SPOON, Helping Children With Feeding DifficultiesApproximately 93 million children worldwide have been diagnosed with a disability. A total of 80% of these children have problems with feeding processes. Children with disabilities often suffer from medical conditions like anemia and, along with children who do not receive nutrition through a caregiver, are among the groups that are most likely to be malnourished. However, two women from Portland, Oregon, founded the nonprofit organization SPOON to address children’s malnutrition.

Providing Nutritional Assistance for Children Worldwide

SPOON was founded in 2007 when Cindy Kaplan and Mishelle Rudzinski adopted two children from Kazakhstan who were diagnosed with severe malnutrition. They created SPOON to ensure that all children across the globe receive nourishment. SPOON aims to provide help for caregivers through nutrition programs and assessing the needs of children with feeding difficulties. As the most important part of their mission, the organization puts a special focus on nutrition support for children who do not have a family to care for them or those with a disability.

Helping Children With Feeding Difficulties

Children diagnosed with a disability are three times as likely to suffer from undernourishment than those without any disabilities. Furthermore, one of SPOON’s studies showed that approximately 91% of children in institutions and without family care do not receive the nutrition they need.

Carolyn Moore, the Policy and Advocacy Advisor for SPOON, told The Borgen Project that the two groups often overlap since “institutionalization and separation are more common for children with disabilities.” Moore further explained that the lack of training regarding children with special needs is a significant contributor to feeding difficulties and nutritional health conditions.

The population of children in need of the help SPOON has to offer is immense. Approximately 250 million children who live in developing countries are at immediate risk of stunting. Additionally, 53 million under the age of 5 received diagnoses with cognitive delays, reduced motor skills and other disabilities.

According to Moore, there are additional tens of millions of children who live “in institutions or … on the streets.” One of the main challenges in making sure that all children receive the nutrition they need is that caregivers often do not understand the importance of finding the right feeding process. This is especially important since nutrition is the main contributor to ensure a child’s health. It also affects the development of their brain and body.

Teaching People Important Feeding Skills

SPOON operates with several different methods. The first step of its work includes helping local partners and caregivers of children with disabilities. This is “to build their skills in the specific nutrition eating needs and techniques.” The initial training period covers many different aspects, including learning how to improve feeding techniques, correctly assessing the specific problems a child is facing and adapting diets and nutrition accordingly to individual needs.

Another part of SPOON’s work is the organization’s mobile app called Count Me In. The tool assesses the growth and problems of children with feeding difficulties, especially those with disabilities and in institutions. The app is then able to offer appropriate solutions to caregivers. Moore explained that Count Me In “can recommend improvements around positioning and texture” of the food. It is also a very efficient way for the organization to collect valuable data. By 2019, many orphanages in countries such as Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia have used Count Me In.

Advocacy and the Global Child Thrive Act

The third important component of SPOON’s work is advocacy. Moore explains the need for children with disabilities worldwide to have access to nutrition and support with their feeding difficulties. She emphasizes the need for nonprofit organizations to look at how to “change policies and change systems” permanently. For example, SPOON was part of the Thrive Coalition, a group of nonprofit organizations that advocated for the Global Child Thrive Act, which was passed into law in January of 2021.

The coalition continuously met with congress and the media. This resulted in more than 100 Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate co-sponsoring the bill. The Global Child Thrive Act assures that the United States government will contribute to strengthening early childhood development. This is for 250 million children under 5 in low-to-middle-income countries. According to Moore, the act was especially important to SPOON, since it specifically included support for “children with disabilities or without family care.”

Helping Children All Across the Globe

In addition to helping with the passage of the Thrive Act, SPOON has seen many successes throughout the years. After working in countries like Vietnam, China and India for two years, the rate of stunting in the children decreased from 55% to 23% and the percentage of children with anemia went down from 41% to 13%. Furthermore, SPOON’s advocacy efforts significantly contributed to a policy change in Kazakhstan that resulted in better nutrition for children without family care.

Also, data collected through Count Me In in 2020 showed a 35% improvement in the growth of kids and found that 82% of caregivers had adjusted feeding positions according to the children’s needs. Another 2020 success was the development of the SPOON chair. The chair will help children with disabilities by allowing them to sit upright during the feeding process.

Partnering With Other Organizations to Help Children

SPOON has also seen much success through collaborations with local partners. In Zambia, SPOON worked together with CMMB, a nonprofit organization that aims to help children with diseases by improving their nutrition. Together, the two organizations were in charge of the Improving Nutrition and Safe Feeding Practices project. This project specifically focused on children with disabilities and without family care.

Moore explained that SPOON and CMMB provided “specialized training in the nutrition and feeding issues” that are common for the two groups of children. The project worked with nutritionists and clinicians who had no prior experience in this specific field. Data pulled from Count Me In in Zambia from 225 surveyed children shows that between the years 2017 and 2020, the feeding positions improved in more than half of all cases for children with disabilities. There was a reduction in malnutrition for every child that was evaluated more than once through the application.

SPOON’s work has significantly contributed to improving the health and lives of many children with feeding difficulties. SPOON has displayed solutions for helping disadvantaged children and has revealed the need for further organizations to join their cause. Moore noted with the “big shift in food insecurity,” due to COVID-19, SPOON’s work is incredibly vital.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: With permission from Carolyn Moore

Child Poverty in Egypt
Egypt attracts visitors from all around the world to observe marvelous monuments such as the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. However, behind the magnificence of its tourist attractions lies a country in distress. It has a rank of 13th in terms of global population, with births occurring every 15 seconds. The growing population is causing a scarcity of resources, leaving nearly 27.8% of Egyptians to live in extreme poverty. Poverty especially poses a threat to the quality of life for Egyptian children by denying them opportunities to be successful. Here are some of the factors contributing to child poverty in Egypt.

Lack of Education

Egypt’s Ministry of Education reported that thousands of children dropped out of school in 2016 and 2017 due to the inability to pay fees for food, transportation and clothing. Roughly 600,000 of the children who dropped out of school in 2017 were girls. In previous decades, Egyptians highly undervalued education for girls due to ideas of traditional gender roles. However, a study in Egypt found that girls usually begin taking on household duties around the age of 10, allowing them more opportunities to attend primary school. The need for children to help bring in extra income causes many poor families to turn to child labor. This makes school attendance even less a priority.

Child Labor

Agriculture makes up nearly 55% of Upper Egypt’s labor force. Additionally, almost 80% of the population in Upper Egypt lives below the poverty line. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) reported that 53.2% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 work in Egypt’s agricultural sector. Children provide a cheaper source of labor to help manage family-owned farms. Cairo Hospital’s Dr. Ahmed Fathy explained, “For poorer families, it’s not about whether a child is a gift from God, but rather [that] extra children are a method of income.”

Malnutrition

Malnutrition plays a prominent role in child poverty in Egypt. The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) defines malnutrition as a lack of access to a healthy diet in poverty-stricken communities and a lack of nutritional knowledge that promotes healthy dietary habits and lifestyles. Children under the age of 5 suffer most from undernourishment at 35%. Foods high in sugar account for nearly one-third of an Egyptian infant’s diet. Meanwhile, roughly 50% of children under the age of 2 are not receiving vital nutrients such as iron through their diet.

Social Programs and Government Policies on Child Poverty

From 2014-2018, the European Union (E.U.) invested $65 million to launch the Enhancing Access of Children to Education and Fighting Child Labor social program. The program improved food security for approximately 100,000 Egyptian children. It also provided financial aid to almost 400,000 low-income families, reducing the need for child labor and encouraging school attendance.

The Egyptian government is hopeful that it will eliminate hazardous forms of child labor by 2025. Government officials enacted the National Plan of Action Against the Worst Forms of Child Labor and Supporting Families policy in 2017 to boost child labor laws and develop the educational system. The policy also delegates specific government agencies to enforce existing child labor laws.

Looking Towards the Future

Egyptian children living in poverty endure numerous hardships that affect their quality of life, such as lack of education, child labor and malnutrition. These barriers leave them unprepared to successfully transition to adulthood. The Egyptian government is taking steps to eliminate child poverty by passing laws and implementing programs that prioritize children’s issues. Hopefully, one day, child poverty in Egypt will no longer exist.

Tiara Tyson
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty Rates in New Zealand
New Zealand is an island nation in Oceania that, according to the United Nations Happiness Index, boasts a reputation as one of the world’s happiest countries. The government currently holds especially high esteem in the international community, credited for an exceptional job in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. However, beyond these glowing numbers is an escalating crisis: child poverty. Child poverty rates in New Zealand highlight disparities that have otherwise been overlooked.

New Zealand’s Poverty Rates

New findings released by Statistics NZ and the Salvation Army’s State of Nation show gaping disparities among children facing poverty. 19% of Māori and 25.4% of Pasifika children live without all of the basic household needs, compared to the state standard rate of 11%. The issue of indigenous inequality is nothing new. Māori and Pasifika populations have faced historically disproportionate challenges that impact their quality of life.

Child poverty rates in New Zealand were identified as a policy target for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s administration back in 2018. Until the pandemic hit, the government was making progress in accomplishing the Child Poverty Reduction Act. This was a three-year plan to reduce the rate to 10%. However, the plan was disrupted once COVID-19 became a widespread issue. There is now a data gap, as the collected numbers are only updated as far as March 2020. As New Zealand has managed to control the spread of COVID-19, it is important that Arden and her administration shift its focus to supporting Māori and Pasifika populations who have fallen behind.

How to Close the Gap

Until 2018, there had been both a lack of incentive to collect demographically based data and a caliber for poverty calculation. Now, a census team conducts household economic surveys to calculate the disposable income of each home. The government must prioritize diversifying its numbers to show an accurate representation of indigenous populations. There are challenges to this — a legacy of colonialism has left indigenous communities with little trust to partake in census participation — but existing efforts to collect Māori and Pasifika data now include grassroots outreach.

There are also a variety of hardships that disproportionately impact Māori and Pasifika populations. These include imprisonment rates, houselessness and weather changes. Throughout the pandemic, many indigenous populations have signed up to receive more benefits and welfare payments. The government must continue to ensure these communities receive the support they need.

Another important step to eradicate child poverty is to improve diversity within the government. Increasing Māori and Pasifika representation at the public-sector level would give voice to the people who best understand how to tackle the child poverty crisis in New Zealand.

Many nonprofit organizations are also working to alleviate child poverty. The Child Poverty Action Group holds a series of campaigns to address different poverty-related issues and calls for action in policy advocation. It also provides a number of resources that make navigation among different available services easier. At the community level, food banks support struggling families and provide warm shelter during cold weather.

Looking Ahead

Though the government has taken some promising steps to reduce child poverty rates in New Zealand — such as its new policy requiring schools to offer free period products — its priorities must include the representation of the Māori and Pasifika in poverty statistics and initiatives. Alongside nonprofit organizations and Māori and Pasifika leaders, New Zealand has the ability to reduce child poverty.

– Danielle Han
Photo:Flickr

Child Poverty in Uganda
Many know Africa as having a high amount of poverty. Uganda is becoming one of the most impoverished countries, which is significantly affecting the children. The life-threatening impacts children in Uganda face every day include malnutrition, health assistance deprivation, access to education, shelter deprivation and exposure to crime. Here are five life-threatening impacts pertaining to child poverty in Uganda.

5 Life-Threatening Impacts Due to Child Poverty in Uganda

  1. Malnutrition: One of the biggest problems with child poverty in Uganda is malnutrition. Child hunger and malnutrition result in poor health and failure to reach educational potential. Malnutrition in young children can result from a lack of nutritious food but disease, including diarrhea, can also cause it. At least half of all children aged 6-59 months old are anemic as a result of malnutrition. In 2003, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture created a policy that aims to “reduce malnutrition among children; reduce low birth weight among newborns; and eliminate micronutrient deficiencies (in vitamin A, iodine and iron).”
  2. Health Assistance Deprivation: Most of the children in Uganda lack access to healthcare assistance and are not able to receive vaccinations at a young age because of their inability to afford them. According to the UNICEF Child Poverty and Deprivation analysis, “Children slept under treated bed nets to prevent malaria, which was the (leading) cause of 27% of deaths in Uganda in 2016.” A significant amount of children, mostly orphaned, have been suffering from HIV/AIDS in Uganda without any medical treatment. Without parents to provide for their children, the children end up being unable to access any medical assistance. Furthermore, small households with a single parent and a single child are more prone to catch illnesses.
  3. Access to Education: As a result of child poverty in Uganda, children are not always able to garner education and they frequently lack access to school supplies because of the inability to afford them. A majority of the children are unable to read or write, causing Uganda to have one of the highest illiteracy rates in Africa. Lacking nutrition in diets may cause them to miss school; even if they attend class, they may have trouble focusing on their lessons. In Uganda, the deprivation rates are increasing, with nine out of 10 children not having access to educational resources like uniforms, books, chairs and desks.
  4. Shelter Deprivation: Most Ugandan children in poverty live in rural areas with their families. In Uganda, the typical poor family is one that cannot afford access to basic necessities of living. This includes shelter, water, food, beds, blankets and cooking equipment, etc. Additionally, poorer families are not always able to afford any damages that might occur to their homes, causing the damages to worsen over time. A common living condition that the poor in Uganda have to deal with is leaky roofs, which may cause dampness in dwellings and the formation of mold. Also, most children live in households that are unable to put aside money for emergencies. Moreover, they cannot always afford to replace broken pots and pans that their households use for cooking.
  5. Exposure to Crime: Due to Child Poverty in Uganda, a growing number of children are becoming victims of criminal activity. Some forms of crime include theft, housebreaking, abuse, assault, defilement, murder, property damage and robbery. The percentage of defilement cases involving juvenile offenders rose from 28% in 2008 to 42% in 2010. The most frequent form of crime children and their families have experienced in Uganda is theft and housebreaking. Child abuse is more common in girls than boys, with 60% of child abuse crimes involving girls. Even if the crimes are not violent, the constant exposure to such crimes can cause an impact on the social and psychological health of a child.

Save the Children

The life-threatening effects of malnutrition, limited healthcare access, lack of education, shelter deprivation and higher exposure to crime rates could significantly increase if no one addresses child poverty in Uganda. Luckily, the organization Save the Children is aiming to fight for children’s rights to education, healthcare and safety around the world. In 2020, Save the Children and its donors changed the lives of over 552,000 children in Uganda by providing education, protection and health assistance.

While child poverty in Uganda is prevalent, the efforts of Save the Children have had a significant impact. Through continued work, child poverty should continue to reduce in Uganda and around the world.

– Mary McLean
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in Liberia
Faced with two civil wars, Liberia has experienced years of poverty. With more than 80% of Liberians living in poverty, the country has been trying to revitalize its economy. Child poverty in Liberia is significant as well. Moreover, the mortality rate for children is high. In addition to this, Liberia ranks in the bottom 10 countries on the Human Development Index. The Human Development Index considers life expectancy, education and income.

Child Poverty in Liberia

According to Action Against Hunger, a stable environment for those living in Liberia has yet to emerge. Funding for healthcare facilities has significantly decreased. Liberian children often do not have proper access to education and healthcare and frequently face abuse or trafficking. As a result of this, many children live on the streets. Furthermore, 40% of children suffer from malnutrition and one in five do not receive proper nourishment. Meanwhile, about 84% of Liberians live below the international poverty line and make around $1.25 a day.

Uncertain Employment Positions

The Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) collected the following data. The overall information reveals that over 50% live in extreme poverty. In addition to this, 51.2% of families experience food shortages. This survey also shows that unemployment stands at 3.9%, meaning that Liberia has a low unemployment rate. However, the survey characterized around 79.5% of people as having uncertain employment positions whereas 79.9% of people had an informal form of employment.

While Liberia may have a low unemployment rate, many Liberians find it difficult to provide a stable life for their children and family as women average around 5.2 children. Due to small daily wages, women cannot meet children’s financial needs, reiterating the high mortality rate and low life expectancy that Liberian children experience. Due to a parent’s inability to care for a large family, children end up working at young ages.

Organizations Helping Liberian Children

For the past two decades, Save the Children has been addressing Liberian children that the civil war affected. This organization provides aid in areas such as healthcare and protection. It also assists children by providing them tools such as education and spearheading advocacy for child rights. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is one of many donors that helps Save the Children.

Action Aid is another organization that is assisting impoverished children in Liberia. Action Aid strives to attain social justice and equality and mitigate poverty. This group focuses on women and the younger generations to improve the quality of healthcare, education and children’s rights.

Many efforts have emerged to address the conditions in Liberia, including child poverty. The World Bank has provided $54 million International Development Association (IDA) credit to improve Liberia’s health services for women and children. The IFISH (Institutional Foundations to Improve Services for Health) project has spearheaded the expansion and operations of hospitals. An example is the Redemption Hospital located in Montserrado County. The multiple projects and initiatives should hopefully aid in the elimination of child poverty in Liberia.

– Nicole Sung
Photo: Flickr

Child Homelessness in Cameroon
A violent civil crisis over regional separatism, known as the Anglophone Crisis or Cameroonian Civil War, has decimated the Central African nation of Cameroon since 2017. One of the most disheartening consequences of the conflict is the extreme number of homeless children. As of 2019, Cameroon had over 900,000 internally displaced people, 51% of whom were children. Child homelessness in Cameroon has been a serious problem for many years, but the government has redoubled its efforts to combat housing shortages and population displacement.

Street Children

Homeless or impermanently housed “street children” are a growing problem in the urban centers of many developing countries. In Cameroon, where about 37.5% of the population lives below the poverty line, street children have been a prominent humanitarian concern for years. The escalation of the Anglophone crisis has produced significant increases in the number of children fending for themselves on the streets of Cameroon’s cities. In the past 10 years, the number of street children increased from around 1,000 to over 10,000.

A study that researchers at the University of Kwa Zulu-Natal conducted found that most street children in Cameroon subsist on less than $0.85 USD per day. Many street children rely on begging, drug use and sex work to survive their harsh conditions. Less than 1% of the street children who the researchers surveyed considered the public’s attitude toward them to be supportive. These children are dangerously vulnerable, especially in active war zones. Conflict-induced devastation is one of the most significant causes of child homelessness in Cameroon.

Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Cameroon, worsening conditions for all citizens but hitting street children especially hard. Urban centers are less sanitary and more harmful than ever before, something that the homeless and under-housed feel most keenly. Over 40,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have occurred in Cameroon and over 600 deaths.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated the worst impacts of the Anglophone Crisis. As the global health crisis distracted the international community, both the military and armed separatist groups enacted more violence on civilians. This behavior endangers civilians directly but also causes many to flee their homes out of fear for their safety, increasing the number of Cameroon’s homeless dramatically. This surge in displaced individuals also stretches Cameroon’s already thin resources even more direly, worsening conditions for those already homeless.

Though the pandemic has increased the instability of living conditions for those on the streets, it has also given Cameroon’s government a stronger incentive to house street children, accelerating existing plans to provide housing to those who violence or poverty have displaced.

Initiatives to House Street Children

Cameroon’s Ministry of Social Affairs is partnering with the Ministry of Health to house and support thousands of street children while screening them for COVID-19 in the process. It began clearing the streets in April 2020, with plans to find housing for 3,000 street children in the near future.

The children will either return to their families or enter housing or job training programs to develop skills like cooking and sewing. Regardless of their specifics, this program will provide shelter, safety and opportunities to thousands of street children. This initiative will house not only displaced or abandoned children but also orphans and children who are seeking asylum from nearby countries.

Street Child, a U.K. charity, is also working in Cameroon to help provide protection and education for homeless children. The organization emerged in 2008 and operates by partnering with local organizations in areas with high rates of child homelessness to make education more accessible. Street Child has helped over 330,000 children go to school. Now the initiative is working with local organizations and the Cameroonian government to help provide COVID-19 relief, and developing specific programs to improve the wellbeing of children who the conflict has directly affected. Street Child focuses on expanding access to education and alleviating the symptoms of child homelessness in Cameroon.

– Samantha Silveira
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a major tourist destination, reeling in an estimated 6.5 million visitors in 2018. However, it also hosts a largely divided society with 40% of its population falling under the poverty line. Due to this poverty, Dominican children struggle considerably, dealing with several issues that do not allow them to succeed and confine them to a life of poverty. Here is some information about child poverty in the Dominican Republic.

Limited Access to Proper Education

One of the hardest struggles Dominican children must deal with is a lack of proper public education. These children in poverty attend public schools which often provide low-quality education with a lack of resources and poorly trained professionals. Due to a lack of financial resources, these schools also suffer from ill-suited scholastic programs and buildings in need of repair. Consequently, “more than 40% of Dominican children are uneducated,” and just 60% of enrolled children complete their primary education. Another problem worth addressing is the Dominican Republic’s high rate of repetition, especially in rural areas, with 44% of students in grades one to five, being three or more years older than the appropriate age and 60% of students in grades six to eight, again being older than the age they should be. 

Child Labor

 These children are then must work in order to support their struggling families. In fact, 2.1% of Dominican children from ages 10-14 are obliged to join the workforce. In fact, 28.1% of working children work in agriculture, 8.6% work in industries such as construction and producing baked goods and 63.4% have employment in public services. Many of these jobs are unsafe for children and some even suffer sexual trafficking and exploitation, especially Haitian children who traffickers frequently send to the Dominican Republic. 

Mistreatment and Abuse

Due to a lack of enforcement and prohibition, Dominican children frequently suffer from abuse. As of 2014, reports determined that 62.9% of children experienced physical or psychological mistreatment by their caregivers. This treatment of children in the Dominican Republic is concerning and leads to adults who deem it right to use violence to solve conflict and gain power. In fact, 8% of Dominican men from ages 15 to 49 consider it justified to physically abuse their wives for at least one reason, while 2% of Dominican women in the same age range agree with this justification of abuse. 

Child Marriage

Another significant issue young Dominican women struggle with is the regularity of child marriage. In fact, 36% of Dominican girls must marry before they turn 18 and 12% marry before they turn 15. Furthermore, as of 2014, 21% of girls from ages 20-24 reported having given birth before the age of 18. These marriages are harmful to these young women, who must place their own education and goals to the side to become wives and mothers against their will. 

Lack of Identity

Another huge problem for Dominican children is the number of births that are not on the official record. “More than a quarter of births in the Dominican Republic are not officially reported,” concluding in a large number of children with no identity or nationality. This leads to huge difficulties for these children who will never be able to fully enjoy their rights as citizens. For example, the Ministry of Education requires students to have a birth certificate to graduate high school, forcing all unidentified children to be unable to get a degree, leaving them with the least amount of opportunities to succeed. 

Solutions

Several organizations have emerged and the Dominican Republic is passing legislation to aid and raise awareness on these critical issues regarding child poverty in the Dominican Republic. Some of these organizations include Save the Children and UNICEF, which raise money to support poor communities by providing potable water and promoting health and hygiene.

Save the Children also focuses on improving education for Dominican children, using its platform to refurbish school buildings, build gardens, enhance teacher’s knowledge and improve sanitary infrastructure. It has protected 1,665 children from harm and provided 27,318 children a healthy start to their lives. Furthermore, The Ministry of Labor has increased the number of hired inspectors from 148 to 205 in 2019, demonstrating moderate improvement in decreasing child labor. More than anything, the Dominican Republic has made considerable improvements in healthcare, providing healthcare to 366,236 poor citizens who had previously lacked it through the Health Sector Reform APL2 (PARSS2). These improvements target the Dominican Republic’s most critical issues, including education, child labor and sanitation, helping alleviate the prominent issue that is child poverty in the Dominican Republic.

– Juan Vargas
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in Greece
Child poverty in Greece is a prominent issue. About 40% of children under the age of 17 are at risk. According to Eurostat, Greece ranks at the top of the child poverty scale. Furthermore, Greece’s poverty rate is the third-highest within the European Union. This article will explore the state of child poverty in Greece and efforts to address it.

Education

The economic crisis in Greece is one of many reasons for the rising child poverty rate. Access to education has decreased as well. As a result, many children are unable to attend school and unemployment rates have skyrocketed.

State education is free until university in Greece and education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15. In spite of this, approximately 11.4% of students dropped out of school in 2010. Moreover, an average of 30,000 students never enter high school. The highest high school dropout rate is in the Dodecanese islands and Rhodope.

Child Abuse

Giorgio Nikolaidis is a child psychiatrist and head of the Mental Health Department of the Institute of Child Health. He stated that inadequate child protection services were further undercut long before the economic crisis. Authorities are often aware of domestic, sexual abuse against children; however, they do not take the correct measures to protect children.

“I have seen cases where four-year-old kids were treated for sexually transmitted rectal HPV for over a year and no investigation had been undertaken to determine how they got it,” Nikolaidis said. The reality is that there is no coherent system to effectively protect victims.

The Greek constitution prohibits forced labor, but the minimum age for work is as low as 12 for people working in a family business. Thus, families often send their children to the streets to beg for money. Although Greece ratified the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, these activities remain unpunishable by law. Children who spend more time on the streets are also at an increased risk of child trafficking.

Together for Children

Together for Children is an NGO that provides assistance to young people and their families. The organization is comprised of nine member organizations that work in child welfare. Its mission is to provide immediate support for children, families and individuals with disabilities.

The organization established a child helpline that provides free counseling services and emotional support for children and their families. Together for Children strives to tackle child poverty in Greece and create sustainable living conditions. Additionally, the organization ensures access to free education through various programs such as a nursery school for children with cerebral palsy, a development playgroup for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, a special primary school for children with cerebral palsy and productive workshops for adults with cerebral palsy. Together for Children also has activities and programs to support unaccompanied minors who are refugees.

Assisting more than 30,000 children every year, Together for Children has received the Silver Medal of the Academy of Athens for its social contribution. In 2019, it also received a BRAVO Award for engaging with thousands of citizens in support of its initiative: Equal Opportunities for Children: Actions for Health and Education in Remote Areas of Greece.

Looking Forward

Organizations like Together for Children help create a better society for children to flourish. It focuses on improving the health and well-being of impoverished children, creating opportunities for quality education and supporting refugees. This organization has taken great strides in alleviating child poverty in Greece.

Poverty in Greece remains high due to the lack of education, child abuse and labor exploitation. Sexual and labor exploitation impoverishes children mentally and physically. Although the Greek financial crisis is often blamed for inadequate social services, there is much more that the country should be doing to protect children. Moving foward, it is essential that the government and other humanitarian organizations prioritize addressing child poverty in Greece.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Sudan
Sudan, a country in northeast Africa, is Africa’s third-largest country by area. After years of conflict and political instability, this vast country continues to suffer from underdevelopment and poverty despite its Human Development Index increasing by 52% from 1990 to 2017. One group that suffers the effects of poverty the most is Sudan’s children. Despite making recent gains in development, child poverty is still a major concern throughout Sudan because of its various humanitarian crises. Here are some important things to know about child poverty in Sudan.

Child Poverty Overview

According to UNICEF, 36% of Sudanese live under the poverty line. When children live in poverty in Sudan, they face violence, lack of schooling and health problems. In 2018, 1 million Sudanese children encountered global acute malnutrition because of food insecurity, poor health services and unclean water supply. The financial status of families often dictates access to resources. In Sudan’s poorest families, children have 2.1 times the risk of death in comparison to children in financially stable homes. To combat malnutrition, UNICEF has partnered with local farmers and communities to cultivate peanuts. Using peanuts, UNICEF creates Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a peanut paste that provides sufficient nutrients for malnourished children. UNICEF and partnering communities’ procurement of RUTF is making significant advances in addressing malnutrition.

Inter-Communal Violence

Violence and conflict harm many Sudanese children. Over a single weekend in January 2021, an inter-communal conflict in Darfur, Sudan killed 83 people, including children, and forced many families into displacement. Often separated from their families, displaced children live in horrible conditions and do not have access to health services. Some Sudanese children, mainly boys, even participate in armed conflict.

Registration of Children

In Sudan, 33% of children 5 and under have not registered with civil authorities. Registering a child at birth means the child is eligible for schooling, health services and other government activities. Parents often find obtaining registration difficult because of registration fees and insufficient registration centers. Registration rates vary by state with the average rate of registration being 67%. The highest rate of registration is in the Northern state with 98.3% and the lowest rate is in Central Darfur with only 30.9% of children registered.

UNICEF works in Sudan to ensure Sudanese children have appropriate registration. In 2019, UNICEF registered over 175,000 children in states with low registration rates like East Darfur, Gedaref, North Darfur and White Nile.

Child Labor and Overwhelmed Schools

Past political instability in Sudan led to a struggling economy. Because of this, many families struggle financially causing children to leave school to support their families. The government banned child labor but often leaves the ban unenforced in the informal sector. About 25% of Sudanese children participate in child labor. Common jobs for children are trading and carpentry. In Khartoum, Sudan, children earn $1 to $1.50 per day.

 Of all Sudanese children, aged 5-13, 3 million of them do not attend school. Although Sudanese law ensures free education, headmasters at schools often charge a fee meaning families cannot afford school to send their children to school.

In addition to children leaving school due to their families’ financial concerns, poverty overwhelmed Sudan’s school system. UNICEF’s Ministry of Education reported that Sudan built its school system to hold only 60% of the children which left 40% of children without the opportunity to receive an education. The government does not have the resources to accommodate all Sudanese children. Beginning in 2015, The African Development Bank (AfDB) implemented a project in Sudan that works to improve learning conditions by enhancing teaching capacity and developing technology training. AfDB plans to complete this project by the end of 2021.

Child Protection Programme

Within the past few decades, Sudan increased its Human Development Index and transitioned to a lower-middle-income country. While Sudan accomplished major developments, child poverty in Sudan continues to be an issue. UNICEF’s Child Protection Programme (CPP) in Sudan is making strides toward relieving child poverty in Sudan. CPP began in 2018 and plans to achieve results by the end of 2021. One way UNICEF accomplishes this is by working with national and state governments in Sudan to ensure that it appropriately meets the budgetary needs for children’s health, education and social protection. The program plans to ensure all children in Sudan have protection by offering care services and social support. Thus far, CPP provided services to over 1 million children.

UNICEF’s CPP utilizes the ‘whole child’ approach. The ‘whole child’ approach acknowledges that children need protection throughout their childhood, from infancy to teenagehood.

The ‘whole child’ approach recognizes that Sudanese teens face violence and danger because of the ongoing conflict. UNICEF’s CPP in Sudan intends to support Sudanese children who the armed conflict affected. In 2019, CPP provided 1,039,769 children with child protection services. CPP increased the number of social service workers in Sudan from eight to 12 per 100,000 children. Social service workers collaborate with the Ministries of Social Welfare and Justice to protect children from violence. In all, UNICEF’s Child Protection Programme works to form an environment free of violence and neglect, that supports all Sudanese children. Organizations, like UNICEF, continue to advance Sudan toward a country free of child poverty.

While child poverty in Sudan continues to evoke concern, the country has progressed and will continue to do so in the future as organizations, like UNICEF, address crucial problems affecting Sudan’s children.

– Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

Children and Wales’s Waking Poverty
Of any nation in the United Kingdom, Wales has had the highest increase in child poverty. Approximately 200,000 children (in households up to 60% of median income) live in poverty, or one in three. Likewise, 90,000 children (in households up to 50% of median income) live in severe poverty. In total, from 2017-2018, 29% of children suffered from poverty. This is due to high living costs, unemployment, public spending and benefit cuts. As a result of the U.K. government’s tax and welfare reforms, experts predict a continuous rise of Wales’ waking poverty.

Poverty-Reduction Legislation

To combat this waking poverty, some legislation has been and is currently undergoing implementation. For example, the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 and the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 legislation have helped children in need.

In addition, the Childcare Funding (Wales) Bill provides funding 30 hours per week, up to 48 weeks per year, to working parents to assist in the education and childcare of their three- and four-year-old children. Westminster had also passed the Children and Families Act 2014, which provides flexible working for parents and focuses on family justice.

The rights and welfare of children go hand-in-hand. Addressing this, the Children (Abolition of Defense of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill ensures children’s rights in the face of any domestic assault or punishment that parents inflict, as well as instilling parenting guidelines and counseling.

COVID-19

COVID-19 has contributed to this waking poverty. Due to the pandemic, more children have suffered mentally, emotionally and physically. It has severely affected the educational system, as countless children have had to stay at home due to the outbreaks. The tight governmental restrictions have kept children at home, but at the expense of their emotional well-being.

In response, Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that children may participate in their organized sports if games and practices take place outside their county boundaries. Additionally, children under the age of 11 will not have to social distance since their risk of transmission is low. As the cases lessen, guidelines will gradually ease in Wales and people can return to work and healthy, recreational activity.

ECPN and Moving Forward

While such legislation has occurred, Wales needs to take more steps to decrease Wales’ waking poverty. Change lies with the Welsh and U.K. government. In Wales, The End Child Poverty Network Cymru (ECPN) appeals to Wales for better, new strategies to combat this poverty.

ECPN, operating since 2004, is a coalition that Children in Wales manages. It specifically addresses the state of impoverished Welsh children by increasing public awareness, implementing measures to support children and ensuring all governmental policies are intact to eliminate child poverty. ECPN’s work brought the issue to the forefront at the United Nations Committee, which inquired and made recommendations on child welfare reform.

Organizations like the ECPN call for child poverty pledges from political parties nearing the 2021 election to the National Assembly for Wales. Meanwhile, in the U.K., coalitions appeal to respective political parties for reduction strategies, in addition to closing the link between benefits and inflation.

All this aid will ensure better survival, physically and mentally, for Welsh children. In time, Wales’ waking poverty will fall with more action and policy on the part of the United Kingdom and Welsh government.

– Shelby Gruber
Photo: Flickr