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child poverty in ThailandOver the last several years, Thailand has made impressive progress in reducing poverty. It has gone down from 67 percent in 1986 to only 7.2 percent in 2015. While there has been considerable progress made, poverty is still a major problem in Thailand, especially among children. The following are 10 important facts about child poverty in Thailand.

10 Facts About Child Poverty in Thailand

  1. It is estimated that about one million children in Thailand are living in vulnerable conditions. Child poverty in Thailand is a serious issue. These vulnerable individuals include children that live in poverty, have lost their parents, have a disability or have been forced to live on the streets.
  2. Child labor has long been a problem. It is estimated that more than eight percent of children between ages five and 14 are involved in the workforce. Impoverished children have no option but to enter into factory work, fishery work, construction or agriculture. Young children are also often forced into the commercial sex industry. Riley Winter, a student who recently traveled to Thailand, told The Borgen Project she witnessed children were giving tourists foot massages for just a small amount of money.
  3. Around 380,000 children have been left as orphans by the AIDS epidemic. This greatly affects child poverty in Thailand; many of these children are forced to live on the streets or enter the workforce because they have no one to care for them. It is also estimated that 200 to 300 children will be born HIV-positive each year.
  4. Poor children in Thailand do not have full access to medical care. Out of the 20,000 children are affected by HIV/AIDS, only 1,000 of them have access to medical care.
  5. Children are being exploited. Thailand has become wealthier and, consequently, trafficking networks have been expanding to poorer and isolated children in the country. Child poverty in Thailand has led these children to enter commercial sexual exploitation.
  6. Child poverty in Thailand makes it difficult for poorer children to remain in school. They do not have access to the necessary tools to succeed and remain in school so they are often forced to drop out. The wealthiest group has 81.6 percent of children of primary school age enter grade one while only 65.3 percent of the poorest group enter grade one.
  7. Arranged marriages are very prevalent in Thailand today. A man from a wealthy family is often chosen because the dowry system is still utilized in Thailand. The wealthy man will give the bride’s parents money in exchange for her hand in marriage. This happens in poor communities in Thailand very often, taking away the possibility for the impoverished girl to receive future education, among other things.
  8. Children are being forced to live on the streets due to things like violence, abuse and poverty. These children often beg or sell small goods for just a bit of money each day. They are at risk of poor health and lack of nutrition.
  9. Children are being left in rural communities. Thailand’s economy has been moving away from the agricultural sector and more money can be made in urban areas. Parents are forced to go to work in bigger cities like Bangkok, and children are often left in the care of someone else in rural villages.Parents send money back to their family but children often only get to see their parents one to two times a year. Although the parents are making more money, leaving their children comes with a risk. Children left in these rural communities are at risk of malnutrition and developmental and behavioral issues.
  10. Since the 1990s, child poverty in Thailand has been rapidly improving. The number of child deaths has decreased, literacy rates have dramatically increased, fewer children are malnourished and there are more children in school and less in the workforce.

There have been countless efforts made in Thailand to address child poverty but there is still a lot of work to be done. The nation has set long-term economic goals to be reached by 2036. These goals address economic stability, human capital and equal economic opportunities. These goals will be crucial going forward to help fight child poverty in Thailand.

– Ronni Winter
Photo: Flickr

ComorosComoros is an archipelago off the coast of Africa composed of three distinct volcanic islands: Nhazidja, Mwali and Ndzouani. Since declaring independence from France in 1975, the state has suffered a steady decline in its gross domestic product. Environmental hazards such as an unpredictable climate, overpopulation and poor harvests have stunted the growth of Comoros’s economy. In 2016, Comoros’ agriculture-based workforce was at a stagnant unemployment rate of 19.96 percent and scored .497 on the Human Development Index, indicating insufficient rates of life expectancy, education and per capita incomes.

In 2001, Comoros published its official constitution. In its preamble, the constitution states that equality, freedom and both economic and basic security will be provided for its citizens “without distinction based on sex, origin, race, religion or belief”. The proclamation goes on to specify direct measures of this freedom, emphasizing both the promised protection of accused citizens to properly defend his or herself before the courts, as well as the rights of a child to be safeguarded by authorities against “any form of abandonment, exploitation and violence”.

Despite these mandates, however, Comoros’ human rights record is tainted with accounts of political corruption, extensive pretrial detention, as well as several instances of child exploitation and abuse. In its current state, Comoros is acting out of the bounds of its own written law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations. Here are two examples of the evasion of human rights in Comoros.

Prisoner Conditions
According to the 2016 Human Rights Report, Comoros’ prison and detention centers were severely overcrowded. Out of three prisons, the largest is based in the nation’s capital city, Moroni. After analyzing the size and structural scope of this prison, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced its capacity at 60 prisoners. However, when examined at the time of this report, Moroni’s prison was holding 148 inmates. Reports also concluded that each prisoner was allotted, on average, only one meal per day. Malnutrition was prevalent among inmates, most particularly those who were not supplemented with food from family members

Investigation into the the livelihood of inmates suggested that juveniles and adults are also held together in the same cellblock. Studies like the one done by the Justice Policy Institute suggest that this practice leads to juveniles re-entering society as hardened criminals, more assimilated to an immoral way of life. This leads to higher levels of recidivism and stunts the growth of the nation’s next generation.

When discussing human rights in Comoros, however, one of the biggest concerns comes from the delay of fair trials when a citizen falls under formal accusation. Disarray within the judicial system often leaves pretrial detainees awaiting trial for more than four months, beyond the permissible limits of holding. On top of this, many of the innate liberties in which the accused are entitled to were ignored or unacknowledged by the court system. These rights include that to a public defender and an impartial judicial environment in which to present his or her case. Oftentimes, bribery, corruption and unpredictability within the court system stomped on the rights of the accused, and many were imprisoned without a fair chance at proving their innocence.

Child Abuse
Among other violations of human rights in Comoros include the exploitation and forced labor of young children. In 2002, three studies financed by UNICEF evaluated and confirmed the widespread physical and psychological abuse suffered by the children of Comoros. These studies determined sexual abuse to be at the forefront of offenses, and the average age of the victim to be 13.

In 2005, UNICEF published the story of Amina, an 11-year-old girl whose life was stolen after the delivery of her illegitimate child. Amina’s rapist, the father of this child, was a Koranic teacher who lived near Amina and her family. Ashamed of what had transpired between her and the 45-year-old aggressor, Amina hid her pregnancy for seven months—neglecting the necessities of prenatal care and putting her life at risk.

Cases like Amina’s are far too common within Comorian society, often ending in informal contracts between the victim’s family and the abuser. Instead of reporting instances of rape and molestation, the offender pays money to the victim and, in the case of pregnancy, agrees to care for and support the unborn child.

Reports also show high instances of human trafficking in the case of young, impoverished children being sent to work for wealthier families in both the financial and agricultural sectors. Their new caretakers often exploit the children by having them work long, exhaustive hours and expose them to both physical and sexual abuse. Some of these children are reportedly placed into positions where they are forced to smuggle drugs into neighboring islands or operate covertly in unlawful tasks.

In other cases, children are sent to Koranic schools headed by fundi, a “learned person”, in order to edify themselves on Islamic law and culture. In 2009, the ILO reported more than 60 percent of the children it surveyed were victims of sexual abuse by their fundi—forced, then, to live among and learn from their attacker.

In order for human rights in Comoros to be acknowledged and respected, these transgressions need to be punished with the proper repercussions. This comes primarily from supporting the U.N. in their initiatives like the Global Action Programme on Child Labor Issues. In its targeting of problem countries, Comoros included, this project works to pinpoint the legal gaps that allow child labor to exist, and diminish its existence in terms of both legislation and livelihood. The effort of the individual to lobby for programs and projects like this helps perpetuate the regard for human rights in Comoros.

Briana Fernald

Photo: Flickr

Tobacco Control Reduces Poverty
Tobacco and global poverty have an often overlooked connection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Many studies have shown that in the poorest households in many low-income countries, spending on tobacco products often represent more than 10 percent of total household expenditure.”

The WHO, the U.N. and other international organizations have recognized and researched this link to decrease tobacco use and poverty rates. Here are five ways tobacco control reduces poverty globally:

1. Tobacco control will relieve financial hardships.

Tobacco addictions exacerbate an already stressful financial situation for those living in poverty.

Families, as a result, have less to spend on food, education, healthcare and other necessities. Bangladesh, for example, spends 10 times the amount on tobacco than on education. Tobacco control reduces poverty by helping families spend less on tobacco, freeing up more income to spend on necessities.

2. Tobacco control will save lives.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports 6 million tobacco-related deaths worldwide per year. Tobacco users die 10 years earlier than non-users. Smoking also causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Tobacco control is known as one of the most effective ways to reduce consumption. Its implementation would reduce the amount of smoking-related illnesses, keeping more workers in the labor force and ease health care expenditures for families.

3. Tobacco control will reduce exploitation.

Tobacco also affects those who produce it. Farmers who produce tobacco on a small-scale in developing countries depend heavily on the tobacco industry. Although large corporations provide credit for farmers, including seeds, fertilizer, pesticides and technological support, they expect the farmers to forgo profits and sell at the company’s contract price. This is further evidence that tobacco control reduces poverty.

Furthermore, farmers’ children have saved the tobacco industry an estimated $1.2 billion in production costs through unpaid child labor. The industry employs 63 percent of children in tobacco-farming families, preventing 10-14 percent from attending school for work’s sake.

The lack of education drives individuals deeper into poverty. Tobacco control reduces poverty not only by giving farmers better opportunities to provide for themselves, but also eliminating the need for children to sacrifice school for work, ultimately granting them the chance to move up social classes in the future.

4. Tobacco control will improve economies.

Tobacco takes away 1-2 percent of the world’s GDP annually. A 2011 WHO report found that governments can introduce effective tobacco control measures for as little as $0.11 per person per year. If governments allocated the extra revenue from such taxes to their health budgets, WHO found this year in a report that “public expenditure on health would increase by four percent globally.”

Currently, the costs of tobacco production outweigh the profits. For example, although Tanzania earns $50 million from tobacco sales annually, the African country spends $40 million on health care for tobacco-related cancers.

Tobacco control in the form of taxes would increase government revenue and funds for the poor.

5. Tobacco control will help the achieve the SDGs.

The U.N.’s Division for Sustainable Development seeks to reduce poverty and coordinate the 17 internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aforementioned effects of tobacco control directly align themselves with the SDGs, as they include no poverty or hunger, good health and well-being, quality education and economic growth worldwide by 2030.

Because of its negative byproducts, tobacco use is considered a hindrance to global development.

However, with proper tobacco control, individuals, governments and organizations believe it can provide sustainable benefits.

Ashley Leon

Photo: Pixabay

world cup
Destitute life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro has changed very little over the years. The streets may be currently adorned in green and yellow, but the quality of life continues to be the same.

1. The Most Expensive World Cup in History

The projected cost for hosting the games is more than $11 billion, which makes it the most expensive World Cup since it began 84 years ago. Citizens are complaining that the government of Brazil is spending so much money on the World Cup while many of its citizens are living in poverty. Paying for this World Cup has come out of these citizens’ taxpayer dollars.

2. Spent Billions of Dollars; Are There More Important Endeavors?

The money that was spent on the World Cup, on structures like stadiums and other sporting infrastructure, takes away from money that could have been spent on basic needs that many Brazilian citizens lack, such as education, better health care and adequate housing.

3. Corruption in the Brazilian Government and FIFA

The Brazilian government has been accused of overspending and corruption. The cost of building the Mane Garrincha Stadium came out to be $900 million, triple the original amount, largely due to fraud and corruption. FIFA, which has always been known for corruption, will be gaining all profits from the World Cup, while Brazil is paying the costs. The gains will not go to the people who really need it in Brazil, even though the Brazilian government has spent so much money on the World Cup. Many Brazilians can’t afford tickets to the games, or even afford to travel to protests against the World Cup, while their taxpayer dollars have gone towars paying for the World Cup.

4. Providing More Business For Sex Tourism

Sex tourism is encouraged in Brazil, and hotels and taxis are even part of the network that links clients with women and young girls. In Recife, one of the World Cup sites and also one of the poorest parts of Brazil, 120,000 soccer tickets were sold to foreigners. The women and young girls know that foreigners coming have a lot of money and “they come to Brazil to have fun.” A handful of sex workers have even taken English classes in order to negotiate better. The World Cup was originally sold to Brazilians as an economic boost because of the rewards of greater tourism. Unfortunately, one of the facets of tourism in Brazil is the sex industry, and this increase in tourism is perpetuating the sad cycle of abuse in the industry.

5. Encouraging Child Exploitation

Sadly, the sex industry in Brazil exploits children as well. Recife has one of the worst records in the world when it comes to child exploitation. In Sao Lourenço, where the Recife stadium is located, some of the street vendors not only sell food, but also their children for sexual exploitation. Child exploitation is so out of control in Brazil that officials are worried that tourists coming to Brazil for the World Cup will not respect their legislation on sex tourism.

— Colleen Moore

Sources: A.V. Club, WNCN, CBC, Philly.com, CNBC
Photo: Forbes

It is estimated that more than 54,000 children live on the streets of Accra, Ghana’s capital. These children are often exploited for cheap labor and work in the commercial sex industry. The number of street children in Accra more than doubled between 2007 and 2011, due to economic growth and unenforced child protection laws. In response to these concerning numbers, an NGO called International Needs Ghana conducted a study aimed at discovering why these children are so desperate.

The study focused on 13 communities in Accra, and found that most street children in this highly populated, low-income city come from broken homes. If their parents are alive and present, they are often too sick or too poor to care for them. Some families choose to send their child with someone promising a better life in the big city, rather than allow them to suffer in poverty. However, once they arrive in Accra, these children are all too often taken advantage of. Child laborers endure backbreaking conditions and earn little to no pay. Meanwhile, child sex workers suffer traumatizing experiences and often become pregnant or contract sexually transmitted infections, due to the lack of condom use.

The breakdown of the family unit is largely being blamed for Accra’s increase in commercial exploitation of children. Therefore, efforts are being made to stabilize families by empowering parents to care for their children. As part of a three-year program run by International Needs Ghana, 400 parents or caregivers of children victimized by or at risk of exploitation will be economically enabled. Meanwhile, 1000 children in Accra will be taken from the streets, rehabilitated, and integrated back into their families and society. These programs are being funded by the Australian Agency for International Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand.

The commercial exploitation of children is yet another negative side effect of poverty. When families face economic struggles, their ability to care for and protect their children decreases. By economically empowering these families, International Needs Ghana is both preventing children from being commercially exploited and working to end the cycle of poverty. And with 54,000 children in danger of exploitation in Accra alone, the world could use a lot more work like this.

Katie Fullerton

Sources: Ghana Business News, SOS Children’s Villages, Modern Ghana
Photo: The Child Monitor