Information and stories addressing children.

Child poverty is a multifaceted issue whose impacts are far-reaching and pervasive. While adults may fall into poverty for a period of time, children in poverty are often trapped forever. Seldom are they able to start anew because their poverty that lasts a lifetime. Furthermore the depths of child poverty often lead to greater entrenchment in social inequality. Thus governments and individuals must commit to understanding and tackling global child poverty.
Child Poverty is real and it is poses a threat to millions of children. Here are 5 key facts about child poverty.

  1. According to UNICEF, 1 billion children are living in poverty throughout the world. Of these children, 121 million are out of education and 22,000 die due to poverty each day.
  2. 30% of the children in developing nations live on less than $1 a day. Of this 30%, 270 million children have no access to health care services.
  3. The result of this dangerous poverty is extreme malnourishment. 27-28% of all children in developing countries are underweight or stunted in growth. In 2011 alone, 165 million children under the age of 5 were stunted due to hunger and starvation.
  4. Child poverty does not only affect developing nations. In a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United States ranks 34th amongst 35 countries examined for child poverty rates. In fact more than one in five American children live below the poverty line today.
  5. Sadly, the Millennium Development goal to halve the proportion of underweight children will not be reached if current trends continue. The mark will be missed by 30 million children due in large part to slow progress in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Though these facts are bleak, the truth is that child poverty can be fought. For example, in the year 2000 it would have cost an estimated $6 billion a year to place every child in school. Though the cost may have fluctuated since then, such a seemingly large amount was only a tiny fraction of how much the world spent on weapons alone. Eliminating child poverty is indeed a feasible goal.

– Grace Zhao

Sources: Global Issues, UNICEF, Do Something, The Washington Post
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On the afternoon of July 22nd, the British commonwealth grew excited in anticipation for the arrival of the Royal baby, but what if baby George, the Prince of Cambridge, never arrived? What if complications had severed his chances of survival? Despite the joy the Royal baby received on his safe arrival, what would this baby and his mother would have done if they lived in a Third World country?

In the developing world, childbirth complications contribute to high maternal and infant mortality rates. The highest infant mortality rate comes from Afghanistan with more than 1 in every 10 newborns dying during childbirth. Around the world, nearly 3 million newborn infants die, with an additional 2.6 million born stillborn every year.

Yet, we must remember that such high figure does not take into account the mother in these events. An estimated 800 women die each day from pregnancy related causes. As it stands, 99% of these maternal deaths come from developing countries.

The greatest causes of maternal mortality include severe bleeding, infections, contaminated delivery rooms, high blood pressure, high risk abortions, and harmful diseases. Fortunately, these deaths are preventable. Unfortunately, there is much to be done in order to reduce these numbers.

Along with health issues, other challenges include “delays in seeking care, inability to act on medical advice, and failure of the health system to provide adequate or timely care” according to the WHO’s 2005 World Health Report.

However, there is a bright side; maternal deaths have been nearly halved since 1990. This improvement is due, in large part to an increase in social acceptance of midwives, adequate training of attendants, and proper implementation of health expert strategies. With a 2.4% annual rate of decline in maternal mortality, many experts agree that it proves the success of strategies and more resources must be committed.

Health experts point to success stories, such as in Rwanda. Despite genocide and destroyed infrastructure, maternal mortality has been reduced by more than half since 1990. Even more, women in Rwanda have doubled their access to skilled attendants, up to 52%. Many attribute this success to the government’s commitment to women’s health with proper planning.

But Rwanda is not the only country cutting their maternal mortality rate. Progress is being made around the world. However, more must be done in order to continue this progress. Although current strategies are proving successful, the developing and developed countries must continue committing themselves to the development of international health sectors.

– Michael Carney

Sources: AlertNet Climate, CIA World Factbook, UNFPA, WHO
Photo: US Weekly

Child Mortality
This is the fourth in a series of posts exploring the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs are a series of eight interconnected goals agreed upon by almost every country in the world, based on a shared commitment to improving the social, political, and economic lives of all people. These goals are to met by 2015 and, two years out from this deadline, it is time to recognize both the incredible progress we have made and the work we have left to do.

The fourth MDG is to reduce the mortality rate for children under five by at least two thirds from 1990 to 2015. The world has made amazing progress on this front. Despite population growth, the number of deaths in children under five worldwide has decreased significantly from 12.4 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011. This represents 14,000 fewer child deaths every day.

This improvement has been made possible by a wide variety of programs. Vaccines are an excellent way to avoid easily preventable deaths. According to the World Health Organization, vaccine-preventable diseases accounted for roughly 17% of deaths of children under five in 2008, representing 1.5 million deaths. This figure can be diminished fairly easily by providing vaccines for diseases such meningitis, tuberculosis, and rotavirus. The measles vaccine alone has prevented more than 10 million child deaths since 2000.

Another reliable method for reducing child mortality is the education of women. Even minimal education for a mother can significantly improve her children’s likelihood of survival. A UNDP program in Malaysia is capitalizing on this opportunity by surveying 2500 single mothers. These women are faced with incredible challenges, including poverty, lack of education and job opportunities, and social stigmatization. The results of the survey will be used to better understand how best to work with these women, enabling them to find enjoyable work and care for their children.

Another successful UNDP program is taking place in Canelones, a populous and impoverished area of Uruguay where roughly 35,000 citizens are raising children in extreme poverty. As a result of a UNDP study in the area that revealed severe health risks for children in poorer areas, several organizations teamed up to create “Canelones Grows with You”. This program provides the most vulnerable families in Canelones with comprehensive training on care for young children, including nutritional supplements and information on how to use them, as well as regular pregnancy check-ups. The program also encourages a sense of community that encompasses even the poorest families, who are often unaware of or feel excluded from public health clinics, schools, and eateries. “Canelones Grows with You” was so successful in reducing rates of malnutrition, low height, low birth weight, and prematurity that it has been adopted as official government policy with a program called “Uruguay Grows with You”.

Between 1990 and 2011, child mortality has almost been cut in half, decreasing in every region. This is an incredible achievement. However, with the goal set at a two-thirds reduction of the 1990 figure by 2015, we definitely have our work cut out for us. One of every nine children in sub-Saharan Africa still dies before they reach the age of five. In Southern Asia, this figure is one of every sixteen. Children from poorer families are almost twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday than those from wealthier families. Any preventable child deaths are unacceptable, but these figures are horrifyingly so.

Every child deserves a chance to live, and all parents deserve the opportunity to provide for their child. Significant progress has been made towards this ideal, and we must continue this important work if we hope to achieve the fourth Millennium Development Goal.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: UN Development Program, United Nations, World Health Organization

Assam tea is a common variety of black tea often preferred for its malty taste. It is produced in the Assam state of India, which is among the world’s largest tea-growing regions. Tea pickers in Assam are paid 12p an hour. At about a dollar per day, this corresponds to roughly half the legal minimum wage for unskilled workers in Assam. These workers pick tea leaves used by almost every brand, from Lipton to Twinings.

Special labels, like Fair Trade, and certifications, such as those from the Rainforest Alliance or the Ethical Tea Partnership, do not guarantee that workers were paid fairly. Wages are established through collective bargaining by associations of growers, and every tea plantation pays the same wages. According to the Indian Tea Association director General Monojit Desgupta, these pitifully low payments are all the growers can afford. In addition to the basic injustice of underpaying workers, this mistreatment causes another deeply troubling problem: child slavery.

With the promise of work, decent pay, and a glamorous life in the big city, traffickers whisk countless children away from their struggling families. Most victims are girls as young as 12. The traffickers then sell the girls for about $50 to agencies that turn around and sell them to the wealthy as slaves at about twelve times that price. Many of these girls’ families never seen them again, and others escape only after enduring appalling conditions for years. Two girls, Rabina Khatun and Elaina Kujar, have recently agreed to share their stories to draw attention to this issue.

A woman promised Rabina work in Delhi as a maid with a monthly wage of 3,000 rupees, or about $40. She worked for two years before she was allowed to go home. When she complained that she had never been paid, the woman sold her to three men who locked her in a house, raped her, and left her penniless at Old Delhi Station. Rabina, now 18, still harbors intense anger against the people who committed crimes against her.

Elaina’s story is similarly appalling. Her family lives on a tea plantation in Assam, where a trafficker came promising a better life for her. She dreamed of being a nurse and believed Delhi would hold opportunities for her. The next four years of her life would be lost serving as a child slave. She recalls how her owner would rape her after watching porn while she laid on the floor beside him. When she told the man’s wife what was happening, he called her a liar and told her to keep her mouth shut. Elaina’s saving grace came when she was sent to a new owner, who took sympathy on her and allowed her to go home.

Elaina and Rabina are not isolated cases, but rather representative spokeswomen for hundreds of thousands of girls who are trafficked against their will. It has been estimated that 100,000 girls are being held in Delhi alone, with countless others sold to the Middle East. Assam has the highest kidnapping rate for women in India, with 3,360 cases registered with police last year. These girls are trafficked because their families are unable to support them adequately with the pitiful wages they are paid for picking tea leaves.

Pressure is being put on tea brands to demand higher wages and better conditions for tea pickers, and they are just beginning to comply. Unilever, the corporation in charge of Lipton Tea, has recently recognized trafficking is a major problem. The Rainforest Alliance, which has certified Lipton, claims it is working towards an agreement that will require workers to be paid a living wage. Major tea company Typhoo also states that it is working to improve their workers’ conditions. These measures prove that public outcry can create change. Their continued efforts will ensure that workers on tea plantations are paid fairly, and that tea drinkers in the first world are not inadvertently contributing to the child sex trade in India.

Katie Fullerton

Sources: Adagio Tea, The Guardian, Mirror News
Photo: Revolution

Although somewhat of a cliche, the statement that “children are the future” has never been more true. It is not enough to start children off in the right direction very early in life, they still need assistance at every level leading into young adulthood. This can be seen in western societies plagued by economic strife where young people are trying to find their proverbial footing in a competitive, seemingly shrinking job market. The problem is greatly exacerbated in the developing world where jobs are often scarcer and the focus on education doesn’t extend as far into young adulthood.

The International Youth Foundation (IYF) is hard at work attempting to provide what’s necessary for children of all ages to successfully enter adulthood and contribute meaningfully to society. Starting in 1989, founder Rick Little came to realize that large swaths of the global youth populations were underserved by governments and most types of foreign aid. He wanted a renewed focus placed on youth development. Through years of effective networking and promotion, Little and the IYF have built partnerships with many donors and other aid organizations to serve youth at every stage of their development.

Thanks to the tremendous awareness raising efforts of the IYF and their partners, recognition of the importance of youth is being recognized by organizations like USAID. In fact, USAID counts the population of young people today at 1.5 billion, the largest juvenescence in global history. In conjunction with the advent of new technologies, the youth presence is very concerned and motivated to tackle demanding world issues. This only underscores the importance of youth development from childhood to adulthood.

IYF contends that 400 million youth the world over cannot find decent employment, mainly because of gaps in their skill sets. Through things like mentorship programs and internship opportunities, IYF is able to plug many youth into their respective job markets. Another way used is purely entrepreneurial, mentoring and empowering the young to start their own businesses. This is done again through partnership with other organizations. entra21, launched in Latin America, is one such IYF program. Through their association with the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank, favorable results were achieved for young people ranging from ages 16-29.

When it comes to schooling, the IYF is active with its Passport to Success initiative. Targeting at-risk children like those on the verge of dropping out of school, the program teaches key skills like time management and goal setting. Ensuring the longevity and continuity of the program are local institutions, schools, and universities. The program has helped over 60,000 students in nearly 30 nations with 60 life-skill lessons. Especially telling are the results from Mexico, where nearly 100% of those who completed the program were employed within 6 months and school dropout rates were sliced in half.

The International Youth Foundation has certainly brought focus to a sect of the youth population that was in dire need and it reminds us that the importance of education and development spans out into adolescence. Equipping young people with the right tools to become great citizens as adults is just as much, if not more so significant than early childhood education. With almost 2 billion young adults waiting in the wings to assume society, it’s absolutely necessary.

– David Smith

Sources: IYF, USAID Youth Impact, Entra21, Passport to Success
Photo: Facebook

Though poverty is measured according to dimensions that include mortality, morbidity, hunger, sickness, illiteracy, homelessness and powerlessness, these measures do not fully encompass the conditions of children living in poverty. Rarely differentiated from poverty in general, child poverty affects individuals at the most crucial stage of their lives, hindering not only their physical development but also their emotional development. Listed below are five statistics about child poverty.

  1. 1 billion children – more than half of those living in developing countries – suffer from one or more forms of severe deprivation, according to a study performed by the University of Bristol and the London School of Economics. Every second child suffers from deprivation of at least one of the following: nutrition, safe drinking water, sanitation, health, shelter, education and information. Furthermore, deprivation in one area often causes deprivation in another area – an estimated 700 million children suffer from two or more deprivations.
  2. 180 million children are currently engaged in child labor. Material deprivation often forces desperate children, including those subjected to war, orphaned or weakened by a condition such as HIV/AIDS, into dangerous forms of labor in order to support themselves and their families. Once engaged in child labor, children are deprived of an education and regularly abused. Many of them do not survive until adulthood.
  3. Roughly 1.2 children fall victim to human trafficking each year, and more than 2 million children are sexually exploited in the commercial sex industry each year. Material deprivation leads children to search for additional sources of income, and traffickers capitalize upon their vulnerability. Exploitation exacerbates conditions of poverty, preventing children from attending school and further deteriorating their mental and physical health.
  4. 400 million children (1 in 5) lack access to safe water, and 640 million (1 in 3) live without adequate shelter. Each year 1.4 million children die because of unsafe drinking water or inadequate sanitation.
  5. 22,000 children under the age of five die each day as a result of poverty, amounting to more than 8 million deaths per year.

– Katie Bandera

Sources: UNICEF Global Issues
Photo: Flickr

MDG 5: Improve Maternal Health
This is the fifth in a series of posts focusing on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. There are eight interconnected MDGs that were agreed upon by over 180 countries worldwide. These goals are to be achieved by 2015 and are based on a shared pledge to improve the social, economic, and political lives of all people. Two years out from the goal date, it’s time to consider how far we have come, as well as how much work we have left to do.

The fifth MDG is to improve maternal health. This goal comes in two parts:

  • Cut the maternal mortality ratio by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015
  • Achieve universal access to reproductive health

Significant progress has been made on both fronts. In 2010, the maternal mortality ratio was 47% of the 1990 figure. Three regions (Eastern Asia, Northern Africa, and Southern Asia) have already reached the two-thirds reduction goal, and progress has been made in every region. However, women in sub-Saharan Africa still have a 1 in 39 chance of dying from pregnancy complications, and improvements in many regions will need to accelerate substantially if the MDG is to be met by 2015.

Work towards universal access to reproductive health has made encouraging headway as well. Health care for pregnant women in developing countries is on the rise, with antenatal care increasing by almost 20% between 1990 and 2011. This reflects an admirable commitment to women’s health care in developing regions. In a reflection of changing cultural norms, the number of teenage mothers is decreasing in most developing regions, though progress on this front has slowed in recent years.

Despite the progress that has been made thus far, maternal mortality still bears the highest disparity between developed and developing countries, with 99% of maternal deaths occurring in poorer nations. The maternal mortality ratio in developing areas remains 15 times higher than in developed regions. This severe inequality points to the undeniable connection between poverty and maternal health.

The primary cause of maternal deaths in the world today is the lack of skilled health care before, during, and after delivery. Women in developing areas are seeking maternal care at an increasing rate. It is therefore absolutely vital that the care they receive is of excellent quality. Doctors must be trained, facilities must be built, and supplies must be provided in order to save the lives of these women and their children.

Women and their partners are also seeking family planning services in higher volumes. Meanwhile, the supply of these services is increasing only minimally. Family planning must be prioritized in order to meet this need. It has been estimated that fulfilling the unmet demand for family planning could cause the number of maternal mortalities to plummet by one third. Impressive progress in this area was made in the 1990s when contraceptive use in developing countries increased by almost 10%. However, this level of progress was not matched in the 2000s.

Improvements in contraceptive use, especially in developing areas, would reduce one of the leading causes of pregnancy-related death: unsafe abortions. Approximately 13% of pregnancy-related deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortions, which kill 68,000 women annually. In another example of the disparity between developed and developing nations, 97% of unsafe abortions occur in poorer countries. Preventing unsafe abortions, both by increasing knowledge and use of contraceptives and by providing adequate health care in developing countries, is absolutely necessary as we work towards improving maternal health.

The quality of maternal health care will also rise when women are more empowered. Women worldwide are often constrained by cultural norms that leave them disenfranchised. They suffer physical and sexual violence at alarmingly high rates and are often unable to hold positions of power in society. The appalling state of maternal health in many countries can largely be attributed to societal injustices against women. When such countries work towards gender equality, they will also improve maternal health.

It is important, however, to remember that maternal health isn’t just a women’s issue. Poor sexual and reproductive health is a significant contributing cause to poverty worldwide and can prevent victims and their families from fully participating in society. Furthermore, improving maternal health entails more than just providing skilled birthing assistance. Women are less likely to have pregnancy complications if they do not have sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and if they have not undergone female genital mutilation. Therefore, improving maternal health necessitates the enhancements of society as a whole. These include increasing the general public’s knowledge of and access to sexual and reproductive health care, including contraceptives and treatment for STIs.

There are copious reasons to improve developing nations’ maternal health. Poor maternal health is a human rights violation, killing roughly 250,000 women each year. It harms countries’ economies and social fabric by preventing people from fully participating in society. It contributes significantly to poverty. It contributes to the perpetuation of gender inequality. And, as we have seen, improvements can clearly be made. The world has made so much progress when it comes to maternal health. These achievements should be used as a springboard, inspiring us to keep working towards the fifth MDG up to and beyond 2015.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: UN UN Economic and Social Affairs WHO MDG5
Photo: Flickr

Slight Drop in World’s Children Without Primary Education
According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the figure for the number of the world’s children with no access to schools has dropped from 61 million in 2010 to an estimated 57 million. Unfortunately, the improvement is unlikely to reach the millennium goal for primary education for all by 2015.

“We are at a critical juncture,” stated Irinia Bokova, UNESCO’s director-general. Every year UNESCO releases a report measuring the world’s progress towards the goal of universal primary education. Recent years have shown stagnation after early gains. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of children at the primary age who were out of school fell by only 3 million.

The most recent numbers provide a more up-to-date picture, and also show that aid for primary education has fallen by 6% because most major donors have decreased their funding in the past year. UNESCO ranked the U.K. the largest direct donor to basic education. The US was previously the largest donor, but budget cuts in 2011 put the U.K. at the top. Germany, Australia, and Norway also increased their donations while budgets were cut in France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and Canada.

The pledge for universal primary education made by UN-leaders in 2000 is looking likely to be missed, and there have already been discussions to push up the 2015 target. There was a previous target set in 1990 to achieve this goal by 2000. After this was missed the goal was moved forward to 2015.

The latest mid-year figures do reflect some progress, but partly due to previous estimates being revised. According to UNESCO, the most recent numbers show about 2 million fewer children missing school. Over half of the children missing school are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The last annual report showed that in some countries the problem is actually getting worse rather than better. In Nigeria, 40% of children ages 6-11 do not attend primary school. Despite significant increases in enrollment in recent years, UNICEF estimates about 4.7 million Nigerian children of primary school age are still not in school.

But there is some good news: southern and western Asia has seen considerable gains, cutting their numbers of children not in school by two-thirds in two decades.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: BBC, UNICEF, UN

More than a Ball: Alive and Kicking
Sports play an essential role in the development of children. They provide structure and help teach hard work and discipline. For underprivileged kids, it may be one of the only healthy releases from the difficult lives they have. For kids in Africa, the sport that supplies this release is football, known as soccer to Americans. Yet many African children live in environments where sports equipment – such as soccer balls – is not affordable or accessible.

Thanks to Alive and Kicking, these kids have not had to worry about how they can play soccer. The only legitimate manufacturer of sports balls in Africa, Alive and Kicking has provided over 500,000 balls to impoverished children. Their impact goes far beyond simply producing sporting equipment. Below are the positive impacts Alive and Kicking has on the people of Africa.

  1. Employment: Alive and Kicking has been helpful in improving the economies of local African communities through the hiring of citizens to help manufacture balls. They have had 120 people hired to produce the balls on their manufacturing line. Each of these people has at least six family members and the wages they earn can help provide enough for their families. The employment has helped stimulate local communities with revenue as well.
  2. Healthy Lifestyle: Some children in Africa are subject to things that no developing youth should have to endure. Their ability to play soccer with their friends and be active in a normal way is extremely beneficial. Even if it helps them escape their unsuitable environment for even a few minutes, it is a success.
  3. Replacement of Makeshift Balls: Children in poor living conditions are often forced to stitch together materials and make their own ball, and these balls do not last long. Alive and Kicking provides synthetic stitched balls that will remain in good condition in any environment.

Alive and Kicking continues to make a profound impact in Ghana, Kenya, and Zambia. But they need help. Donations are instrumental in funding the production of sports balls. A generous donation of 100 dollars would provide eight soccer balls for school systems and communities, impacting the lives of many children. A much more modest donation of 15 dollars provides a child with a ball. These gifts may be small but will play an important role in a child’s life. For more information, visit Alive and Kicking’s website.

– William Norris

Sources: Alive and Kicking, CNN
Sources: Globo

54,000 Children in Danger of ExploitationIt is estimated that more than 54,000 children live on the streets of Accra, Ghana’s capital. These children are often exploited for cheap labor and work in the commercial sex industry. The number of street children in Accra more than doubled between 2007 and 2011, due to economic growth and unenforced child protection laws. In response to these concerning numbers, an NGO called International Needs Ghana conducted a study aimed at discovering why these children are so desperate.

The study focused on 13 communities in Accra and found that most street children in this highly populated, low-income city come from broken homes. If their parents are alive and present, they are often too sick or too poor to care for them. Some families choose to send their child with someone promising a better life in the big city, rather than allow them to suffer in poverty. However, once they arrive in Accra, these children are all too often taken advantage of. Child laborers endure backbreaking conditions and earn little to no pay. Meanwhile, child sex workers suffer traumatizing experiences and often become pregnant or contract sexually transmitted infections, due to the lack of condom use.

The breakdown of the family unit is largely being blamed for Accra’s increase in the commercial exploitation of children. Therefore, efforts are being made to stabilize families by empowering parents to care for their children. As part of a three-year program run by International Needs Ghana, 400 parents or caregivers of children victimized by or at risk of exploitation will be economically enabled. Meanwhile, 1000 children in Accra will be taken from the streets, rehabilitated, and integrated back into their families and society. These programs are being funded by the Australian Agency for International Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand.

The commercial exploitation of children is yet another negative side effect of poverty. When families face economic struggles, their ability to care for and protect their children decreases. By economically empowering these families, International Needs Ghana is both preventing children from being commercially exploited and working to end the cycle of poverty. And with 54,000 children in danger of exploitation in Accra alone, the world could use a lot more work like this.

Katie Fullerton

Sources: Ghana Business News, SOS Children’s Villages, Modern Ghana
Photo: Flickr