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UNICEF product innovationsUNICEF is using its global status and its passion for the rights of children to acquire investments from businesses that provide children with technology that improves their health and overall wellbeing. Many of these UNICEF product innovations are reverse innovations or low-cost technologies created in developing countries that can help save lives around the world. Out of 16 innovations, these five are exceptional for helping children thrive.

Complementary Feeding Bowl

A common problem in impoverished countries is hidden hunger, which is an essential vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Even if children are getting enough to eat, they may not be consuming the nutrients needed for healthy growth and brain development. This puts them at a greater risk of having a vulnerable immune system. Depending on the nutrient deficiency, children could also face problems such as anemia, childhood blindness and diarrheal disease.

UNICEF product innovations hope to address this problem with a complementary feeding bowl. It includes a design with nutritional facts, as well as a list of ages and measurements to ensure each child receives the correct quantity of nutrients. A spoon that comes with the bowl helps provide the first solid food for children after breastfeeding by assuring that it maintains the right texture and quality.

High-Performance Tents

Uganda has been facing extremely long droughts and intense rains, which facilitate the spread of disease. Cyclones threaten the Philippines, resulting in property damage, injuries and an increase in refugees. Additionally, Afghanistan is facing extremely cold winter weather. This intense weather plagues each country and imperils the survival of their residents.

Improving the quality of emergency response tents to be able to withstand various climate conditions is one of UNICEF’s goals, and the target product profile includes more than 1,000 requirements. Additions include a vertical wall design that resists high winds, electric and solar kits, winter liner and hard flooring. The tents are for multipurpose use: in addition to offering shelter from cyclones and earthquakes, they also provide protection against outbreaks of disease.

School Furniture Designs

Improving the quality of the school environment benefits the productivity of both teachers and students. Teachers in low-income countries in Africa and Asia work for very little money and are often unequipped with the training and resources they need.

UNICEF product innovations aim to solve this problem through furniture designed for children and teachers to engage in a productive and comfortable classroom environment, particularly in Africa and Asia. Because the design uses local raw materials and manufacturing, it will benefit local economies and leave less of a carbon footprint.

Disability-Friendly Squatting Plate

Children with disabilities in developing countries are often seen as a burden to society. As a result, many do not receive the accommodations they need in education or daily life. This can lead children with disabilities to have low confidence in their ability to be independent.

UNICEF’s disability-friendly squatting plate aims to provide children who suffer from disabilities such as immobility or impaired vision with more independence. This innovation includes two devices that work together to help children with disabilities. The first is a squatting plate that offers support and can be screwed onto the plate of a toilet seat. The second device is placed on top of the squatting plate, making it easier to move onto the seat. Handles will also be a part of the design, offering balance. UNICEF will send 2,500 devices across the world each year.

Oxygen Therapy

The high cost of oxygen equipment makes it inaccessible in developing countries. Hypoxemia, or a low concentration of oxygen in the blood, commonly occurs in children with pneumonia. It increases childhood mortality and contributes to the death of over 100,000 children in developing countries. In Nigeria, pneumonia accounts for 18% of childhood deaths.

UNICEF’s oxygen system planning tool helps countries map out the required oxygen equipment, technical specifications and guidance manuals for obtaining devices. UNICEF product innovations also include a range of products that provide oxygen, listed in its supply catalog. Responding to the need for oxygen during the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has made this particular innovation a priority.

These five innovations are working to fight poverty in developing countries. They are just a few of many products that emerged through UNICEF that, though often simple, make a large difference in improving the lives of impoverished children around the world.

– Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, is one of the least-known countries in the world. Situated between Papua and Indonesian West Timor, Timor-Leste’s economy depends largely on the production of hydrocarbon from offshore natural gas. Most people living there do agricultural work harvesting corn, rice, coconuts, coffee and sweet potatoes. To produce additional income, locals create textiles and baskets, carved ivory, pottery and handicrafts. Politically, Timor-Leste has had a turbulent past. Independence from Indonesia came at a cost in 1999, with hundreds killed by militants. The territory became a sovereign state in May 2002 and since then the government has grappled with the issue of poverty.

Facts about Poverty in Timor-Leste:

1. Investments in Human Capital

Timor-Leste’s population is 1.3 million, of which about 42% are living in poverty, down from 50% in 2007. Standards of living have improved in the past decade, with the Human Capital Index, or investments in human capital, reaching 0.43 in 2017. However, the country still needs to increase earnings and train a more skilled workforce.

2. Health Care for Women and Children

For every 1,000 babies born in 2018, 46 will die within five years. Yet child mortality has decreased by 41% since 2013. Timor-Leste has also made strides in its maternal mortality rate, which has been reduced from 694 per 100,000 live births in 2000, to 142 in 2017.

It is important to note that the country has one of the youngest populations on earth. In 2015, 42% of the populace was made up of children ages 0 to 14. This has created a high dependency ratio of 82% for young people in the working-age population. Timor-Leste’s government has been making an effort to expand education and to help it is citizens be healthier. More progress is needed in terms of providing food to fight malnutrition and in maintaining the health of its children.

3. Big Strides in Education

The government has made significant efforts to educate children and the country is investing in building schools. From 2003 to 2015, the secondary school enrollment ratio went from 46.4% to 76.8%. Still, Timor-Leste needs to invest even more resources in its younger generation.

4. Access to Food

From 2016 to 2018, the prevalence of undernourishment was 24.9% and the rate of malnutrition in children under five was 9.9%. In response, the government has established feeding programs in schools and health centers.

5. Sustainable Infrastructure

In 2019, the World Bank created a Country Partnership Framework which will support Timor-Leste in using its natural resources for sustainable infrastructure. Its initiatives include investing in human capital and promoting gender equality; investing in the digital and transportation sectors; encouraging economic growth led by the private sector and promoting tourism and agribusiness. While these efforts are helping with poverty in Timor-Leste, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought gains in this area to a standstill.

The Pandemic has Slowed Progress

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for Timor-Leste. According to the Global Health Observatory, there are only 59 hospital beds per 120,000 people. Complicating matters, only 5% of the country’s budget is dedicated to the health sector. Petroleum prices have dropped, and given its dependency on oil and trade, Timor-Leste’s per capita GDP could fall as low as negative 3.7% in 2020, and 4% in 2021. In addition, while the country has received medical support from UNICEF and other organizations, it will not receive as much help now, as countries are dealing with their own pandemic situations.

As of June 9, 2020, Timor-Leste’s government planned to give each home $15 in electricity credits and $100 per month. However, more needs to be done, since social and health services are limited, and over 40% of the populace is below the poverty line. It is the government’s hope that when the pandemic recedes, they will be able to pick up where they left off in the fight against poverty in Timor-Leste.

– Sarah Betuel

Photo: Flickr

children in palestine
Palestine is a country located in the Middle East, off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Its boundaries are disputed but include the major territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestine has a population of over five million people, with almost two million living in the over-populated Gaza Strip and three million in the West Bank.

The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict has played a detrimental part in the livelihoods of 2.4 million Palestinians, denying them access to necessities such as health care, stable housing and education. The 13-year blockade on Gaza has restricted freedom of movement for inhabitants in Gaza, limiting one million children of Palestine access to basic commodities found in Israel. Children are subject to shocking levels of violence on the way to and from school, during school and even in their own homes. Every year, the Israeli military detains and prosecutes around 700 Palestinian children, many of whom commit mild crimes, such as throwing rocks during demonstrations.

Much of Palestine consists of young people, about 53% of its population is made up of children under the age of 18. In every society, including Palestine’s, the children are the most valued members; dreams are built with the hopes of manifesting a better future for the youth who have a potential that is yet to be realized. Here are four ways to invest in the children of Palestine to help them attain the right to a safe and just future.

4 Ways to Invest in the Children of Palestine

  1. Participate in Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) – The Palestinian BDS is a movement for freedom, justice and equality, protecting the principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of the world. It endorses nonviolent protest on Israel until the state complies with international law, which includes ending the violence on and detainment of Palestinian children. BDS entails boycotting goods from well-known companies, such as HP, Puma and Sabra, all of which are complicit in violations of Palestinian children’s’ rights. Divestment and sanctions campaigns urge banks, churches, universities, local councils and governments to withdraw aid and investments from Israel and all companies that uphold the state’s noncompliance with international law.
  2. Sponsor a child – There are a number of nonprofits that give people the opportunity to sponsor one of many Palestinian children and invest in their futures. Organizations such as Humanium and SOS Children’s Villages look to provide children with a safe living environment, education, emotional and mental support, as well as access to healthcare services. These organizations also fight injustices aimed specifically at Palestinian children, such as child labor and marriage.
  3. Support legislation – Much good work comes from initiatives such as the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act (H.R.2407). This bill, proposed by Minnesota Democrat Rep. Betty McCollum, prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds to support the military detainment, interrogation, and ill-treatment of children in violation of international law. It also prohibits funds from being used to support certain practices against children, including sensory deprivation, solitary confinement and torture. It is important for U.S. citizens to speak up on behalf of Palestinian children, to let their voices be heard by urging Congress to take action against these injustices via phone calls, emails, and lobbying meetings.
  4. Stay informed –  Several initiatives aim to improve conditions for the children of Palestine. UNICEF, for example, plans to work closely with partners to provide children with safe drinking water, solar power, improved latrines, sanitation services and access to school WASH facilities. The nonprofit will continue to prioritize strengthening child protection systems, addressing negative coping mechanisms and supporting neonatal and postnatal care. The organization will also ensure that children benefit from improved access to quality learning in safe and inclusive environments, and are empowered to contribute to their society’s development.

Youths are not only the future, but they are also the present. The children of Palestine have a right to a safe and just life, where persisting conflict and a lack of human rights do not define their potential. It is important that citizens of the developed world play an active role in investing in these young people and helping empower them so that they can graduate from a life riddled with conflict and violence, to a fulfilling, more sustainable one.

– Sarah Uddin
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Children within Brazil’s low-income slums, or “favelas,” are among the country’s most vulnerable. This vulnerability is due to a lack of educational resources or incentives to attend schooling, violent environments and the lack of opportunities for socio-economic growth within favelas. It is estimated that in Rio alone, 240,000 Brazilians live in the dire conditions of favelas.

Favelas and Poverty

Given their marginalization, progress toward achieving socio-economic mobility and employment is far more difficult for children in favelas relative to children of wealthier neighborhoods. They are at a heightened risk of involvement in crime, such as the extensive drug trafficking occurring within these favelas. Child labor within drug operations is a widespread issue affecting homeless and/or orphaned minors living on the outskirts of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Young girls are often swept into the sexual exploitation occurring within the gangs.

In order to combat the injustice and marginalization of the favelas’ youth, civil society groups have recently offered creative endeavors that have proven imperative to restoring hope and sparking change. Dance education in favelas brings Brazil’s impoverished children closer to a sense of purpose and self, by offering an option for physical activity off the streets. In particular, the separate favela dance projects Espaço Aberto and Na Ponta dos Pés have collectively taught thousands of previously disempowered children lessons of resilience and patience in order to progress toward brighter futures.

Espaço Aberto

Opened in 1998, the Rio favela dance school “Espaco Aberto,” meaning “open space,” has the primary mission of spreading joy and inspiring young children and adolescents with the opportunity to dance.

The school mainly teaches ballet, a style typically associated with wealth given its formalities and years of extensive training required to master the art.

The school’s co-founder and dance instructor, Yolanda Demetrio, seeks to unravel and transform disheartening favela stereotypes of indignity and permanent grievance. With professional dance instructors alongside her preaching messages of encouragement and incentive, the past 22 years have seen countless favela residents go on to follow Demetrio’s footsteps— eventually opening their own dance studios and improving their economic circumstances.

However, the school is not meant to lead students to only pursue dance careers, although that may be a feasible result. Rather, Espaco Aberto motivates a historically overlooked population to find the potential within themselves. For example, just two years into dance studies, a young student named Jeferson became inspired by the school’s value of goal-setting. His newfound confidence in his abilities emboldened him to re-enroll in formal school.

Na Ponta Dos Pés

The Na Ponta Dos Pés ballet dance project, translating to “Pointe Break,” is specifically geared towards favela girls in the impoverished Alemao complex located in northern Rio. Professional ballerina Tuany Nascimento began the project in 2012 when she recognized that the daily violence and hardships faced in favelas scar vulnerable children— and particularly girls.

Historically, the more than 60,000 Alemao residents have suffered from the aftermath of poor political decisions, further endangering the community. Prior to 2010, a lack of government authority in the area resulted in the control of drug cartels threatening the security of civilians. Recent years have seen the sudden presence of armed police units with the formal intent to reduce narco-political power, yet it has only contributed to community violence and disorder. As residents are killed by the police and the death toll continues to rise, the violence results in instability. Female victims are disproportionately affected.

Similar to Espaco Aberto, Nascimento also wishes to offer an alternative to those falling victim to, or choosing, a harmful lifestyle.

“People get into crime because they don’t have opportunities, but the ballet project gives them a chance not to fall into the wrong kind of life,” said Nascimento.

The project began in a rented basketball court, safe from outdoor violence. Since then, as more people come to realize the importance of dance education in favelas, the project has received a several thousand-dollar grant to build a proper dance studio. Dance education in favelas inspires girls to imagine their worlds as extending past illegal activity and including endless opportunities. In the vice documentary entitled Ballet and Bullets: Dancing Out of The Favelas, in which Nascimento and her students share their stories, one described her newfound hope and determination.

The student said, “Poor people don’t have a future? No. We’re a lot more than that… Not just because we’re ballet girls. You can do a plié, a grand écart, why can’t you do other things in your life as well?… A black woman can be a businesswoman.”

Overall Impacts of Dance

These two grassroots projects show how dance education can positively impact people living in favelas. Both dance studios emphasize patience, yet inevitable achievement. Newly found confidence in one’s dance capabilities, as in the cases of Jeferson from Espaco Aberto and the student from Na Ponta do Pés, can transform into one’s motivation to achieve improved living conditions through education and hard work. 

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Pixabay

childhood obesity in poverty-stricken AfricaChildhood obesity is a major issue in middle-income countries. However, this issue is growing in low-income countries as well now. In Africa, micronutrient deficiency and wasting are among the biggest challenges associated with children’s health. However, with sugary foods and snacks becoming cheaper and more accessible, childhood obesity is becoming more of an issue in Africa. A 2000 survey revealed that 10% of low-income countries had a 10% rate of teenagers who were overweight. Just between 2014 to 2016, that number jumped from 40% to 75%. It is quite clear that this issue is quickly increasing.

The Problem of Childhood Obesity

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa is one of the most pressing issues of this century. Without intervention, this issue will only continue to spread.  Along with it, long-term health problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes, will also increase. Furthermore, not only are obese people at risk of contracting preventable health conditions but they are also at risk of early death. According to WHO, obesity takes more than two million lives every year worldwide.

Despite the growing economy in Africa, millions still suffer from poverty. This poverty, coupled with the growth of obesity, has Africa simultaneously facing two major challenges. These two challenges have led to a significant increase in diseases throughout Africa. Since the 1980s, diabetes has grown by 129% in Africa. To combat the spread of diabetes and the consumption of high sugar beverages, South Africa has passed a bill that taxes such beverages.

Combating Childhood Obesity

A few organizations are taking steps to combat childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa. The World Health Organization places its focus on what types of foods to consume, the number of physical activities that are being completed and overall health. The organization believes that in order to avoid the increasing amount of childhood obesity that Africa is experiencing, there must be corrections to all three factors mentioned above.

WHO created the “Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health” to reduce obesity and improve overall health. The strategy focuses on four major goals that will ultimately help combat childhood obesity, diseases and death. The four main goals are to reduce risk, increase awareness, develop policies and action plans and monitor science. Though created 16 years ago, this strategy will only begin to make an impact after several decades. In order for the strategy to succeed, all levels of life and business must assist in the effort.

Childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa continues to be an issue. Although a relatively new issue in developing countries, obesity is quickly increasing. Africa is now combatting both ends of the nutritional spectrum, with malnutrition and childhood obesity now prevalent throughout the continent. Despite increases in these issues, organizations such as WHO are working diligently to reduce childhood obesity in Africa.

– Jamal Patterson 
Photo: Pixabay

surfing helps relieve global poverty Surfing is one of the oldest but most under-appreciated sports in the world. In California and Hawaii, it is more widespread than in the rest of the U.S. combined. Australia is the only other country that hails surfing as one of its national pastimes. The birth of the sport came about in Polynesia where natives would draw cave paintings of people riding on waves as far back as the 12th century. At some point, the Polynesians traveled to the Hawaiian Islands. There, the Polynesians transferred the sport of surfing where it transcended to religious-like status for Pacific Islanders everywhere. Surfing has become an altruistic tool for the less fortunate around the world. Despite surfing’s lesser-known status in America, the sport has made an impact in underprivileged countries, particularly regions in Southeast Asia. Here is how surfing helps relieve global poverty.

SurfAid

SurfAid, a nonprofit organization founded in 2000, comes from a grassroots background. It has grown in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. Over the years, it has become one of the top charities in surfing, assisting local governments and communities to prevent mother and child deaths. In Indonesia, a mother dies every three hours and 20 babies die every other hour. SurfAid offers support by providing materials to observe the health of mothers and children.

For example, a simple, yet important material like a weighing scale allows doctors to ensure that patients’ body weight is on par with their age. Other materials include measuring tapes, record books and materials for teaching. Most importantly, SurfAid helps improve water and sanitation issues through building water tanks, water taps and toilets. Having clean water and sanitation prevents diarrhea for children under the age of five, giving them a better chance to survive.

SurfAid staffers also provide equipment and seeds for gardens as well as malaria nets. With this increase in practical support, basic hygiene has decreased diarrhea by more than 45%. Antenatal care also has been implemented into programs to educate mothers about healthy pregnancies. This care and education help prevent complications from occurring during pregnancy and childbirth. Additionally, through birth spacing, the process of mothers giving birth every two to three years, women can potentially “reduce infant mortality by 20%.”

SurfAid’s Work in Indonesia

SurfAid has also aided the island of Sumba. Located in Eastern Indonesia, the island is plagued by poverty, food insecurities and famine, making daily lives difficult. This has resulted in more than 60% of its children under five suffering from malnutrition.

SurfAid developed a project called the HAWUNA program, meaning ‘unity’ in Indonesian. The program works with more than 7,500 people in 16 different communities in the sub-district of Lamboya Barat to improve food insecurity. Additionally, the program educates parents on childcare in order to combat malnutrition. With access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare, there have been massive improvements in healthcare and healthy weight gain across the community.

SurfAid’s project development also includes the availability of support services. The organization’s collaborations with the communities are developed through detail-oriented results. Collaborations take into account the health, livelihoods, beliefs and social structure the people of each community have.

The Story of Dharani Kumar and Moorthy Meghavan

Another way to see how surfing helps relieve global poverty is through the story of Dharani Kumar. A 23-year old native Indian fisherman, Kumar started surfing in his teens in Kovalam Village using polystyrene foam as surfboards. After surfing for nine years under his mentor, Moorthy Meghavan, Kumar became a surfing champion in his homeland in 2015. The hobby he picked up as a teen did more than just provide an outlet for Kumar’s talent. Surfing also allowed Kumar to improve his networking opportunities around the world, as well as learn the English language.

In 2012, Kumar’s mentor, “Moorthy Meghavan founded the Covelong Point Social Surf School.” As a result of this school, Kumar and his group of friends pledged to stay away from drugs and alcohol. As a rule, if students started using or drinking, they were kicked out. Through this school, Meghavan was able to turn his dream of guiding poor, disadvantaged children away from addiction into a reality.

When Meghavan dropped out of school in sixth grade, he started fishing for a living to provide for his family. Though passionate about surfing, Meghavan was virtually unknown in the international surfing community. However, he still forged a plan to help children fight their way out of poverty through surfing.

Meghavan’s slogan, “No Smoke, No Drink, Only Surf”, has become instilled in the program. The program has paid dividends for locals looking for direction in their lives. Though substance abuse is somewhat prevalent in Kovalan Village, his guidance through his own experiences mixed with his passion for the sport has reflected on others. Though not a household name in surfing, Moorthy Meghavan has become a local legend by not only helping Dharani Kumar rise as a surfing star but also in guiding children to a better life.

The Impact of Surfing

What started out as an ancient art form by native Polynesians has now become an international phenomenon. Whether it’s providing assistance to those living in impoverished conditions or guiding children to a better lifestyle, there is no doubt that surfing helps relieve global poverty.

– Tom Cintula 
Photo: Flickr

child marriage in ZambiaIn Zambia, about two in every five girls are forced into marriage. Currently, the country is renewing its efforts to eradicate child marriage. In 2017, the President of Zambia along with presidents from Uganda and Malawi held an event where they declared they would prioritize ending child marriages by 2030. The President of Zambia stated, “Girls who marry young are often denied their rights. Ending child marriage by 2030 will require a range of actions, including making sure girls have access to quality education, legal reforms and changing traditional harmful practices.”

Already, rates of child marriage in Zambia have drastically decreased. Zambia’s Demographic and Health Surveys in 2002 found that the child marriage rate was 42%. In 2014, however, the child marriage rate had dropped down to 31%. Despite these numbers, Zambia still has a lot of work to do to save these young girls.

Common Reasons for Child Marriage

There are many factors contributing to child marriage. Here are three of the more common reasons for child marriage in Zambia.

  1. Poverty: Some families see child marriage as a way to reduce the financial burden of having young girls. Often, families in poverty will marry off their young daughter(s) to receive a payment of dowry. This dowry gives them great financial relief. In addition, they are saving money because they no longer have to provide for their daughter(s).
  2. Vulnerability: While all children are susceptible to being vulnerable to child marriage, orphans and stepchildren are even more vulnerable, specifically once they hit puberty. Some families feel that their job of taking care of them is done at that time, so they marry them off young. Stepchildren and orphans are also more widely mistreated than biological children. They may feel getting married is an escape from an otherwise unbearable situation.
  3. Protecting a Girl’s Sexuality: Parents may believe that if they marry their girls off young, they can protect them from engaging in “inappropriate behaviors,” like having multiple sexual partners. This way the girl only has sexual intercourse with her husband, and her family’s honor remains preserved. Some also consider child marriage as a protection for the girl against HIV or unwanted pregnancy.

The After-Effects

  • Increases Poverty: Child brides tend to drop out of school. As a result, any opportunities they may have had at getting a good job and helping their families out of poverty disappear.
  • Health Risks: Child brides are more likely to suffer from depression or PTSD due to abuse from their spouses or the fast-paced way they are forced to grow up. Also, child marriage in Zambia is often correlated with pregnancy, which can lead to higher death rates for the mother or child because the mother is not developmentally mature enough to carry a baby.
  • Risk of Violence: Child brides are more likely to deal with domestic violence including physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

The Good News

Despite these practices still occurring, the citizens and government of Zambia have begun taking steps to eradicate child marriages by 2030. Plan International is a humanitarian organization that works to advance children’s equality and rights. The organization’s Regional Director for both Eastern and Southern Africa, Roland Angerer, says change begins with education. He states, “It is essential that we promote education and encourage dialogue if we want to change social norms . . . Governments must ensure schools are accessible, inclusive and safe […] to enable more girls to attend and stay on in school.” This education helps not only young girls but also their families.

Senior Headman, Davison Shafuluma, in the Mumbwa district, holds meetings where he teaches parents and other family members that child marriage hurts more than it helps. He shares with them the effects a young girl can suffer through by marrying and carrying a child at too young an age. He also explains that they, as a family, can say ‘no’ to anyone who propositions marriage.

Beyond education, the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme on Ending Child Marriage helped establish 550 Safe Spaces in Zambia. In these Safe Spaces, young girls learn that they are equal to their male counterparts. The young girls learn that school, homework and their futures should be their focus and priority.

International Work to Eradicate Child Marriage

Aside from better education, “Zambia also co-sponsored, along with Canada, the first U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on child, early and forced marriage in 2013.” In 2014, eight Ministers from Zambia also committed to addressing child marriage and continuing the conversation. The country has also legislated a minimum age requirement for marriage beginning at the age of 18.

Although many more improvements are still necessary, Zambia is making much progress to diminish child marriage. The conversations in Zambia and across the world are finally giving these young, vulnerable girls a voice.

Stacey Krzych 
Photo: Flickr

poverty in Madagascar

Madagascar is the fifth-largest island in the world and boasts an array of natural resources. Despite this, poverty in Madagascar ranks among the highest in the world. Due to an upturn in the economy, things may be looking up, but there is still much work to be done before conditions truly improve. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Madagascar.

10 Facts About Poverty in Madagascar

  1. The majority of people in Madagascar live in extreme poverty. Currently, 75% of the population of Madagascar lives on less than $1.90 per day. This means that three-fourths of the 25.6 million inhabitants of Madagascar live beneath the international poverty line as defined by the World Bank.
  2. Children are among the hardest hit by poverty in Madagascar. More than 80% of those under 18 in Madagascar live in extreme poverty. Additionally, UNICEF declares that chronic malnutrition affects almost half of children under five, with stunted growth being a major concern.
  3. Extreme poverty pushes children in Madagascar into child labor. Approximately 5.7 million children, about half of the population under 18, participate in labor of some kind. Many of these children work instead of attending school. One in four child laborers perform work that is potentially damaging to their health.
  4. The island nation’s unique and isolated geography is also a contributing factor to poverty. For the country’s rural poor, who largely subsist on farming and fishing, climate change has been particularly detrimental. Water levels continue to rise, and Madagascar’s location makes it very susceptible to cyclones. These factors lead to drought and food insecurity in the already poor nation.
  5. Though 80% of Madagascar’s residents live in rural areas, the country is not currently able to sustain itself. Madagascar has to import 15% of essentials like rice and milk. Slash and burn farming techniques and over-farming has led to deforestation on a large scale. Only 10% of Madagascar’s original rainforest is still intact.
  6. Madagascar’s poor infrastructure also negatively affects its economy. Of the more than 30,000 miles of roads in the country, only about 11% are paved. Many of these roads become impossible to pass during the nation’s rainy season. Furthermore, railroads are not in much better shape; there are two unconnected lines in poor condition.
  7. Despite the aforementioned woes, Madagascar has seen rapid economic growth in the past few years. 2018 saw a growth of 5.1%, bringing with it a two percent increase in per capita income. Sectors such as exports, transportation and finance drive this economic growth. However, poverty continues to decrease at a slow rate: only about three percent since 2012. This slow rate most likely results from the majority of population working in agriculture, an industry that has not quite caught up with modern trends.
  8. Water scarcity and sanitation is a significant problem in Madagascar. Only about half of Madagascar’s population has access to clean water. In places with limited access to water, women and girls often bear the brunt of the work of having to collect it. This time-consuming and physically difficult work hinders their ability to attend school and earn income. In Southern Madagascar, 90% of houses lack basic sanitation needs. Open defecation is common, leading to the prevalence of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea.
  9. WaterAid is an organization that seeks to give everyone across the globe access to clean water, toilets and proper hygiene, including those in Madagascar. The organization launched its water, sanitation and hygiene plan (WASH) in Madagascar, and coordinated with local authorities to improve conditions across the nation. The National Action Plan, launched in 2017, hopes to reduce growth stunting in children under five by nearly 10%, and also aims to increase access to drinking water and proper sanitation, to 65% and 30% of households, respectively.
  10. SEED Madagascar is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works specifically in the Anosy region of Southeast Madagascar. The organization creates projects related to education, community health, environmental conservation and sustainable livelihoods. All of SEED’s programs are suggested by the people of Madagascar themselves. Ideally one day, they will independently create and implement projects. In one such project, a 20,000 liter rainwater harvesting system placed on the roof of a primary school in Ambandrika provided clean water for 144 school children and 750 members of the wider community. Additional benefits of SEED’s work include allowing more time to create marketable goods as well as more time to care for children.

Poverty in Madagascar is widespread, and the situation will not improve if it is ignored. Economic growth and organizations like SEED Madagascar and WaterAid are taking important steps, but the issue must continue to be addressed.

– Joshua Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Benefits of Education

Many consider access to education a basic human right, yet education is out of reach for some children and teens in underdeveloped and impoverished countries. But prospects for children around the world are looking better as organizations like the World Bank and USAID continue to fight for universal access to quality education. The following are the top 10 benefits of education.

10 Benefits of Education

  1. Secondary education can cut poverty in half: According to UNESCO, poverty could be more than halved if all adults received a secondary education—that is 420 million people around the globe. Secondary education provides people with skills that open up employment opportunities with higher incomes. When organizations tackle the issue of access to education, they also tackle global poverty which is why this falls at number one on this list of 10 benefits of education.
  2. Closing the education gender gap reduces child marriage: Child marriages force girls around the world to abandon school. But many countries are tackling the issue of child brides in innovative ways. For instance, Uganda’s girls’ clubs run by BRAC Uganda have reduced child marriage rates by providing sex education and vocational training to young aspiring female entrepreneurs. A two-year membership in the clubs makes girls 58 percent less likely to become victims of child marriages.
  3. Education reduces violence: According to the Global Partnership, if the secondary school enrollment rate is 10 percent higher than average, the risk of war decreases by 3 percent.
  4. Education lets children reach their fullest potential: The Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project is providing “safe space” programs for girls and includes financial incentives to encourage them to stay in school. Programs like these allow children to learn without worrying about money and give them the ability to reach their full potential.
  5. Protects children from trafficking: Trafficking affects at least 1.2 million children each year. Global March is working to reduce child trafficking and believes that one way to achieve this is through making education more accessible.
  6. Education helps the environment: The 2010 International Social Survey Programme showed that those who are more educated are more politically active when it comes to environmental issues. In Germany only 12 percent of respondents with less than a secondary education took action, but it rose to 26 percent of those with secondary education and 46 percent with tertiary education. Providing education to all creates healthier earth which is why helping the environment is an extremely important benefit on this list of 10 benefits of education.
  7. Reducing child labor: Child labor often places children in hazardous working conditions to support their families at a young age. Every day an estimated 152 million children work as child laborers. A contributing factor to child labor is the lack of access to education. Global March is assisting governments to reduce vulnerabilities like this that make children more susceptible to child labor.
  8. Education is improving world health: Universal access to education could reduce rates of STDs such as HIV and AIDS. Organizations like SWEDD are working to expand access to reproductive, child and maternal health services as well as education services. Sex education and health services could greatly reduce STD rates and improve world health, especially in impoverished countries.
  9. Universal access boosts the economy: Access to education provides students with skills and knowledge that make job opportunities with higher incomes available to them. In sub-Saharan Africa, women are not encouraged to go into STEM careers, which tend to have higher earnings. This can be explained by limited role models and a lack of information about opportunities in these male-dominated fields. Education can encourage women to join these fields and create a more diverse and flourishing economy.
  10. Inclusive education is giving disabled children a chance: Between 93 and 150 million children around the world under 14 are disabled according to the 2011 World Report on Disability. Many of these children grow up and struggle to make a living for themselves because of their lack of access to education limits their job opportunities. Access to inclusive education would give these children the tools they need to succeed. In 2017, the World Bank and USAID established the Disability-Inclusive Education in Africa Program which is a $3 million fund that aims to make education more inclusive for those with disabilities.

While many areas of the world might be far from achieving accessible education, circumstances continue to improve for children thanks to the work of organizations that are fighting to ensure that education is no longer a privilege but a human right for everyone. These 10 benefits of education provide only a small insight into what amazing gains are made for the world when everyone is able to receive an education.

– Hannah White
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in North Korea

North Korea, one of the most secretive and repressive countries in the world, has faced chronic food shortages since the mid-1990s when hundreds of thousands of people died due to severe famine. The international community responded by providing food assistance until 2009 when aid began to decrease significantly due to North Korea’s policy of “self-reliance.” These 10 facts about hunger in North Korea will reveal how dire the situation is and what government initiatives and NGOs are doing to help.

10 Facts About Hunger in North Korea

  1. North Korea’s climate ranges from temperate, with rainfall during the summer, to long, bitter winters. During the short growing season, drought, heatwaves and flooding have caused crop failure, creating widespread food shortages. North Korea’s total food crop production for 2018-2019 is estimated at 4.9 million metric tons, the lowest since the 2008-2009 season, according to a U.N. food security assessment.
  2. In addition to climate conditions unfavorable for agriculture, North Korea faces a shortage of farming products such as fuel, fertilizer and equipment. This has resulted in low food supply and limited dietary diversity, forcing families to eat less or cut meals.
  3. These unfavorable climatic conditions and the worst harvest in 10 years have resulted in a hunger crisis. More than 10 million North Koreans are suffering from severe food shortages and malnutrition, according to the U.N. This equates to about 40 percent of the total population.
  4. Young children are among the most vulnerable to malnutrition. One in five North Korean children are malnourished and about 20 percent experience stunted growth. Malnutrition, contaminated water and a shortage of drugs and medical supplies are the main causes behind stunting, or a failure to develop physically and cognitively, in North Korean children.
  5. According to Kee Park of the New York Times, sanctions on the capital city Pyongyang contribute to the hunger crisis. Under U.N. resolutions, North Korea is heavily sanctioned because of its nuclear weapons program. Park writes that these sanctions are “punishing the most vulnerable citizens and shackling the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to them.” Due to sanctions on iron, textiles, seafood, oil and coal, lost income and rising food prices will result in more North Koreans facing hunger.
  6. Despite U.N. sanctions, the U.N. is attempting to raise $111 million for health, water, sanitation and food security needs for 6 million North Koreans. Through donations from Sweden, Switzerland and Canada, about 10 percent has been raised thus far.
  7. The World Food Programme (WFP) has been providing food assistance to North Korea since 1995. Every month, the WFP provides foods fortified with protein, vitamins and minerals, such as cereals and biscuits, to around one million children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, all of whom are the most vulnerable to malnutrition.
  8. In 2018, UNICEF screened 90 percent of North Korean children for malnutrition and identified cases were later treated. Vitamin A supplements were provided to more than 1.5 million children and micronutrient tablets were distributed to more than 28,000 pregnant women.
  9. First Steps is a Vancouver-based nonprofit organization that is implementing innovative solutions for fighting hunger in North Korea, such as its Sprinkles program. The program’s aim is to prevent child malnutrition by delivering micronutrient powder to children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. The powder is packaged in sachets and then added to food. According to First Steps, Sprinkles is a proven and cost-efficient method of preventing and fighting vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
  10. These various forms of assistance have made significant progress in reducing levels of child malnutrition. The percent of children suffering from stunted growth has dropped notably from 28 percent in 2012 to 19 percent in 2017.

Although there has been recent progress, immense humanitarian challenges remain. Despite the fact that vast amounts of North Korean citizens are without basic necessities, the government has declined offers to renounce their nuclear weapons program in exchange for assistance. These 10 facts about hunger in North Korea reveal why a strengthened approach to solving food insecurity is required.

Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr