Inflammation and stories on families

Intergenerational Transmission of PovertyMore than 780 million people live below the poverty line, as a result of and contributing to the intergenerational transmission of poverty. More than 160 million children at risk of continuing to live in poverty by the year 2030. Similarly, those living in poverty will likely remain in poverty. In other words, poor parents raise poor children, who are more likely to remain poor as adults. This intergenerational transmission of poverty refers to two or more successive generations of a family living in poverty. The intergenerational transmission of poverty includes financial, material and environmental assets, human capital and attitudes, cultural and other knowledge or traditions. Therefore, those seeking to end persistent poverty must prioritize childhood poverty.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international agreement that sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child (up to 18), regardless of race, religion or abilities. This agreement expresses that children should live free of the deprivations of poverty. Unfortunately, millions of children are still living in poverty. Children are particularly more vulnerable to the impacts of poverty, malnutrition and poor health.

Effects of Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty

This is especially true in developing countries that are riddled with poor sanitation, poor access to clean water and electricity, lack of healthcare services, and a lack of transportation. Such risk factors affect their physical, cognitive and social development. As a result, disadvantaged children are more likely to perform poorly in school, have low incomes and high fertility rates. Consequently, these children will ultimately provide poor care for their children. These deprivations then initiate another cycle of the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Child poverty is a global issue, not just one in developing countries. For example, in the United Kingdom during the 1970s, 19 percent of men who experienced relative poverty as a teenager also experienced poverty while they were in their thirties.

Even when children live in relative poverty, in which they lack the minimum amount of income needed in order to maintain the average standard of living in the society in which they live. They also have much poorer opportunities in education and healthcare, which disproportionately affects their chances of climbing out of poverty.

In Guatemala, a study found healthier children from advantaged homes are more likely to continue their education beyond primary level. These children, consequently, tend to have better cognitive skills during preschool. These children were compared to children with early biological, social and psychological risk factors. Thus, the results show the effects of poverty affect educational success. Subsequently, it also affects the ability to attain jobs with livable wages.

Childhood poverty can also affect society as a whole and feeds into the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Poverty contributes to low educational attainment leading to a less productive workforce and unemployment due to lower skills and productivity.

Strategizing Against Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty

UNICEF aims to improve the lives of millions of children and disrupt the intergenerational transmission of poverty. To do so, UNICEF provides an agenda to ending childhood poverty:

  • child poverty should be an explicit part of the global development framework and its implementation;
  • every country should explicitly prioritize the reduction of child poverty on their agenda and include appropriate national plans, policies and laws;
  • expand child-sensitive protection systems and programs, improve access to quality public services for the poorest children;
  • an inclusive growth agenda to reach the poorest and most deprived.

Children with a good start in life are much less at risk of being poor as adults. Tackling childhood poverty should be a priority when addressing the intergenerational transmission of poverty. When we help children climb out of the cycle of poverty, we are not just helping them individually, we are also helping society prosper.

Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Reuniting Immigrant Families
In the spring, the Trump Administration — via the Department for Homeland Security — enacted a “zero-tolerance” policy for any immigrants who enter the United States without proper documentation. For the past few weeks, media and news coverage focused on the events occurring at the United States and Mexico border and unearthed photographs of inhumane conditions at detention centers.

Children were being separated from their parents. The developing story focused mainly on the violations of human rights occurring at the southern border and the separation of approximately 2,700 families. This lack of reunited families urged organizations and individuals to fight to change the system; since progress has been made in reuniting immigrant families.

Stories of Progress

  1. Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services provides legal assistance to detained immigrants and minors and is based in El Paso, Texas. The organization uses a database to see if children have been, or currently are, in El Paso to start the process of reconnecting children with their families.
  2. Charlotte and Dave Willner started a fundraiser on Facebook after they saw the picture of a toddler crying as her mother was detained at the border. The couple’s goal was to raise $1,500 for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). The couple far exceeded their goal and raised $20 million from over 525,000 people. These funds will help provide legal representation for immigrant children and parents in Texas. RAICES also intends to hire more lawyers to assist with family reunification.
  3. RAICES is based in San Antonio, Texas. This organization works to provide affordable legal services to immigrant families. It is the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas. In 2017, RAICES staff closed 51,000 cases at no cost to the client, and for the current work to end family separation, they have developed a toolkit to organize events in advocates’ communities.
  4. The American Civil Liberties Union has diligently worked on reuniting children with their parents through the United States justice system. The group worked to create a hard deadline on a formerly uncertain process for when children might see their parents again. Now, children under five must see their parents within 14 days of their detention, and parents and children must be in contact via phone within 10 days.
  5. The Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC) cooperates with Catholic and community legal immigration programs to provide services. They started a project called Defending Vulnerable Populations, whose goal is to increase the number of fully accredited, qualified representatives and attorneys to represent immigrants.

Putting An End to Human Rights Violations

In addition to organizational work, the greater community has also come together to stop these human rights violations. Many groups at large focused on immigrant or legal rights have unified to provide free and low-cost services to immigrants detained at the border.

Fundraisers work to provide aid and services to immigrant communities crossing the border. As the powerful court case deemed the number of days when families must be reunited, the process and the good news of reuniting immigrant families at the southern border should significantly progress.

– Jenna Walmer
Photo: Flickr

In a world where social media makes it easier than ever to know exactly what your friends and family, not to mention complete strangers, are doing, it should not be a luxury to know where your loved ones are. However, the very same world is also witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.

The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that there are currently 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. But those people are more than just a number. Every one of those individuals is someone’s mother, father, son or daughter. And each of them deserves to know where their family is.

After being uprooted from their homes and shuffled back and forth between camps all over the world, refugees know all too well how easy it can be to become separated from your family. Reuniting displaced refugees can be a daunting task. Many of these people do not have regular access to phones or the Internet, let alone official documents of identification.

But the Internet can be a powerful tool. Refugees United, or REFUNITE (RU), is a new kind of platform working to connect family members escaping disasters, persecutions or conflicts who have ended up in different parts of the world, sometimes completely alone. Founded in 2006 by two Danish brothers, Christopher and David Mikkelsen, REFUNITE aims to be a sort of “Google for refugee search.”

In the past, most United Nations agencies have tended to rely on the International Committee of the Red Cross, the global network of Red Cross organizations. However, due to privacy reasons the Red Cross and the United Nations are restricted from looking at one another’s databases, leading to a lot of inefficiencies.

While the Red Cross system has helped tremendously in reuniting displaced refugees with their families, the system requires individuals to apply for help from a third party to conduct the searches. The staff of national Red Cross societies does most of the tracing by responding to requests from other countries. However, without a global database, people looking for family members are forced to guess which countries to search.

“We didn’t want to be the kind of NGO that is a third party providing help to refugees,” RU founder David Mikkelsen said. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to take control of their situations and help themselves – and give NGOs another tool to help.”

RU went live in May 2010. The first words of the registration page read: “We do NOT recommend the service of Refugees United to people at risk of being traced by potential persecutors.” Once a username and password are established, a profile is created. The site stresses anonymity, reminding people “Everyone can see the information in your profile. Use nicknames, initials or information only known by your family.”

Users then input the last known location of family members as well as exclusive information that only loved ones would know, such as birthmarks or favorite foods. These steps can be left blank if desired, and the database can be searched without registering an account. But as a search platform, RU’s success depended on the power of networks: in order to be effective, REFUNITE needed to attract as many users as possible.

As of October 2017, over 750,000 refugees are registered on the platform, making it the largest missing refugee database. Today, REFUNITE operates across 17 countries with 16 technology and mobile carriers with access to around 370 million mobile subscribers. Now, United Nations organizations and refugee groups work with REFUNITE, such as the International Rescue Committee, as well as Facebook.

Getting the word out about REFUNITE is still the biggest challenge in reuniting displaced refugees. However, with the web platform available in 12 languages and text services in five, the organization is making its way to becoming accessible to refugees who speak hundreds of languages across the world.

Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Turkey
As government-released figures reveal the growing issue of poverty in Turkey, the nation now classifies more than 30 million of its 79 million citizens as “in need of assistance.”

According to the research of the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions, the poverty line for a family of four has increased 11.8 percent in the past year to include a higher percentage of the population. Studies also reveal that among poor households in Turkey, 17.3 percent had three or more children under the age of 14.

While poverty in Turkey correlates with families having a surplus of children, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently spoke in the city of Eskişehir, urging his citizens to “have not just three but five children.”

Turkish families are now having large amounts of children for whom they are unable to provide. These children are raised to expect the same impoverished future as their parents, suffering major disadvantages toward attaining fundamental needs since birth, including their own personal health.

Research reveals that inflation caused by monthly increases of food prices has left families unable to provide basic meals, as 15 percent of Turkish children under the age of five now suffer from chronic malnutrition. Statistics on poverty in Turkey also show that 27.7 percent (5.6 million) children under the age of 15 live in poverty, with this rate almost doubling in rural areas to 40.6 percent.

Another study out of Diyarbakir revealed that 80 percent of children had no access to health care due to the economic constraints of their families.

In order to reverse the worsening cycle of poverty in Turkey, the Turkish government needs to recognize the negative relation between the rise in both larger families and poverty levels. Instead of urging its citizens to conceive more children, the government should address areas of true concern such as child and adolescent malnutrition.

Kendra Richardson
Photo: Flickr

 The Role of Grandmothers
Working women have a lot for which to thank their mothers. Without the help of their mothers in the home, it would be difficult for young women to balance having a family with advancing in their careers. By taking care of their daughters’ children, grandmothers give their daughters the time they need to work.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales claim grandmothers’ childcare provision leads to a rise in their daughters’ labor force participation (LFP). According to their research, “grandparents are the largest source of informal childcare” for working women. In Italy and Greece, almost 50 percent of grandparents provide daily care for their grandchildren.

Although passing the responsibility of childcare over to their parents gives women the freedom and independence to pursue their careers, it creates a problem for grandmothers. Grandmothers, rather than young daughters, get saddled with having to balance work and family.

Madonna Harrington Meyer, author of Grandmothers at Work: Juggling Families and Jobs, argues, “In the same way that women who reduce employment hours when raising their young children experience reductions in salary, savings, and public and private pensions, the mothers of those same women, as grandmothers, are rearranging hours to take care of their grandchildren, experiencing additional loss of salary and reduced old age pension accumulation.”

Grandmothers do not only make sacrifices for their children and grandchildren in countries like Italy and Greece, but the role of grandmothers is very important in developing regions of the world as well. Veronica Nankya, a 93-year-old Ugandan grandmother taking care of her four grandchildren, told Daily Monitor Magazine that, after her children died of HIV/AIDS, life became very difficult because taking care of orphaned grandchildren is “an enormous duty,” particularly when she has to be the sole breadwinner for the family.

These matriarchs have carried the brunt of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa in multiple ways. They have not only taken up the responsibility of caring for the orphaned children of HIV casualties but have also cared for the millions of adult AIDS patients who have nowhere to go but their parents’ homes.

Research by the World Bank shows grandmothers are “the managers of indigenous knowledge systems that deal with the development, care and well-being of women and children” in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Grandmothers, therefore, play an essential role in maternal and child nutrition, health and survival rates in these regions.

Community health specialist Dr. Judi Aubel claims that because the role of grandmothers is central in “advising younger women and male family members on nutrition and health matters, especially during pregnancy, childbirth and when children are infants or still young,” they should be involved in national and international programs and policies targeting these issues. It is through grandmothers that new knowledge and better health practices can be transmitted to the rest of society.

UNICEF in Laos showed that when grandmothers were involved in health campaigns, great results were possible. For example, when grandmothers became involved in diarrhea treatment workshops, the proportion of families providing the necessary fluids to children went up from 30 to 74 percent.

The role of grandmothers in the developed and the developing world is different but crucial to their families. In the developed world, grandmothers provide the needed childcare that young mothers need to continue rising in their professions.

In the developing world, grandmothers are essential for the care of orphaned children and for advising young mothers on health issues. It is very important that in the future, grandmothers in both the developed and developing world are given the help they need so that they are not required to make so many sacrifices and carry such a heavy burden of responsibility.

For women’s emancipation and empowerment to be complete, all women must have time for themselves and their own life regardless of age. It is not truly women’s empowerment if older women must sacrifice their own freedoms for those of their daughters’.

Christina Egerstrom

Photo: Flickr


During the 14-year civil war in Liberia, the health system became increasingly fragile, and a lack of roads and transportation made it difficult for pregnant women to receive necessary emergency care. This issue has created a strong need for strengthened midwifery in Liberia.

As a result, Liberia had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world according to a 2015 USAID article, but the country is now trying to change that through investment in midwifery programs.

Currently, 44 percent of Liberian women give birth without a skilled attendant, and nearly one out of 138 mothers die from preventable causes during childbirth. Such issues could be avoided with basic or strengthened midwifery in Liberia, according to the World Health Organization.

Bentoe Tehounge, a trained midwife in Liberia, told WHO, “We need midwives who can ensure a safe pregnancy even before a woman is pregnant. People who can provide advice on family planning, nutrition, physical activity and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.”

There are six midwifery schools in the Liberia, half of which are in rural areas, and less than 200 midwives for over four million people. Most of these midwives work in urban areas. Strengthening these schools, especially the rural ones, will improve access to quality care for women around the country.

Retaining these midwives is one step towards Liberia’s investment in the profession. According to WHO, many health professionals were driven out of the country due to the civil war and the Ebola crisis, and now midwives lack “safe accommodation and transport, are overworked and paid poorly and have limited opportunities for career advancement.”

A new B.S. program addresses a portion of these concerns by providing further professional development. The program graduates 50 to 75 registered midwives per class, which is expected to staff more than 700 health facilities in the country. To develop better teaching methods, Liberia is working with the Danish Midwives Association to pair Liberian and Danish midwives in order to learn more advanced skills, like preventing and treating hemorrhages. It is hoped that this new alliance will result in strengthened midwifery in Liberia.

In the United States, this final element is comparable to the apprenticeships or clinicals that midwives do to obtain a license. Mary Anne Brown, a midwife serving the Great Falls and Helena areas of Montana, said that degree programs require that their students find and work directly with a midwife to gain clinical experience.

Past midwife training in Liberia tried to work within a culture of home birth in Liberia (USAID reported that 63 percent of Liberian women gave birth outside of a health facility) and with the knowledge of traditional midwives.

The goal was to shift the focus to encouraging birth preparedness, recognizing and referring complications and providing appropriate emergency care through what USAID called “home-based life-saving skills.” By utilizing storytelling, case histories, discussion, role-play and demonstrations, midwives, expectant parents and community leaders were able to educate themselves at community meetings.

One of the greatest achievements of the previous midwife training in Liberia was its ability to connect traditional midwives to both health facilities and certified midwives. Certified midwives perform their own visits to discuss problems the traditional midwives are having, replenish supplies and reinforce the training.

The current programs are a part of WHO’s efforts to provide clear guidelines, tools and an evidence base to lead to strengthened midwifery in Liberia and around the world in order to improve care for pregnant women and reduce both maternal and neonatal mortality rates.

Anastazia Vanisko

Photo: Public Domain Images

saving Premature Babies
Malawi has the highest percentage of pre-term births in the world at more than 18 percent of live births. Pre-term babies are those who are delivered at less than 37 weeks of gestation. Complications that arise from such an early birth are the leading cause of death for children less than 5 years old. Nearly 1 million children died of preterm birth complications in 2013.

According to the World Health Organization, “Malawi faces a number of challenges including inadequate finances to support poverty reduction programmes; high levels of illiteracy; and critical shortage of capacity in institutions implementing development programmes.”

As a low-income country, Malawi is lacking in quality medical care for pre-term babies. However, the care available for pre-term babies is improving. The decrease in child mortality rate has the country as the first of its neighbors to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 4, a goal set by the United Nations to decrease the number of under-five child mortalities by two-thirds.

The Malawian government recently initiated the Every Newborn Action Plan in 2014, with a commitment to reduce the chances of neonatal mortality from 31 out of 1,000 to 25 out of 1,000 by the year 2020.

One of the low-cost ways pre-term babies in Malawi have been cared for recently has been through the Kangaroo Mother Care intervention plan. This method incorporates the skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby to keep the baby warm and breastfed. This helps monitor the baby’s temperature and encourages rapid weight gain, which is crucial for the baby’s health.

There are more than 120 Kangaroo Mother Care units in Malawi and at least one in each district. Kangaroo Mother Care is especially effective in low-income countries such as Malawi when incubators are hard to come by and are extremely expensive.

Another cost-effective solution for pre-term complications is the bubble continuous positive airway pressure device designed by engineering students at Rice University, Texas.

The device is called Pumani, a word meaning breathe in Chichewa, a Malawian language. It is used to help pre-term babies whose lungs have not yet fully developed and has saved more than 1,000 pre-term babies since 2006.

With the implementation of these low-cost methods to care for pre-term babies, pre-term babies in Malawi have a better chance of survival than ever before.

Iona Brannon

Sources: World Health Organization 1, World Health Organization 2, World Health Organization 3, Healthy Newborn Network 1, Healthy Newborn Network 2
Photo: Pexels

Social Media CampaignThe continued conflict in Syria and its neighbouring countries has left hundreds of thousands of refugees stranded and in dire need of help. Thankfully, some of these tragic stories still have happy endings.

Earlier this month, Gissur Simonarson, an Oslo, Norway-based activist, posted a photo on Twitter of a Syrian refugee in Beirut cradling his sleeping daughter in one arm while desperately attempting to sell a handful of pens with his free hand. Soon after posting the photo, Simonarson’s 6,000 plus followers took action.

Using the hashtag #BuyPens along with a full-on two day search from Simonarson’s followers and some outside help, the two refugees were eventually tracked down. Carol Malouf, an activist who helped find the family, took a selfie with the daughter, Reem, and posted it on Twitter.

“Reem came to me, hugged me & asked to take a selfie,” Malouf posted. “What a lovely lively child. A modest home full of love.”

The social media campaign helped discover that Abdul, the father, arrived in Beirut after fleeing from Yarmouk, one of Syria’s most war-torn regions. After locating the pair, Simonarson set up an IndieGoGo page to help raise $5,000 for Abdul and Reem. The page was completely funded in under half an hour.

After a single day, more than $80,000 had been raised for the family. Abdul is currently planning on sending his two children to school as well as helping other Syrian refugees with the money raised. With over 220,000 casualties so far, positive stories like these are few and far between, but Simonarson is remaining positive after witnessing such goodwill.

“I think that this campaign proves that humanity is not lost just yet,” Simonarson tweeted.

Alexander Jones

Sources: CNN, Independent, International Business Times

Photo: Flickr

Often it is the simple, low-resource interventions that can have the most impact in improving the lives of women and children.

In Lira, Uganda, a community-based parenting intervention has proven to be successful in supporting both child development and maternal wellbeing.

The link between maternal wellbeing and child development is important. Maternal depression can be stigmatized or regarded as unrelated to child health. However, the study implemented by Dr. Singla and his colleagues reveals that maternal and child health are related and can be addressed together.

The study selected 12 parishes in Lira; half participated in the parenting intervention and the remaining parishes served as a control group. Mothers were paired with their children in the study. The children were between 12 to 36 months old, and the mothers were selected for a background of low maternal education.

The parenting intervention group consisted of 12 fortnightly peer-led group sessions related to maternal wellbeing and caring for children. Topics discussed included increasing the involvement of fathers as well as ways to care for children in regards to playing, talking, hygiene practices and expressions of love and respect.

Results of the intervention program were assessed with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. The endline results were collected three months after the 24-week program ended.

Children who were in the intervention group had higher cognitive scores and receptive language scores. Mothers in the intervention group also self-reported fewer symptoms of depression. These results are positive and confirm the hypothesis that maternal and child health can improve in a unique way when the issues are addressed together.

Atif Rahman, Professor of Child Psychiatry at the University of Liverpool, and his colleagues support the integration of maternal mental health into maternal and child health programs. They also emphasize that this work must connect to broader goals, such as poverty reduction and gender empowerment.

It is significant that this Ugandan program was successful with non-professional, local community members because this indicates that similar programs can be implemented without great expenses.

Iliana Lang

Sources: The Lancet Global Health, PLoS Medicine
Photo: Pulitzer Center

The main focus of the James Dyson Award is on design and engineering, but there is also encouragement and support given to medical and scientific research to bring great change. The organization itself has donated over $14 million to these causes through grants, machine donations and fundraising endeavors led by the people at Dyson.

The James Dyson Award is aimed towards young people from 18 countries who think differently than others and come up with ideas to change the future. “Whatever the design, as long as it solves a problem, it’s got a chance of winning the James Dyson Award,” its website reads.

Along with the recognition, a $45,000 prize is given to the international winner to help take the idea from a prototype and launch it into a commercial product. The winner for this year’s award goes to a product called the inflatable baby incubator. The inventor is a Loughborough University graduate by the name of James Roberts. The project overall is called and referred to as “MOM” and is said to cost a fraction of the price of other alternatives currently in the market.

With the award money, Roberts is planning on continuing the project and perfecting it to bring to the market in 2017. The remarkable thing about this project is that it is delivered as a flat package to wherever its destination may be. The product is meant to be assembled at the site where it will be used. The inflatable incubator is a sheet of plastic that contains inflatable panels that can be blown up manually and heated by a ceramic element, which then keeps the newborn baby warm. When opened, it will stay open and not collapse on the baby. An Arduino computer keeps the temperature at a stable heat and also controls the humidification, a lamp and an alarm.

This product is huge step in taking care of infants, because it is safe for the baby and costs a lot less. Other incubators cost more because shipping the incubator requires large boxes. This incubator as mentioned above, ships flat and is easy to assemble once it is received.

The main purpose of this incubator is to decrease the number of premature child deaths within refugee camps. According to the MOM Incubator website, “Every year, an estimated 150,000 child births occur within refugee camps. Of these child births, 27,500 will die due to lack of sufficient incubation.”

Moving forward, the plans for MOM include using the money to perfect the prototypes and, if needed, doing a possible redesign to gain the best possible outcome for an inflatable incubator system.

– Brooke Smith

Sources: MOM Incubators, BBC, James Dyson Foundation
Photo: Flickr