Information and stories addressing children.

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UNITED NATIONS – The 2006 U.N. Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children defines violence as the intentional use of physical force or power that results in injury, death, psychological harm or deprivation. This year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a report to the U.N. Security Council on Somalia discussing the drop in violence against Somali children over the last 12 months. Between January and March of 2013, the number of “grave violations” against children had dropped to 552 cases, a considerable decrease when compared to the 1,840 cases in the same months of 2012. In the first quarter of 2013 alone, the number of children killed, maimed, abused and recruited to fight in Somalia was cut in half, thanks largely to a less open combat between the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab and Somali forces.

The al-Shabaab militants began their crusade for strict Islamic law in Somalia back in 2007. The Somali government has struggled to contain the militants. In fact, the Somali military can be likened more to a group of competing militias than a unified policing force. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the majority of violations against Somali children including abductions, recruitment, sexual violence and attacks on schools were committed by al-Shabaab militants affiliated with al Qaeda; however the majority of child killings could be traced back to Somali National Forces.

A U.N.-mandated African Union peacekeeping force has lead the fight against al-Shabaab where Somalian forces were unable or ill-equipped to influence the situation. Most of the security gains made over the past two years have been a direct result of the 17,600 member peacekeeping Union. They have successfully reclaimed territory from al-Shabaab militants, but Ban Ki-moon worries that the peacekeeping mission will fail to hold territory or pressure militants out of other areas without additional resources.

Ban Ki-moon’s report urges countries to help in the peacekeeping mission in any way that they can, but was specific in his support of the 2012 ban on purchasing Somali charcoal, an export that generated more than $25 million in revenue for al-Shabaab in 2011.

– Dana Johnson

Source: Huffington Post, UNICEF
Photo: Eric Lafforgue

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Despite the importance of global education, donor agencies and major developed countries have decreased their federal budgets and funding. Developing countries like India are working hard to get children into school and are increasing enrollment rates, but the fact remains that attendance rates and general accessibility to education in developing countries are lower than they should be.

Vikas Pota, CEO of Varkey GEMS Foundation, interprets this as “a major setback for children all over the world”, and states that “we need innovative solutions to make sure children have the opportunity to attend school”.  The Varkey GEMS Foundation attempts to imrove the standards of education for underprivileged children, with one of their major goals being to impact 100 underprivileged children for every child enrolled in a GEMS school. In order to ensure that “every child has a chance to prosper”, the foundation provides scholarships and leadership development, as well as builds schools throughout the developing world. Another core goal of the foundation is to promote gender equality and provide for girl’s and women’s education as well.

At the launch of the foundation in December 2010, Bill Clinton had this to say, “There will rarely be people who launch something with so much potential to lift the hopes and spirits and dreams of children as this Foundation has done tonight. The benefits from an educated child will affect not only the child itself, but his or her family and the wider community… the world is depending on it”. By focusing on education of underprivileged children, it is the hope of Pota and of the foundation that those children will be able to lift themselves from poverty into a life of better opportunities and independence.

Pota believes that the biggest crisis we face in education “is that of not investing enough in our teachers”. Over the next ten years, the foundation hopes to train over 250,000 teachers globally, with the help of government aid. Another problem is that the majority of aid to basic education is not allocated to the lowest income countries where the most aid is needed. Pota calls for collective responsibility and action, which starts with the citizens. Calls to congress people and legislators are the most effective way to show support, and will increase the likelihood that budgets for education-based aid will increase.

– Sarah Rybak
Source: Huffington Post, Gems Education
Photo: A Celebration of Women

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Below the boom of Asian economies are millions of child workers. These children are working in dangerous, unsanitary and often times degrading conditions. They are the “Nowhere” children. Neither enrolled in school nor officially employed, these children live in the in-between space as children in a very adult world. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there may be around 48 million of these Nowhere children.

South Asia has the largest population of children in any region. Consequently, it is also home to some of the largest numbers of children involved in underage labor and exploitation. The ILO has also estimated that there are 21.6 million children, out of a population of 300 million between the ages of 5 and 14, who are working in South Asia.

Children who do not attend any form of schooling are more likely to wind up in child labor for more than 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with very little pay. Children in these conditions are also in harm’s way as they can be easily exploited and become the victims of violence.

What causes child labor is complex and multifaceted causes. Poverty and income inequality along with the lack of education and social protection are among the key causes. Many children are also trafficked into bonded labor. Additionally, culture in South Asia often dictates that children are often perceived as adults much earlier in their lives. Thus, Children are expected to work as hard as adults when they are as young as ten years old.

For this years International Day Against Child Labor, the humanitarian agency World Vision has called upon governments, businesses and civil society to take action to end child labor in Asia Pacific.

Abid Gulzar, World Vision’s Advocacy and Justice for Children Associate Director in Asia and Pacific have stated that “Child labor doesn’t just take away childhood from children, it also triggers a vicious cycle of poverty and exploitation.” Thus he calls for increased access for these “Nowhere” children to education, proper nutrition and health services.  World Vision is the Co-Chair of the South Asia Coordinating Group on Action against Violence towards children (SACG).  World Vision has worked and continues to coordinate with the United Nation agencies and international Non-profit organizations for children’s rights in South Asia.

– Grace Zhao
Source: Thomas Reuters Foundation, International Labor Organization
Photo: Sunset Blogging

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Among the many issues discussed at the 2013 Women Deliver conference, women’s ability to choose the size of their families was main topic. Speakers in the conference praised improvements in women’s access to contraceptives poor countries and made plans on how to continue this success.

Last year at the London Summit on Family Planning, world leaders pledged to contribute $2.6 billion to help 120 million women in developing countries with health services and contraceptives by 2020. The Women Deliver 2013 conference discussed how to utilize these funds so that it benefits women who need access to such services.

Melinda Gates, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported the plans made at the conference by stating, “Putting women at the center of development and delivering solutions that meet their needs will result in huge improvements in health, prosperity and quality of life.”

Attendees of the conference heard testimonials from numerous third would countries successful experiences with family planning services. Representatives from Senegal, the Philippines, the Women Deliver Zambia, Indonesia and Malawi spoke about how they have made improvements in women’s health rights and access to contraceptives.

Given the effectiveness and low-cost of contraceptives, advocates for women’s health hope to encourage other developing countries to follow the example of their peers and introduce women’s health policies. Speakers also stressed a need to sustain these outlooks on family planning and introduce the concept to a broader audience.

When women have access to contraceptives and other health services, their economic and social situation will also improve. As part of the effort to combat global poverty and promote gender equality, family planning is an issue that should be center stage in developing countries.

– Mary Penn

Source: All Africa
Photo: UN Foundation

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For the people living in the Korogocho slums in Nairobi, Kenya, life can be a constant struggle. The threat of disease and unclean drinking water looms in the minds of those who have no other options but to live in areas with broken sewage pipes and “flying toilets.” These unsanitary conditions put the people in Korogocho at risk for health problems and leave them vulnerable to exploitative water companies.

The typical day for someone living in the slums may involve the use of a flying toilet, a plastic bag used to dispose of human waste. While there are some pay-toilets, most people cannot afford the money to use one. As a result, these plastic bags can be found discarded in the streets of the slums among the broken sewer lines.

As the population in Nairobi grows, more slums are popping up. In Kenya the number of people without access to toilets has risen to 20%. Access to piped water is even lower in urban areas, 38.4% (and 13.4% of the rural population). These numbers are likely to mimic the sanitation circumstances in Nairobi.

The health implications of unsanitary water systems are illnesses including malnutrition, diarrhea, cholera and typhoid fever. When water mixes with sewage, it creates a breeding ground for inimical viruses and germs. International health organizations and Kenya’s government are eager to improve sanitation in order to save lives. Currently one in five African children die from diarrhea before the age of five.

Simple ways to improve the sanitation system in Korogocho include mobile toilets, bucket removal, and dry composting toilets. However, even these solutions can result in human remains ending up in the Nairobi River. The Kenyan population is expected to increase by one million people every year, which will further exacerbate the struggling water and sanitation system. Until these problems are seriously addressed, Kenyans will continue endure preventable illnesses.

– Mary Penn

Source: IRIN News
Photo: The Guardian

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There is a new charity that focuses on ending global poverty. Dr. Michael Omidi and Julian Omidi are the co-founders of the organization and plan to utilize their resources to support children living in Southeast Asia. More specifically, the organization seeks out extremely impoverished children in the region and work with the community to provide safe housing and an education to the children.

No More Poverty is working with two other charities, Global Family and New Eden Charity Foundation, who share the same goal of helping children who are suffering from extreme poverty. Michael Omidi is especially passionate about reaching out to children because, “We all know that the ravages of extreme poverty and political conflict have the greatest impact on children…. many are simply abandoned by broken families who can no longer care for them.”

By working with community organizations and training local volunteers, No More Poverty hopes to change the lives on many young people. The organization’s partner, New Eden Charity, is working with children, except the group is located in Myanmar. The children living in this country are particularly vulnerable because schools are scarce and young people are often forced into manual labor jobs. Due to poverty, many young girls become sex slaves in bordering countries. New Eden Charity is raising funds to build schools in Myanmar in order to improve the futures of these children.

No More Poverty also partners with the organization Global Family, a non-profit that rescued children from families that abuse, oppress or abandon them. Global Family works with local community organizations and volunteers to ensure the safety of these children. Since No More Poverty is still in the process of becoming an official not-for-profit charity, it is focusing its efforts on supporting these other organizations. Once No More Poverty is able to act as a charity, it will shift its efforts to reaching out to the children in Southeast Asia who are in desperate need of help.

– Mary Penn

Source: SFGate
Poverty: Omidi Brothers Charities

Birth Rates and Poverty in Niger
Niger is the seventh poorest country in the world. It is an example of the multitudinous effects of extreme poverty. With high political instability, high levels of gender inequality, high birth rates, high levels of malnutrition and ethnic conflict, attempts to lift Niger out of poverty have often failed because of the magnitude and multitude of problems to be faced.

The population of Niger works largely in fishing and farming. As a result, they are unusually susceptible to natural disasters and climate conditions. A 2005 drought that led to a massive food shortage had devastating effects on the people and the economy, with the IMF forgiving 100% of the nation’s debt, roughly $86 million USD. In 2010, famine wiped out many people and the country reported the outbreak of multiple diseases, with deaths due to diarrhea, starvation, gastroenteritis, malnutrition and respiratory diseases.

Education levels in Niger are among the lowest in the world, with many children unenrolled and children often forced to work instead of study. Nomadic children often do not have access to schools.

The high birth-rates in Niger are a problem, as they contribute to an expanding population whose families cannot support them. This is partly as a result of the belief that the greater the number of children one family has, the greater the chance that a family will be lifted out of poverty when one finds success.

– Farahnaz Mohammed
Source: Richest.org, DW.DE
Photo: Niger Delta Rising

Countries with High Rates of Child Poverty
3. Romania

After the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Romania struggled economically. Farmers were especially vulnerable, and the impact of the USSR’s collapse is evident today in the status of Romania’s children. Children in rural areas are exceptionally poor, often not receiving the nutrition needed to maintain good health. This results in many physical problems that are left untreated. Many children in rural areas are also deprived of an education.

2. The United States
Yes, you read that correctly. The United States is second place among the developed countries of the world in the percentage of children below the poverty line. This shocking number is due to the stark income equality in America. UNICEF’s research reveals that American children are more likely to fall below the poverty line than children in any other developed country due to the growing wealth gap in the United States.

1. Bulgaria
The Southern European nation of Bulgaria is the developed nation with the highest child poverty rate in the world. Plagued by increasingly low wages and high utility prices, the children of Bulgaria are suffering in families that can no longer afford to put food on the table. The unemployment rate reached 10% in the last year, inciting a wave of protests that threaten the stability of the country. Several desperate Bulgarians, unable to feed their families, have resorted to self-immolation in dramatic protest to get the government to implement changes.

– Josh Forgét

Source: The World Bank, The Washington Post, The Economist
Photo: Press TV

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Each year, an estimated 14 million girls under the age of 18 become child brides, often marrying much older men. In the developing world, one in three girls are married before their 15th birthday, and brides may be as young as eight years old.

Children are neither physically nor emotionally prepared for marriage and child brides as their brains have not fully developed the cognitive processes required for mature behavior and thought. In addition, child brides face a greater risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth due to their small stature. They also face an increased risk of suffering domestic violence and contracting HIV/AIDS from their more sexually experienced husbands. This archaic practice unfairly stacks obstacles in front of young girls that inhibit their chances of getting an education or reaching a stable economic position.

The non-profit Girls Not Brides recognizes the urgency of addressing this issue. They understand that child marriage strips girls of their childhood, their right to health and security, and their ability to choose for themselves whom and when to marry. The practice also severely restricts girls’ educational and economic opportunities thereby trapping them in poverty.

In spite of these negative implication, child marriage remains prevalent throughout the world. 75% of women aged 20-24 in Niger been child brides, along with 72% of women in Chad, 66% in Bangladesh, and 63% in Guinea.

Tradition, cultural gender roles or the value placed on each gender, and perceived security in physical or sexual assault high-risk areas perpetuate the practice of child marriage. Poverty can also be a motivating factor as parents are able to reduce family expenses by removing a child from their home, and the income provided by a dowry is often necessary for poor families.

The High-level Panel report on post-2015 development agenda agrees that the international community will not fulfill its commitment to reduce poverty unless it puts an end to child marriage. Child marriage threatens the success of the Millennium Development Goals by inhibiting girls from having access to quality education, increasing maternal mortality, decreasing infant survival, ensuring gender equality, combating HIV/AIDS, and reducing poverty. The Panel recommends that the post-2015 development agenda include a goal to empower girls and achieve gender equality, which depends on the end of child marriage.

Education is the key to fighting child marriage. If a girl in the developing world receives at least seven years of education, on average she will marry four years later than a girl who is not afforded the same privilege. Setting up support groups can also help reduce feelings of helplessness, and empower girls to choose when to marry. The cooperation and support of men and leaders will encourage a shift in attitudes about child marriage, and the participation of young people will keep child marriage from spreading to the next generation. Other ways to end the crisis include enforcing laws that set a legal marriage age, launching incentives such as loans or conditional cash transfers, and utilizing media campaigns to raise awareness and pressure governments to take action.

– Dana Johnson

Source: Girls Not Brides,Skoll Foundation,UNICEF
Photo: Child Trafficking and Child Abuse has to Come to an End

Protecting Our Future: Save the Children
The dedicated workers of Save the Children have been affecting positive, lasting change in children’s lives for the past 81 years with no signs of slowing down. They partner with local governments and organizations in vulnerable communities to offer children support and protection from neglect, exploitation, violence, poverty, malnutrition, inferior medical care and education, and much more.

With offices spread across 120 countries, Save the Children has helped millions of children in Africa, Asia, America, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In 2012 alone, they helped more than 125 million children overcome obstacles including poverty, illiteracy, obesity, and abuse.

Save the Children focuses on the following key areas:

  • Child protection – Save the Children fosters child protection programs such as child trafficking awareness campaigns, and advocates for policy and services improvement to protect children affected by disasters, conflict, or development setting.
  • Newborn and child survival – Each year, close to 7 million children die before their 5th birthday. Save the Children works to prevent senseless deaths by training health workers to deliver inexpensive medical interventions.
  • Education – Save the Children coaches educators in effective teaching techniques, offer opportunities to continue education beyond the classroom, and ensures learning continues in times of crisis.
  • Emergency response – In times of natural disaster or civil conflict, Save the Children provides food, medical care, education, and support throughout the recovery process.
  • Health and nutrition – Save the Children works to make quality maternal and reproductive healthcare, newborn and child healthcare, nutrition education, adolescent sexual and reproductive healthcare, and emergency healthcare available to impoverished communities.
  • HIV/AIDS – Save the Children offers prevention education programs to stop the spread of AIDS beyond the 3.4 million children currently living with the disease. They also offer protection programs to children orphaned by the disease.
  • Hunger and livelihoods – Save the Children’s hunger and livelihood programs focus on increasing food supply, educating farmers to produce higher yields, teaching parents the benefits of a varied diet, and teaching children how to manage money and find work.

Save the Children is recognized by regulatory services as a leader among nonprofit organizations; The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) awarded Save the Children an A+ rating. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance has determined that Save the Children meets all of the standards for charity accountability. Charity Navigator awarded Save the Children their 11th consecutive overall 4 out of 4 stars rating in 2012. The Forbes 200 Largest U.S. Charities List rated Save the Children’s fundraising efficiency at 92%, and their charitable commitment at 91%. Great Nonprofits named them the recipient of a 2012 Top-Rated Award. And America’s Greatest Brands featured Save the Children as one of the strongest and most trusted humanitarian relief and development philanthropies.

The amazing work being done by Save the Children can be multiplied even further by charitable contributions to their Global Action Fund. To make a donation, please visit the Global Action Fund webpage.

– Dana Johnson

Source: Save the Children, Global Action Fund