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

The Path to Poverty Reduction in Tanzania
On the East African coast, Tanzania is home to many tourist attractions for visitors from around the world, such as beautiful beaches, trees and nature. However, Tanzania is still an impoverished country in Africa. Thankfully, developments are emerging in relation to poverty reduction in Tanzania.

The Economy in Tanzania

It is not uncommon for the economy of impoverished countries to fluctuate. At times, foreign aid helps boost the economy, and when foreign aid is low, the economic outlook is less than positive. Much of Tanzania’s economic development and exportable resources relate to the agricultural trade. Most Tanzanians live in rural areas that make it simple for them to grow crops. Agriculture accounts for approximately 28% of Tanzania’s gross domestic product or GDP, and 80% of the country’s labor force has employment in the agricultural industry. Estimates have determined that Tanzania is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies with a 6.3% increase in national GDP between 2007 and 2017.

Poverty in Tanzania

Amid the beauty and natural scenery which attracts millions of tourists annually, approximately 49% of Tanzanians live in poverty. In 2018, approximately 17 million people in Tanzania lived in poverty, living below the international poverty line—those who make less than $1.90 a day.

In spite of this, Tanzania has recorded an improvement in economic growth in the past decade. According to The World Bank, Tanzania’s poverty levels decreased by approximately 8% over the course of a decade. Most of this improvement occurred in rural areas, which were initially more poverty-stricken than urban areas.

Education in Tanzania

In Tanzania, pre-primary, primary, secondary ordinary, secondary advanced and university education exist. According to UNICEF, Tanzania has reached almost universal access to primary education. However, about 2 million children between the ages of 7 and 13 are currently not in school, leaving only 3.2% of children enrolled. The quality of education is also an important factor at play. Some children do not always learn all that they may need in a classroom, as a result of the student-to-teacher ratio being approximately 131:1. Having a large number of students per classroom and attempting to equally divide attention between students are not ideal for teachers.

However, UNICEF is making an effort to help reduce the number of children that are out of school in Tanzania. UNICEF’s “For Every Child” initiative is also tackling issues on a policy level, supporting policies that improve the root factors of low enrollment, particularly for girls and children with disabilities. UNICEF is training teachers on how to support vulnerable youth and create alternate learning methods for children who struggle to remain in school. Some of the educational goals the organization aims to have met by 2021 are to improve the delivery of quality education, to improve learning strategies and to help children gain access to education.

Looking Ahead

Despite being a relatively impoverished nation, the country has worked toward poverty reduction in Tanzania throughout the years and is continuing to do so. Maintaining economic growth in the agriculture sector and improving child education are important factors in helping Tanzania build a brighter future for its citizens. Tanzania is on a path to poverty reduction and structural improvement.

– Amina Aden
Photo: Flickr

Band Members from BTS who renewed LOVE MYSELF campaignGrammy-nominated, South Korean group, BTS recently announced the renewal of their partnership with UNICEF and their LOVE MYSELF campaign, which was first introduced on November 1, 2017. Originally, BTS used the partnership to sponsor UNICEF’s #ENDViolence campaign that sought to ensure safety for children everywhere in the world. UNICEF and BTS raised awareness for the recurrent issues of sexual assault and domestic violence for teens and children through the #ENDViolence and BTS’s LOVE MYSELF campaign.

Working with UNICEF

As the years went by, BTS hosted UNICEF booths around the world to educate the public about violence against children. The group also held a world tour under the campaign’s name. Their booth in Seoul’s Olympic Stadium was especially impactful and gathered the largest crowd in UNICEF’s event history. This places in perspective BTS’s critical role in assisting UNICEF in its goal of protecting children’s rights, especially children in poverty, across the world. BTS even took their influence to the United Nations, speaking at the U.N. General Assembly in New York where they shared their own experiences and the importance of self-love, stating, “no matter who you are, where you are from, your skin color, gender identity: speak yourself.”

Renewing the UNICEF Partnership

As of March 2021, through an announcement video on their Youtube channel, BTS renewed their commitment to the cause, donating $1 million to UNICEF, as well as profits from the LOVE MYSELF campaign’s merchandise and a portion of the proceeds from their album sales of the same name. Since 2017, this partnership has raised $2.98 million for UNICEF’s global mission and the hashtag #BTSLoveMyself has been mentioned more than 11,800,000 times, showing significant impact and success in spreading awareness.

In their announcement video, the BTS members shared the importance of their campaign and partnership, making it clear they value the UNICEF partnership and the issues the humanitarian organization stands for. V, one of the beloved band members, said “LOVE MYSELF starts with a message to love yourself, but ultimately it’s a message of loving each other and loving everyone.” J-hope added his heartfelt comment, “If our campaign just gives people the chance to think about how they can love themselves and share love to others, I think that will have a great impact.”

LOVE MYSELF Campaign Amid COVID-19

With COVID-19 still affecting our daily lives, the LOVE MYSELF campaign’s renewal is especially significant. COVID-19 has a negative impact on children across the world. Approximately 168 million schoolchildren were home as a result of school closures, with one in three being unable to access remote learning through the pandemic. Furthermore, in November 2020, UNICEF estimated that the number of children living in poverty-stricken households would increase by 140 million by the end of 2020. Supportive and successful campaigns like LOVE MYSELF are crucial during these challenging times.

As UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said, “COVID-19 is taking an enormous toll on all our lives and emotional well-being… Through their music and messages, BTS has said to their global audience, ‘You are not alone. This is a difficult time for all of us. And together, with love and kindness, we will get through it.’”

– Juan Vargas
Photo: Flickr

Way to Support Albania
Since the beginning of COVID-19, the unemployment rate in Albania increased from 12.33% to 12.81%. As thousands of Albanian people have entered poverty, UNICEF Albania and other humanitarian organizations are leading the way to support Albania during these trying times.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Albania started its COVID-19 response on March 9, 2020, by helping the Regional Local Democracy Programme (ReLOaD). The ReLOaD program helps update projects that deliver hygiene packages to vulnerable households. It also supports Albanian farmers with seeds and Albanian children with online learning materials. Support has reached 11 areas from Tirana to Lezhë, Albania. The UNDP even created an International Romani Day campaign where approximately 1,150 Albanian households received food and hygiene packages in April 2020.

UNICEF Albania

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Albania works to protect child rights with government and organization partners. Through programs supporting social and child protection, education and early childhood development, UNICEF Albania has three priorities: respecting child rights while implementing social inclusion through maintaining family access to the Albanian justice system, reforming the social care system and keeping children in school with NGO support.

In April 2020 and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF Albania supported a child protection organization statement about how thousands of children can receive protection from violence. This can occur through phone helplines, temporary shelters and professional workforces in Albania. In response to the call to action, child protection helplines underwent initiation in June 2020 through UNICEF and The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPIHA) support.

Educational Support in Albania

World Vision Albania and Kosovo Education and Youth Technical Advisor Brisida Jahaj told The Borgen Project that, “There was a huge challenge with families in poorer households.” This is because the families do not have the IT equipment or the internet for children to continue their education in Albania. The Ministry of Education in Albania found that 10,000 children lost educational resources over COVID-19.

Regarding education, UNICEF Albania has partnered and supported the Akademi.al online learning platform since 2019. Plans intend to implement it online and on television for all students by 2021. Funding from UNICEF and support from the Ministry of Education in Albania gave Akademi.al the opportunity to put approximately 1,100 lessons online for students taking Matura exams in Albania. Jahaj describes the platform as a “backup plan that if we go into the third level scenario,” wherein Albanian schools shut down in 2021.

In August 2020, UNICEF Albania worked to combat poverty due to COVID-19 by initiating its first Albanian cash transfer program to approximately 1,700 vulnerable families in Shkodër, Korçë and Durrës, Albania.

UNICEF Albania and the World Health Organization (WHO) also established an online training program to teach professionals about Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) and how to implement support to vulnerable populations during emergencies from May to July 2020. The eight module training course helps professionals master how to support mental health and psychosocial issues during emergencies. Approximately 230 frontline professionals obtained certification by September 2020.

Red Cross and World Vision

Albania experienced a series of earthquakes on November 26, 2019, which impacted approximately 200,000 Albanians. The Albania Red Cross responded to the earthquakes by sending 160 volunteers and providing 4,500 shelter relief packages to families who lost homes. The Albanian Red Cross received a 2020 Coca-Cola Company $100,000 grant in the wake of the pandemic to give community food aid and medical equipment to Albanian hospitals.

The Qatar Red Crescent Society partnered with the Albanian Red Cross to provide food package relief to 700 vulnerable families as a way to support Albania. Following the initial response, the Albanian Red Cross collaborated with Better Shelter. A total of 52 Better Shelters underwent construction in Durrës, Krujë, Laç, Shijak and Tirana, Albania, while home reconstruction continues through 2021.

World Vision Albania also helped with the earthquake response in Durrës, Lezhë, Kamëz and Kurbin, Albania by giving food and hygiene aid to 1,019 families and materials to help 27 families with home reconstruction. Jahaj told The Borgen Project that food and hygiene aid will continue in 2021 as World Vision and other humanitarian organizations including Save the Children and UNICEF provide “a lot of the masks and hand sanitizers for the schools” in Albania.

Where is Albania Now?

As of 2021, several humanitarian organizations are working to protect children and vulnerable individuals from the impact of the Albanian earthquakes and COVID-19 on the ground and online. Jahaj explained how World Vision Albania utilizes the Building Secure Livelihoods economic development program to help alleviate poverty while helping parents provide for their children from 2019 until 2023.

On all fronts, UNICEF, World Vision, Save the Children and the Albanian Red Cross responded to Albanian communities. By providing everything from medical care, earthquake shelter, child protection and online learning directly to families, these organizations have found a way to support Albania. As of January 2021, humanitarian organizations continue to work on home reconstruction, mental health support and flood response. Furthermore, Albania acquired 500,000 COVID-19 vaccines to distribute in 2021.

– Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

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

Mental Health Support for Armenia

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

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

UNICEF Addresses Child Trauma

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

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

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

The Increased Need for Mental Health Support in Armenia

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

Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

Education and poverty crisis in SudanOver three million children in Sudan do not attend school. The severe gap in the education system continues the cycle of poverty in the country. Chronic underdevelopment and conflict are two of the most significant reasons children in Sudan are out of school. Girls face additional hurdles such as cultural pressures and traditional views that prevent them from receiving an education. While 76% of primary age children attend school, in secondary, the number drops drastically to 28%. The Sudanese government and organizations such as UNICEF have stepped in to resolve the education and poverty crisis in Sudan.

The Education Crisis in Sudan

In South and East Darfur, there are 7,315 employed teachers, 3,692 of which are unqualified. In essence, half of the teachers that are employed in South and East Darfur are unqualified. Furthermore, many teachers in Sudan were  found to be “untrained, under supervised and unequally distributed between rural and urban areas.” Not only do schools often have teachers who are unqualified but the curriculum lacks active learning and teaching materials are either outdated or nonexistent.

The Relationship Between Education and Poverty

In their haste to escape poverty, people drop out of school in search of employment so that they can provide for themselves and their families. While a higher education often proves fruitful in finding a good-paying job, those in poverty do not have time to wait. Without an education, people living in poverty lack literacy and numeracy skills which are needed to advance in the working world. This cycle is repeated generation after generation, inextricably linking education and poverty.

Families living in this cycle of poverty often make the choice for their children, otherwise, they will not be able to provide food, water or shelter. And while some schools may be free of cost, the added costs of uniforms, books and supplies must be taken into consideration.

While poverty may have a negative effect on education, education has an increasingly positive effect on poverty. Proper education will increase one’s skill set and open the door to a world of new employment opportunities and increase the potential for higher income. With each additional year of schooling, earnings increase by about 10%. And for every dollar invested in an additional year of schooling “earnings increase by $5 in low-income countries and $2.5 in lower-middle-income countries.” UNESCO found that if all adults had two more years of schooling or completed secondary school, nearly 60 million people could escape poverty and 420 million could be lifted out of poverty, respectively.

Improving Education in the Region

The Federal Ministry of Education will implement nine strategies to improve the education and poverty crisis in Sudan. Based on these strategies, the following has been projected for the years 2018-2023: pre-school coverage will increase by 19%, basic education by 16% and secondary education by 7%.

Sudan will invest in enrollment programs and work to retain those already enrolled. The government will expand opportunities for education at every level to ensure that students do not drop out due to a lack of space. And in collaboration with global partners, the Federal Ministry of Education will work toward quality education that is accessible to all.

UNICEF’s Educational Efforts

By 2021, UNICEF intends to provide more children with the opportunity to have a quality education starting at a young age, in a learning environment that is inclusive and safe.

The organization will work with communities, parents, teachers and children to promote a socially cohesive atmosphere that even the most vulnerable of children can access. The Learning and Development Programme and the Ministries of Education will advocate for evidence-based surveys, field reports, community discussions and evaluations to mold policy reform in favor of inclusion. UNICEF and its partners will ensure the safety of schools by providing water, health and sanitation facilities. Additionally, children will be taught the proper behaviors surrounding health, nutrition and child protection. Schools will receive the support needed to ensure schools are free of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.

The undeniable education and poverty crisis in Sudan has prevented most people from achieving a proper education and reaching their true earning potential. While most agree that education is important, many Sudanese people find that it is a luxury outweighed by life’s bare necessities. With the five-year plan developed by the Federal Ministry of Education and the help of organizations like UNICEF, the toxic cycle between education and poverty will come to an end.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to nations all over the world, but especially in the global south. India, for example, has an enormous population of 1.3 billion people, with labor forces large enough to create the world’s fifth largest economy. However, as of September 3rd, total confirmed cases across the country had reached 3.85 million, with 67,376 total deaths. As COVID-19 spreads throughout India, it leaves behind long-term effects on issues from medical resources to economic scarcity. 

Income and Unemployment

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic in India, economic disparity existed in many forms. In 2019, the average per capita monthly income was approximately 10,534 Indian Rupees. To put this in perspective, 10,534 Indian Rupees equals $143.42 USD, meaning the annual income of the average Indian citizen was just $1,721.04. Over the past 5 years, India’s unemployment rate has been increasing steadily, but in April 2020, skyrocketed to 23.5%. Factories and construction sites, known for housing and feeding temporary employees, threw their workers onto the streets. 95% percent of employed women worked in informal positions, many let go as households and businesses determined outside workers were too dangerous. As restrictions are slowly lifting across the country, frightened people return to work, since the fear of starvation holds more weight than fear of infection. 

Lack of Medical Resources

For those in need of COVID-19 medical care, options for help are slim. According to reports from the New York Times, public hospitals are so immensely overwhelmed that doctors have to treat patients in the hallways. For those with non-COVID related medical needs, options are almost nonexistent. On March 24th, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that to “save India”, a nationwide lockdown on all nonessential surgeries was necessary. For Ravindra Nath Singh, a 76-year-old man with Parkinson’s, this meant being discharged from the ICU in a hospital in Lucknow, just minutes after becoming stable on a catheter and feeding tube. For a young woman in New Delhi, this meant eight hospitals turning her away while in labor for 15 hours, only to die in the back of an ambulance.

Child Labor and Education

The spread of COVID-19 in India forced schools to shut down, proving unhelpful to their already existing struggle for attendance. According to a study in 2018 by DHL International GmBH, India hosts the highest population of uneducated children with an intimidating 56 million children not in school. As restrictions across the country lift, one of the biggest hurdles will be encouraging enrollment, especially with uncertain learning conditions. Enrollment hesitation enables another widespread issue in India: child labor. Experts claim the biggest spike in child labor is yet to come, as immense economic losses will compel large corporations to seek cheap labor.  

The lack of in-person education has also proven to have a significant impact on child mental health. 12-year-old Ashwini Pawar once dreamt of being a teacher, but now must reconsider her life’s ambition. In an interview with TIME magazine, she considers her family financial burdens, “even when [school] reopens I don’t think I will be able to go back…”. This mentality pushes concerns of economic inequality, as this pandemic might destroy great strides made over the past decade.         

Deaths and Infection Rates

In very little time, India has become the new epicenter of the Coronavirus. The daily number of confirmed cases shot from about 40,000 to 80,000 in just a few weeks. Unlike most of the world, this virus is heavily affecting the workforce demographic. More than 50% of COVID-19 deaths in India have occurred between the ages of 40 – 64, an interesting contrast to developed countries where 70% of deaths have occurred in age groups 70 and older. According to Sanjay Mohanty, a lead scientific author from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, this contrast is due to India’s age distribution. Mohanty states, “the median age in the country is 24 years and therefore more younger people are available for virus transmission…”. Unfortunately, the road to recovery is a long one, as millions of people are still susceptible to infection. 

The Good News

Despite the seemingly daunting situation, there are many reasons to have hope for India. Well-known charities such as Unicef and Give2Asia have focused aid on India, pushing their needs into the limelight. Newly-risen charities are also making impressive strides on the ground. Snehalaya ‘Home of Love’ is a charity based out of Ahmadnagar dedicated to feeding poor families during the pandemic. In Ahmadnagar’s 17 official slums, Snehalaya has fed over 17,000 families and raised over $80,000 of aid in just 6 months.

Hope also goes beyond organized help. As seen in various reports, neighbors are sharing all types of resources, from food to hygiene products. Global pandemic or not, India’s path to healing is futile without charity aid and attention.

—Amanda J Godfrey
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in EritreaMilitarism and instability are endemic to Eritrea. The degradation of civil society is a result of those two factors. Child poverty in Eritrea is rampant due to such foundations; however, the country is not without benefactors. UNICEF’s aid efforts are improving children’s health within Eritrea despite the current conditions.

A Brief History

Eritrea is one of the few countries that can truly be considered a fledgling state in the 21st century. After a decades-long secession war, the Eritrean government achieved full independence from Ethiopia in 1993. They solidified the totalitarian one-party dictatorship that has retained power since. A brief period of peace followed, during which promised democratic elections never materialized. Then, Eritrea’s unresolved border disputes with Ethiopia escalated into a war that lasted from 1998 to 2000. It killed tens of thousands and resulted in several minor border changes and only formally ended in 2018. In the wake of this war, the Eritrean government has sustained a track record of militarization, corruption and human rights violations that has continually degraded civil stability. As of 2004, around 50% of Eritreans live below the poverty line.

Eritrea’s Youth at a Glance

Housing around 6 million people, Eritrea’s youth make up a significant proportion of its population. Eritrea has the 35th highest total fertility rate globally, with a mean of 3.73 children born per woman. It also has the 42nd lowest life expectancy at birth at a mere 66.2 years, with significant variation between that of males (63.6 years) and females (68.8 years).

Forced Conscriptions of Children

Under the guise of national security against Ethiopia, Eritrea has maintained a system of universal, compulsory conscription since 2003. This policy requires all high school students to complete their final year of high school at Sawa, the country’s primary military training center. Many are 16 or 17 years of age when their conscription begins, which led the U.N. Commission of Inquiry to accuse Eritrea of mobilizing child soldiers.

The Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report also blamed Eritrea’s conscription practices for a number of grievances. Its prolonged militarization has wide-reaching effects for the country. Many adults are held in service against their will for up to a decade, but it is particularly damaging to Eritrean youth. Students at Sawa face food shortages, forced labor and harsh punishment. Many female students have reportedly suffered sexual abuse. Besides fleeing, “Many girls and young women opt for early marriage and motherhood as a means of evading Sawa and conscription.”

Further, “The system of conscription has driven thousands of young Eritreans each year into exile,” HRW claims. They estimate that around 507,300 Eritreans live elsewhere. Because of its conscription practices, Eritrea is both a top producer of refugees and unaccompanied refugee children in Europe – they not only result in child poverty in Eritrea, but in other regions as well.

Education Access

HRW claims that Eritrea’s education system plays a central role in its high levels of militarization. It leads many students to drop out, intentionally fail classes or flee the country. This has severely undermined education access and inflated child poverty in Eritrea.

Eritrea currently has the lowest school life expectancy – “the total number of years of schooling (primary to tertiary) that a child can expect to receive” – of any country. Eritrea has reportedly made strides to raise enrollment over the last 20 years. However, 27.2% of school-aged children still do not receive schooling, and the country retains a literacy rate of only 76.6%. Illiteracy is much more prevalent among females than among males, with respective literacy rates of 68.9% and 84.4%. In general, girls and children in nomadic populations are the least likely to receive schooling.

Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

As mentioned earlier, over half a million Eritreans have fled the country as refugees. Around one-third of them – about 170,000, according to the WHO – now live in Ethiopia. A majority reside in six different refugee camps. As of 2019, around 6,000 more cross the border each month. Reporting by the UNHCR shows that “children account for 44% of the total refugee population residing in the [Eritrean] Camps, of whom 27% arrive unaccompanied or separated from their families.” Far from being ameliorated by domestic education programs, child poverty in Eritrea is merely being outsourced to its neighbors.

Children’s Health as a Site for Progress

Adjacent to these issues, UNICEF’s programs have driven significant improvements in sanitation, malnutrition and medical access. Its Health and Nutrition programs, among other things, address malnutrition by administering supplements, prevent maternal transmission of HIV/AIDS during birth and administer vaccines. Teams in other departments improve sanitation and lobby against practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation.

In its 2015 Humanitarian Action for Children report on Eritrea, UNICEF wrote that Eritrea “has made spectacular progress on half the [Millennium Development Goals],” including “Goal 4 (child mortality), Goal 5 (maternal mortality), Goal 6 (HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases) and is on track to meet the target for access to safe drinking water (Goal 7).”

Figures illustrate this progress on child poverty in Eritrea. Since 1991, child immunization rates have jumped from 14% to 98%, safe water access rates are up at 60% from 7%, iodine deficiency has plummeted from 80% to 20% in children and the under-five mortality rate sits at 63 deaths per 1000 births, rather than at 148.

Child poverty in Eritrea is a far cry from being solved, but it is not a lost cause.

Skye Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Childhood Pneumonia
One of the most common diseases globally, pneumonia can be a silent killer when it infects children under 5. In the developing world, rates of childhood pneumonia cases and deaths are still high despite decreasing in other childhood diseases. However, due to new research and outreach programs to aid developing countries, those numbers may soon fall.

10 Facts About Childhood Pneumonia

  1. Various sources cause the disease. Unlike many other diseases that come from a single source, pneumonia is the name for the lungs’ acute response to an airborne pathogen. While pneumonia can develop from bacteria, viruses or fungi, the most common cause for children is the bacteria S. pneumoniae. The bacteria typically live in the lungs without harming the body, but the body develops pneumonia to kill the bacteria when it begins to spread.
  2. Childhood pneumonia mainly infects children under the age of 5. While people of all ages can develop pneumonia, children under the age of 5 are especially susceptible to the infection. Since their immune systems are not fully developed, their bodies are more likely to trigger a response to a foreign agent’s presence in the respiratory system, leading to pneumonia. These infection rates only increase in developing countries, where children are more likely to be born either malnourished or with a disease that they acquired in utero such as HIV.
  3. Pneumonia is a leading cause of death in children. Although pneumonia is often easy to treat and cure in developed countries, it can be fatal in developing countries. According to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF), childhood pneumonia kills over 800,000 children each year in comparison to 437,000 from diarrhea and 272,000 from malaria. These deaths are typically in children who are malnourished or have other conditions such as HIV that impair the immune system.
  4. South Asia has the greatest incidence of childhood pneumonia. Out of every 100,000 children in South Asia, approximately 25,000 will develop pneumonia each year. However, the majority of these cases — approximately 36% — occur in India. Studies looking into the potential causes for the increased number of cases have found that overcrowding in housing with inadequate ventilation allowed the disease to spread among families. Without effective airflow, children in those households continue to breathe in potentially infected air, increasing their chances of developing pneumonia.
  5. Air pollution increases pneumonia rates. Although a child needs to have exposure to the biological cause of pneumonia to develop the disease, certain environmental factors can increase infection likelihood. In India, a country with one of the worst-rated air qualities in the world, particles of smoke and other forms of pollution in the air weaken lungs when inhaled, making it more likely for a young child to develop pneumonia. These conditions of outdoor air pollution causes approximately 17.5% of all pneumonia deaths in the developing world.
  6. The disease is treatable. With antibiotics or antifungals (depending on the cause), children with pneumonia can recover from the disease. However, this treatment is dependent on the resources available in the country where the child lives. In developing countries such as Nigeria — the African country with the highest pneumonia rates in children — only one in three children with pneumonia symptoms can receive treatment due to the lack of available medicines and other medical resources.
  7. Some are producing vaccines. Although vaccines cannot treat viral pneumonia, they are still an important asset in preventing it. However, most of the produced vaccines are only available in developed countries where doctors recommend them for children under 5. In developing countries, nearly 10 million children are unvaccinated. Through the World Health Organization (WHO), many countries have received vaccines, although there has been great variation between regions of the world. While WHO’s South-East Asian Region has 89% coverage, its Western Pacific region only has 24% coverage.
  8. Less progress has occurred regarding childhood pneumonia. While research on pneumonia as a whole has increased over the past decade, there has been much less progress on childhood pneumonia in comparison to other childhood diseases. Since 2000, deaths for those under 5 from pneumonia have decreased by 54%, while deaths from diarrhea have decreased by 64% and are currently half the number of childhood pneumonia deaths.
  9. Large organizations are helping. Among other large, international organizations, the Gates Foundation has taken efforts to reduce childhood pneumonia rates in developing countries. One of its main methods is the continued distribution of vaccines to children and families in South Asian and Sub-Saharan Africa, specifically India and Nigeria. So far, the organization has sent vaccines to over 37 countries in those regions of the world, slowing transmission and infection rates in those areas.
  10. Rates will continue to drop in the future. Although the number of childhood pneumonia cases each year have not dropped as much as other diseases, long-term progress is still ongoing. If the current level of progress toward eradicating the disease continues, UNICEF predicts that it will save 5.9 million children. At the same time, if resources towards the effort increase, that number will increase to nearly 10 million.

UNICEF and WHO do not expect to meet their goal of eradicating childhood pneumonia until 2030. However, the progress they and many others are currently initiating is making a difference. Soon, pneumonia will become an extinct disease in the developing world so that it will never harm another child.

Sarah Licht
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in ZimbabweZimbabwe has high poverty rates with more than half of the country’s population estimated to be living in abject poverty. Child poverty is prevalent in the country as children account for 48% of the population. There are notable efforts being made to address the issue of child poverty in Zimbabwe.

A History of Poverty

Zimbabwe, once known as Rhodesia, attained independence from British rule in 1980. Following the country’s independence was intense political warfare stemming from tensions between the then newly instated president, Robert Mugabe. This period resulted in the deaths of more than 20,000 Zimbabweans. These tensions would continue in Zimbabwe for the next two decades. Multiple uprisings occurred throughout the 1990s and early to mid-2000s, with citizens protesting for a litany of issues, including increased food prices, land ownership and financial plight. Economic turmoil has steadily increased since the country’s independence in 1980. The country broke records with one of the highest rates of hyperinflation in 2008, peaking at 98%. Zimbabwe has had intermittent financial rebounds since this time, however, the country has continued to struggle with stabilizing its economy.

State of Affairs in Zimbabwe

Agriculture plays a prominent role in Zimbabwe’s economy. According to the FAO, 60-70% of the country’s population depend on agricultural-related affairs for employment. The industrial sector relies on agriculture heavily, providing 60% of raw materials. Agriculture also accounts for 40% of export earnings and makes up 17% of the country’s GDP. Droughts have threatened the livelihoods of many Zimbabweans. The country is currently experiencing the most severe droughts in its history. A significant proportion of the population that is dependent upon farming and agriculture for both income and food are placed in jeopardy. Food shortages have become a prevalent issue in Zimbabwe with children being adversely impacted.

UNICEF reports that 4.8 million Zimbabwean children live in poverty and 1.6 million children live in extreme poverty. The most prevalent issues for impoverished children in Zimbabwe include malnutrition, education, sanitation and access to potable water. The FAO reported that less than 10% of Zimbabwean children between 6-24 months of age consume a minimally acceptable diet.

UNICEF Addresses Child Poverty

UNICEF has made several efforts to address child poverty in Zimbabwe. A few noteworthy efforts by UNICEF include providing 6,740 mothers with infant and young child feeding counseling as well as supplying more than 700,000 children with vitamin A in 2016.

UNICEF partnered with U.N. Women and the UNFPA in 2016 and the organizations in cooperation with the Zimbabwean Government were able to successfully support the development of the National Action Plan and the Communication Plan to End Child Marriages. UNICEF has also supported grassroots efforts in Zimbabwe. One being the development of the National Case Management System (NCMS) which provides child protection services, referrals and HIV care and treatment to vulnerable populations throughout Zimbabwe.

The NCMS provided nearly 24,000 Zimbabwean children with legal support in 2016. UNICEF also showed its support in the multi-sectoral system that accompanied the National Case Management System. This multi-sectoral system employs officers specifically tasked with providing support for children who have been victims of physical and sexual abuse. These efforts are major milestones that have contributed to improving the state of child poverty in Zimbabwe.

The Future of Child Poverty in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has had extensive turmoil in its history and tremendous economic turbulence. But, there still remains potential for growth and development. In this development, children need to be prioritized. With the assistance of organizations, child poverty in Zimbabwe can be reduced.

– Imani Smikle
Photo: Flickr