Education for Children in CambodiaAround 30% of the population in Cambodia lives below the poverty line. Poverty affects children significantly. More than 10% of children in Cambodia do not have access to education and roughly 44.8% (1.52 million) of children aged 5-14 are economically active. Organizations are working to improve access to education for children in Cambodia, especially those living in poverty.

The Prevalence of Child Labor in Cambodia

The reason child labor is so prevalent is that many Cambodian families cannot afford to send their children to school and are in desperate financial circumstances. The costs involved in sending children to school include textbooks, uniforms and transport which families cannot afford. In the rural areas of Siem Reap Province, many people live below the poverty line on less than a dollar each day. As a result, they have to choose between food or education for their children. This forces children to work instead of going to school so they can help support their families.

Lack of education along with insufficient nutrition leaves children developmentally behind. Education is a lifeline for children to rise out of poverty but some children simply cannot afford the luxury of learning.

Rebuilding School’s in Cambodia

Part of the problem is the lack of schools in Cambodia. In the rural areas, there are few schools. One can trace this back to when the Khmer Rouge took control in Cambodia in 1975. Not only did schools close but the buildings either underwent destruction or the government took them over for use.

Many Cambodian teachers and students lost their lives at this time as well because intellectuals posed a threat to the society the Khmer Rouge was trying to create. Roughly 75-90% of teachers, 96% of university students and 67% of all primary and secondary school students died in the massacre that lasted from 1975 to 1979.

Rebuilding has been an essential part of improving Cambodian children’s education, a process that continues to this day. In 2020, the Cambodia International Charity Organization, a Chinese-run NGO, constructed a two-classroom school building for Treap Primary School in a remote village. The school headmaster said the existing school building has been deteriorating, making it difficult for children to learn when it rains.

The Cambodian Children’s Fund

This nonprofit organization emerged in 2004 with the mission of “transforming the lives of the most impoverished, marginalized and neglected children in Cambodia through high-quality education, leadership training and direct support programs.” The Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) works on the ground directly with children who are the most affected by poverty most effects and its programs have positively impacted the education of many impoverished Cambodian children.

In 2019, 1,855 children enrolled in programs that the CCF offered. The pass rate for students taking their grade 12 exams who had involvement with the organization was 84% in comparison to the nation’s 67%. The program also saw 33 university graduates in 2019, marking a total of 84 CCF graduates who have moved on from the program as successful young adults.

Sophy’s Story

Sophy Ron is one of the many people the Cambodian Children’s Fund has helped. Sophy was 11 years old when the organization found her. She did not go to school and made a living selling items she could salvage from a landfill site. After the Cambodian Children’s Fund took her in and sponsored her, Sophy was able to pursue an education. In 2019, Sophy completed her first year of university after earning a scholarship to Trinity College at the University of Melbourne in Australia and gave the valedictorian speech for the graduating class of 2019.

While education is a key factor to help children like Sophy rise out of poverty, without the opportunities and resources available to impoverished families, education remains out of reach. Organizations like the Cambodian Children’s Fund and the Cambodia International Charity Organization make education for children in Cambodia a priority, ensuring that the cycle of poverty can break.

Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Nigeria
Settled on the western coast of Africa is the country of Nigeria. Despite being Africa’s wealthiest country, Nigeria is home to nearly 83 million people living in poverty. With half the country’s population comprising of people under the age of 15, poverty in Nigeria disproportionately affects children. Extreme poverty has disturbed nearly every aspect of child development including education, nutrition, safety and hygiene. These five facts about child poverty in Nigeria offer insight into the struggles that plague children living in poverty and highlight the humanitarian efforts to come in 2021.

5 Facts About Child Poverty in Nigeria

  1. The majority of children in Nigeria live in poverty. According to the Harmonized Nigeria Living Standard Survey (HNLSS) in 2010, 70.3% of Nigerian children lived in poverty while 23.2% lived in extreme poverty. Those living in poverty live under the national poverty line. In Nigeria, the poverty line sits at just $381.75 USD. Despite living on such a small income, people living in poverty often still have access to government facilities for shelter, food and hygiene needs. Children living in extreme poverty, on the other hand, are not able to satisfy basic human needs like food, shelter and safety.
  2.  Only 26.5% of the country uses improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities. Access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene are extremely necessary elements to life, as they directly affect one’s health and safety. Nigeria’s small amount of sanitation facilities are predominantly located in urban areas, making them accessible to a limited amount of people. Most Nigerians live in rural areas and do not have access to these government facilities. Like most poverty-related issues, this disproportionately affects children and their health. Contaminated drinking water and unsanitary living conditions are the prime contributors to the 70,000 annual deaths of children under the age of 5 due to waterborne illnesses.
  3. Nigerian children have poor access to education. Despite a national mandate for compulsory education, 10.5 million children do not receive formal schooling. Many children do not attend school because they work to support their families. Meanwhile, other children do not go to school because armed conflict has severely affected or destroyed their schools. Poor funding, lack of teachers and long commutes are among other reasons so many children do not attend school in Nigeria. Out of the 10 million mentioned, 60% of those without access to education are girls. This, unfortunately, frequently subjects young girls to child marriage, poverty and gendered roles that limit their potential as citizens.
  4. Millions are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. In 2020, UNICEF estimated that 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition, making 32% of children under 5 stunted or severely impaired. Currently, only about two out of every 10 malnourished children receive medical treatment.
  5. Only 16% of children in rural areas have full immunizations. Routine immunization continues to be a struggle for the children of Nigeria, specifically in inaccessible rural areas. Immunization efforts have decreased significantly over the years, and unfortunately, diseases that had previously undergone eradication have returned to the country.

UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children Appeal

With the COVID-19 pandemic devastating developing countries like Nigeria, the child poverty rates are only increasing. In response to this worsening crisis, UNICEF has created a comprehensive plan of humanitarian efforts in Nigeria and a list of goals for 2021.

Malnutrition and Disease

Malnutrition continues to be one of the leading causes of death for children in Nigeria. Food insecurity plagues rural regions of the country where government facilities are not accessible. To combat this crisis, by the end of 2021, UNICEF plans to admit 386,926 children under the age of 5 to UNICEF health facilities for severe acute malnutrition treatment.

Due to the worsening disease rates, UNICEF will be working with the Nigerian government to implement routine immunization efforts. These efforts will focus on rural areas as these are the regions that have the lowest percentage of vaccinations and see the least amount of service aid from the government. UNICEF projects this plan will result in 385,196 children receiving vaccinations against measles.

Sanitation

Contaminated water and unsanitary living conditions have been major contributors to child deaths in Nigeria. In 2021, UNICEF will focus on improving sanitary conditions and access to clean water in rural areas. UNICEF plans to focus these efforts on gender and disability sensitivity. In 2021, an estimated 850,000 people will receive access to clean water and sanitation facilities that are gender-specific and disability-friendly. In more rural, inaccessible areas, an additional 1.9 million people will obtain education on hygiene practices and receive hygiene tools and/or money for hygiene tools.

Education

As for education, UNICEF’s 2021 action plan accounts for access to formal or non-formal schooling for 1,345,145 children. In addition, 1,000 schools will implement infection prevention protocols and almost 700,000 children will receive individual learning materials. Education is vital to the UNICEF plan as it is the greatest resource for long-term progress and gives children the greatest chance to leave poverty later in life.

This comprehensive plan has the potential to bring essential humanitarian aid to 4.3 million people, including over 2 million Nigerian children that until now, have seen little to no aid due to the region where they live.

– Kendall Couture
Photo: Flickr

Improving education in CambodiaCambodia has come a long way in eliminating poverty. From 2007 to 2014, Cambodia’s poverty rate decreased by about 30% and it is now a middle-income country. However, one pressing issue that continues to trouble the country is access to education, particularly for those living in extreme poverty and rural areas. The good news is that several organizations are improving education in Cambodia by increasing access and tackling obstacles head-on.

Cambodian Children’s Fund

The Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) works in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s Stung Meanchey district. Though the organization’s focus is on improving education in Cambodia, CCF starts by providing basic needs to the families living in the highly impoverished area that was once a dumping ground. This meant building suitable shelters and homes for families living in makeshift tents.

Once CCF helped provide essentials, the focus turned toward providing stable education for children, while their parents scavenged the junkyard to earn whatever income they could. Children that started in extreme poverty were now attending primary school through high school due to CCF. In 15 years, CCF provided education for more than 3000 children, and of those that started early in the program, nearly 70% were attending college.

Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE)

French expatriates Christian and Marie-France des Pallières, created PSE when the couple traveled to Cambodia and noticed the number of children experiencing extreme poverty. The couple spent two decades advocating for children living in poverty in Cambodia, commuting between there and Europe.

Initially starting in Phnom Penh, PSE now has more than 6000 students benefitting from the organization’s projects throughout Cambodia, including more rural areas near Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. PSE provides everything from food to healthcare and enrolls children in state or corrective schools depending on their needs. Cambodia’s Ministry of Education has noticed success in PSE’s remedial schools. The PSE approach, now utilized by the government, will be improving education in Cambodia for 6000 children per annum.

Khmer NGO for Education (KHEN)

In 2014, KHEN changed direction from being a health education organization to highlight children’s rights. Now, KHEN is a large-scale NGO focused on improving education in Cambodia’s rural Battambang province for traditionally unprotected children, including those with disabilities, girls, minorities and children living in extreme poverty.

KHEN operates in more than 100 schools, most of which were built by the group, and serves more than 10,000 children. It has a long-term focus on education while also protecting children from human trafficking and poor health. Facing the COVID-19 pandemic, KHEN acted swiftly to modify its schools to be open-air and socially distanced, with sanitation stations. Teachers and volunteers received education on preventing the spread of COVID-19 and home-learning tactics changed as well.

Cambodian Community Dream Organization

The Cambodian Community Dream Organization (CCDO) was founded by U.S citizen, Jenni Lipa, who exclusively worked on building water wells in the rural areas around Siem Reap. Now, CCDO improves lives by providing sanitary services, health programs and extensive education systems. CCDO keeps costs low by using local and international volunteers and local paid staff.

There are three schools CCDO operates in, centered on English learning. CCDO offers a schooling experience like most developed countries, with physical education, libraries, playgrounds, arts and crafts and computer workshops. Children enrolled in the programs are particularly fond of the library. CCDO also provides early childhood education programs and gives students who excel in their classes opportunities for high school and university scholarships.

People Improvement Organization

Since 2002, the People Improvement Organization (PIO) has operated in poverty-stricken areas of Phnom Penh. Phymean Noun, a native Cambodian, believed the children scrounging through junk piles to make a living deserved a chance to achieve their dreams. The decision she made was to improve education in Cambodia in order to end child poverty.

PIO believes in providing high-quality education to all children in need. All students attend PIO schools voluntarily, but PIO provides clothes, food, clean water, full social care and health services. Many children who scavenged through junkyards to survive have been pulled out of poverty and are now attending PIO high schools and even university.

NGOs have helped reduce child poverty in Cambodia through better access and improvements in education. The low costs in Cambodia allow new organizations to form rapidly and successfully. Through similar philanthropic efforts toward improving education in Cambodia, child poverty can be successfully combated.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in BurundiThe East African country of Burundi is one of the poorest in the world. Its meager economy relies heavily on rainfed agriculture, which employs approximately 90% of the people there. Burundi is Africa’s most population-dense country and nearly three out of every four people live below the poverty line. One of the lamentable realities of Burundi’s poverty is the effects it has on children. Child poverty is a serious issue in Burundi and the country has a current score of 5.46/10 on Humanium’s “Realization of Children’s Rights Index.”  Burundi is deemed a black level country by Humanium, meaning that the issue of children’s rights is very serious.

The State of Child Poverty in Burundi

In Burundi, 78% of children live in poverty. Poverty especially affects children in the rural parts of the country. Poverty also disproportionately affects children of the indigenous Batwa people. Additionally, child poverty in Burundi has seen an unfortunate and notable increase since 2015, when violent unrest occurred following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement of a third term, which was unconstitutional. The roots of the poverty problem in Burundi stem from a few different factors, the most predominant one being hunger.

Chronic Hunger in Burundi

Despite having an agriculture-centric economy, more than half of Burundians are chronically hungry.  The lack of food in the country is due to the fact that even at the peak of the harvesting season, food production is too low to sustain the population. Food production in Burundi can only cover a person for 55 days of the year. The lack of food also means prices are much higher. As a result, it is not uncommon for households to spend up to two-thirds of their incomes on food, even during harvesting season. One reason for Burundi’s difficulties in growing enough food has been frequent natural disasters that destroy crops and yields.

Hunger and Education

Hunger is so prevalent and intense in Burundi that despite having free and compulsory school for children between the ages of 7 and 13, the country faces growing dropout rates due to hunger. Another problematic issue for Burundian children facing poverty is schooling after the age of 13. After 13, school is neither free nor compulsory, making it exponentially less accessible and thus reducing opportunities for upward mobility. Much of Burundi’s education system has been negatively affected by Burundi’s civil war, as schools were destroyed and teachers were unable to teach.

Street Children in Burundi

Burundi has many “street children.” As the name suggests, these children live on the streets and are incredibly poor, left to fend for themselves. Street children have no humanitarian assistance from the government and consistently face police brutality, theft and arrests. Kids in Burundi become street children because families are sometimes too poor and hungry to stay together or they have to flee from child abuse or family conflict.

Organizations Addressing Child Poverty in Burundi

Although the reality of the child poverty situation in Burundi is dire, there are good things being done to improve the situation. While the government in Burundi is not providing adequate help, there are several humanitarian organizations providing assistance to those in need.

The NGO, Humanium, works on raising awareness, partnering with local projects to help children and providing legal assistance to victims of children’s rights abuses. The World Food Programme (WFP) has also been working in Burundi since 1968 by providing food such as school meals, malnutrition rehabilitation to starved children and helping to improve food production. Additionally, organizations like Street Child are working to build schools and eliminate as many barriers to education as possible for children in Burundi and elsewhere. Groups like the WFP, Humanarium and Street Child do substantial work to help children in Burundi. It is vital that the work continues and that more organizations participate in alleviating child poverty in Burundi.

– Sean Kenney
Photo: Flickr

Toys for ChildrenFor kids of all ages, making a list of toy requests for Santa is one of the most exciting times of the year. Yet for children living in the world’s poorest regions, there is no Santa, presents or toys. UNICEF estimates that across the world, nearly one billion children live in multidimensional poverty. That equates to 13% of the global population. During the holiday season, three organizations are working to make sure that impoverished children have toys to call their own.

Samaritan’s Purse

For more than 25 years now, the Samaritan’s Purse annual “Operation Christmas Child” has provided toys for children living in poverty. Franklin Graham, the president of this organization, began the tradition in 1993 by sending gifts to young kids experiencing the violence of war in Bosnia. Since then, the project has grown to spread gifts all across the world to more than 150 countries, including some of the poorest areas. Samaritan’s Purse asks donors to fill a shoebox with various gifts for either a boy or girl which then gets distributed to congregations located in these impoverished nations.The initiative has brought more than 178 million children toys throughout the years. In many cases, the gifts provided by Samaritan’s Purse will be the only toys these children receive in their childhoods. The work done by this organization embodies the true meaning of the holidays and acts as a Santa for the poor.

Play Well Africa

One of the most successful companies in the toy industry is Lego. Lego’s plastic colored bricks are educational and creative opportunities for children. Play Well Africa is dedicated to bringing these Lego pieces to the less fortunate living in Africa. Unlike other toys, which can break, stop working or require electricity, Lego’s offer a unique ability to allow children to play in any circumstances. Young Micah Slentz, a child himself, started Play Well Africa when he asked his father to buy his favorite toy, Lego bricks, and donate it to children in Africa. A simple kind gesture has grown into a massive project that receives both new and used Lego bricks and sends them to impoverished children in developing countries. With offices in both the United States and Australia, Play Well Africa is a multinational organization. Thousands of children in countries such as Uganda will build, create and have fun with Lego bricks, all thanks to a boy who wanted to share his favorite toy with the world.

The Toy Foundation

For decades now, the Toy Foundation has strived to create avenues to bring children of the world toys to play with. One of its most successful campaigns has been the “Toy Bank” which started back in 2003. The foundation relies on donations from top toy companies and in turn spreads these gifts to existing agencies located in impoverished countries. Donations come from all sorts of brands, including Hasbro, Lego and Mattel. Children surviving some of the worst living conditions receive brand new toys, an opportunity made possible by the Toy Foundation. Children with diseases, orphans and those in war-torn nations are the top priority for the Toy Bank, making the organization’s work imperative. Ensuring toys for children in the most vulnerable situations is the organization’s focus.

Toys for the Most Vulnerable Children

Toys can be a healthy outlet for children who live in some of the world’s poorest regions. Toys can provide both emotional support and stress relief. Whether it be a teddy bear to hug, a doll to dress up or Legos to build, the psychological benefits of playing with toys are something all children need. These organizations all help to make dreams come true for the young children who need toys the most.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Jordan

While known for political stability in a region associated with civil wars and political violence, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan does have its fair share of struggles when it comes to the economy. Poverty in Jordan is the outcome of many factors shaping the country’s economic struggles. The kingdom has a scarce amount of natural oil stock in its eastern desert, and the country is heavily reliant on foreign importing to meet its energy needs, constituting up to 30% of its total imports.

The country also happens to experience a wide range of issues like meeting only half of the population’s water demand, only 2.6% of its land being arable, an average labor participation rate of 38.1%, an unemployment rate of 23.9%, millions of refugees from Iraq, Palestine and Syria and a debt crisis consisting of 95% of the kingdom’s gross domestic product. All of these issues tend to result in very problematic numbers for poverty in Jordan.

Effects of Poverty on Jordan’s Youth

While poverty in Jordan affects people of all ages, a look at Jordan’s children tends to give a grim view. The population of children in Jordan is around 3 million. Of this number, 0.6% of them are considered to be multidimensionally poor, which is defined as deprivation regarding health, education, living standards as well as experiencing poor quality of work, hazardous environments, disempowerment, and living under the threat of violence.

Poverty in Jordan tends to particularly affect the refugee populations. The number of Syrians in Jordan living below the country’s poverty line is 78%. For Syrian children, 94% of those of age up to 5 years old experience multidimensional poverty. When it comes to malnutrition, 17% of the children are malnourished due to poverty in Jordan. The infant mortality rate is 31 per 1,000 children.

Green Innovation

One of the issues that relate to poverty in Jordan, as previously mentioned, is the issue of resource shortage. Addressing this is one way to combat one of the effects of poverty in Jordan. To overcome those challenges, the Hashemite Kingdom is spending more than $5 billion in renewable energy as a way to become more self-sufficient. Solar energy is already saving money for the local population with one religious clerk saying the bills necessary to generate electricity for his mosque used to be up to $18,350 per year. Now, that cost has gone down to near zero.

In 2012, 11 renewable energy projects were launched in the Maan province alone. Since then, the growth of the kingdom’s reliance on green power has resulted in 11% of the nation’s total power relying on renewables in 2019. It is estimated 15% of today’s households have solar-based water heating systems. This investment in renewable energy will make Jordan less dependable on foreign oil markets. It will also drive economic growth through job creation. An estimated 40 million new jobs could exist by 2050. Meeting energy demands, self-sufficiency, reducing the costs of power and economic growth will help in alleviating the poverty in Jordan. This will have a direct effect on children, the most powerless and vulnerable to the effects of poverty in Jordan.

– Mustafa Ali
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in JamaicaA whole 2.8 million people live in poverty in Jamaica. The strain of poverty is heavy on all people, however, for children, it is more severe. Jamaica is yet to tackle the many factors impacting child poverty.

Facts About Child Poverty in Jamaica

  1. At least 25% of Jamaican children live under the poverty line. With the struggling economic state in Jamaica, it is difficult for the government to prioritize increasing investment in children. Instead, a large amount of the country’s national budget is dedicated to debt repayment. Because poverty is most widespread in rural Jamaica, hidden from the eyes of tourists, issues impacting children are rarely addressed.
  1. Jamaica does not have equal access to education. Minors living in rural areas may not have the option to attend school at all. While primary school is free, secondary and higher education is not, meaning that schooling beyond the primary level is often too expensive for underprivileged families. Beyond accessibility, Jamaican schools often lack resources for proper learning which means children are not able to thrive in an educational setting.
  1. Jamaica has a high incidence of HIV/AIDS affliction. This contributes to an overall high child mortality rate. In numbers, 10% of Jamaicans who have HIV/AIDS are under the age of 18, often as a result of mother-to-child transmission. In addition, AIDS deaths in adults result in many children becoming orphaned.
  1. High unemployment rates lead to unstable socio-economic conditions. Without a way to earn a stable income, many in Jamaica turn to gang activity and crime to survive. Exposure to extreme violence is common for Jamaican children, and because of high poverty levels, many young boys often join gangs themselves. In addition, many unemployed residents are forced to live without access to running water and proper sanitation which means children and families live in unacceptable conditions.
  1. Child labor is widespread and often essential for a family’s survival. With high poverty rates across Jamaica’s rural communities, some families must send their children to work, purely out of desperation. In cities, children are often seen selling merchandise, washing car windshields and begging for money. For many, living the life of a child is an unaffordable luxury.

The Jamaican Childcare and Protection Act

Jamaica still has some work to do in terms of protecting its children from the harsh realities of poverty. However, the country has progressed in this regard, by implementing crucial legislation for the protection of children. The Jamaican Childcare and Protection Act was passed in 2004 and promotes the safety and best interests of children in the country. The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) and the Children’s Register was established under this Act. The OCA was established with the purpose of protecting and enforcing the rights of children and the Children’s Register consists of the information reported regarding suspected ill-treatment of a child. Child labor is also specifically addressed in the Act.

While child poverty in Jamaica is still a significant concern, the country has made progress and will continue to do so in the future as key issues affecting the country’s most vulnerable populations are addressed.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Germany
Germany is located in west-central Europe and has a population of more than 83 million people and rising. Despite being a wealthy country, child poverty in Germany persists and impacts millions of children all across the nation. Here are some facts about the issue and examples of how the German government and nonprofit organizations are trying to fix it.

Single-Parent Households and Immigrants Suffer the Most

A total of 2.8 million children in Germany live in poverty. This means that approximately 21.3% of those under 18 grow up without the resources and living standards their peers enjoy. The families that poverty most impacts are those that only have one parent to provide for the children. In fact, 44% of single-parent households are struggling with poverty. This percentage is even higher for immigrant families and large families.

Poverty in Germany Equals Severe Life Restrictions

While child poverty in Germany does not necessarily mean that all children affected are starving, it often presents noticeable consequences for their lives. Growing up poor often results in children lacking access to basic things such as cars or electronics that are increasingly necessary for education. It further impacts the children’s social lives, since they often cannot afford to participate in clubs and activities or do not live in places big enough to have friends over. Child poverty also links to an increased risk of health problems due to families not being able to afford nutritious foods and having less balanced lifestyles.

The Strong Families Act

The German government introduced and passed the Strong Families Act in 2019. The act intends to help families with financial struggles by reforming the child benefit supplement system. A total of one billion euros ($1.2 billion) that the German government spent between 2019 and 2021 is supporting the reform. The reform includes making it easier for families to access aid that the government provides and to have the maximum supplement increased to 185 euros ($224) a month. The Strong Families Act further encourages parents of low-income families to make more money, as the child benefit supplement no longer instantly reduces due to the extra amount they earn.

Child poverty in Germany has a significant impact on education and future perspectives for those it affects. A study from 2019 showed that 36% of 25-year-olds who had experienced poverty as children were still living in poverty due to a lack of resources. For reference, only 20% of 25-year-olds who did not grow up poor were having the same financial struggles. The German government is attempting to change that by investing 220 million euros ($265 million) yearly through the Strong Families Act. The money will pay for school meals and transport for families in need and further raises the aid for school materials from 100 euros ($121) to 150 euros ($182) each year.

SOS Children’s Villages Help Children in Poverty

Outside of the government, there are several nonprofit organizations that are trying to help children who grow up in poverty. A very well-known organization is SOS Children’s Villages, an Austrian organization with more than 40 locations in Germany. It provides a wide variety of services to families in need, including daycare, counseling and aid to help prepare poor children for their future. SOS Children’s Villages was especially supportive of unattended youth in need who came into the country as a result of the refugee crisis in 2015. The organization offered language courses, integration support and cared for the children’s emotional needs.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Mauritania
Mauritania in coastal west Africa is among the most impoverished countries in the world, with 31% of its 4 million people, or around 1.2 million people, living beneath the poverty line as of 2014. Consequently, child poverty in Mauritania is likely to be one of the gravest situations in the world, even though reliable data regarding child poverty is scarce due to the fact that 56% of births in Mauritania do not have legal documentation.

The Background

Despite the abundance of natural resources present in the lands and waters of Mauritania, decades of political and social instability coupled with corruption, oppression and a centuries-long history of ethnicity-based enslavement have created conditions that continually exacerbate child poverty and poverty in general. Other factors such as frequent droughts in and around the Sahara Desert in Northeastern Mauritania also deprive people of food and income to feed themselves or their children. Accordingly, one reliable indicator of the severity of child poverty in Mauritania is the fact that an estimated 19.2% of children under the age of 5 were underweight in 2018.

Child Poverty and Slavery in Mauritania

Poverty and slavery in Mauritania interconnect. Though Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981 and criminalized it in 2007, the persistence of the oppressive ethnic caste system continues to deprive the Haratine population, an ethnic minority in Mauritania, of receiving the social and economic freedoms that the rest of the country receives. As a result, 20% of Mauritania’s total population––and half of all Haratines–– remain enslaved, either explicitly through the threat of punishment or de facto due to socioeconomic discrimination and indentured servitude in 2018.

People inherited and often still inherit slave status in Mauritanian society. As a result, many children are born into slavery to serve the slave masters of their parents or the masters sell them to other families where they often suffer neglect and injury. This continuing cultural practice of hereditary slavery perpetuates a self-sustaining cycle of poverty in the Haratine population of Mauritania. This is one of the ways by which child poverty in Mauritania manifests itself––and by which the practice of slavery continues to maintain itself.

Education

As slaves, children do not receive an education that could provide them with valuable knowledge and skills to improve their living situation. As a result, the threat of living in near-certain poverty if they were to leave their master’s household traps children with their masters. With few viable alternatives to make enough money to live, “former [child] slaves (commonly descendants of slaves) continue to endure slave-like practices, including working for their former masters in exchange for food, money, and lodging” according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs.

In 2014, estimates determined that 18.2% of children in Mauritania, ages 5 to 14 years old, were working and not receiving an education. An additional 10.8% of children in the same age group were reportedly splitting their time between work and school. Furthermore, UNICEF estimates that the primary school completion rate in Mauritania is 63% indicating that more than one-third of children in Mauritania do not receive a sufficient education.

Solutions

One promising solution that focuses on reinvesting in childhood development in order to break the poverty cycle is providing direct transfer payments to people––primarily mothers–– in impoverished villages on the condition that they attend classes on hygiene, nutrition and early childhood development. This program is jointly funded by the Mauritanian government, the World Bank, the U.K. Department for International Development and the French Agency for Development. Households receiving the payments have seen their families’ and their village’s living conditions improve as they take more care to prevent disease and malnutrition. One of the main objectives of the program is “to invest in the next generation and break the poverty cycle by tackling intergenerational poverty.”

Though Mauritania is currently one of the most impoverished nations in the world, its young population and abundance of natural resources should help the country achieve long-term prosperity.

– Willy Carlsen
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in Madagascar
Madagascar is among the developing countries experiencing high rates of poverty. Child poverty in Madagascar remains a pressing issue as the living conditions continue to push children into taking on work. Below are a few facts about how child poverty leads to child labor and what initiatives some have taken to eliminate both child labor and child poverty in Madagascar.

Child Poverty Overview

According to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2020 (MPI), estimates have determined that 70.7% of the Malagasy population is living under the national poverty line. Malagasy children under the age of 18 suffer the most from multidimensional poverty.

Also concluded in the MPI 2020 report, of the 75 countries measured, 60 experienced a reduction in multidimensional poverty which includes Madagascar. However, child poverty in Madagascar showed the slowest reduction compared to other age groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Child Poverty Normalizes Child Labor

As a consequence of widespread poverty, Malagasy children must work to support their families. With limited access to education and other social services, the families and children have little choice other than work.

As the Bureau of International Labor Affairs reported, 32% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 work in hazardous conditions. The data also indicates that 68.8% of children aged 5 to 14 attend school and 38.8% of children attending school are also working. The three main sectors in which Malagasy children work are agriculture, mining industry and services such as domestic work and market vending.

According to recent studies, many end up working in agriculture or in mining and brick-making. In the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2020 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor, Madagascar goods appear four times including vanilla, sapphire, stone and mica. Mica first emerged on this list in 2020. The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) estimates that 10,800 children work in mica mining and sorting.

Solutions

In terms of policy and regulation, Madagascar has met all international standards on child labor since 2018. Extensive policies such as the National Action Plan to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor noted the government efforts. Although this is the case, enforcement of such laws and regulations remains weak. The Madagascar Ministry of Mines expressed that it was aware of the problem but lacked the resources for better regulation.

How the International Community Helps Reduce Child Labor

To counteract the lack of resources and weak enforcement, international organization and governments have implemented social programs addressing child labor in Madagascar and other effects of multidimensional poverty throughout the country.

Some notable programs include the Social Support and Reintegration Centers and the UNICEF Country Program. International organizations like the ILO, UNICEF and the World Bank support these projects.

SAVABE

Powerful countries like the U.S. also hold important roles in some of these projects. For example, USDOL funds a $4 million ILO project called Supporting Sustainable and Child Labor Free Vanilla-Growing Communities in the Sava region (SAVABE). SAVABE aims to reduce child labor in the production of vanilla.

To achieve its objectives, the project works with vanilla exporters to implement anti-child labor policies. In addition, the project trains local authorities to enforce child labor laws and develop a child labor database. The community outreach part of the project creates child protection committees to provide educational services. To improve child poverty in Madagascar, the project also provides vocational training programs targeting 15,000 impoverished households.

According to the 2019 SAVABE Project Interim Evaluation, the vocational programs extended to 9,893 households. The programs had 140 children aged 14 to 17 enrolled. Along with collaboration with local authorities on formulating and enforcing child labor policies, SAVABE also implemented local enforcement training, which had 48 participants in 2018.

The evaluation report concluded that the project had insufficient evidence to indicate improvement in living conditions due to incomplete implementation. However, there are enough indications to show that continued effort and complete implementation can lead to a reduction of child labor in Madagascar.

Looking Ahead

Continued support at the international front is evidently critical to the successful implementation of policy and social projects. For example, the operation and continuation of the SAVABE project depend on U.S. foreign aid which demonstrates the importance of funding to global poverty initiatives. International efforts like SAVABE contribute to protection from child exploitation and ultimately toward total eradication of child poverty in Madagascar.

To ensure the continuation of these projects, email Congress now in support of protection of the International Affairs Budget.

– Malala Raharisoa Lin
Photo: Flickr