates that more than four in every 10 children younger than 5 endure multidimensional poverty. Furthermore, about 33% of children aged 4 and younger suffer multidimensional poverty and are “either underweight or stunted.”

Effects of Child Poverty

According to the American Psychological Association, child poverty can lead to hunger, illness, insecurity, depression and several behavioral problems. Living in poverty creates constant, toxic stress that can impair the development of the brain and impact mental and emotional cognition.

The effects of child poverty in Sri Lanka are long-lasting as these consequences later affect different aspects of adulthood, such as emotional and behavioral self-control and the development of skills necessary to obtain jobs.

The Sri Lanka Journal for Child Health conducted research and found that individuals suffering from child poverty in Sri Lanka experience different implications. The Journal stated that “they can experience deficiencies in nutritious food, housing, safe environment and access to health care and are at higher risk of being exposed to trauma and stressful life events.”

In addition, the study points out that children living in poverty are more likely to experience neglect and separation from their families. Their needs are overlooked due to the unresponsiveness of their parents and the stress arising from chronic poverty. As a result, child poverty can lead to difficulties in building bonds and relationships with others and children can experience language deficiencies as they grow up. Child poverty affects a child physically, mentally and emotionally. Here are several solutions to reduce child poverty in Sri Lanka.

Solutions to Child Poverty in Sri Lanka

  1. Resource Use: There is unequal accessibility of social services for children in Sri Lanka. For example, most schools and health care centers are located in large cities rather than in the suburbs. Local child support programs and social protection systems such as Sevana Sarana Foster Parent Scheme ensure children have equal access to education and other services regardless of financial situations. The SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka provides vulnerable children and their siblings with family-like care and a place to call home. The organization also sets up schools and medical centers in each SOS Children’s Village.
  2. Daycare Centers: According to the World Bank, many childcare centers are understaffed and lack infrastructure. In 2015, the World Bank introduced the Early Childhood Development Project to establish more child care centers, provide training for childcare givers and make improvements to existing facilities. Now, the World Bank is moving toward a more holistic approach by making daycare centers more affordable and having them operate longer hours to accommodate children whose parents work night shifts.
  3. The World Food Programme (WFP): Based on a report from the WFP, “the country faces the impact of a nutritional ‘triple burden’ spanning undernutrition, high levels of overweight and obesity and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.” In 2019, the WFP introduced the Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network to engage in solutions related to nutrition while establishing school feeding programs. The organization has been closely working with the Sri Lankan government to establish a social behavior change communication strategy to improve dietary practices in Sri Lanka.

Looking Ahead

The issue of child poverty in Sri Lanka requires sustained work and attention from the government and global organizations. Children who live in poverty suffer long-term effects physically, mentally and emotionally. The efforts of child support programs, well-equipped daycare centers and humanitarian organizations, such as the World Food Programme, ensure the well-being and development of Sri Lankan children.

– Jiaying Guo
Photo: Pixabay

Child Poverty in Bulgaria
In 2018, across almost 50% of European Union states, children held the “highest risk of poverty or social exclusion.” More specifically, Bulgaria has the highest rate of child poverty in Europe with more than half of children living in or “at risk of poverty,” according to SOS Children’s Villages. Many factors contribute to child poverty in Bulgaria, including malnutrition and deficiencies, lack of education and child discrimination.

Malnutrition

Malnutrition negatively affects the mental and physiological capacities of children. This can cause poor productivity levels, which can increase the risk of widespread poverty in a country. In 2019, 144 million children younger than five suffered from stunted growth due to inadequate nutrition globally. Children in Bulgaria are especially at risk. Two out of five Bulgarian children do not have access to daily protein-rich meals such as meat, chicken or fish, which equates to a type of material deprivation. In 2017, about 42% of these children became at risk of poverty.

Vitamin deficiencies from food also contribute to child poverty in Bulgaria. Due to low income, many families of low socioeconomic status find themselves searching for energy-dense foods that are often nutrient-poor. Some of these nutrients may include vitamins B and C as well as calcium and iron.

According to a 2013 research study, in the Bulgarian population, 21.3% of individuals are deficient in vitamin D, a vitamin the body uses to build and maintain bones. In a study on vitamin D deficiencies by the McCarrison Society in 2015, “Children adopted from Ethiopia, Peru, India, Bulgaria and Lithuania were at significantly higher risk” of having a vitamin D deficiency than children from other countries. Without adequate vitamin levels, children may not be physically capable of escaping poverty as they may lack the energy and vitality to attend school or work a job.

Lack of Education

Schools in low-income municipalities of Bulgaria struggle to maintain a good quality of education. Even though the Bulgarian government mandates provision of cost-free pre-primary education, many areas do not have the resources to provide this education free of charge. Furthermore, Bulgarian municipalities with limited finances are unable to guarantee sufficient heating in all rooms during the winter. Without the guarantee of high-quality education in an environment conducive to learning, it is difficult for children to escape generational poverty.

The education of parents and family members is also an important factor in child poverty in Bulgaria as higher education can help individuals secure skilled, higher-paying employment opportunities. The Social Assistance Agency reported the abandonment by parents of more than 1,000 Bulgarian children in 2018 and a major factor in many of these cases is low income, among other factors.

In 2017, the parents of 80% of Bulgarian children at risk of poverty had either no education or just primary level education. Furthermore, children in Bulgaria with parents who did not receive tertiary education are five times more likely to endure poverty.

Discrimination

Many young children in need of early childhood care and education (ECCE) are excluded from the system, especially disadvantaged Roma children. Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, has segregated schools for Roma children “where the pass rate is low and the dropout rate high.”

Bulgarian children with disabilities are also at high risk of discrimination in their personal and school lives. They are more likely to face family separation, “live in institutional care” or face exclusion from mainstream schools. In 2018, 90% of the children ages 0-3 in Bulgarian infant homes had a disability. Furthermore, “a poll conducted in September and October 2009 among 2,000 elementary school parents and teachers” in Bulgaria shows that almost 40% of parents think that having a disabled student in their child’s class negatively impacts their child’s education.

SOS Children’s Villages Bulgaria

SOS Children’s Villages recognizes the high level of child poverty in Bulgaria and has provided support to vulnerable Bulgarian children and families as early as 1990. The organization works to help children access medical care while helping parents secure jobs to support their families.

The organization provides support to Bulgarian youth by helping them develop skills to achieve independence while they attend “further education or training.” SOS Children’s Villages also empowers unaccompanied refugee and migrant children by helping them secure an education.

Today, SOS Children’s Villages Bulgaria works with agencies in three locations and is making a difference in the lives of children across the country. In 2017 alone, SOS Children’s Villages Bulgaria was able to help 200 children under family-based care.

Child poverty is a serious issue across Bulgaria with many causes. Malnutrition, lack of education and child discrimination are just some of the factors feeding into the loop of child poverty in the country. However, organizations like SOS Children’s Villages are working to put an end to the high levels of child poverty in Bulgaria.

– Katelyn Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Canary Islands
In the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of Northwest Africa, the beautiful landscapes often distract from the harsher reality of the community: high levels of poverty in the Canary Islands.

Poverty Statistics in the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands has one of the highest poverty rates out of all of Spain’s regions. In 2012, the Canary Islands ranked “fifth out of 17 regions” for the highest levels of relative poverty. In 2013, unemployment levels reached 34%, higher than any other region of Spain, and 38% of residents were facing poverty. Child poverty in the Canary Islands is also high with almost 30% of children living in poverty in 2013, according to UNICEF. Poverty continues to persist in the region with the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbating the situation further. According to a survey that occurred in the last quarter of 2020, “3.3 million people in Spain” overall faced “a severe lack of necessary items.” However, 15.6% of respondents from the Canary Islands faced the greatest challenges in securing their basic needs until month-end, a percentage higher than that of any other region.

Social Exclusion and Migration

Poverty manifests itself through social exclusion, a lack of access to crucial opportunities and services, such as infrastructure, health care, education and social welfare. In 2018, almost 30% of the Canarian population endured social exclusion, with 334,000 people facing “severe social exclusion.” In addition, foreigners to the Islands face a greater risk of experiencing social exclusion.

The Canary Islands community has seen an uptick in migrants since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, migrants usually traveled from sub-Saharan Africa to Mediterranean countries, but due to COVID-19 restrictions in these countries, their paths diverged, leading them to the Canary Islands instead. In 2020, approximately 23,000 migrants from Africa arrived on the Canary Islands’ shores. The pandemic-induced increase in both poverty levels and the migrant population places strain on the archipelago, where a lacking job market only becomes more competitive and health officials struggle to detect COVID-19 as migrants arrive. These migrants experience greater rates of social exclusion as more barriers stand in the way to the resources they need to survive.

A Solution to Spain’s Poverty Overall

In May 2020, the Spanish government gave its approval for “a minimum income scheme” to aid about 850,000 of the most impoverished households across the country, bringing positive impacts to around 2.3 million people overall. The Spanish government commits to providing eligible households with an income of between €462 ($514) and €1,015 ($1,130) per month. Government officials expect the program to decrease extreme poverty by 80% and lower high poverty rates by 60%. This initiative aids the Canary Islands as it is a region of Spain, but the program does not target poverty specifically in this area.

Looking ahead, more initiatives that directly impact the Canary Islands would best help improve the region’s circumstances of poverty. More targeted programs by national and local governments, as well as non-governmental organizations, can help reduce poverty in the Canary Islands.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Lebanon
Children living in Lebanon have been experiencing the full impact of the weakened economy in the country. Due to the Beirut explosion and the collapse of the Lebanese pound, child poverty has been on the rise in Lebanon. Child’s education, health and protection have become difficult to acquire.

The Deterioration of the Economy

Lebanon has struggled with its economy for a while due to its reliance on foreign imports and the limited exports coming from its country. As of 2021, Lebanon has failed to see economic growth, but the government is continuing to borrow money from other countries.

In addition, Lebanon’s government consists of 18 politicians of different religious denominations, such as Christian and Muslim. Because of this, Lebanon is susceptible to interference from other countries. As a result, Lebanon has become “one of the world’s largest debt burdens as a result of years of inefficiency, waste and corruption,” according to Reuters.

Moreover, in October 2019, the Lebanese pound began to lose its value due to the shortage of foreign currency in their commercial banks. This caused high-interest rates, leading to the emergence of a black market. Because there is an absence of taxes on the transactions and the government is not aware of the activity happening in the black market, this harms the economy.

While Lebanon was struggling economically, an explosion in Beirut worsened its situation. For instance, on August 4, 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in agricultural fertilizers and bombs, exploded throughout the city of Beirut. Due to this, the air filled with dust, causing concern about the toxins people were consuming in the air.

Unfortunately, the explosion killed 140, wounded 5,000 and displaced 300,000. Of those 300,000, 100,000 of them were children, as UNICEF reported.

About Child Poverty in Lebanon

Due to the deterioration of the economy, Lebanon’s poverty rate has doubled from 42% to 82% between 2019 to 2021. As a result, many families cannot afford basic necessities for their children because of inflation, thus increasing child poverty in Lebanon. These families face shortages of food, water and electricity in their homes. Under these circumstances, many children have no choice but to skip meals, according to the OWP.

In addition, “34% of children were not able to receive necessary primary health care,” the OWP reported. In fact, many families need to access water through private providers at a cost because water from public works is insufficient to drink.

Child poverty in Lebanon leads to children living in conditions where they cannot grow and thrive. As economic inequality increases, children become susceptible to child marriage, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Education in Lebanon

Additionally, many children do not have the option to attend school anymore because of the Beirut explosion. Unfortunately, the explosion damaged 163 schools, leaving children struggling to obtain an education through other means.

Due to the lack of technology and internet connectivity, many children cannot participate in remote learning activities. As families endure the hardships brought upon by the explosion, families are resorting to  “sending their children to work in often dangerous and hazardous conditions, marrying off their daughters or selling their belongings,” said UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon, Yukie Mokuo.

To avoid child marriages and selling their belongings, children need to work. Many of them work in agriculture, metalworking or factories under inhumane conditions. Addressing child poverty in Lebanon, the government signed the ILO’s Convention on Child Labor, but it failed to become a law.

Save the Children

Lebanese children are receiving help from various organizations, such as Save the Children. Save the Children believes that children are the most vulnerable when disaster strikes, so it created an organization that focused on protecting them and giving them a chance at a new beginning.

Specifically, it is asking for donations to achieve its goals to improve the lives of Lebanese children. Some of the organization’s goals for child poverty in Lebanon are to increase the quality of education, restore schools and install water, sanitation and hygiene resources for the children to access.

Lastly, it hopes to protect Lebanese children from “psychological stress, neglect, violence, and abuse.” By doing this, Save the Children hopes to show the Lebanese children that they have the right to obtain these basic needs for a better future.

UNICEF

UNICEF has also been aiding children in Lebanon by providing Lebanese families with children with cash grants in the form of U.S. dollars, aiming to help 70,000 children in need. This is an effort to remove children from working and avoid skipping meals.

To add, UNICEF “is also providing mental health support and psychological first aid to children who are engaged in child labor, those who have experienced or are at risk of violence,” as stated on its website.

As a result, the children will have the ability to think for themselves and gain confidence and self-esteem. Similar to Save the Children, UNICEF has spent $6.9 million to help repair Lebanon’s water systems, aiding children’s health. The organization is continuing to reach more vulnerable children and their families, offering them support in any way it can.

With the increasing poverty rate in Lebanon, living conditions are becoming unbearable for many Lebanese children. Fortunately, Save the Children and UNICEF are assisting Lebanon, providing education measures, health services and protection for Lebanese children.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Arab Spring
The term “Arab Spring” characterized a series of upheavals across the Middle East and North African regions (MENA) in which a surge of citizens defied their authoritarian governments. It all started in Tunisia in 2010 when a man set himself on fire in a demonstration against police corruption. Sudan joined the anti-oppression movement in an effort to eradicate oppression and poverty in Sudan soon after. Now, a decade and a new government later, the country finds itself in an ideal position to begin seriously addressing poverty in Sudan.

A Tragic History

For many years, the Sudanese have suffered the brutal dictatorship of an authoritarian regime. In 2003, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) took up arms against their government in Darfur. These groups launched attacks against government facilities and army facilities in an attempt to obtain more financial and democratic power for the citizens. The subsequent conflict became known as the Darfur Genocide.

Both Sudan’s government, headed by President Omar al-Bashir, and the movements that opposed it were non-Arab. This conflict led to the deaths of around 15,000 people and the uprooting of millions of citizens. Bashir created a country dichotomized into Arabs and Africans, as opposed to a country that acted as a home for all Sudanese people. These conditions laid the foundation for the Bashir administration’s oppression of the Sudanese people. In 2011, the stage was set for the Arab Spring in Sudan. As a result of these protests, violence erupted. Throughout, Bashir retained his presidency.

Economic Challenges

Poverty in Sudan and socioeconomic woes increased following July 2011, when South Sudan gained independence from Sudan after Africa’s longest-running civil war. Considering most oil fields prospered in the south of the country, the most significant price Sudan paid was the loss of oil profits. As a result, Sudan’s inflation went rampant, provoking major upset among the Sudanese. The younger generations found it exceptionally challenging to find a job. Instead of addressing these issues, Sudan used most of its resources for military purposes. Additionally, a drought worsened Sudan’s already restrictive agricultural policies.

The failure of the industrial labor market caused unemployment and poverty to spread. The absence of economic opportunity prompted Bashir to eradicate nearly all civil society organizations. As a result, human rights and labor units shut down. Conjointly, due to Bashir’s Islamic leadership, women experienced extreme restraints. Indeed, Sudanese people experienced their basic rights stripped from them and those they loved, leaving them with exceptionally limited freedom.

Poverty in Sudan prevailed when bread, a basic food, became unaffordable. Violence and economic struggles contributed greatly to the oppression of the Sudanese people. However, the loss of affordable access to the most basic aspect of life, food, triggered the people to rise up and demand change.

New National Solidarity

One catalyst driving the protests was the desegregation of the different factions of Sudan. New national solidarity arose in recent years with the hope of ending Bashir’s rule. It was no longer Arabs verse the Africans. One example illustrating this was the chants throughout the northern and southern parts of Sudan beginning in late 2018. Multi-ethnic protestors chanted “we are all Darfur” while Darfur’s protestors chanted “we are all Khartoum,” demonstrating solidarity across the different religions and ethnicities of Sudan.

As the protests gained momentum, many more joined in hopes of replacing the regime with a government that could recover some of the economic loss. Public opposition groups played a key role in even the poorest communities. This ensured that everyone’s voices were on display despite their economic status. Women also took to the streets to protest the mistreatment they had experienced over the years, proving that all segments of Sudanese society engaged and committed themselves to the revolution.

A Successful Revolution

Sudanese citizens again requested Bashir to resign, but he refused. The government reacted violently, murdering a number of protestors. This only served to further outrage and inspire demonstrators around the country. Finally, the opposition assembled peacefully outside Sudan’s military headquarters in Khartoum, the capital, demanding Bashir’s resignation.

Critically, the revolution attained military assistance despite the military being a fundamental pillar of Bashir’s rule. In the face of the massive scale of the uprisings, the military began wavering in its support of Bashir. Leaders eventually determined that self-preservation was the only choice, and the military deposed the dictator.

Sudan Today

Despite the success in overthrowing Bashir, poverty in Sudan remains a major issue. Some 36% of the population lives below the poverty line. Poverty in Sudan exacerbates other issues, resulting in approximately 1 million children experiencing global acute malnutrition.

Due to its perseverance, Sudan is experiencing rebuilding. Many organizations are addressing poverty in Sudan. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is assisting in the establishment of early childcare programs in Darfur, Sudan. Additionally, the organization is going through an appeal process to raise $211 million to assist in humanitarian efforts. Some of the targeted recipients include 7.4 million children and 2.5 million internally displaced persons. Another organization committed to aiding the next generation of Sudan is Save the Children. In 2020, it helped 374,000 children by addressing poverty in Sudan through nourishment, education, protection and crisis aid. Doctors Without Borders also aims to improve the severely-lacking health care in Sudan.

A Brighter Future

The Sudanese have always fought for human rights and against tyranny. They triumphed due to their tenacity, finally ending a dictatorship that lasted for 30 years. Now, with support from its international allies, Sudan is undeniably on its road to alleviating the effects of poverty.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

War Child
Two filmmakers founded War Child in 1993 after observing the violence that children endured during periods of war. The organization describes itself as “the only specialist charity for children affected by conflict.” With the slogan, “A world where no child’s life is torn apart by war,” War Child works to address the realities children face during war and provide them with prompt support, safety and coping mechanisms. The organization shows children from Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic that there is more to life than the destructive nature of war.

War Child’s Work

Since the traumatic impacts of conflict and violence on children, War Child takes an approach to help children through four key areas: protection, education, livelihoods and advocacy. Armed groups tear children from their families through false promises of education or money while abducting others. This can leave these children with severe and lifelong psychological problems. The organization’s support includes “setting up children’s helplines,” strengthening child justice systems, “rehabilitating and reintegrating former child soldiers” as well as reuniting children with parents.

More than 75 million children ages 3 to 18 are not in school in 35 countries experiencing war. War Child aims to address this problem in multiple ways, including providing children with early childhood education programs and initiating Education in Emergencies initiatives. The organization also provides teachers with training to best support learners in conflict-ridden environments. By incorporating play into learning programs, the organization attempts to remedy trauma. These initiatives give children a sense of normalcy during a period of time in their lives where chaos surrounds them.

The organization also recognizes the need to provide children with humanitarian aid to address their basic human needs. The organization provides cash assistance to communities for people to use according to “their own priorities and preferences.” To strengthen economic resilience, the organization assists people in securing employment or establishing businesses “by providing them with technical, business and life skills, establishing group-based saving schemes and providing small grants making the best out of existing market opportunities. ”

In many crisis-prone countries, agriculture plays an important role. As such, War Child created Peace Gardens. Peace Gardens allow children to develop agricultural skills while increasing food security as crop produce can provide nutritious school meals for children.

Sam Smith’s Role in War Child

Sam Smith’s global impact extends far beyond his role as a singer-songwriter. Smith became War Child’s Global Ambassador in 2017 after conversing with a child in Jordan who, as Smith put it, “said something that will stay with me forever.”

Smith subsequently took to his social media pages, urging his fans to support War Child. For his 26th birthday, in 2018, Smith asked that his friends, family and fans make donations to War Child instead of buying him birthday gifts. After releasing his hit single “Too Good at Goodbyes,” in 2020, he launched a four-city mini-concert tour, with all profits from the ticket sales going toward supporting War Child.

War ravages land and people, however, children face disproportionate impacts of war. Through the efforts of War Child, children living in conflict-riddled lands can look toward a brighter tomorrow.

– Nia Hinson
Photo: PxHere