Irish Aid
Colm Brophy, Minister for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, announced an additional €2 million in Irish Aid support less than two months after the initial €1 million, crediting the severity of the “rapidly deteriorating humanitarian [need] in Afghanistan” as the reason for the additional support. In children under the age of 5 years old, there is a high level of food insecurity and the risk of malnutrition. Minister Brophy stated in the press release that “One in three Afghans is facing crisis levels of food insecurity and more than half of all children under five are at risk of acute malnutrition.”

Ireland Aid Can Make International Changes

The aid that Ireland is providing has the potential to save lives and serve as a model for other countries to follow. Showing the actual impact of aid on Afghan refugees can also spark a positive reflection on the Afghan community, rather than the negative connection from recent conflicts.

Only a month prior, Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney announced €1 million in Irish aid for humanitarian needs in Afghanistan. This initial assistance was in addition to the €2 million that the HALO Trust, Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AFH) and Concern Worldwide received at the start of 2021.

The funds will go to UNICEF and the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AFH). The AFH assists with the health, education and nutrition of the Afghan people.

Changing Visa Policies

On top of the Irish Aid support, Ireland has extended its refugee visas policy for up to another 150 Afghan people under the Irish Refugee Protection Program (IRPP). Ireland strongly condemns the violent action against the people of Afghanistan, especially the attacks against women and children.

It has called for safe and reliable access to humanitarian needs in Afghanistan for Aghani citizens and those who work with U.N. agencies and humanitarian partners, without exemptions. This means that even those across conflict lines must get the humanitarian access they need for safety.

Refugee Visas to Make a Difference

Ireland, which many know for its strong advocacy for women and girls, is attempting to play a role in relocating some Afghan women and girls to Ireland. There will be a priority for those who work in human rights issues and those who work with NGOs, including European and international organizations. Family reunification is also at the top of Ireland’s list in regard to the 150 refugee visas.

This is not the only way for Afghans to obtain refugee visas. There are a few protocols in place that help Afghans obtain refugee visas as long as they meet or find a way to meet the criteria. According to the 2015 International Protection Act, if an Afghani person already knows someone in Ireland who can handle their international protection application or if they have someone who will meet them at the border, they are exempt from the application fee. Deportation has also experienced less strict enforcement since COVID-19. Given the current state of Afghanistan, there is no clear answer to whether someone would experience deportation.

At the end of the day, Ireland is doing everything it can to assist with the humanitarian need in Afghanistan. In this time of crisis, it uses funds, policies and aid to do what it can. By expanding its visa list to accept more refugees, Ireland demonstrates that it will do everything possible to assist another country’s crisis.

– Veronica G. Rosas
Photo: Unsplash

Child Marriage in Sri Lanka
Through a landmark decision by the Cabinet of Ministers in Sri Lanka, Muslims now have the option to marry under the Sri Lankan Marriage Registration Ordinance, the common law that governs marriages and divorces. This is a significant change because the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) that has governed Muslim marriage and divorce discriminates against Muslim women. Additionally, Sri Lanka’s justice minister Ali Sabry has proposed legislation to raise the minimum age for marriage under the MMDA to 18. These two reforms are crucial steps in addressing child marriage in Sri Lanka.

Child Marriage and Its Impact

Child marriage is the practice of marriage in which one or both parties are under 18. This practice presents severe risks to children, especially young girls. Married children are less likely to complete their education. According to World Vision, girls are three times more likely to marry before 18 when they do not receive schooling, as opposed to those who attend school beyond the elementary level.

Child marriage also comes with physical risks including complications with early pregnancies, or exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Those entering into child marriage are also more likely to become victims of sexual abuse or domestic violence. Around the world, girls are 50% more likely to experience physical or sexual abuse if they marry before they turn 15 than those who marry after 18.  This underlines the fact that some child marriages occur as a way to cover up a sexual assault to avoid scandal. The effects of child marriage are psychologically and physically damaging to children and violate their free will.

In addition to cultivating human rights violations, child marriage is also both a big driver and a significant consequence of poverty. Some families marry their children off because it gives them one less child to fund. In other communities, it is a way to offset debt because dowries for a younger girl are lower. Marriage may keep young brides from accessing their education and better jobs or professions. Economic dependence on their partner may also trap them in long-term financial insecurity. Child marriage limits the growth of individuals and by proxy, the growth of communities.

Child Marriage in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, poverty and lack of education have contributed to the practice of child marriage, but traditional laws have fueled its continuation. Sri Lanka has a lower rate of child marriage than other countries in South Asia. However, it is still prevalent, mostly within some Muslim communities. Passed in 1951, the MMDA has relegated Muslim marriage governance to Islamic law versus common law. Sri Lankan common law does not allow marriage under 18, but the MMDA has set the minimum marriage age at 12. Further, Islamic officials have permitted the marriage age to be even lower. Additionally, if females married under the MMDA could not sign their marriage contract, a “wali,” or male guardian needed to do so. With virtually no previous protection against child marriage for Muslims in Sri Lanka, the recent governmental reforms should make a significant difference.

Progress in Ending Sri Lankan Child Marriage

The new marriage contract alternative now protects children from entering into marriages by force. Additionally, the fact that the MMDA has raised the marriage age to 18 has made all child marriages in Sri Lanka illegal. Further, this will prevent any registered child marriages. Various past appeals, especially from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), prompted these reforms.

In collaboration with the Sri Lankan government and other organizations, UNICEF signed the June Declaration to End Violence Against Children in Sri Lanka by 2030. This declaration is part of the National Partnership to End Violence Against Children, which began in June 2017. UNICEF’s work launched on-the-ground efforts to give community leaders, police and government officials training on the effects of child marriage. The organization has also worked to provide economic support for women and initiate policy reform. These efforts have helped reduce the overall child marriage rate to 25 million, which is fewer than predictions from 10 years ago.

Despite UNICEF’s achievements, its most significant obstacle has been government cooperation. For several years, UNICEF pressed the Sri Lankan government to involve legal action against the practice of child marriage. Now, the new legislation that the Sri Lankan Cabinet has implemented will address this call to action.

Issues like child marriage require a multifaceted approach that addresses its enabling factors. Because Muslim law allowed child marriage, the practice continued even with UNICEF’s efforts to address it. Yet, the new legal action combined with continuing on-ground efforts brings hope to Sri Lanka. Thanks to the new legislation by the Sri Lankan Cabinet of Ministers, a significant decline of  Sri Lankan child marriage seems within reach.

– Hariana Sethi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Beirut BlastOn August 4, 2020, a horrific explosion took place in Beirut, Lebanon, killing at least 214 people and injuring thousands of civilians. The Beirut blast “was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history” as it tore through the city. Estimations indicate that roughly “552 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded” at the port of Beirut. Since the explosion, Lebanon has experienced heightened civil unrest, economic hardship, increasing poverty and political deadlock.

In the face of the tragedy and adversity that continues to plague Lebanon, young people in Beirut are innovatively working to rebuild the Lebanese capital. Cash 4 Work, a program mobilized by UNICEF, is a youth network focused on helping reconnect homes to municipal and private water supplies along with prioritizing the cleaning and rehabilitation of Beirut.

Economic Impacts of the Beirut Blast

Lebanon was facing a severe economic crisis even before the Beirut blast. After the explosion, poverty levels rose further and the Lebanese economy essentially collapsed. According to the World Bank, the country’s GDP has decreased by a staggering 40% with more than 50% of the population pushed into the depths of poverty. Job prospects for youth are increasingly difficult to come by, placing young professionals in a tough position as they attempt to secure their futures amid a failing economy.

Participants of the recent UNICEF Cash 4 Work program are primarily the most vulnerable and impoverished youth who understand first-hand what living in poverty looks and feels like. According to UNICEF, “Cash 4 Work programs create earning opportunities that can temporarily stabilize people’s incomes following a disaster or a crisis.” Participants learn valuable skills, knowledge and training to improve their economic status and their ability to provide for their families. Furthermore, with the tools to positively impact their country, youth participants are able to use their skills to rebuild the nation and lift others out poverty.

The Role of the Youth

Immediately after the explosion, the youth of Beirut were among the first to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding their communities. At the time, UNICEF staff were on the ground working with more than 1,170 youth volunteers to sweep up debris, perform household repairs and deliver food and cloth masks to affected citizens. In an interview with Forbes, a teenager working on the ground said, “We will not lose hope. We are staying here on the ground.”

UNICEF staff “reconnected more than 60 buildings to the public water system” and handed out emergency supplies “including 1,600 hygiene kits and 400 baby kits to families in need.” UNICEF also helped “reunite children with their families” and supported child counseling efforts to address the trauma of the Beirut blast.

Exactly one year after the Beirut blast, youth mobilization continues with the support of UNICEF’s new Cash 4 Work program, which ensures new job opportunities in Lebanon. Cash 4 Work is not only playing an active role in shaping the job market for young professionals but it is also connecting people with the goal of shaping a more positive future for Beirut. A 24-year-old Cash 4 Work participant, Mohammad, describes his experience with the program. He tells UNICEF, “I am happy that I gained a skill and I am still learning. To work on my future and achieve my goals, especially in these difficult times, is something special.”

Programs and initiatives from humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF bring hope to a devastated country, allowing citizens a chance to continue to rebuild and recover more than a year after the Beirut blast.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Flickr

Lebanon's Water SystemAmid an escalating economic crisis, Lebanon finds itself in an incredibly vulnerable position. According to the United Nations, Lebanon’s water system is at critical risk of total failure. About 71% of the country’s population is at risk of losing water as the public water system is reportedly “on life support.” UNICEF emphasizes the need for emergency action and stands by to offer crucial support. Forecasts warn of an increase in disease due to lack of sanitation as well as the closure of essential facilities.

The Cause of the Water System Collapse

For nearly a year now, Lebanon has existed without a government, according to CNN. Furthermore, the World Bank describes Lebanon’s economic crisis as one of the three worst economic disasters since the mid-19th century. The country’s GDP per capita has plummeted by about 40% and its currency has lost more than 90% of its value since late 2019. As a result, about half the population has slipped below the poverty line.

Yukie Mokuo, a UNICEF representative in Lebanon, tells UNICEF that Lebanon’s water system difficulties due to the economic collapse raise three main issues. First, she emphasized the importance of adequately funding routine maintenance of the public water system, which Lebanon cannot sustain.  Second, the problem of non-revenue water, or water that has been lost before it could reach consumers, remains. Last, the state of the power grid and the growing cost of fuel is not positive.

Mokuo also adds that those struggling to get by during the economic crisis will be the most vulnerable to the water system’s collapse. People would have to make hard choices when it comes to sanitation, hygiene and basic water needs.

The Risk and the Need

Mokuo and UNICEF also warn that, without urgent action, essential public facilities will be rendered unable to function. Among the four million people affected, children stand to risk the most. Children’s health and hygiene would take a fall in the wake of such a crisis since the immediate effects would impact overall public health. The country would see an increase in diseases without effective sanitation. In particular, women and young girls would face specific challenges “to their personal hygiene, safety and dignity without access to safe sanitation,” according to Mokuo.

UNICEF requires $40 million a year to adequately support Lebanon’s water system. The fund would work to address supply and maintain adequate levels of clean water for more than four million people. The mission would aim to secure the “minimum levels of fuel, chlorine, spare parts and maintenance necessary.” This would enable the continued functioning of various key systems while safeguarding access and ensuring public operation.

A Plea for Lebanon

Mokuo affirms the importance of the necessary funding to support UNICEF’s mission in addressing Lebanon’s water system collapse. She says, “[W]e will remain steadfast in our support to communities as resources permit, but this alarming situation requires immediate and sustained funding.” She added, “UNICEF stands ready to support, particularly as the global pandemic evolves, to ensure that the most basic right to clean water is met for children and families at this critical time for Lebanon.” As such, UNICEF calls “for the urgent restoration of the power supply — the only solution to keep water services running.” In the meanwhile, UNICEF continues with COVID-19 relief efforts in Lebanon, providing “life-saving services” and supporting the vaccine rollout.

Though the situation remains dire, the commitment of UNICEF signals genuine support that Lebanon can rely on. In an imperfect, developing situation, UNICEF’s focus provides hope that even in the worst case, help stands ready.

Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr

7 FundDavid Beckham is a father, former professional soccer player, a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ambassador and a philanthropist. While Beckham played for the Manchester United Football Club he was also supporting UNICEF. In 2005, Beckham was appointed as the new ambassador for UNICEF. The former soccer player is supporting and advocating for the well-being of children globally. In 2015, to commemorate 10 years of supporting UNICEF, UNICEF and Beckham partnered to start the 7 Fund.

The 7 Fund

The 7 Fund aims to empower vulnerable children in nations across the world, including Indonesia, Nepal, Uganda and El Salvador, by addressing issues such as “bullying, violence, child marriage and missed education.” Within the initial three years of its establishment, the 7 Fund had already made a significant difference in children’s lives.

Child Marriage in Nepal

According to the 7 Fund, “Nepal has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Asia.” Girls who marry young often drop out of school, leaving them uneducated and unable to break cycles of poverty. The 7 Fund tackles child marriage in Nepal by ensuring that girls receive the support needed to stay in school or return to school to fulfill their full potential. In addition to helping “build life skills” for both boys and girls, the organization also supports the provision of mental health services for these children. Importantly, the 7 Fund educates parents and communities at large on the detrimental impacts of child marriage in order to reduce its prevalence.

The Story of Rashida Khatun

On its website, the 7 Fund showcases the inspiring story of Rashida Khatun, a 14-year-old girl in Nepal. Child marriage is common in Khatun’s community. Despite her yearning to receive an education, she could not due to her family’s impoverished circumstances. Her parents prioritized the education of her three brothers while she and her sisters had to shoulder household chores. Her four older sisters were “married as teenagers” and she was next in line.

Khatun’s world changed when she joined a “UNICEF-supported non-formal education program for girls” in her area, with permission from her father. The nine-month-long Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) program focused on empowering “out-of-school adolescent girls by giving them basic numeracy and literacy lessons and useful life skills.” Khatun told UNICEF Nepal that when she initially started the classes, she was not aware “that children had rights, or that child marriage was a violation of those rights or that it was actually illegal.”

Through the GATE program, Khatun was educated about the dangers of child marriage and decided against it. Khatun and a GATE class facilitator eventually managed to convince her parents to cancel her marriage, allowing her to continue to pursue an education that would one day help her rise out of poverty. The story of Khatun is an illustration of the importance of 7 Fund efforts to address child marriage in Nepal. Roughly 10,000 Nepali girls are now part of “a return to school” program.

Tackling Malnutrition in Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, one out of 13 children dies before reaching the age of 5, mostly due to malnutrition. The 7 Fund looks to reduce child malnutrition in Papua New Guinea through lifesaving programs. In a 2015 press release by UNICEF, Beckham says, “I feel very proud to be in Papua New Guinea to see for the first time how the money raised is helping to keep children healthy and safe, by providing life-saving therapeutic food for children suffering from malnutrition.”

Addressing Bullying in Indonesia

The 7 Fund acknowledges that the effects of bullying can stay with an individual for life. With one in five Indonesian children between 13 and 15 experiencing bullying, the issue is important to address as bullying diminishes self-esteem and negatively impacts mental health. The 7 Fund is supporting anti-bullying initiatives in Indonesian schools, focusing on “training teachers and helping schools put safeguarding plans in place, helping to reduce rates of school dropout and child marriage and creating a safer school environment to enable children to thrive.” Due to these efforts, incidences of bullying have reduced by almost a third.

Prioritizing Girls’ Education in Uganda

Within Uganda, nearly 60% of the girls are unable to go to secondary school due to violence in school and pressure to stay home to help manage the household. To ensure girls stay in or return to school, the 7 Fund is supporting “teacher training and creating protection systems to track and report violence.” The Fund is also focusing on educating parents and communities on the lifelong benefits of girls’ education for both the girls and their families.

Beckham’s 7 Fund is a prime example of using a celebrity platform to make a difference. Overall, the 7 Fund protects and empowers children with the knowledge and tools to rise out of poverty.

– Carolina Reyes 
Photo: Flickr

Haiti-United States RelationshipIn 1804, Haiti gained its independence from France, yet it took until 1862 for the U.S. to recognize Haiti as a nation. In the 20th century, U.S. military forces began a 19-year military intervention in Haiti that lasted until 1934. Despite being the “second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere after the United States,” Haiti has struggled to maintain a consistent and reliable democracy, according to the Office of the Historian. The Haiti-United States relationship has significantly strengthened over time, with the United States as a regular donor to Haiti. In an already unstable nation, the recent assassination of Haitian President Moïse in July 2021 has led to further instability in the nation, prompting urgent humanitarian assistance.

Contemporary Haiti-US Economic Relations

Following the 2010 earthquake that paralyzed Haiti, the United States provided more than $5 billion worth of aid aimed at supporting “longer-term recover, reconstruction and development programs,” according to the U.S. State Department. In the aftermath of the earthquake, U.S. economic efforts have allowed for:

  • The creation of close to 14,000 job opportunities in the apparel industry for local Haitians.
  • About 70,000 farmers were able to improve their crop yields with the introduction of “improved seeds, fertilizer, irrigation and other technologies.”
  • A stronger police force that has expanded to more than 15,300 members.
  • Progress in “child nutrition and mortality, improved access to maternal healthcare and the containment of the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
  • Greater access to basic healthcare services in more than 160 health centers across Haiti.

As “Haiti’s largest trading partner,” the U.S. is involved in Haitian sectors such as “banks, airlines, oil and agribusiness companies” as well as “U.S.-owned assembly plants,” according to the U.S. State Department. Tourism, medical supplies and equipment, modernization of Haitian infrastructure and clothing production are areas of opportunity for U.S. businesses.

Despite the successes of the Haiti-United States relationship, the World Bank estimates that, in 2020, almost 60% of the Haitian population lived in poverty. These statistics make Haiti the most impoverished nation in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Political Unrest in Haiti

A shift from communism to democracy in Haiti has the ability to strengthen the Haiti-United States relationship and provide economic stability. Political and civil unrest has been ongoing since July 2018 and “violent protests” in the nation exacerbate Haiti’s plethora of issues. Among other issues, a growing unemployment rate, inflation rising to 20% and the Haitian currency depreciating by 30%, contribute to an ailing nation. Furthermore, the nation experiences regular fuel shortages and businesses struggle to keep their doors open. Due to the high poverty rate, about 33% of the population faces “crisis- or emergency-level food insecurity.”

While Haiti showed signs of promise when it held a democratic presidential election in 2017,  its “local and parliamentary elections” that were scheduled for October 2019 did not occur. Because democracy in Haiti is not consistent, this leads to nationwide instability and unrest.

The Assassination of President Jovenel Moïse

On July 7, 2021, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and his wife, Martine, were attacked in their residence in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The president was killed in the attack and his wife was severely injured but did not suffer any fatal wounds.

Moïse’s presidency, which began in February 2017 after winning an annulled 2015 election and a second election in 2016, “was marked by controversy.” His appointment sparked protests throughout the country, with citizens citing “economic underperformance and corruption” as the reason. Since the beginning of 2020, Moïse ruled by decree and allegedly attempted to grant himself and close confidants “immunity from prosecution” on several occasions. In 2020, human rights abuses connected to gang violence caused two members of Moïse’s government to be sanctioned by the U.S. government.

US Solidarity and Support

U.S. President Joe Biden has spoken on the future of the Haiti-United States relationship following Moïse’s assassination. Recently, Biden released a statement of mourning over Moïse’s assassination and uncertainty about the future of Haiti. “We condemn this heinous act and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moïse’s recovery. The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” says Biden.

The instability in the aftermath of Moïse’s assassination leaves the future of the Haiti-United States relationship in question. However, by committing to democracy, the Haitian government can work toward a stronger economic partnership between the two nations.

International Aid to Haiti

UNICEF is working to provide aid to more than 1.5 million Haitian people experiencing “constrained access to clean water, health and nutrition, disrupted education and protection services” amid the political instability and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, UNICEF reported that “Haiti is the only country in the Western Hemisphere where not a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has been received.”

To address this, “UNICEF will support the distribution, transportation and storage of COVID-19 vaccines” to improve the vaccine rollout. Starting three years ago, UNICEF has provided 920 solar-operated fridges in Haiti, “to strengthen the cold chain, mainly in remote areas where electricity is unreliable.” Today, 96% of Haiti’s health centers possess solar fridges for medicinal cold storage.

By mitigating Haiti’s domestic hardships, there is greater hope for a stronger Haiti-United States relationship in the future. The efforts of global humanitarian organizations provide a glimmer of hope in a tumultuous political landscape.

– Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr

Afro Fem CodersAs a recent Mastercard Foundation Scholar and computer science master’s graduate at UC Berkley, Gloria Tumushabe is acutely aware of the inequality between men and women in computer programming, especially in her home country of Uganda. Women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields, specifically in computer programming where “less than 5% of programmers in sub-Saharan Africa are women.” To address the impacts of the pandemic on girls’ education in Uganda, Tumushabe launched Afro Fem Coders: a remote program teaching young Ugandan women how to code.

COVID-19 and Heightened Gender Inequality

The COVID-19 pandemic arguably heightened education inequality for Ugandan girls. Once the pandemic hit, many students had to take a step back in their education due to school closures, economic hardships and health issues. The negative repercussions of COVID-19 disproportionately impact girls and women. The Malala Fund found that “marginalized girls are more at risk than boys of dropping out of school altogether following school closures and that women and girls are more vulnerable to the worst effects of the current pandemic.”

Afro Fem Coders

Afro Fem Coders began with Tumushabe spreading the word that she would teach Ugandan girls how to code. Once girls started expressing interest in the program, Tumushabe used part of her scholarship stipend to fund the girls’ access to laptops and the internet. Afro Fem Coders gained support through a GoFundMe and now includes a mentorship program with leaders from Silicon Valley.

The program aims to “create a space that gives women a chance to learn programming in an environment that makes them feel safe, empowered and inspired.” UNICEF asserts that a feeling of safety and empowerment is important for girls to develop digital skills, especially in spaces where gender norms undermine girls’ aspirations to pursue STEM careers.

Eight girls are currently enrolled in the program, with many of them aspiring to be engineers. Student Martha Toni Atwiine endeavors “to build technology for differently-abled people and create more inclusive technology.” Margaret Tendo hopes to “use her computer science knowledge to create applications that create safe travel options for women around the country.”

Revitalizing the Economy Through Women in STEM

Not only do programs like Afro Fem Coders dismantle gendered barriers to opportunity and education but they also tap into major growth opportunities. If empowered young women enter STEM fields in Uganda, they have the chance to transform their nation into a space of growth and opportunity, harnessing the power of technology within the economic sphere.

Coupled with economic empowerment, technological advancement provides new opportunities for careers and breakthroughs that can reduce poverty in a country. UNICEF’s report on girls’ STEM education expresses that “STEM education also has the potential to contribute to personal empowerment, transformation of communities and nations and building economies for the future.”

“The more of us women in this space, the better,” Tumushabe told Berkeley. Overall, the representation of young women in fields such as computer programming actively benefits the economy and combats global poverty.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Unsplash

Soccer Stars and Celebrities Join Forces in the Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021The biggest charity soccer match in the world is back with another star-studded cast of players. Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021 has become a fixture for soccer fans to look forward to. Fans can watch old legends square off against celebrities — all for a good cause. This year, Soccer Aid for UNICEF hopes to reach a wider audience than ever before in order to aid in the recovery to COVID-19.

The Beginning of Soccer Aid for UNICEF

Dating back 15 years ago, singer Robbie Williams partnered with UNICEF for the first-ever Soccer Aid for UNICEF charity match, and now it has taken off as an annual tradition and great fundraiser for UNICEF. Each year an English team faces an international team in an iconic stadium where supporters can purchase tickets or watch live at home. The game has raised almost £50 million since it first began in 2006. Last year, Soccer Aid for UNICEF raised more than £9 million, breaking records for the charity match, and this year it hopes to go even higher.

This year, spectators can look forward to watching legends like Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Patrice Evra, Fara Williams, Roberto Carlos and all-time leading goal scorer for England, Wayne Rooney, take the pitch. Rooney said, “Soccer Aid for UNICEF has been a massive force for good since it started back in 2006 and I know the public will support us again this year.” These elite players will be alongside plenty of star power like Usain Bolt, Olly Murs, Paddy McGuiness, Tom Grennan and more suiting up for the exhibition.

Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021

For the first time ever, The Etihad Stadium, home to league winners Manchester City, will host the event. UNICEF U.K. Ambassador Dermot O’Leary is looking forward to the match, saying: “The game is going to be incredible this year… The money we raise really will make a huge difference to children’s lives everywhere… Having recently become a UNICEF UK Ambassador myself, I know how much your money and your support can help children in really tough situations be able to just be children again.” She added that “the COVID-19 crisis is making life for children in the world’s poorest countries even harder, so let’s bring play back!”

This year the charity match will have a whole week of fundraising activities leading up to the big day. The funds raised this year will go toward COVID-19 recovery and vaccination efforts. UNICEF has set its most ambitious goal yet with the hope of providing two billion vaccines for frontline workers and teachers around the world. Soccer Aid for UNICEF notes: “Children worldwide won’t be safe until everyone they rely on is safe.” The goal for the Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021 is to get children back in school and back to receiving the health care and nutritional services they need.

When stars and sporting legends align to fight global poverty, good things happen! We can look forward to more good thanks to Soccer Aid for UNICEF.

– Alex Muckenfuss
Photo: Flickr

Child Mortality in UgandaFatal diseases are taking the lives of children in Uganda, claiming the futures of the young generation. Approximately 8.2 million children younger than 5 die annually due to various illnesses and complications during childbirth. Roughly 40% of these deaths occur within the first 30 days of life, falling into the category of neonatal deaths. Rates of child mortality in Uganda have been on a decline since 1970 when there were 191 infant deaths among 1,000 births. Today, there are 45.8 deaths in 1,000 births. Although there is a marked decrease in numbers, under-five deaths still pose a problem for Uganda. Fortunately, many organizations recognize the issue and are implementing programs to effectively combat it.

Causes of Child Mortality in Uganda

Roughly 16% of child mortality cases in Uganda are caused by pneumonia. Symptoms of the illness include chest pain, persistent coughing, fever and low body temperature. About 99% of pneumonia cases occur in less-developed countries such as Uganda, making clear the correlation between poverty and pneumonia. In poverty-stricken areas, malnutrition, poor air quality and limited access to healthcare cause the development and dispersion of pneumonia among a population. Children in Uganda are vulnerable and quickly become victims of the illness.

Malaria also leads to child mortality in Uganda. Malaria is a fatal disease caused by parasites that spread from person to person. Symptoms include fever, headache and chills. Young children are especially susceptible to the disease, and in 2019, 67% of malaria cases affected children younger than 5. The illness can kill children within 30 seconds. Malaria is most common in Africa and costs the continent $12 billion each year. Access to treatment is difficult to obtain in the poverty-stricken areas of Uganda where malaria dissipates. The most impoverished areas of Africa are the ones most affected by malaria, with children younger than 5 at most risk.

Finally, diarrhea causes 10% of infant deaths in Uganda. Symptoms of the infection include cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. Studies have shown that in Pajule Subcounty and other rural areas of Uganda, the rates of diarrhea are higher. A lack of clean water and inadequate health education contribute to these health consequences.

Working Toward a Solution

Recognizing the issues that surround child mortality in Uganda, many organizations have taken the initiative to reduce the severity of the situation. One such organization is the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is dedicated to the well-being and longevity of children worldwide. Among its many programs to address under-five deaths in Uganda, UNICEF has established a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program seeking to increase access to clean drinking water and teach healthy sanitation habits. Only 8% of mothers with children younger than 5 have access to soap and resources necessary for handwashing. Such habits lead to illnesses such as diarrhea. In tandem with the Government of Uganda, UNICEF is working to provide sanitation resources and increase awareness of healthy habits.

With similar intentions and efforts, Living Goods is a nonprofit organization collaborating with Bangladesh-based BRAC to help rural Ugandan mothers prevent infant mortality. Through its Community Health Promoters (CHP) program, the organization implements grassroots efforts to improve community health. CHPs are workers who go door-to-door to communicate healthy practices, relay important information, diagnose child illnesses and provide care to mothers and their newborns. This work has led to a 27% decrease in under-five child mortality in targeted regions. Ugandan villagers now take more precautions in order to maintain their own health and that of their young children.

Looking Ahead

Child mortality in Uganda is a problem that has not yet been eliminated. Many Ugandan families face unhealthy living conditions that are unfavorable to a child’s health. However, organizations such as UNICEF, Living Goods and BRAC are working to educate rural villages on the importance of sanitation and are giving families the resources to establish healthier lifestyles. Thanks to such efforts, under-five death rates are declining. If the work of these organizations continues, in the near future, more positive progress lies ahead.

– Mariam Kazmi
Photo: Unsplash

Human Trafficking in Sierra LeoneAs the COVID-19 pandemic emphasizes the importance of protecting vulnerable people from human trafficking, the need for a global solution has never been greater. Preliminary research shows that Sierra Leone acts mainly as a country of origin from which traffickers move individuals; this refers to victims trafficked within the country and abroad. Traffickers traffick both adults and children from Sierra Leone for a range of different purposes, including prostitution, labor, service as child soldiers and adoption. The government of Sierra Leone does not fully meet the minimum criteria for the prevention of human trafficking, but it demonstrates increasing efforts to do so.

Trafficking as an “Emerging” Issue in Sierra Leone

Civil society groups regularly comment that trafficking is “an emerging issue” that has existed in Sierra Leone for a long time, but now has a fresh identity as a form of exploitation. Traffickers move a large proportion of Sierra Leoneans internally from mostly rural areas to cities and towns. This form of trafficking impacts a significant amount of children who experience exploitation for sexual or labor purposes.

However, the population generally did not have access to knowledge about internal trafficking. Many people understood this term only in a very limited sense involving the abduction of children for adoption abroad. Overall, there was a great deal of uncertainty about what did and did not constitute trafficking. As an emerging issue, there is an urgent need to clarify the subject among civil society, the government and the population. This will require comprehensive awareness-raising and sensitization activities, as well as technical training. Addressing trafficking problems efficiently can help people make wise decisions about counter-trafficking interventions. Child protection agencies across the globe will therefore benefit from the successes and lessons learned from counter-trafficking efforts.

Sierra Leone as a Source Country

Information collected from various destination countries reveals that traffickers have trafficked Sierra Leoneans abroad for different forms of exploitation. Much trafficking to the E.U. appears to be for prostitution, as data shows that all assisted trafficked persons in the Netherlands were working in the sex industry. In the Middle East, Lebanon underwent identification as a key destination for Sierra Leonean children. Traffickers generally recruited them with promises of education or well-paid jobs. However, in reality, these children worked as domestic workers and often experienced sexual exploitation from their employers. Available data suggests that traffickers trafficked children to West Africa for working in plantations in Guinea and on the Ivory Coast, begging, committing petty crimes and prostitution. The presence of Sierra Leonean unaccompanied minors (UAMs) in various destination countries is arguably a signal of trafficking risk.

It is important to be aware of the extent to which human trafficking is an issue and how trafficking cases occur. Baseline information that one can use to evaluate the further growth of the problem, as well as the effectiveness of the policies and programs in place to tackle trafficking must also emerge. More in-depth qualitative research is necessary to understand the nature of trafficking in the country, including the recruitment process, the routes and destinations, victim profiles and the forms of exploitation.

Government Action

The government has demonstrated substantial efforts to prevent human trafficking; therefore, Sierra Leone has received an upgrade to Tier 2. These efforts included the increase in investigations and prosecutions, the arrest of traffickers for the first time in 15 years, increased training for trafficking officials, the commitment of an NGO center to the development of victims’ shelters and the establishment of anti-trafficking task forces at the district level.

However, the government still did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Shelter and services, especially for male trafficking victims, remained inadequate. Law enforcement did not investigate past reports of corruption and complicity which impeded law enforcement efforts. Sierra Leoneans remained susceptible to traffickers as labor migrants. The government had to rely heavily on NGOs and private shelters, including UNICEF — a large advocate against child trafficking in Sierra Leone.

Recommendations to Stop Human Trafficking in Sierra Leone

The key to stopping and addressing human trafficking in Sierra Leone will be the implementation of anti-trafficking legislation. The police must learn about the recent trafficking law and its required elements, and the judiciary must receive training regarding how to enforce the law. Enforcement of policies and legislation on child protection needs to undergo urgent development. The porous nature of the borders of Sierra Leone requires attention in order to tackle trafficking and other forms of crime. Moreover, awareness-raising campaigns and income-generating programs must target rural areas that many trafficked children originate from. While human trafficking in Sierre Leone is a serious issue, the increased counter-trafficking efforts are a step in the right direction.

– Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr