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Child poverty in ArgentinaPrior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many children in Argentina had been living in poverty. The pandemic has caused numbers to soar due to its many negative effects. When considering the long-term presence and future impacts caused by poverty, it is all the more critical to help the children in this country, and around the world. This article highlights facts about child poverty in Argentina, as well as some organizations on the ground helping such children.

The Current Situation

There has never been a more critical time for action than now. UNICEF estimates that 63% of Argentinian children will be living in poverty by the end of 2020, due to COVID-19. In August of 2019, child poverty reached over 50%, with 13% of children in a state of hunger. As compared to the year prior, this is an 11% increase. UNICEF estimates that at the end of 2020, there will be an increase of 18.7% in extreme poverty among children and teenagers.

Stats

The above figures depict that one in every two Argentinian children lives in poverty, which amounts to five million children. One million of these children are homeless. Those who do have homes often deal with rough home lives. Many children are subject to child labor, which includes work as domestics or “house slaves.” These children end up working in illegal textile workshops, mining, construction, or agriculture. The exploitation of child labor is commonly related to sexual exploitation. In response, Argentina has passed laws and social programs to end child labor and sexual exploitation. However, the fight to end these practices must continue.

When not at home, (only a few) children received a formal education. As of 2017, nearly 20% of Argentinian children do not attend school. After the collapse of the economy nearly 20 years ago, funding for education was heavily reduced. Children living in poverty were the first to be affected, as they had to work in order to provide for their families. There are also issues with violence occurring in schools. Bodily punishment still takes place when young school children misbehave, which can develop into behavioral problems and the belief that violence is the norm.

As compared to the rest of the population, Native children are at high risk for poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. For example, in the province of Tucumán, the Indigenous children and families live well below the poverty line and have also suffered illegal evictions from their ancestral lands. Additionally, these children are exposed to violence, malnutrition, disease, and a lack of proper education.

Aid

Child poverty in Argentina seems rather defeating based on these statistics. However, there are multiple organizations that are on the ground fighting for the human rights, safety, health, and happiness of Argentinian children.

One is Mensajeros de la Paz, a temporary home for vulnerable girls. Another is the Sumando Manos Foundation, which extends pediatric visits out to more than 7,000 at-risk children and their communities. The foundation also supplies food, provides critical medical and dental attention, and teaches fundamental health care. There is also Fundacion Oportunidad. This organization increases opportunities for economic and social integration of young Argentinian women in a situation of social vulnerability. Involvement in these organizations, as well as donation opportunities, are endless.

There are five dimensions of well-being that are vital to the success of childhood development. They are adequate nutrition, education, safe areas to live and play, access to health services, and financial stability. The fight cannot stop until there is an end to child poverty in Argentina and until each child has access to a self, healthy life.

Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in HaitiHaiti, a small country that borders the Dominican Republic on the Hispaniola island, suffers greatly from poverty. Natural disasters, systemic inequality and diminishing economic opportunities create a dire state of extreme poverty. Specifically, child poverty in Haiti is the major poverty crisis.

Over half of Haiti’s 11.2 million population live on less than $3 a day, and malnutrition affects 65,000 children under five. Many children under 14 — over a third of Haiti’s population — do not have ready access to health care, clean water, food security or the right to fair and decent work. The question stands: What does child poverty in Haiti look like today, and what obstacles persist in ending it?

It’s easy to forget that statistics reflect the experience of real, living people. Please keep this in mind. Considering this, here are five facts about child poverty in Haiti.

The Statistical Perspective

  1.  Caloric and nutritive malnutrition affects nearly a third of children in Haiti. Out of every five children, one child is malnourished and one out of 10 is acutely malnourished. Before the age of five, one child out of 14 will die. Those who live deal with the effects of inadequate food supplies. Poor access to vital nutrients means that children are subject to poor health, growth and development.
  2. Despite Haiti’s free publication education, only half of elementary-aged children are enrolled in school. Millions of disadvantaged parents have very few with little resources to secure education for their children. This is a result of Haiti privatizing 92% of schools.
  3.  Nearly half a million children are orphaned in Haiti. A significant proportion of these “lost” children are exploited for labor in dangerous conditions. “Host households” take in children whose families cannot provide for them. Many of these children — known colloquially as “restaveks” — end up as victims of human trafficking.
  4.  Adequate health care is hard to come by in Haiti. Child immunization has stagnated at 41%. The proportion of children who die before their first birthday has risen by 2% in the last year – from 57% to 59%. HIV, tuberculosis, and a variety of other chronic, crippling diseases ail an estimated 20,000 children in Haiti, and treatment is increasingly difficult to obtain.

COVID-19

Haiti is particularly prone to natural disasters, in large part due to its geographical situation in the Bermuda. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake ravaged the island of Hispaniola in 2010. A slew of tropical storms, hurricanes and additional earthquakes further compromised Haiti. Nearly 10 years later, Haiti still struggles with recovering from its 2010 earthquake and hurricane Matthew alongside dealing with recent social unrest and COVID-19.

Humanitarian aid efforts are nearing an all-time high for the country, but the efficacy of these programs and endeavors has been questioned. The threats of COVID-19 aren’t the only ones Haiti must face. The future is increasingly uncertain for millions of Haitians and their children, due to equipment shortages, lack of qualified health care professionals and a worsening economic climate.

Ways to Help

What is there to do? Explore The Borgen Project’s homepage. From there, it’s easy to email and call representatives and leaders. There is the option to donate to the cause. For free, one can create momentum on social media to raise awareness about the dire situation in Haiti. A number of ways exist to combat child poverty in Haiti; it just takes action.

Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Flickr

 

Open Heart OrphanageIn the midst of COVID-19 sweeping through Uganda, six children at Open Heart Orphanage have died. However, it was not the virus that claimed their lives. The tragic deaths were a result of hunger and fever, collateral effects of the pandemic.

Food Struggles During the Pandemic

The people of Uganda must fight to stay healthy during the pandemic as well as combat food insecurity. The issue of food affordability is not only an organic result of the pandemic. Back in April, four Ugandan government officials were arrested for conspiring to inflate COVID-19 relief food prices. The effects are far-reaching. According to UNICEF, 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from life-threatening malnutrition in 2020.

The Hidden Victims

Uganda has consistently ranked among the countries with the greatest number of orphaned children in the world, and it has not gone without its controversy. Last year, VICE reported that there are at least 300 “children’s homes” operating without government oversight. Four out of five of these orphans have at least one living parent. Questions arise over the exploitation of these children and the quality of the care they receive. During the coronavirus pandemic, the children are even more vulnerable. Orphans are oftentimes the faces of Facebook scams targeting donors from Western countries.

Children are the “hidden victims” of the virus. They are not particularly susceptible to contracting the disease, but they will be the ones to bear its effects on the social and economic systems. Domestic struggles within the family, surging food prices and a shortage of available medical care have led to malnutrition and displacement, especially in developing countries like Uganda. The result is many children are being left in orphanages.

Open Heart Orphanage

The Borgen Project interviewed Hassan Mubiru, a pastor at Open Heart Orphanage in Bulenga, Kampala, Uganda. Its mission is to help orphans experience a full and productive life. Currently, the organization serves 175 “needy” or orphaned children. The Christian nonprofit aims to provide these children with education, medical assistance, housing, clothing, food and water and the love of God. Due to the pandemic, there have been some obstacles in achieving these goals.

“Coronavirus has crippled most of our activities because we were absolutely unprepared when the lockdown was announced,” said Mubiru. The pastor explains that the organization has always worked below its budget and did not store supplies ahead of time. When COVID-19 hit, they did not have enough resources to sustain themselves.

Even more challenging was the shortage of volunteers. Mubiru stated, “Those who used to individually help are no longer helping. We cannot guarantee salary or their payments.” Unstable payments met with mandates to stay in quarantine have deterred many volunteers from coming to Open Heart Orphanage.

Mubiru says that the biggest issue for Open Heart Orphanage is the lack of available food. “It is extremely difficult or impossible to get food as prices went higher and almost nothing was coming into us. We have so far lost six children due to hunger and fever since the pandemic started. These are things we would have prevented if we had enough food and means of getting treatment in time.”

Open Heart Orphanage strives to help children reach their fullest potential. The nonprofit is a stepping stone for the children and not a final destination. Mubiru believes that children are better off in a home than an orphanage, especially in these times. Mubiru emphasized, “We encourage families to adopt even if this is another crisis because the law governing adoption is tough and high fees.”

Miska Salemann
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in the Philippines
The Philippines is one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia, yet it is facing a homeless crisis. There are approximately 4.5 million homeless people, including children, in the Philippines, which has a population of 106 million people. Homelessness in the Philippines is caused by a variety of reasons, including lost jobs, insufficient income or lack of a stable job, domestic violence and loss of home due to a natural disaster. The government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working to address this issue.

Causes of Homelessness

In the Philippines, families end up homeless for many reasons, including:

  • Poverty: Although the unemployment rate in the Philippines is low (5.3% in March of 2020), 16.6% of Filipinos’ wages remained below the country’s poverty line in 2018. Low income can make it difficult for many families in the Philippines, especially those living in Manila, to pay rent.
  • Domestic violence: Women and children in the Philippines are in danger of domestic abuse, exploitation and trafficking. Approximately one in five women between the ages 15-49 in the Philippines experience domestic violence in their life. Women who escape their abusive partners could lose their source of income and have difficulty finding a place to stay. Shelters for women tend to have long waiting list.
  • Human trafficking: In the Philippines, there are approximately 100,000 people trafficked each year. Many trafficked victims are promised jobs in the cities. However, after moving to a city, they are exploited and forced into prostitution.
  • Natural disasters: In addition, some families have lost their homes due to natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes and volcano eruptions. In 2019, more than 20 typhoons battered the Philippines. One of the typhoons that hit the country damaged over 500,000 houses. A volcano eruption that happened in January impacted half a million people and forced the relocation of 6,000 families.

Types of Homeless Families

According to the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Homeless Street Families (MCCT-HSF) program, homeless families fit into four different categories:

  • Families on the street: “Families on the street” represent 75% of the homeless population. They are families who earn their livelihood on the street, but eventually return to their original communities. This category includes both “displaced homeless families” and “community-based street families”.
  • Families of the street: “Families of the street” are families who live on the street for a long time and have created communities among themselves. They perform daily activities, like cooking, bathing or playing in the public spaces they live in. They are visible by their use of a “kariton,” also known as a pushcart that contains their family’s belongings, which they move around within Manila.
  • Displaced homeless families: “Displaced homeless families” are families who have lost their homes due to natural disasters or live in their communities. They are families who leave their rural communities of the Philippines to find a job in the cities. This category also may also include families and children who may be escaping abuses at home. Displaced homeless families may also push around a kariton that contains their personal belongings.
  • Community-based street families: “Community-based street families” are families who are from rural communities, but move to urban areas for a better way of life; however, they often end up returning to the rural area they are from.

Homeless Children

Homeless children are among the most vulnerable of the homeless in the Philippines. There are approximately 250,000 homeless children; however, that number could be as high as 1 million. Children leave home and end up on the streets because of the excessive beating from their parents, poverty or sexual exploitation.

When children are on the streets, they can face problems such as sexual exploitation, abuse and prostitution. Although victims of circumstances beyond their control, children who live on the street are often viewed as criminals or future criminals resulting in discrimination from the police. Additionally, to numb their pain and their hunger, some children may turn to drugs. Both the external and internal factors that children face make it very difficult for them to escape the street life.

Addressing Homelessness in the Philippines

The government, NGOs and religious institutions are working help the homeless. Government programs include the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Homeless Street Families program (MCCT-HSF). This program provides financial support, such as housing grants and funding for health and education, to homeless families in Metro Manila.

To help street children, ASMAE-Philippines travels the streets of Manila to teach kids on the basics of hygiene. The organization also provides children with school support, as well as supporting other NGOs in the area. Kanlungan sa ER-MA Ministry, Inc. is another organization that works to educate street children, though projects that teach children about hard work while providing them with an income.

Although the government and NGOs have made efforts to help the homeless population, much more still needs to be done. Moving forward, these initiatives need to be increased in order to significantly reduce homelessness in the nation.

– Joshua Meribole 
Photo: Flickr