Information and stories addressing children.

childhood cancer in Kenya

The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked cancer as a leading case of death in children. Globally, the leading types of childhood cancers are cancer of the white blood cells and brain tumors. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the most common types are non-Hodgkins lymphoma, kidney cancer and bone marrow cancer. This article explains eight facts about childhood cancer in Kenya.

8 Facts About Childhood Cancer in Kenya

  1. Child Cancer Causes: According to the American Cancer Society, while known lifestyle-related factors can increase the risk of developing cancer in adults, the same is not true for children. Dr. William Macharia, a pediatrician based in Nairobi, Kenya, explained that the peak age of childhood cancer is between 3 and 7 years old which is not enough time for environmental factors to cause cancer. Instead, many believe that wrong cell division and multiplication after conception is the cause.
  2. Childhood Cancer Survival Rate: Only 20 percent of children with cancer in Kenya survive. This is in contrast to the developed countries where up to 80 percent of children with cancer survive. Once again, one can attribute this to the late diagnosis as well as the lack of specialized training and other challenges children face in getting treatment.
  3. Hospice Care Kenya: Hospice Care Kenya reports that only 1 percent of children in Kenya have access to appropriate palliative care. A large majority of children with cancer, therefore, die in pain and isolation. Hospice Care Kenya is working to improve palliative care in Kenya so that children could receive appropriate care which could enhance their quality of life and death.
  4. Radiation and Chemotherapy: One of the biggest challenges in treating childhood cancer is that radiation and chemotherapy have a lasting, damaging effect on children’s bodies. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that by the age of 50, more than half of those who survived childhood cancer experience a severe, disabling or life-threatening event and this could include death. This shows that more research is necessary to develop better treatment and care models for children diagnosed with cancer.
  5. Financial Challenges: One of the reasons why childhood cancer in Kenya does not receive diagnosis or treatment is because families experience financial difficulties in dealing with it. To begin with, most of the medical facilities where treatment is available are in urban centers so those from rural areas have to travel long distances to access them. Additionally, the cost of treatment, medicine and health insurance is too high for families to afford. When faced with the difficult choice of paying for the sick child and clothing, feeding and educating the rest of the family, families often choose the latter. World Child Cancer reports that almost 30 percent of children who begin treatment do not complete it.
  6. Limited Medical Training: There is a lack of specialized training of medical practitioners which leads to late diagnosis of childhood cancer in Kenya. By the time most children have a cancer diagnosis, the illness is already in its advanced stages. This is unfortunate because when people know they have cancer early enough, they can obtain treatment or at least manage the disease.
  7. The Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer and Shoe4Africa: The WHO announced the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer in September 2018. The initiative aims to reach a survival rate of at least 60 percent for children with cancer by 2030. Shoe4Africa plans to start Africa’s first children’s cancer hospital in Eldoret, Kenya. The organization opened Sub-Saharan Africa’s second public children’s hospital in Eldoret and currently, 400 patients receive treatment at the hospital every day.
  8. Funding for Cancer Treatment: The government of Kenya provides funding to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, which diagnoses over 100 children with cancer in a year. While this helps to ease the burden for families, it is not enough to cover all the costs. The majority of patients, therefore, have to pay out-of-pocket for their medical expenses. In Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest hospital in Kenya, the Israeli embassy renovated and equipped the children’s cancer wards to ensure that the children are comfortable while seeking treatment.

There is an urgent need for different sectors to come together and set up effective ways of dealing with childhood cancer in Kenya. These methods must also be affordable to all citizens. Kenyans can look to the successes of developed countries as an example. Beyond that, the public needs to receive more education on childhood cancers. This can happen through public health awareness campaigns such as those Kenya used to successfully inform and educate the public on diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

All As One is Fighting Child Poverty
All As One is an orphanage fighting child poverty in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world – 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The 340,000 orphaned children feel the disparities of this country in particular. They have a one in five chance of dying before they reach the age of 5 and a 57 percent chance of never learning to read.

Recently, The Borgen Project had the opportunity to speak to the Executive Director of All As One, Deanna Wallace. During the interview, Wallace noted that All As One has been working in Sierra Leone over the past 20 years and that the orphanage has impacted “the lives of over 35,000 children and young adults, helping to bring change to a generation of children.”

How All As One Fights Child Poverty

Four main factors cause poverty in Sierra Leone including corruption within the government, insufficient infrastructure, lack of education and inadequate civil rights. Children often die at birth due to low-quality health care or starvation. The problem of child poverty worsened after the 2014 Ebola outbreak, which left thousands more children orphaned and impoverished.

All As One is fighting child poverty in Sierra Leone by taking care of its most vulnerable children and young adults. The orphanage provides them with a home, education, medical care and other amenities as needed. While All As One does not offer adoption services, the amenities it does provide help these children establish a healthier lifestyle.

Wallace stated that, “All As One helps fight poverty on the ground level, mainly through education, so that their children can find jobs and support themselves as adults.” The organization also gives micro-loans to entrepreneurial young women with dreams of starting a business. In addition, All As One provides nourishing meals to 100 children every day, with hopes that these children escape the grips of poverty.

The organization currently has about 45 children in care and about 55 daily patrons from the surrounding community, who visit for schooling and food.

Life At the Center

Life for a child at All As One involves going to school, doing homework, completing small chores, having playtime in the afternoons, attending church on Sundays and occasionally going on outings. Reflecting upon these offerings, Wallace said that “the children we care for have it better than so many [children in Sierra Leone] like those who are forced into the workforce as a child.” A staggering 51.3 percent of children in Sierra Leone are subject to child labor.

Recent Strides in Fighting Global Poverty

Recently, five All As One students received the opportunity to take a university entrance exam. Although the test typically has a 95 percent failure rate, all five AAO students passed the exam and were able to continue on to attend university. Victories such as this encourage All As One to continue its fight against poverty in Sierra Leone.

– Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Child Labor in Kenya
According to UNICEF, a child laborer is a child who is too young to work or one who is involved in hazardous activities that could compromise their physical, mental, social and educational development. In Kenya, the Employment Act 2007 and the Children Act define a child as any person below the age of 18 years. Section 56 of the Employment Act makes it illegal to employ children under the age of 13. Children between the ages of 13 to 16 can be employed in “light work” while those between 16 and 18 are considered employable. Keep reading to learn the top seven facts about child labor in Kenya.

7 Facts About Child Labor in Kenya

  1. Farming, sand harvesting, drug peddling, street hawking, domestic work and sex work are the most common industries where child labor is present in Kenya. The commercial sexual exploitation of children tends to be more prevalent in tourism-heavy areas which include the capital city — Nairobi — and the coast.

  2. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most child laborers in Kenya (including those who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation) are girls. However, boys are also involved. Overall, 35.6 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 engage are considered child laborers.

  3. Lack of education is one of the causes of child labor in Kenya. Primary education is free and mandatory but some parents are often unable to afford books, uniforms and other learning materials. Furthermore, 40 percent of those who complete primary school do not transition to secondary school, leaving many children at risk of exploitation. In 2018, the government began rolling out free secondary education for all Kenyans which will hopefully help curb this obstacle.

  4. Several laws protect children from child labor in Kenya including the Employment Act 2007. The Children’s Act says that children should be protected from economic exploitation, any work that interferes with their education, and work that is harmful to a child’s health or social, mental, physical and spiritual development. Additionally, the law mandates that no child shall be recruited in armed conflicts.

  5. Kenya has ratified several international conventions that are aimed at protecting children from exploitation. These include Minimum Age, Worst Forms of Child Labour, Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict, and the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons. However, Kenya is yet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography which leaves children vulnerable to sex work.

  6. While some people may argue that child labor is beneficial to the economy because it raises a family’s income, this is hardly true. It harms the country’s economy in the long run as children are denied the opportunity to an education which could give them skills useful for getting a better job in the future.

  7. The government is doing its part in trying to end child labor in Kenya. In 2018, they increased the number of labor inspectors as well as the number of inspections conducted. The government also operates an emergency, toll-free child hotline to report instances of child abuse, including child labor. Organizations such as Save the Children and the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect are also helping out.

The government can help speed up the eradication of child labor in Kenya by subsidizing the cost of books, uniforms and other fees to ensure that all children can attend school. Additionally, there is a need to ensure that laws explicitly define and set parameters for what children can and cannot do. Finally, the government can ensure that the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services have sufficient financial and human resources to address child labor violations.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Africa
Many are moving to eradicate child labor in Africa by 2025. According to The International Labor Organization of the United Nations (ILO), child labor defines any hazardous work depriving children of their childhood and their education. Africa is the continent with the highest child labor rates at 72.1 million children to date. However, it has also seen an increase in awareness and a shift toward eradicating the practice. Below are 10 facts about child labor in Africa and the progress people are making to eradicate it.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Africa

  1. Eradicating Child Labor: One in five children is employed against their will in quarries, farms and mines. However, efforts to eradicate child labor have been valiant in areas such as building schools, supporting agricultural cooperatives, advising farmers on better production methods and paying farmers more for production.
  2. Child Labor End Date: Sub-Saharan Africa employs 59 million children between the ages of 5 and 17, according to the ILO. Eradication initiatives such as Alliance 8.7 proposed 2025 as the desired end date of child labor in Africa. For example, Uganda, Tanzania and Togo have made progress by training 25 child ambassadors and providing education to child labor employers on the negative impacts of employing children.
  3. Hazardous Work: In Africa, 31.4 million children are in hazardous work including forced labor, prostitution and working in mines. There are 168 million children globally in farm labor, 98 million in agriculture and 12 million in manufacturing. The largest commodities that child labor produces are gold, tobacco, banana, sugarcane, cotton, rubber and cocoa.
  4. The Cocoa Industry: In 2015, the U.S. Labor Department reported that over 2 million children worked on cocoa farms in West Africa. Chocolate companies like Mars, Hershey and Nestle have signed a deal to end the use of child labor in their chocolate production. Additionally, Fairtrade America offered farmers more money for certified cocoa, cocoa that farmers produce without child labor, to prevent child labor and alleviate poverty.
  5. The Harkin-Engel Protocol: According to Fairtrade and World Bank, farmers in Africa receive $1,900 and that amount is well below the poverty line for a typical family. Moreover, 60 percent lack access to electricity and UNESCO states that the literacy rate is only 44 percent. The Ivory Coast signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol to monitor and account for people involved in child trafficking, and eliminate child labor in the cocoa industry.
  6. Child Labor and Crises: Countries experiencing crises have the highest number of child laborers. These countries might experience challenging circumstances such as unemployment, lack of social services and extreme poverty. Alliance 8.7 elects the efforts and focus that delegates of the African Union, U.N. agencies and government officials’ support in combating social and economic issues.
  7. Child Labor and Family: Most child laborers do not receive pay and many often work on family-owned farms or companies because their families cannot afford to send them to school. Children often must work in communities suffering conflict, especially in the case where the main breadwinner dies. The Foreign Affairs Committee is working on legislation to address child labor and supply chains.
  8. Child Labor Ages: Fifty-nine percent of child laborers are between the ages of 5 and 11, 26 percent are between 12 and 14 and 15 percent are between 15 and 17. In a 2018 survey, a Tulane University Researcher found that people who were not the children’s parents brought at least 16,000 children to West African farms. Reports also stated that 40 percent of Burkina Faso children are without proper birth records and for that reason, no one has been able to identify them.
  9. Child Laborers Under 5-Years-Old: Child laborers under the age of 5 have also grown in number and they face hazardous work conditions as well. For example, they might spend the day doing hard manual labor such as swinging machetes, carrying heavy loads and spraying pesticides.
  10. Solutions: A better understanding of how people should implement policies and revise them are among the discussions taking place toward ending child labor. The Harkin-Engel Protocol, The United Nations, the United Kingdom Modern Act, Barack Obama’s Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, Anti-Slavery International and the African Union Action Plan are all commitments in place to end child labor and modern-day child slavery. Barack Obama’s Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act is to prevent imports from entering the U.S. that child labor has produced, while the African Union Action Plan aims to eliminate child labor in Africa altogether.

These 10 facts on child labor in Africa are examples of the progress toward eliminating child labor by 2025. Continued efforts in preserving the well being of children in Africa shows the nation’s determination in the total eradication of child laborers. Oversight and accountability will continue to play an integral part in its success.

– Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

Typhoid Fever in Asia
Typhoid fever is a menace to developing nations, especially those that lack access to proper sanitation facilities. Nowhere is this more problematic than in Asia, where most typhoid fever fatalities occur. However, plenty of groups are doing their part to end the scourge of typhoid fever in Asia through the spread of clean water and proper sanitation.

What is Typhoid Fever?

Food and water contaminated with excrement that contains the bacteria Salmonella enterica causes the transmission of typhoid fever. Due to this, typhoid fever was once incredibly prevalent in urban areas throughout Europe and the United States during the 19th century as these countries frequently lacked sound sewage systems to deal with human waste. In the modern era, people only commonly see typhoid fever in the developing world, specifically in areas with poor sanitary conditions.

Common symptoms of typhoid fever are a sustained fever that can peak at around 103-104˚F, fatigue, bowel issues, wheezing and stomach pains. Typhoid fever risk factors in endemic areas include contaminated water, housing with subpar hygiene facilities and contact with a recently infected individual. Those affected can become chronic infectors, people who have on and off symptoms for extended periods and can transmit the disease to others regardless of if they are having an episode or not.

Typhoid fever has been treatable with vaccines since 1948, and mass immunization has proven successful in the past. However, typhoid that is resistant to the most common type of treatment (chloramphenicol) is now emerging. With approximately 16 million cases of typhoid fever reported each year, a treatment-resistant strain is a horrifying prospect. Thankfully, full resistance to treatment is exceedingly rare.

Why Asia and Who is Helping?

Most typhoid fever deaths happen in Asia, where 90 percent of all typhoid related deaths occur. Countries, where typhoid fever in Asia is endemic, include India, China, Vietnam, Pakistan and Indonesia. A significant factor contributing towards the spread of typhoid fever is a lack of sanitary water facilities, and thankfully, NGOs like Charity: Water have made it their mission to bring clean water to all developing nations.

Charity: Water does this by promoting and financing projects aimed at the creation and distribution of sanitary water facilities like latrines, hand-dug and drilled wells and piped water systems.  One of the countries that Charity: Water has had a significant impact on is India. The organization has been working there since 2008 and has funded 4,479 projects with a total of $10,738,062 spread across all these projects.

The Future of Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever was once a prominent issue in the United States and Europe, but with proper water and waste management systems, they have thoroughly eradicated it. Typhoid fever in Asia is a problem that countries can handle through the creation of clean water facilities. With the help of NGOs like Charity: Water, the world can finally eliminate typhoid fever once and for all, not just from the United States and Europe, but all across the globe.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr

War Child U.K. Helps Children
Filmmakers David Wilson and Bill Leeson founded War Child after they witnessed the horrors of the Bosnian war and saw the apathy that political leaders back home in the United Kingdom had towards it. Some of the organization’s highlights include providing support to 123,182 children and families around the world and helping some 26,274 undocumented children receive recognition. War Child UK has grown since its founding and now has sister organizations in various countries such as Holland, Canada, the U.S., Australia and Sweden. These help War Child support and protect even more children. War Child UK helps children affected by war in various ways which include providing education, protection and advocacy, and helping improve youth livelihoods. These are a few highlights of the organization’s work:

Child Helplines in the DRC

Life in eastern DRC, where armed groups are still active, is still dangerous, even though the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ended officially in 2003. Children bear the brunt of the conflict in this country. The U.N. reports that children were victims of more than 11,500 violations between 2014 and 2017. War Child UK runs a free helpline called Tukinge Watoto (meaning “Let’s Protect Children”) to help provide support to at-risk children and make sure that law enforcers respect their rights. Using the helpline, children can speak directly to social workers and trained counselors. The helpline then refers them to local child protection organizations, but those in emergency or high-risk situations go into protective care. So far, 4,860 children in DRC have received protection information through the helpline.

Emergency Food Assistance in Yemen

War has been going on in Yemen for more than four years now. The U.N. estimates that more than 80 percent of the population needs some form of humanitarian aid, with 7.4 million of this number being children. It has also been reported that more than 2 million children are malnourished. War Child UK helps children by offering both food and cash assistance in Yemen. The first food assistance program started in 2017. Rather than directly distributing food items, the organization provides food vouchers that help families buy food that can last for around a month. War Child U.K. began distributing unconditional monthly cash assistance to vulnerable families in the governorate of Sana’a because they felt it gave families the independence to choose how they spend their money, be it on food, clothing or medicine. Currently, the organization is working in the governorates of Sana’a, Ibb and Taiz.

Livelihoods in Uganda

Northern Uganda has received a huge influx of some 200,000 refugees from South Sudan in the past few years. War Child works with KATI, a social enterprise, to provide youth in the region with business training and access to start-up loans. War Child initially set up KATI, but it is now an independent organization. The partnership between the two organizations has had plenty of success as 1,500 youth have benefitted since its beginning. In 2017 alone, KATI helped launched 146 business ideas in Northern Uganda. War Child notes that it is important to help the youth find jobs or start businesses to prevent social tension and further instability. It also helps youth transition successfully into adulthood.

War Child UK helps children by providing them with a voice and support, especially those who grow up in environments of conflict and war. It is important that an organization exists like it exists to cater to the needs of these young people who the future of their respective nations.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

poor in Myanmar
Agriculture is Myanmar’s most important sector and provides jobs for more than 60 percent of the population. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, decreased its poverty rate from 48.2 percent in 2005 to 24.8 percent in 2017. One of the reasons for this huge reduction in poverty is its transition from a military-led government through economic reforms and development in sectors such as agriculture, finance, transportation and energy. The poor in Myanmar reside mainly in rural areas, and have poor education and employment in the agriculture field. By developing the agriculture industry, the government intends to continue to reduce its poverty.

Developing the Agriculture Sector

A 2018 report launched by the Central Statistical Organization, with technical support from the UNDP and the World Bank, provided data on poverty in Myanmar and what the country needs to do to continually reduce poverty. The report acknowledged the success of reducing the poverty rate in half, yet brought up challenges in alleviating poverty in rural areas such as the Chin State. The Chin State is a state in western Myanmar with about a 60 percent poverty rate. Approximately 500,000 live in the Chin State. Since the poor in Myanmar have employment in the agriculture sector, the key findings show that the country can achieve poverty reduction by focusing its efforts on improving agricultural productivity.

Myanmar is the second-largest exporter of beans and pulses and the ninth-largest exporter of rice. In 2016 and 2017, Myanmar exported agricultural products worth more than $3 billion, yet productivity was less than neighbors such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. Low productivity has stalled poverty reduction in areas such as Chin State due to relying on crops that are expensive to maintain and less profitable than most other crops that endure the same climate.

How Exactly Can Myanmar Reduce Poverty?

Findings from a separate report delved into even greater detail about what Myanmar needs to do to improve agricultural productivity, and therefore, increase income for the poor in Myanmar. The report, Myanmar: Analysis of Farm Production Economics, stated that a single day’s harvest during the 2013/2014 monsoon season produced 23 kg per paddy. In comparison, Cambodia produced 62 kg, Vietnam 429 kg and Thailand 547 kg per day. Reasons for lower production of paddy than Myanmar’s competitors include poor seed quality, insignificant use of fertilizers and a lack of infrastructure.

The conclusion to the report mentioned the need for broad-based agricultural development, as most farmers in the country produce paddy and not much else. Paddy is more expensive to produce and less profitable than other crops in the region. A lack of infrastructure further impedes progress and causes farmers to seek employment in distant urban areas for higher wages. The poor in Myanmar could benefit from diversifying into low-cost crops, especially ones that can handle the typical monsoon weather that the country experiences.

Investors Taking Action

The government and private investors are currently investing in Myanmar’s agriculture sector, particularly the growing fertilizer sector. Myanmar Awba Group received a $10 million loan from the International Finance Corporation to construct a chemical plant that will produce fertilizer. The Hmawbi Agricultural Input Complex opened in August 2018 and is expected to meet 50 percent of the demand for fertilizer in Myanmar. The demand for fertilizer has increased in the country, attracting investors from across the world. The Japanese conglomerate Marubeni Corporation invested $18.5 million in a fertilizer facility in the Thilawa SEZ.

Myanmar is also dealing with infrastructure, low productivity and poor seed quality this year, 2019. In January 2019, CITIC Corporation collaborated with Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation (MAPCO) to invest $500 million into constructing high-end rice mills and agribusiness service centers across Myanmar. Ye Min Aung, the Managing Director of MAPCO, said, “The establishment of the high-end rice mills will boost both the local and export market.” Thanks to foreign investors and government initiatives, Myanmar is seeing action in poverty reduction by focusing efforts on improving the agriculture industry.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Child Labor in Algeria

Algeria — a country characterized by political instability — has made some strides to address the worst forms of child labor. However, according to the Department of Labor (DOL), “The government has not sufficiently prohibited the use of children in illicit activities or determined by national law or regulation the types of work that are hazardous for children to perform.” Keep reading to learn the top seven facts about child labor in Algeria.

7 Facts About Child Labor in Algeria

  1. Although the legal minimum age for work eligibility is 16, 6.7 percent of children in Algeria (ages 5 to 14) are currently working. This amounts to more than 413,000 working children.
  2. While there has been no comprehensive study that provides more insight into the scope of each sector of work, it is known that children in Algeria work on farms, usually harvesting olives; in the street, vending, collecting plastics and even begging. Others perform various services for businesses and workshops and do domestic work. However, the worst type of child labor is in the form of commercial sexual exploitation that often results in human trafficking and participation in drug smuggling.
  3. Granting children access to education is known to help reduce rates of child labor. Algeria offers free public schooling for anyone with a valid birth certificate and 92.3 percent of children attend school. However, the lack of teachers trained to help with students who have disabilities and the existing stigma keep many children with disabilities from attending school. Additionally, many migrant children do not have birth certificates making them ineligible. For these reasons, both of these populations are particularly vulnerable to child labor.
  4. Child labor is often associated with immigrant communities in Algeria. Migrant children who are subject to work are primarily from the sub-Saharan region of Africa and are most likely to be forced into sexual exploitation and domestic work. Additionally, migrants from Niger are known to bring children “rented” from smuggling networks along with them while begging in the streets.
  5. Fortunately, the Algerian government recognizes this as a major problem and has been working to end child labor within their borders. In 2016 the government began a campaign titled The National Commission for the Prevention of and Fight Against Child Labor, creating radio and television programs that spread awareness about the negative effects of child labor and working to bring that message into religious sermons. The initiative also offers assistance to families in need, in the hope that lessening their financial stress will reduce the likelihood of the children being sent to work. While this campaign is a step in the right direction, there is no evidence on how effective it has been, and the Bureau of International Labor Affairs considers it to be only a “moderate advancement” along the path to end child labor.
  6. The Bureau of International Labor states that in the fight to end child labor it is essential not only to create relevant policy but also to assign the issue to a centralized government body or authority in order to stay up to date on the issue and monitor the effectiveness of the policy. Algeria has successfully done this by delegating the issue to the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare’s Labor Inspection Directorate. This has resulted in advancements such as the Ministry of Labor organizing training sessions for 136 judges on the legal framework for the protection of children.
  7. The government has made a difference through policy as well with the National Action Plan for the Prevention of and Fight Against Trafficking in Persons. While this policy is more focused on the specific issue of human trafficking, this inevitably intertwined with child labor and has resulted in 79 prosecuted child labor cases.

Madeline Lyons
Photo: Flickr

Orphans in Belarus
In 2008, an economic crisis hit Belarus causing over 25,000 orphans. In addition to this, the effects of Chernobyl are still causing birth defects in children. Limited resources have put these disabled, Belarusian children into orphanages which contributes to a large number of institutionalized children without proper care.

5 Facts About Orphans in Belarus

  1. Economic Crisis: In 2008, an economic downturn caused over 25,000 children to become orphaned. In many cases, the government separated Belarusian children from their families because it deemed their families’ homes unfit, especially since many did not have the financial ability to care for children with disabilities. The ChildFund is an organization that helps work with communities in order to help Belarusians deal with neglect, poverty and misconceptions about orphaned and disabled children. Childfund states that, as a result of its efforts, three of five piloted communities have stopped placing children in orphanages.
  1. Disabilities: According to UNICEF, about 35 percent of institutionalized Belarusian orphans are living with some form of disability. Belarusian disabled children lack the care and education necessary to facilitate their growth and improve their well-being. UNICEF is currently working with the Belarusian government in order to make disabled Belarusian children a priority.
  1. Worst Conditions: Nearly 100 children and young adults were starving in Minsk orphanages in 2017. Some weighed under 35 pounds with one 20-year-old weighing under 25 pounds. The director of children’s hospices said that staff treat many children as plants. A full criminal investigation launched and many people lost their positions. UNICEF opened in Minsk in 1997 and is working with the Republic of Belarus in order to create a healthy and safe environment for every child.
  1. Adoption for Americans: From 2001 to 2004, Americans adopted hundreds of Belarusian children. In 2004, President Aliakansandr Lukashenko imposed new restrictions on adoptions and this has put a hold on the number of adoptions between Belarus and America. Still, in 2019, this hold is in effect and has prevented Americans from being able to adopt Belarusian children, even if they are living in Belarus.
  1. How to Help: There are several fantastic organizations that are helping children in Belarus. ChildFund International has implemented a program that allows people to donate vitamins to help disabled orphans in Belarus. It has also established a Supporting Orphans and Vulnerable Children program which allows people to sponsor and donate to orphans in Belarus. UNICEF is also supporting orphans in Belarus by defending their rights. World Without Orphans is another organization that helps orphans in Belarus and has offered support for children and families since 2012.

A lot has been accomplished in Belarus in order to help Belarusian orphans, however, the changes are slow and require everyone to do their part. More awareness, a release of holds on potential parents and financial assistance should end the increased influx of Belarusian orphans in Belarus. In addition to this, children with disabilities should receive the proper care they require.

– Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr

Tobacco industry labour conditions
The global tobacco market accounted for $663.76 billion in 2017, and the tobacco industry is an economic sector employing millions of men and women. However, behind the scenes of the tobacco industry lies the death of 8 million people yearly, the creation of dependency and diseases for tobacco farmers, as well as extreme poverty, child labor and environmental issues. Tobacco industry labor conditions are very poor and require reform.

Tobacco Farmers

The tobacco industry controls the tobacco cycle from seed to sale and in most producing countries, tobacco companies operate in a contract system through which companies provide the inputs required–including seeds and chemicals for production–in the form of credit for farmers. Farmers agree to sell their tobacco leaf to specific companies at a set price in return. For many farmers, the revenue earned from their tobacco leaf sales barely suffices to cover their costs or repay their loans. This creates a debt cycle.

Moreover, Human Rights Watch reported labor rights abuses on large-scale tobacco farms. In Zimbabwe, some workers reported overtime and excess working hours after their employers pressured them, but they did not receive compensation for it. Other incidents and labor abuses include underpaid or delayed wages and occasionally going two months without receiving their salary, which makes it hard for workers to maintain a basic living standard.

Health Issues

Tobacco cultivation exposes workers and farmers to health hazards from pesticide exposure to nicotine poisoning. Physical contact with wet tobacco leaves causes the body to absorb nicotine leading to poisoning called green tobacco sickness (GTS). This involves symptoms of nausea, vomiting, fluctuating blood pressure and heart rate and trouble breathing, and they are quite frequent among tobacco workers.

Tobacco industry labor conditions expose workers to high amounts of pesticides which damages the human nervous system and can also cause pesticide poisoning; common symptoms include convulsions, respiratory problems, nausea, kidney damages and skin irritation. Children to have a lower intoxication threshold due to their smaller body mass and weaker immune system, which reinforces the issue of child labor in the tobacco industry.

Child Labor in the Tobacco Industry

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 108 million children work in agriculture, representing 70 percent of overall child labor. Although child employment is not easy to verify, some believe that millions work in the tobacco industry. Families living in poverty and dependent on tobacco production for a living often make their children work in tobacco farms and factories to help them. Because children start working from a very early age, they do not obtain a necessary education which could help them break away from the poverty cycle.

Child labor in the tobacco industry is prominent in India, especially in the production of Bidi. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10 percent of female workers and 5 percent of male workers in the bidi industry in India are below the age of 14 and that 40 percent of those children never went to school. Besides, although child labor is illegal in India, the county cannot incriminate employers as they do not include working children officially on their payrolls.

Many companies in the tobacco industry have adopted policies prohibiting children from working in direct contact with green tobacco, which is a step forward in limiting the health risks for children working in the tobacco industry. However, none of the tobacco companies adopted policies prohibiting the involvement of children working in direct contact with tobacco (such as dry tobacco). Moreover, the tobacco industry does not have, unlike other industries, a zero-tolerance policy for child labor, despite publicly condemning it.

International Reaction

In June 2018, 130 public health and sustainable development organizations wrote a letter to the ILO urging it not to renew or extend contracts with Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco-Growing (ECLT), which is a group that the tobacco industry funds, and Japan Tobacco International (JTI), which ties the ILO to the tobacco industry. Yet, despite the recommendations from the U.N. Interagency Task Force (UNIATF), the ILO still has not cut its ties, which include funding, and its partnerships with the tobacco industry. With regards to tobacco companies, some ‘Tobacco giants’ begun reforming their practices, such as Philip Morris International who committed to eliminating child labour entirely from its supply chain by 2025, hopefully leading the way for the rest of the industry.”

Considering that one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (Target 8.7) aims to eradicate child labor in all its forms by 2025, the ILO must make it a priority and address the root causes of child labor. Besides, companies and governments must work hand in hand to increasingly adopt adequate labor policies to improve tobacco industry labor conditions, reduce the health risks workers and farmers suffer from, as well as enforce a zero-tolerance child labor policy.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr