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Child Malnutrition in MaliAfrica is the only continent in the world in which poverty and malnutrition are on the rise. In a vast country with an undiversified economy, Malian households are especially vulnerable to poverty food insecurity.

Recently, Mali has faced “shocks” to its economic profile, including from a partial drought and internal strife. A 2013 World Bank study found that a 25 percent increase in cereal prices and 25 percent decrease in cereal production would push over 600,000 individuals to food insecurity levels in Mali. In addition, sustainably high population growth rates have risen the number of malnourished individuals in the country.

Effects of Child Malnutrition in Mali

While millions of Malians of all ages are affected by food insecurity, malnutrition is the second highest cause of death of children under the age of five. Almost 900,000 Mali children are at risk of global acute malnutrition in Mali, including 274,000 facing severe malnutrition and at risk of imminent death, according to UNICEF and the World Bank. To put this in the context of the country’s population, a 2013 World Bank study found that 44 percent of Malian households have at least one chronically malnutritioned child.

Malnutrition leads to devastating, long-lasting effects on young people. Research by an associate professor at the Federal University of São Paulo, Ana Lydia Saway, shows that malnutrition is linked to higher susceptibility to gain central fat, lower energy expenditure, higher blood pressure and disruptions in insulin production. These are all factors which heighten the risk of other chronic diseases later in life. 

How Mali is Combatting the Issue

Child malnutrition in Mali is a significant concern, requiring action and deserving worldwide attention. But a major problem limiting international assistance comes in the form of funding for aid.

In May, UNICEF reported that limited donor interest in the region has made it increasingly difficult for the organization to provide children with therapeutic food necessary to combat malnutrition. Funding for humanitarian organizations is low, as nearly 80 percent of UNICEF’s $37 million call for humanitarian aid for the year 2018 has not been raised.

“The children of Mali are suffering in silence, away from the world’s attention,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore said during a visit to the country this year. “Amid increasing violence, more children are going hungry, missing out on learning and dying in the first days of life.”  

Still, community and international-based organizations are working to mitigate the effects of child malnutrition in Mali. For example, in the capital of Ségou Centre, the local population, with the help of the World Bank and Swiss Corporation agency, is working to provide necessary social services to its commune.

The third phase of this project involved the decentralizing of health facilities, which were starchly underequipped. The commune recently constructed a community health center, showing promising bottom-up action within Mali. Other organizations are helping out to create sustainable progress in development, including Groundswell International.

Furthermore, farmers and processors in Mali have been working together to increase the presence of Misola flour to combat malnutrition. During processing, vitamins and minerals are added to the flour, targeting those with nutritional deficiencies. 

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that Misola can help rehabilitate undernourished children and help those with depressed immune systems. “The porridge made from the flour allows for a nutritional transition from breast milk to traditional solid food,” Fernand Rolet, co-President of the Misola Association, said. 

Overcoming Child Malnutrition Globally

Rwanda provides a prime example that overcoming child malnutrition is possible. The nation, which has a similar wealth level to Mali, has made progress in lowering malnutrition levels. A 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Access Report found that the level of stunting in young children dropped seven percent from three years prior. In Rwanda, the World Food Programme has been largely active, supplying food assistance such as providing meals for thousands of primary school children.

Combating malnutrition is an ongoing struggle, especially in Africa. Due to poor economic conditions and food scarcity, malnutrition continues to take the lives of thousands of children in Mali each year. Although citizens have founded programs to improve child nutrition and the issue is on humanitarian aid organizations’ radars, it is clear that more effort is needed to eradicate the problem. With continued efforts, child malnutrition in Mali will begin to decline.

– Isabel Bysiewicz
Photo: Flickr

Pediatric AIDSHIV/AIDS is embedded in social and economic inequity and there exists a critical connection between the disease and poverty. There is strong evidence that the disease affects individuals of lower socioeconomic status and impoverished nations at a disproportionately high rate. This is also true when examining the occurrence of mother-to-child transmission, which accounts for more than 90 percent of HIV infections in children.

S. Res. 310, according to U.S. Congress, is a “resolution that recognizes the importance of a continued commitment to end pediatric AIDS worldwide.” This is of extreme importance because, not only do children suffer the most from HIV/AIDS because of their developing immune systems, but they also are the key to eradicating the disease and breaking the cycle of infection. Without diagnosis and treatment, one-third of infected infants will die before the age of one, one-half will die before their second birthday and 80 percent will die before their fifth birthday.

As a leading cause of death among adolescents, AIDS is devastating the lives and hopes of millions of children worldwide. Pediatric HIV-related deaths have more than tripled since 2000, requiring immediate attention and resolution.

S. Res. 310 recognizes that women and children are in desperate need of HIV-related services. Data from 2016 shows that half of the 36,700,000 people worldwide who suffer from HIV are women and 2,100,000 are children. Despite the increased efforts by the U.S. and countries around the world, over 400 children were born HIV-positive every day in 2016. This legislation highlights that continued commitment is required in order to eradicate pediatric AIDS.

The resolution allows the U.S. to provide women and children with HIV counseling and testing services and to improve access to services and medicines that prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The legislation also supports expanding treatment for pediatric and adolescent HIV, including greater access to more efficacious antiretroviral drug regimens, age-appropriate services and support for the caregivers of children and adolescents.

In the words of the resolution, “every mother should have the opportunity to fight for the life of her child; and every child and adolescent should have access to medicine to lead a long and healthy life.”

Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Saint HelenaSaint Helena is a tiny tropical island in the South Atlantic Ocean and remains one of the few countries part of the British Overseas Territory. Besides being well-known as Napoleon Bonaparte’s home in his last years, the island is generally not in the news. Still, different stories detailing possible child abuse yield concerns about the status of human rights in Saint Helena.

Recently, Saint Helena has been under scrutiny for possible child abuse on its shores. In 2014, the Daily Mail published a series of three articles about the “culture of sexual abuse of children” in Saint Helena. Needless to say, these articles shocked the public. The articles detailed the brutality of the abuses. More importantly, the articles suggested that authorities needed to review the policing on the island.

The articles criticized the authorities in great detail, particularly the Foreign Commonwealth Office, the local government of Saint Helena and the Department for International Development. Other occurrences suggest that child abuse is ongoing on the island, creating a grave concern for human rights in Saint Helena.

Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama, social workers from Britain, were working with island residents. Gannon and Warsama reported the abuse; later, both alleged they were threatened and forced to leave the island in retaliation for reporting such abuse.

Later, the FCO withdrew its initial report in front of the United Nations. The FCO apologized for its “erroneous report” that denied the allegations of child abuse. Gannon and Warsama were furious. In return, the social workers sued the FCO and the United Kingdom Department for International Development.

The FCO was faced with a public outcry. As result, it commissioned a report by a children’s charity, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. The foundation kept its report confidential. However, the contents were leaked to a website the social workers had created to help drum up support for their lawsuit. The report noted that there was a culture on the island of abusing teenage girls through “violent and brutal attacks.”

The reports generated by the FCO indicate that there is, at a minimum, some ongoing child abuse on the island. One of the reasons such abuse could potentially take place is because of the small population: there are just over 4,000 permanent residents of the island. It is well-established that abusers often become close to their victims.

The government of Saint Helena has begun taking an active interest in the welfare of children as a whole. In 2010, the Welfare of Children Regulations formed the Safeguarding Children’s and Young People’s Board. To avoid undue political influence as much as possible, the board is chaired independently, though it does report to the governor of Saint Helena. Other members of the board include those who work with children regularly: representatives from the different sectors of health, social services, education and nongovernmental organizations.

The board is a sincere effort from the government to protect children’s interests; it meets every six weeks and when there is an urgent matter. The board also strives to harmonize different elements of the government, so that various agencies can work for the betterment of children’s interests.

Smriti Krishnan

Photo: Google

Education in MozambiqueMozambique has a population of about 30 million people. Statistics from various organizations, such as USAID, have shown that the adult literacy rate in the country is approximately 47 percent. In the surrounding countries of Zimbabwe and Malawi, the rate is much higher, at 87 percent and 66 percent, respectively. There are many contributing factors to the standards of education in Mozambique.

Here are seven things to know about education in Mozambique:

  1. Primary school is mandatory for children, but secondary school is not. In fact, there are only 82 secondary schools in the country.
  2. Poverty is a big contributor to the standards of education. As secondary school is not mandatory for children, attendance is extremely low during this stage – seven percent – since many children aged 14 and older would rather work than go to school. The children want to earn money for their families since resources can be spread so thin. Girls also tend to drop out of school at a young age to get married and start families of their own.
  3. Mozambique abolished primary school fees in the early 2000s. This abolition caused the primary student population to double in a decade.
  4. Teachers are outnumbered heavily by their students. This causes the available education in Mozambique to suffer.
  5. Children are also inclined to drop out of school altogether if their parents die because of poor living conditions or other extenuating circumstances.
  6. Studies by organizations such as UNICEF have shown that the early moments of childhood matter most. There are 15 countries with policies in place that allow mothers to have the time to devote to their childrens’ early years. Mozambique is not one of them and this affects the levels of education in Mozambique
  7. The government and various aid organizations, such as UNICEF, are also working to certify and train more teachers so that the teacher to student ratio can be improved.

The battle is being fought on all ends – teachers, funding and attendance are all issues currently being tackled. Hopefully, by improving literacy and education in Mozambique, this will enable many to pull themselves out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Dezanii Lewis

Photo: Flickr

Priyanka Chopra
Brought to fame by winning the Miss World title, Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra has been making waves globally. Not only has she starred in the ABC primetime show Quantico, but also she has acted in the Hollywood movie Baywatch. The humanitarian side of Priyanka Chopra, however, is one that her fans are often not aware of.

Chopra is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has sponsored the education and medical costs of seventy children in India. Furthermore, 10 percent of her income goes toward running her nonprofit, the Priyanka Chopra Foundation of Health and Education.

Chopra was introduced to social work at the young age of nine. According to the New York Times, her parents would take her on trips to the underdeveloped regions of India to provide medical assistance. There, she witnessed the blatant discrimination between girls and boys. “Parents believed that their sons were better than their daughters,” Chopra recalls.

Her experiences as a child are reflected in her choice of working with young children, especially young girls. Recently, Chopra spent two days in Jordan to visit Syrian children. She told UNICEF that “an entire generation of children are being shaped by violence and displacement.” Furthermore, she explains that this catastrophe does not only encompass Syrian citizens but the entire world–it is a humanitarian crisis.

The Za’atari refugee camp harbors the highest number of Syrians in Jordan. Chopra spent time meeting with girls there at the school sponsored by UNICEF. While chatting and playing with the children, she faced the harsh reality of child marriage and the dearth of educational resources. There were “too many girls younger than 18 with kids,” she explained to UNICEF.

Although they are eager to learn and often hope for professional careers, there are not enough resources for these children to get a competitive education. Many doors of opportunity close to these children when they become part of the job market in the future. The Washington Post reports that over half a million Syrian refugees of school age are not enrolled in school.

Chopra, however, should not be underestimated in her mission to make sure that “no child is denied a dream.” Although she cannot eradicate poverty, she surely will do her best to encourage and support many children globally, as she has already done in her native country, India.

Other than her collaboration with UNICEF, as a producer, she has also encouraged underprivileged artists. By producing movies in Indian regional languages, she gives artists an opportunity that would have otherwise been ignored. Her latest movie, Pahuna, highlights the conditions of refugees in the Indian state of Sikkim.

Forming personal relationships with the children and posting her experiences on social media, Chopra is using her platform and reach to expose the world to the reality of many troubled countries. The humanitarian side of Priyanka Chopra is slowly coming into the view of the world.

Chopra once told the New York Times that “these young people have the potential to transform society if we invest in them.” Since then, she has proven on multiple occasions her commitment to the youth of the world.

Tanvi Wattal

Photo: Flickr

Private Education in PakistanAs in many other nations, private education in Pakistan is filling the gaps created by a struggling public-school system. Public education is a dismal scene; despite being a nation with a school-aged population of 47.8 million, a full 64 percent of public schools are deemed to be in unsatisfactory conditions. This is a relatively unsurprising number considering the newest public schools built in urban areas are anywhere from 40 to 60 years old. Furthermore, many students are unable to enroll in public schools simply due to their scarcity, evidenced by the 10 percent decrease in the number of public primary schools from 2011 to 2016.

With all this in mind, it is of no surprise that 37 percent of the nation’s educational institutions are private. Even more significant is the fact that this private 37 percent is somehow serving 42 percent of the nation’s total population of enrolled students and employing 48 percent of all teachers. Even so, the obvious reality is that private education is often expensive, thus making it out of reach for the most vulnerable and impoverished children. Consequently, a new subset of private education has further entered the scene: low-cost private schools.

Such is where Nasra Public Schools comes in. Despite its misleading name, it is indeed a low-cost private educational institution, and was founded in 1949 in a bungalow living room. Today, it has expanded into a system of private schools that boasts five campuses and serves 11,000 students. By 2020, it is projected to expand to 14 campuses, and will potentially expand further to 70 campuses across the nation.

Nasra is committed to low-cost, high quality private education. It does so through a contained monthly fee, meaning that fees have a maximum limit in the effort to maintain financial accessibility for low-income families. This works extremely well, as an astounding 79 percent of Nasra students are from homes that make less than four dollars a day. Additionally, Nasra rents campus locations rather than purchasing land- diluting infrastructural costs, which is ultimately what allows them to continually expand.

The system employs a staff of roughly 1,000, and teaches in English, a huge draw for the school. Further, it partners with various well-established institutions, such as the British Council and Pakistan’s COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, to provide the necessary technological resources and to create the most modern curricula it can. It also provides various extracurricular activities, such as student council, arts programs, cricket and table tennis, the latter two being supported through a partnership with the British Council’s International Inspirational Program.

Yet, it is still necessary to note that Nasra schools are not currently located throughout the nation, although such is the intention for the future. There is still a myriad of students who cannot afford to enroll in even low-cost institutions, an issue largely due to transportation fees. In many cases, urban and rural alike, students’ transportation fees would exceed that of school fees themselves, effectively making even low-cost private schooling inaccessible as well. Thus, the work of Nasra and its potential for expansion is even more essential; more Nasra schools spread throughout the nation would mean more educational opportunities for those that most desperately need them.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

All Children

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world,” Malala Yousafzai stated at the U.N. Youth Assembly, where she launched her international campaign to fight for the equality of all children.

Education is the art of unfolding and absorbing hidden knowledge. As a student matures, the pupil gains the ability to think for themselves, as well as the ability to differentiate fact from fiction. Absorbing the world like a sponge in order to gain knowledge not only enlightens the student, but molds them to better all of mankind.

In 2014, the Nobel Peace Prize focused on empowerment through education. Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai shared this international honor “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

Malala and Kailash dedicated their lives to the betterment of those around them, believing education is the means to lasting peace. Education can be obtained or earned, but cannot be stripped from the person.

Both Nobel Peace Prize recipients defied all odds in order to utilize their experience to touch millions of lives and fight for all children.

Malala was born in Pakistan during a time of chaos and violence. In 2012, she was shot by the Taliban, causing severe injuries and a long recovery. Throughout Pakistan, the Taliban often attacked young girls at school in order to discourage females from receiving an education.

This traumatic incident did not deter Malala from continuing her education, but instead encouraged her to pursue an international campaign from London. Threats from the Taliban poured into her mailbox and inbox as she pursued her recovery as well as her campaign for the universal right to education.

Her platform includes her published book, multiple speeches to the UN, meeting heads of state and traveling to various universities. She has quickly become the face of female empowerment through education and the fight for the education of all children.

In India, Kailash worked as a teacher until 1980, when he became inspired to do more for those most vulnerable. He founded the organization Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which frees thousands of children from exploitation each year. In order to protect their newfound freedom, all children go to school and get an education, the ultimate key to lasting freedom.

Throughout the United States and Europe, education can seem like a chore for some families. To those living in poverty around the world, putting on the school uniform is the embodiment of dignity and pride. Entering the classroom is the first step in breaking the cycle of poverty and domestic abuse, as well as providing hope to dreams.

Danielle Preskitt

Photo: Flickr

NIFTY Cup
Millions of newborn babies in developing countries face death due to the inability to feed properly. These infants may be born prematurely, have facial abnormalities or other special needs that impacts their ability to effectively suckle and nurse.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), newborn deaths account for 45% of all deaths among children under five, the majority in developing countries. It is estimated that two-thirds of newborn deaths can be prevented, if effective measures are implemented within the first week of life. One such effective measure to prevent neonatal deaths is to ensure that babies receive adequate nourishment.

Michael Cunningham, who leads craniofacial  medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, experienced firsthand children dying from the inability to receive nutrition within their first few days of life. He came up with the idea for the NIFTY cup to solve this issue, and partnered with PATH, a nonprofit organization specializing in global health technologies, to design it.

The NIFTY part of this nifty solution stands for Neonatal Intuitive Feeding Technology. This cup is a simple, yet brilliant device that can have major impacts on children worldwide.

The cup is designed to replace the act of breastfeeding while allowing infants to receive adequate nutrition. It is a soft, plastic cup that has a unique reservoir for holding milk. Mothers collect their breastmilk in the 40- milliliter cup and then feed it to their baby. The cup allows the baby to eat at its own pace, with minimal spilling.

“We just knew that there had to be a simple intervention that could be life-changing for this population,”Cunningham said.

The NIFTY cup would not be truly impactful if it was expensive and unavailable. The NIFTY cup resolves this, too. The cup only costs one dollar. They have been used successfully in India, and are becoming accessible in many African birthing institutions.

This creation has the potential to save millions of babies from the effects of malnutrition at birth. It may even save their lives.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Organizations Are Helping Women and Children in KasaiOver the past year, the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has experienced extreme violence since the rise of the rebel Kamwina Nsapu fighters. This conflict is disproportionately affecting women and children, as forces recruit child soldiers and women face gender-based violence. Fortunately, humanitarian organizations are helping women and children in Kasai both recover and remain safe.

Since this conflict began last year, over 1.4 million have been displaced from their homes, 850,000 of which are children. The death toll of this tragedy is still being debated, with the Catholic Church claiming at least 3,300 individuals have been killed, while the UN estimates the number is around 400. Both acknowledge, however, that there are many deaths still unaccounted for, as mass graves continue to be discovered.

In addition to the mass displacement of 1.4 million people, civilians are also subject to horrible human rights abuses. These abuses range from mutilations and abductions to sexual violence including rape. The victims of these attacks are most often women and children, as they are most vulnerable to age- and gender-based violence. These abuses are amplified by the lack of access to nutrition, especially for children. UNICEF estimates 400,000 children are at risk for severe acute malnutrition.

Besides the direct assaults on women and children, the militias have also destroyed more than 200 healthcare centers as well as a multitude of schools and villages. The destruction of these centers makes it even harder for victims to find aid. Fortunately, humanitarian organizations are working to reach those in need.

Working to aid in recovery, UNICEF has played a significant role in humanitarian relief for Kasai. So far, UNICEF has reached over 150,000 people with essential nutrition, health, education, water and sanitation goods and services. A program has also been implemented by UNICEF to provide $100 cash grants to displaced families for bare necessities, and so far 11,225 families have benefitted from this. The humanitarian community has also launched an appeal for $64.5 million U.S. for an emergency response plan.

Although humanitarian organizations are helping women and children in Kasai as best they can, the severity and abruptness of this crisis make it difficult to always provide the amount of aid needed. UNICEF recently released a statement acknowledging, “unless this violence stops, our best work will never be enough.”

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Flickr

Children With Disabilities in GhanaAround the world, children with disabilities are faced with many challenges that can hinder their success and well-being. In Ghana, children with mild to moderate disabilities are often denied access to education simply because of basic impairments. This creates a sense of isolation and lack of motivation among these children, and diminishes their quality of life. Fortunately, in recent years several programs led by a variety of humanitarian organizations (such as UNICEF) have begun improving education access for children with disabilities in Ghana.

With one in three children who are not in school being withheld simply because of a disability, this problem is affecting Ghana’s children significantly. Children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy are often hidden in their communities, unable to or not allowed to go to school. Parents of children with these mild to moderate disabilities often recognize their child’s intelligence, but lack local schools with the support required to care for their needs.

This is changing, however, with the help of initiatives from UNICEF and the Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CLED).

UNICEF, in partnership with USAID, has led this mission by creating and supporting inclusive schools where children with disabilities are welcomed and can get assistance. The goal of creating inclusive schools was pursued by a community outreach program where parents were encouraged to hear about how all children, regardless of ability, were entitled to an education.

From UNICEF’s initiative, more than 450 teachers have been trained in inclusive education, and children with mild to moderate disabilities have access to over 83 basic schools that provide an inclusive learning environment.

CLED has also improved education access for children with disabilities in Ghana. CLED is a non-profit organization that helps communities by equipping teachers and parents with the tools needed to best support children with disabilities, as well as by providing specialized tutoring for children with disabilities. CLED has also acted as an advocate for this issue in Ghana by leading monthly radio talk shows on inclusive education. So far, CLED has donated 2850 school supplies, provides tutoring programs in 30 schools, and has trained 2292 teachers.

While many children with disabilities still lack access to proper education, the solution to this problem will require better understanding and support from communities. However, through these initiatives led by UNICEF and CLED, more and more disabled children are able to learn and express themselves in inclusive schools.

Kelly Hayes

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children separated at border

Real Americans Don’t Put Kids in Cages

 

In May, the White House announced plans to separate babies, toddlers and teens from their parents at the border. Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the inhumane policy saying it would deter families from coming to America. However, there is zero evidence that this horrific policy has achieved its objectives (people fleeing violence aren’t sitting at home watching news coverage about U.S. immigration policy).

The President can immediately end his policy of separating children from their parents. Keeping families together is a bipartisan issue and we now need to focus on getting Congress to take action against this policy.



 

Children separated at border from parents