Information and stories addressing children.

Sexual Violence in India
Sexual violence is hard to quantify as it comes in many forms. Addressing sexual violence in India is difficult due to stigmas around gender and sexuality. Furthermore, victims of sexual violence are primarily children. Educating youth and providing resources for victims is crucial to reducing sexual violence in India.

Prevalence of Sexual Violence

India has a much lower rate of sexual assault cases than the United States. However, it is likely that most sexual assault incidents go unreported. This is due to social stigma, cultural expectations of marriage and the prevalence of sexual violence against children.

Less than 10% of sexual assault victims seek assistance from law enforcement. Due to limited law enforcement in rural areas, the police neglect around 100,000 reported rape cases per year. Additionally, only one-third of these cases lead to a conviction.

Sexual violence against children is rampant in India. A Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment study estimated that 53% of boys and 47% of girls experience sexual abuse during childhood. Girls are at high risk of suffering from sexual violence between the ages of 15 and 17. As a result, it is much less likely that victims will report the abuse they experience.

Child Marriage and Violence

It is common in India for girls to enter into arranged marriages at a young age. Around 45% of girls marry before reaching 18 years of age. Additionally, 22% have their first child before the age of 18. Victims of sexual violence often know their perpetrators. Furthermore, most husbands consider their wives property. As such, police frequently overlook cases of domestic violence.

Information Barriers

Schools often neglect to teach students about sexual violence due to its taboo nature. A 2017 survey found that 15% of adolescents felt comfortable discussing sexuality with their parents. However, over half of the sample could not define what sex was.

Sexual education programs are becoming more common throughout India. Yet, these programs often do not discuss the nuances of sexual relationships and power dynamics between genders. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends implementing comprehensive sex education into curriculums. This curriculum helps delay the age at which young people enter into sexual relationships and reduces the number of sexual partners. This aids in preventing unplanned pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

The YP Foundation – Empowering Youth

The YP Foundation emerged in 2002 and works to educate young people in “feminist and rights-based leadership.” Know Your Body Know Your Rights (KYBKYR) is a program that provides a series of workshops for young students. This program is led primarily by young women who educate students about gender issues and safe sexual behavior. Every year, around 1,500 young people attend KYBKYR workshops that cover gender expression, relationships, violence, anatomy, body image, puberty, HIV, sexual orientation and discrimination.

SNEHA – Resources For Domestic Violence Victims

SNEHA is a nonprofit that emerged in 1999 with outreach programs that prevent, address and monitor abuse against women and children across India. One program includes five crisis centers and four women’s hospitals in Mumbai that provide counseling, medical attention and legal assistance. About 16,328 women have received counseling from this program.

Furthermore, SHENA uses mobile phone technology to collect data before, during and after treatments at these counseling programs. Thus, data points allow statisticians to assess the programs’ effectiveness.

Additionally, SNEHA has trained 7,915 law enforcement officers, 10,722 hospital staff and various other professionals on how to handle cases of sexual assault appropriately. SHENA has also helped pass the Women Against Domestic Violence Act in 2005 and the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offenses in 2012.

Combatting sexual violence in India requires refined education and adequate access to counseling for adolescents. Breaking down the communication barriers about sexuality and domestic violence is important in addressing this issue. An open discussion about cultural norms and the pervasiveness of sexual assault against children is necessary to create a safer place for everyone.

 – Elise Brehob
Photo: Unsplash

Eliminating Childhood Poverty
Compassion International is a child-advocacy ministry that pairs people with children living in areas of extreme poverty in order to release those children from all of poverty’s aspects. What makes the organization so unique is its strict focus on children, with the hopes of eliminating poverty in their lives by the time they reach adulthood. Its impact has been massive with a high success rate: children in its programs are 75% more likely to become leaders in their communities and 40% more likely to finish secondary education. Moreover, they are more likely to spend thousands of hours in safe programs. The organization that is garnering recent attention from professional athletes has been working toward eliminating childhood poverty for years.

How Compassion International Began

Rev. Everett Swanson founded Compassion International. He was troubled by the masses of war orphans he saw living on the streets in South Korea. Another morning, Rev. Swanson saw city workers throwing rags into the backs of trucks, which turned out to be the frozen bodies of the orphans on the street. When Rev. Swanson returned to the United States, he told people of what he saw and encouraged them to donate so they could sponsor the orphans and work toward eliminating childhood poverty. Within 10 years, Compassion International helped 108 orphanages and homes in South Korea by donating funds to purchase rice and fuel.

Compassion International’s Mission

The nonprofit uses a ministry-based program in order to release children from poverty. This includes helping with child development, which the organization believes will provide the children with the skills to succeed. Compassion International’s programs begin as early as when the child is in the womb, aiming to eradicate poverty from their lives by young adulthood. Primarily, the work it does is through child sponsorship, but it has implemented initiatives that help babies and mothers in order to develop future leaders and meet critical needs as well.

The Fill the Stadium Initiative

Compassion International works with thousands of churches in 25 countries across the globe. One initiative it is running in the United States currently is the Fill the Stadium initiative. Due to COVID-19, 70,000 children and their families who are in Compassion Programs are in extreme poverty. Athletes such as Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum and Jaccob Slavin have donated and joined the leadership team, encouraging fans to donate if able. The recommended donation amount is $500, around the same price as a game-day experience for a group of four. About $500 provides a year’s worth of essential food, nutritional supplements, hygiene essentials and medical screenings for COVID-19 for a family and their children. So far, the Fill the Stadium Initiative has “filled” 47,587 seats to provide essential care and support for these families in crisis, raising $23 million from athletes and national leaders. Due to COVID-19, a halt to in-person sporting events has occurred. The hope is that the money a family would spend on a game would go toward those in need instead.

Former Quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals and team member for the initiative, Carson Palmer pledged to donate $300,000 and challenged others to match his donation. “This is an incredible opportunity for American families to help children who are in dire straits and truly fighting for their lives,” said Palmer in an interview with Fill the Stadium.

A Look into Compassion International’s Impact

In 2020, Compassion International surpassed $1 billion for the first time in the history of the ministry. That year alone, Compassion International served 2.2 million children across 8,000 frontline partners. Since 1952, the sponsorship programs have impacted the lives of over 4.2 million children.

Because of the work of Compassion International, partners across the world have obtained access to hygiene kits, lifesaving surgeries, academic scholarships, classes, bathrooms, emergency food and water, electricity and countless other life-saving services. The organization will continue to strive toward eliminating childhood poverty, and especially aiding children the pandemic has hit hard.

– Jai Phillips
Photo: Flickr

Indonesian Youth Programs
Around 85 million children live in Indonesia, making up one-third of the country’s population. Children are necessary for their country’s future, and the education and opportunities they receive are what allow them to have that impact. That is why it is important for children to have programs and organizations that give them more opportunities and allows them to realize their full potential. Several Indonesian youth programs provide these opportunities to children in Indonesia. The Indonesia Youth Foundation, Indonesian Youth Opportunities in International Networking (IYOIN) and Indonesian Youth Diplomacy are prime examples of Indonesian youth programs that aid children in education, provide resources and give them outlets to channel their passions.

Indonesia Youth Foundation

The Indonesia Youth Foundation began on July 23, 2020, as a non-governmental organization. Its objectives include connecting the children of Indonesia and other global youth through a variety of youth activities, offering general knowledge about the country and taking part in world advancement and the development of youth.

One can track the organization’s Youth Empowerment program through a series of articles on the organization’s official website, each entry providing tips on subjects such as boosting productivity and caring for mental health. Also featured is information on education and tourism to provide a better understanding of Indonesia.

Indonesian Youth Opportunities in International Networking

Indonesian youths created IYOIN in 2015. Since then, the self-started Indonesian youth program has spread across several different regions in Indonesia, with 18 local chapters.

The purpose of this organization is to serve as a medium for children in Indonesia to congregate, share and work together to realize their values for the country. The opportunities that this program provides also aim to improve the Indonesian youths’ education and to ensure that the youth will have the qualifications to tackle their futures successfully.

IYOIN became a United Nations SDSN Youth Member in 2017, a program that works to guarantee education that is inclusive and equal for all, in addition to encouraging learning opportunities. IYOIN joined this program because these goals align with its own mission.

Indonesian Youth Diplomacy

Indonesian Youth Diplomacy is a nonprofit Indonesian youth program that promotes and provides international exposure and empowers the next generation of Indonesian leaders. Known initially as G20 Youth Indonesia, efforts to form the organization began in 2010. This process continued in 2011 when the Indonesian Organizing Committee emerged to recruit Indonesian youth interested in contributing to the annual G20 Youth Summit. Recognizing the necessity of involving Indonesian youth in diplomacy beyond what the G20 program provides, the organization updated in 2013. Now known as the Indonesian Youth Diplomacy, it sends Indonesia’s promising young leaders to represent the country in international forums to raise awareness of diplomacy.

Youth programs can offer multiple benefits to children. They provide youth with quality education, a chance to involve themselves in their community and learn essential life skills and create a healthy social environment. All three of the organizations give these opportunities to the children of Indonesia. These Indonesian youth programs are crucial to allow children to spread their wings and learn since the youth are the backbone of their country.

– Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

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

World Forgotten ChildrenWith poverty rates rising in developing countries, raising a family can be financially taxing. As 10% of the worldwide population lives on less than $1.90 per day, there are millions of individuals who cannot provide basic necessities for their children. When a child has a physical or cognitive disability, parents face an additional barrier when addressing the children’s needs. In dire circumstances, some parents are left with no choice but to place their children in orphanages. The World Forgotten Children Foundation (WFCF) focuses efforts on helping impoverished orphans, especially those with disabilities.

Orphans Living in Poverty

Globally, there are 153 million children who are orphans and a large portion of these children are found in developing countries. Additionally, it is estimated that eight to 10 million children with disabilities are living in orphanages. Orphanages in impoverished areas often lack access to adequate resources, especially for children who need extra care for specific disabilities. The facilities fall short on appropriate education, economic stability and infrastructure.

The World Forgotten Children Foundation is a nonprofit organization that focuses on addressing the link between poverty and orphaned children, with an emphasis on helping disabled orphaned children in developing countries. The organization understands the value of also addressing the needs of the community rather than simply targeting the orphaned children.

Helping Children Affected by Cerebral Palsy

In 2017, the WFCF supported the International China Concern (ICC), an organization that takes care of more than 350 children and young adults with disabilities across China, many of who have been abandoned since birth. In China, approximately two million children have cerebral palsy. This group of disorders is the most common motor disability for children and prevents an individual from properly moving and maintaining balance and posture. Children with cerebral palsy struggle to straighten their bodies enough to fall asleep due to spinal postural deformities and those with severe cases are at risk of more serious health issues if they are unable to sleep in an adequate position. Between 23% to 46% of children living with cerebral palsy suffer from sleep issues due to pain, discomfort, seizures and skin ulcers. Also, sleep deprivation can cause development problems.

The ICC’s mission is to use postural management to protect the body shape and to minimize life-limiting deformity. The WFCF funded $10,277 to provide custom-fitted sleep aid systems for 14 children. The sleep aid systems improved the children’s physical and emotional health and well-being.

Handicapes en Avant Project

Handicapes en Avant is a French charity group based in West Africa focused on improving and facilitating the everyday lives of those with disabilities. The WFCF partnered with the Dokimoi Ergatai program of Messiah College to fund $7,800 worth of equipment. Through the partnership, the project provided physically disadvantaged children with hand-powered tricycles, enabling the children to have increased mobility. Additionally, visual assist items for computers were purchased in order to support children with visual disabilities in West Africa. Also, in Burkina Faso, funding was provided for the development of the first electric tricycle for the handicapped children of the Handicapes Avant facility. Additionally, blind orphans at the Handicapes en Avant school were provided with drawing boards to make relief drawings, Braille writing tablets and several other educational materials.

Improving the Lives of Orphans

The World Forgotten Children Foundation recognizes the many challenges of orphaned children, especially those with disabilities. The organization works to amplify the health and welfare of these disabled children. Plans for more support projects are in the pipeline. One project at a time, the Foundation is improving the lives of orphans in developing countries.

Sarah Frances
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

Child Trafficking in Kenya Kenya has the highest level of child trafficking in the African region. Kenya received the Tier 2 designation for human trafficking. This ranking refers to countries that are not fully compliant with the standards for eliminating human trafficking but are making efforts toward compliance, as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a federal bill the U.S Congress passed into law in 2000, defines.

Child Trafficking in Kenya

The cities of  Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa are where trafficking occurs the most. Traffickers traffic children for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation as well as forced labor, forced begging and forced marriage.

The African child trafficking market has become a refined system and it is difficult for authorities to keep up with the scale of the problem. Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART) reports that at best, only 2% of trafficked Kenyan children ever make it back home.

With these concerning statistics, it is crucial to bring awareness to these issues and create a judicious plan to put an end to child trafficking in Kenya.

The Vulnerability of Migrants and Refugees

The U.N. Economic Development in Africa Report 2018 notes that migrants, both legal and illegal, from bordering countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan are passing through Kenya in pursuit of better lives in southern Africa as well as Europe and the Americas. Many of these hopeful migrants become victims of exploitation. In Kenya, illegal recruiters make fraudulent offers of employment in the Middle East and Asia to deceive migrants, thus entrapping them, and oftentimes their children, in the trafficking web.

Kenya hosts approximately 470,000 refugees and asylum seekers. These refugees live in camps with limited access to education and livelihood opportunities which makes them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

The Abduction and Sale of Babies

In November 2020, BBC’s Africa Eye investigative journalism program exposed Nairobi’s flourishing black market trade in stolen babies. Children of vulnerable mothers are disappearing and being sold for profit and other mothers are selling their babies for mere survival. This form of illegal child trafficking happens at street clinics and even in plain sight at a major government-run hospital in Nairobi. Many impoverished Kenyans resort to stealing babies in order to sell them for lucrative prices — roughly $460 for a girl and $725 for a boy.

Many young women face challenges such as teen pregnancy. Kenya has one of the highest rates in Africa as 20,828 girls between 10 and 14 years old have become mothers while 24,106 older girls between 15 and 19 years old are either pregnant or mothers already. Some girls are entering sex work to survive which takes them away from school. In Kenya, abortion is illegal except in emergencies. With a lack of reproductive education and awareness of legal options, women may resort to selling their children on the black market.

Lacking Government Response

BBC’s Africa Eye reported that the government has no reports or accurate national surveys on child trafficking in Kenya and agencies are too under-resourced and under-staffed for success in tracking missing children in the black market. The U.S. Department of State’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report on Kenya noted that NGOs have affiliated with Kenyan authorities to assist with providing services to victims such as medical care, psycho-social counseling, rehabilitation and reintegration support, basic needs, legal aid and transportation. In some cases, NGOs acted alone when the government’s commitments became unresponsive or stagnant.

NGOs and international organizations have also worked with the government to implement regular training for prosecutorial and judicial officials, border guards, police officers and immigration agents on detecting and properly managing child trafficking in Kenya. This project is in response to the Kenyan authority’s tendency to treat victims as criminals and to label trafficking cases as immigration or labor law violations rather than crimes under the anti-trafficking law, thus leading to less stringent sentences for traffickers.

Organizations Addressing Child Trafficking in Kenya

Activist groups and NGOs alike are taking action in combatting the growing black market. From its inception in 2016 to December 2020, Missing Child Kenya has found and reunited 496 children with their families, committed 73 children to government homes for safe care and custody, documented 21 as deceased and is still searching for another 190. This is a total of 780 children in its case files.

Additionally, a Kenyan-based NGO, HAART Kenya has been engaged in anti-human trafficking efforts for 10 years. It has conducted more than 1,500 workshops on trafficking to educate and raise awareness of the issue and has assisted 585 survivors of human trafficking.

Efforts from organizations such as these ensure that child trafficking in Kenya is eradicated once and for all.

Alyssa McGrail
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in ArmeniaHundreds of thousands of civilians fled in search of safety when violence broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh on Sept. 27, 2020. Following these first violent clashes, organizations stepped up to provide humanitarian assistance for displaced civilians arriving in the capital Yerevan. The extensive damage to infrastructure and disruption of daily life, coupled with a harsh winter climate and COVID-19, will require help from the international aid community for many months to come. One area that this incoming aid will go to is mental health education and support. In 2019, the World Health Organization reported that one in five people in conflict-affected areas lives with a mental health issue. The longer a person lives with acute stress, anxiety or other mental health challenges, the more difficult it is for them to successfully secure basic needs. Aid groups are addressing the issue of mental health in Armenia with various programs.

Mental Health Support for Armenia

The Armenian Red Cross Society is providing humanitarian assistance to help people with basic necessities. This includes psychosocial support for returning soldiers and civilians. As of late December 2020, it had provided around 1,000 psychological services to wounded soldiers and their families.

The International Medical Corps, another emergency aid response group, is working with the Armenian Ministry of Health to assess current needs. In October 2020, the organization expressed its plans to provide training in psychological first aid for frontline healthcare workers. The organization will also provide mental health and psychosocial assistance to people who need it.

UNICEF Addresses Child Trauma

The UNICEF Armenia team and a local arts and music school called the Nexus Center for the Arts offer art and music-based support groups. These support groups give children and teenagers a chance to express themselves without having to talk. UNICEF reported testimonials of students who upon arriving were too afraid to open up but after participating in the support groups felt ready to talk about the trauma they had experienced. The groups also give students a chance to hang out, decompress and enjoy music in a comfortable and safe environment.

To help school teachers, UNICEF partnered with several civil society organizations to teach them how to address trauma in the classroom. UNICEF offered virtual lessons on trauma-informed teaching. The lessons gave 150 school psychologists and 900 public school teachers the skills to work in high-pressure situations and strategies to provide better psychological support to their students.

UNICEF Armenia also put together a psychological first aid guide. This guide has clear and concise information on how to respond to children in a mental health crisis. It emphasizes the importance of responding to children in an age-appropriate and individualized way.

The Increased Need for Mental Health Support in Armenia

Mental health in Armenia, especially following the conflict, is an issue that requires prioritization. The conflict and displacements have left 39,000 children out of school. The trauma caused by displacement has affected children in multiple ways. Ensuring the well-being of these children is a top priority for UNICEF and other organizations addressing mental health in Armenia. The hope is that these initiatives will combat the negative impacts of traumatic experiences in conflict-ridden areas like Nagorno-Karabakh.

Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in New Zealand
During the international struggle of dealing with COVID-19, New Zealand stood out as one of the few nations able to effectively and quickly minimize the virus. But the effects of COVID-19 on child poverty in New Zealand have worsened one of the country’s biggest social problems. More than 235,000 children live in poverty in New Zealand, a striking number considering New Zealand’s population of 4.8 million.

Child poverty in New Zealand is among the nation’s most dominant social issues. Tackling child poverty was a key tenant of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party Platform prior to her 2020 reelection. However, the economic fallout from the pandemic has hampered the government’s ability to deal with widespread poverty. Still, the government’s pandemic population assistance could be useful for taking on child poverty in the long term.

The Pandemic of Child Poverty

The New Zealand government defines child poverty across three measures. The first two include children living in low-income families before and after factoring in housing costs. The other encompasses children facing “material hardship.” Material hardship is a condition that a list of 17 factors in a child’s day-to-day life measures, such as owning two pairs of good shoes or having financial access to a doctor. If a child does not meet six of these items, the government considers them as living in material hardship. The government estimates that 13.4% of children in New Zealand were in material hardship in 2019 and that 20.8% of children lived in poverty after factoring in housing costs.

Even before COVID-19, the reduction of child poverty in New Zealand was challenging for the federal government. Even though Ardern and the Labour Party ran on the promise they would halve child poverty and material hardship by 2028, the percentage of children living below the poverty rate dropped by only 1.6% between 2018 and 2019. Early in 2020, UNICEF ranked New Zealand as having the 33rd worst record on child poverty out of 37 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

COVID-19 Response and Alleviating Poverty

The New Zealand government’s response to COVID-19 provided a number of economic and social safety nets to those the pandemic affected, dedicating 4% of its GDP to pandemic relief. New Zealanders received a weekly relief payment until June 30, 2020. The amounts ranged from $585 a week for full-time employees and $350 a week for part-time employees. The government also introduced wage subsidy programs for employers and employees, allowing families to earn their pre-pandemic income even if they were unable to work regular hours or at their place of employment.

According to the government’s 2020 Wellbeing Budget, these relief programs kept several families from slipping into poverty throughout the pandemic. In managing the COVID-19 crisis, Jacinda Ardern’s government found effective ways to manage child poverty in New Zealand. It did this through the subsidization of wages and relief programs with the intention of protecting household economic stability. In addition to wage subsidies and relief packages, the government has worked to fight poverty during the pandemic through:

  • Doubling the “Winter Energy Payment,” a welfare program with a design of helping low-income families and pensioners pay for energy bills.
  • Introducing a rent freeze to prevent low-income or unemployed households from eviction.
  • Negotiating with major banks on deferring mortgages.

The Future of Child Poverty Response

These benefits are temporary, with the purpose of shielding New Zealanders from the economic impact of the pandemic. However, the government is incorporating economic relief into its long-term plans to tackle child poverty in New Zealand. Labour’s 2020 Manifesto, which the government’s response to the pandemic shaped, includes extensive plans to assist low-income New Zealand households and workers. This includes extensions of COVID-19 relief programs, such as wage subsidies for those seeking employment.

Child poverty in New Zealand remains a high national priority for the government and the people of New Zealand. The government’s fast response to COVID-19 mitigated what could have been a disastrous increase in child poverty. Should Jacinda Ardern’s coalition government between Labour and the Green Party continue to follow the success of its COVID-19 response, New Zealand could take major strides in tackling child poverty.

– Kieran Graulich
Photo: Flickr

lunik IXAn uncomfortable reality is that there are many children in the world who do not have essentials such as food, water, electricity and a safe, sheltered home. This is the reality for the people living in Lunik IX in Slovakia.

Roma People in Lunik IX

There a several reasons why Lunik IX is an area that is neglected and overlooked by Slovakia. One is due to the large population of Roma people, a minority group unfairly discriminated against and long labeled as a reason for many problems in the country. The slum mostly consists of Roma people who lack the very things they need to rise out of poverty. The Roma population’s 97% unemployment rate is the biggest reason for poverty in the area. Many try to get jobs but are denied them purely based on their ethnicity.

This, as a result, heavily impacts children in Lunik IX. Their parents cannot provide for them, forcing them to live in a rundown area where there is little to no electricity and basic needs go unfulfilled. There is also little opportunity for them to break the cycle of poverty. All these issues have made the area a seemingly hopeless place for many of the children who live there.

Recreational Developments in Lunik IX

In the past few years, significant progress has been made in Lunik IX to improve living conditions for people. For one, there have been a lot of projects built purely for the purpose of giving children safe spaces to play in instead of playing in garbage and rubble. A gym, ping pong tables, a playground and a park have all been built, giving the residents safe recreational spaces. While these seem like small solutions to big problems, these spaces allow kids to be kids. The children of Lunik IX do not live typical childhoods and these projects allow them to engage in children’s play activities.

Other Key Developments in Lunik IX

Three important new developments in the area are the implementation of regular garbage disposal, the establishment of clean drinking water facilities and new construction projects. Lunik IX has been long plagued with poorly disposed of trash and a regular garbage disposal system eliminates this problem entirely. This alone can improve the health of people tenfold, as many of the diseases they face arise from unsanitary living conditions.

Clean drinking water is a necessity and it is something that Lunik IX lacks. There are plans for the reconstruction of water pipes with a prepaid system, which will ensure nobody accumulates debt from water payments.

Newer construction efforts are on track to solve the decay of many buildings and the lack of employment opportunities. Many of the newer buildings can be worked by residents, allowing them to have jobs they have previously been denied based on ethnicity.

Despite Lunik IX’s reputation as on of Europe’s worst slums, efforts are being made to change this and improve living conditions for the people.

– Remy Desai-Patel
Photo: Flickr