Children’s Cafeterias in JapanWhile Japan is one of the most developed countries in the world, the country has a pressing issue to solve — child poverty. According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2017, Japan’s child income poverty rate stood at 16.3%, 2.9% greater than other OECD countries. To tackle this issue and meet the needs of children, some Japanese volunteers have set up children’s cafeterias in Japan, also known as Kodomo-Shokudo.

3 Facts About Child Poverty in Japan

  1. Single mothers face higher rates of household poverty. There is a link between child poverty and single parenting. In Japan, children from single-parent households tend to live in poverty because household incomes are relatively lower for this demographic and particularly low for single mothers. While this phenomenon is not exclusive to Japan, the country’s notable gender inequality between men and women is unusual for a developed country. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report of 2022, Japan did not make it into the top 100 — it ranked 116th out of 146 countries. In terms of the gender pay gap, the average monthly income for female full-time employees stood at 251,800 yen in 2020 ($2,359) in contrast to 338,800 yen ($3,174) for male employees.
  2. Education links to poverty. There is a correlation between child poverty, parents’ economic status and education. Research shows that the lower a household’s income is, the less likely the parents are to prioritize and value the education of their children. This trickles down, and as a result, these children feel less motivated to continue their education. This continues the cycle of poverty as education is a proven path out of poverty.
  3. Child poverty is an invisible issue. In Japan, child poverty is an obscured problem. In fact, anything related to poverty tends to be hidden. “Fear of being seen as disadvantaged in a society that values the appearance of financial security means poverty in Japan is largely hidden from view,” The Guardian reports. As a result of the stigma associated with poverty, many impoverished families ensure in every way possible that their children have a well-to-do appearance. Consequently, this misleads others into thinking poverty is not a reality in Japan and has led to the government’s underestimation of the seriousness of child poverty.

A Solution: Children’s Cafeterias

To address the issue of child poverty in Japan, a vegetable shop owner, Hiroko Kondo, came up with a practical solution – children’s cafeterias. Kondo established the first cafeteria in 2012. The story goes: a primary school teacher told Kondo that a particular student “had only a banana to eat for the day besides school lunch because his single mother was sick.” After hearing this, Kondo decided to open a cafeteria for disadvantaged children in her neighborhood and offered them low-cost but nutritious dinners twice a month.

The Impact

Kondo’s initiative has inspired many volunteers in Japan, leading to an uptick in children’s cafeterias in the country. By 2019, Japan noted 3,718 children’s cafeterias, a 62% increase from 2018. Interestingly, every children’s canteen operates differently. For instance, while one canteen opens between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. every Monday, giving free meals for children, another “opens from 5.30 a.m. and 7.30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday each month,” offering 300 yen ($2.07) dinners for children and adults.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many children’s cafeterias were able to keep their doors open. Some volunteers, however, changed the style of operation. Instead of providing meals in cafeterias, they made boxed lunches for children to collect.

Overall, child poverty is an issue in Japan that authorities often neglect. To tackle the problem, individuals like Hiroko Kondo took the initiative in 2012 by opening the first children’s cafeterias in Japan to offer needy children nutritious meals at discounted prices. More importantly, Kondo’s action has created a ripple effect — helping to address child poverty in Japan on a broader scale.

– Mimosa Ngai
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in AngolaAngola is a country of origin and destination for men, women and children who are victims of trafficking, for the purpose of forced prostitution and forced labor. Domestically, victims of trafficking end up working in agriculture, construction, households and artisanal diamond mines. Women and children are often victims of human trafficking in Angola, with many women coming from Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Namibia, and traffickers sending many Angolan women and children to Namibia, South Africa and some European countries like Portugal. Since traffickers often lure victims with the promise of employment and a better life, Angola can implement several measures to improve the lives of its citizens. Here is some information about some of the challenges that Angola is facing that may play into the prevalence of human trafficking in Angola.

The Right to Form Unions

The law indicates that workers, except those that the armed forces or police employ, have the right to form and join independent trade unions. However, an issue is that authorities in Angola do not always enforce its laws adequately. The law states that for a union to form, at least 30% of workers in an industry or province must go through a registration process and receive approval from the authorities. The law also provides for the right to collective bargaining but excludes public sector workers. However, the country has prohibited strikes by members of the armed forces, police, prosecutors and judges, prison staff, firefighters, public sector workers and oil workers. 


The Angolan government enforced the Minimum Wage Act in the formal labor sector. In 2019, the national minimum wage was Kwanzas 16,503 ($52.60 USD) and the aim was for it to reach Kwanzas 21,454 ($68.30 USD) for the agricultural sector, Kwanzas 26,817 ($85.50 USD) for the trade and manufacturing sector and Kwanzas 32,181 ($102.50 USD) for the extractive industries sector. Furthermore, while the law guarantees a safe working environment for all sectors of the economy, labor protection standards do not protect most workers in the informal sector.   

Discrimination and Working Labor

The Constitution and the law prohibit discrimination in employment based on race, sex, religion, disability or language, and the government has generally enforced these laws effectively in the formal sector. The law provides for equal pay for equal work, and women often hold at least some high-level positions in state industry and the private sector. However, many women tend to hold low-level positions, especially in the informal sector. The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor too.

The government reportedly does not enforce this law effectively, partly because there are not enough labor inspectors. Penalties are reportedly inadequate to deter violations. Children under 14 are prohibited from working too. To obtain a work contract, children must prove that they are at least 14 years old and that the work does not interfere with their formal education or cause them physical or mental harm. Between the ages of 14 and 16, parental consent to work is necessary. Tuition is free and compulsory for children up to sixth grade.

NGOs and Immigration Policies

There are several hundred non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working for transparency, human rights and political reform regarding human trafficking in Angola. Organizations critical of the government are often subject to state interference and can experience the threat of legal action or closure. In 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that a 2015 decree requiring NGOs to register with the government and subjecting NGOs receiving donations to further scrutiny was no longer constitutional due to criticism from civil society. This criticism openly described the decree as restrictive and intrusive, as it required NGOs to obtain government approval before engaging in activities and allowed the government to monitor the organizations.

One of the best-known NGOs in Angola that is working on human rights is Missio, which has the main objective to support the Catholic Church in missionary dioceses around the world. The organization changes lives by listening to local needs and aiding in the creation of infrastructure, such as chapels, schools, orphanages, clinics and dispensaries and centers where young church members can thrive and grow. All this support is most tangible in the funds that it collects and distributes, but even more tangible in the spiritual and pastoral unity it creates. Therefore, the organization has two main areas of activity: mission animation and education and fundraising. It was registered in April 1996 and has raised more than £7 million to date and may have an impact on reducing human trafficking in Angola.

Several obstacles exist that prevent refugees and migrants from finding employment. Regulation 273/13 prevents refugees from obtaining a compulsory business license, which is necessary to own and operate a business. Refugees have also reported that they often have difficulty working in the formal sector because they cannot obtain legal documents. The government is making significant efforts to combat human trafficking in Angola. It has educated the public about the dangers of trafficking, amended the constitution to explicitly prohibit trafficking and maintained anti-trafficking funding despite a significant decline in government revenue and subsequent cuts to the national budget.   

– Manos S. Karousos
Photo: Flickr

Young Jordanians Who Confront Food Insecurity via InnovationJordan has been experiencing food insecurity challenges due to multiple factors, such as water scarcity and slow economic growth. As a result, many Jordanians struggle to afford food for themselves. Food insecurity is a pervading problem in Jordan because 63% of its population is under 30 years old, a generational issue. However, young Jordanians have discovered new ways to cleverly tackle food insecurity in their country without successful government policies. The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and The World Food Programme (WFP) have recently established the Youth in Food Security Innovation Programme, which gathers young Jordanians who confront food insecurity via innovation.

Food insecurity has become the central issue amongst citizens in the developing world primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia war and economic decline. This made tackling food insecurity in developing countries more challenging especially given the vulnerability of the governments. Therefore, citizens living in the developing world are compelled to find effective alternative methods to feed themselves, their families and their fellow citizens. The innovations in tackling food insecurity presented by these young Jordanians highlight new ways to reduce hunger quickly. The key is to discover the latest methods and adopt them as official development policy.

The Current Food Insecurity Situation in Jordan

The food insecurity situation in Jordan worsened because of the COVID-19 pandemic as it “has affected sustainable development efforts.” On February 28, A U.N. policy brief on Jordan’s food security strategy stated that 53% “of Jordanians are vulnerable to food insecurity” while 3% of Jordan’s households are struggling with food insecurity. Jordan is also facing water scarcity which can heavily impact its agriculture since it absorbs more than 50% of water in order “to produce 45%” of Jordan’s agriculture. The country relies on young Jordanians who confront food insecurity via innovation to solve the hunger issue.

Aya Kreik: The Soil as a Sustainable Source of Food

One of the young Jordanians confronting food insecurity via innovation is Aya Kreik, an architecture student living in Jordan’s capital city, Amman. Aya is part of a team that “succeeded in converting farm waste into organic fertilizers rich in nutrients.” This innovative method revived the soil and compelled farmers to stop using chemical fertilizers. Furthermore, the soil would “retain water in a large proportion,” reducing water irrigation in a water-scarce country. This method that Aya and her team created produces more organic food for Jordanians, which helps tackle food insecurity while promoting environmental sustainability.

Alaa and Nourhan: Plants that Self-Feed

Alaa (Banking and Finance student) and Nourhan (Business Intelligence student) are also young Jordanians who confront food insecurity via innovation. The students teamed up to build a start-up enterprise that specializes in producing “self-watering and self-feeding plants.” This is done by transforming “moisture in the air into pure water” via a type of hydrogel that is made up “of self-absorbing polymers.” This method allows for the availability of more water that produces more food at a time when Jordanians are struggling to find water and food.


Jordan, as with many other Middle Eastern countries, is experiencing severe food shortages and high prices for food items due to COVID-19 and the Ukraine-Russia war. However, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, Jordanians have proven that tough challenges can be easily overcome via innovation and creativity. The innovative methods the young Jordanians have presented to the world are helping Jordan solve its food insecurity problem by producing healthy organic food that contributes to environmental sustainability. The creative methods show the world that solving development issues and policies in the developing world requires intelligent solutions. In other words, the world may be closer to ending hunger than before.

Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

AI to help studentsIn Ecuador, a country where poverty is a prominent social issue, education stands as an essential pathway out of impoverishment. In a modern world where technology is thriving, combining technology and education is beneficial to the population. Starting January 2021, Ecuador has been using AI to help students understand math to a greater extent.

Higher Education in Ecuador

According to CEIC Data, in 2015, the percentage of adults aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent qualification stood at just 12%. Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, many higher education students in Ecuador faced learning losses or gaps.

With the help of funding from the World Bank, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (SENESCYT) in Ecuador started offering “artificial intelligence (AI) assisted academic support in math” to new students starting their higher education. According to the World Bank, “using AI [has] enabled access to large-scale, low-cost academic remediation programs.”

The program has improved math results for students, which will, in turn, increase skills and job opportunities. This is changing the face of Ecuadorian remedial education. The use of AI to help students will help solve any recurring problem of lowered access to face-to-face classes due to weather, lack of transportation or sickness.


The conventional method for a school to provide extra courses to pupils with learning gaps was to hire a private tutor after school hours. Most parents had the same issues with their children — the children faced difficulty understanding course work. However, not everyone could afford the privilege of hiring a tutor. But, for those who could, parents found it difficult to ensure that each student would be helped in a customized way that caters to their individual pace of learning.

Now, with the help of technology, students are able to access academic support to improve their performance in math. The new AI-powered learning platform is able to tailor tutoring to students’ strengths and weaknesses and prior learning.

According to a February 2022 article by the World Bank, the portal has provided assistance to “more than 14,000 students in the technical and technological higher education system” since January 2021. With the support and involvement of more than 300 educators, more than 400 technical and technological higher education courses implemented the AI tutoring program.

The Importance

According to the World Bank, as of 2020, 33% of Ecuadorians are living under the national poverty line. Access to education can help to combat poverty. According to UNESCO, “if all students in low-income countries had just basic reading skills (nothing else), an estimated 171 million people could escape extreme poverty. If all adults completed secondary education, we could cut the global poverty rate by more than half.”

In this case, providing students with AI-powered academic support to improve their critical skills will help to lay a foundation that paves the path to greater job opportunities. There is a correlation between education and poverty as education provides the skills and knowledge essential for accessing well-paying, skilled employment opportunities to break cycles of poverty. Because of this, access to good quality education is an antidote to poverty. Ecuador’s use of AI to address gaps in learning stands as a step toward the nation’s future economic prosperity.

– Frema Mensah
Photo: WikiCommons

Policies to Reduce Poverty in MexicoToward the end of 2021, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the president of Mexico, told the U.N. to “wake up from its slumber” on the issue of global poverty, the PassBlue reported. The popular left-wing president is halfway through his six-year term. He has said that alleviating domestic and global poverty are among his top priorities. In 2020, just one year before López Obrador proposed to the U.N. a first-of-its-kind plan to decrease global poverty, poverty in Mexico increased by almost 4 million people. That year, 55.7 million people in Mexico survived on less than $1.90 a day. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) expected this number to rise in 2022 “due to inflationary pressures.” A closer look at López Obrador’s policies to reduce poverty in Mexico provides insight into the country’s economic future.

Poverty in Mexico

In 2022, about 44% of Mexico’s population lives in poverty, according to the most recent government data. Excluding the negative effects the coronavirus had on economies across the globe, there are three main causes of mass poverty in Mexico:

  1. Poor Educational Attainment. In 2020, about 5.2 million students dropped out of school in Mexico due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic difficulties, requiring children to work, stood as a significant factor in these dropouts. With the onset of the pandemic,  the country also saw domestic violence, child homicides and adolescent pregnancy rates skyrocket.
  2. The Wealth Gap. The top 20% of the wealthiest households in Mexico have “income [10] times higher than the poorest 20%” of households. Wealthy people earn about half of the income in Mexico, while millions of people in poverty endure unemployment, underemployment and unfair wages. The distribution of wealth determines who has access to safe housing, water and other infrastructure necessities.
  3. Corruption. Corruption is rife in Mexico, impacting both political stability and the nation’s economic development as well as “the rule of law, efforts to combat organized crime and the effectiveness of public services.” Money laundering, especially among government officials, is not uncommon. Corrupt local authorities have restricted Mexico’s residents from protesting and expressing their frustrations to the government for generations. Corruption also increases inequality in the country.

López Obrador’s Domestic Policies

In a radical move to change the status quo of policies to reduce poverty in Mexico, soon after assuming office, López Obrador ceased almost all existing welfare programs in the country in favor of a system reminiscent of a universal basic income, where residents received non-need-based cash.

Economists held concerns that the erasure of programs with need-based criteria would result in people not receiving enough benefits. These concerns held weight — For the government to afford to give out cash to all citizens, López Obrador had to cancel the two-decade-long Prospera program. The program “gave cash to mothers living in poverty in exchange for them keeping their children in school and taking them for regular medical checkups.” The program received praise for its success, on an international level.

In 2020, López Obrador transitioned Mexico to remote schooling after the coronavirus hit. Shortly after the implementation of programs such as Aprende en Casa (Learn at Home), which entailed receiving educational content through television and the internet, inequalities became apparent. Especially in rural areas, the inability to connect to the internet meant that rural children could not access the program.

International Policies

In 2021, López Obrador gave a speech to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) proposing a global poverty reduction program where the globe’s 1,000 wealthiest people and corporations would donate 4% of their wealth and G20 countries would donate 0.2% of their GDPs.

In 2021, almost 700 million people lived in extreme poverty across the world, according to Development Initiatives. López Obrador said that his plan could produce around $1 trillion annually to fight global poverty. U.N. members will debate his proposal before deciding on its direction, but some leaders have already come out in support.

Future of Policies

Half of his presidential term remains, and despite growing poverty rates amid his policies to reduce poverty in Mexico, López Obrador is still popular, with a 62% approval rating. Economists suggest that if López Obrador implements successful policies to reduce poverty in Mexico, he will be more reputable on a global scale and in debates over his U.N. proposal.

There is Hope

Others have stepped up to fight poverty, even though policies to reduce poverty in Mexico have had mixed results. One organization stepping up to the plate is Save the Children, a worldwide charity foundation that aids the most vulnerable group living in poverty — children. Since 2000, in Mexico, Save the Children has helped to reduce the prevalence of child labor by 80%. In 2021 alone, Save the Children provided assistance to more than 95,000 children. In Mexico, the organization’s work over the past two decades includes ensuring the health and nourishment of 28,000 children, educating and empowering 19,000 children and taking 3,000 children out of the grips of poverty. Save the Children collaborates with local organizations in Mexico and foundations in the U.S. to help more impoverished children in Mexico each year.

With effective policies to reduce poverty, Mexico’s citizens can live a better quality of life. But, in the meanwhile, organizations are stepping in to assist Mexico’s most vulnerable.

– Delaney Murray
Photo: WikiCommons

Mexico's Drug War Affects EducationSince the Mexican government declared war against drug cartels in 2006, nationwide violence between cartels, police and the military has been taking a steep toll. The National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI)  estimates the war led to 300,000 homicides and the disappearance of 66,000 people since 2006. This increased violence raises particular concern about how Mexico’s drug war affects education quality.

Major Disruption to Mexico’s Education System

Widespread violence from the drug war has caused mass school closures, negatively affecting the quality of education Mexican youths receive. Between 2019 and 2020, cartel violence forced school closures in eight states: elementary schools closed 104 times, junior high schools 51 times, preschools 49 times, high schools four times and universities three times. These forced closures caused severe disruptions for Mexican youths, undermining the quality of their educational opportunities. The World Bank reported in 2020 that only 72% of Mexicans used the internet, implying difficulties for remote learning options.

A study collected data during the 2000s and captured stark differences in education quality between areas with high rates of violence and areas with lower violence. Student absenteeism in high violence areas was 44%, while lower violence areas had 33%. Teacher absenteeism follows the same trend: High violence areas were 20.8%, while lower violence areas had 13.2%. Student lateness compared 52.9% to 11.9%, and teacher lateness had 41.2% to 29.1%. The study found the widest divergence in the presence of youth gangs: 51.6% versus 23.5%. Even one month of gang-related violence can reduce school enrollment by 14%. These statistics show how drug-related violence has heavily disrupted many educational systems in Mexico.

Drug Cartels Target Students and Teachers

The study emphasizes how homicide is now the second leading cause of death for Mexican males aged 15-24, a critical age range for learning skills from education and entering the labor force. Between 2000 and 2019, 21,000 Mexicans under 18 were killed, while 7,000 have disappeared. Cartels have also recruited youths in economically deprived areas where a lack of opportunities and resources contribute to youth recruitment. In 2019 alone, cartels recruited an estimated 30,000 Mexican youths. This recruitment targeting is partly why youths sometimes avoid or drop out of school. In 2006, at the start of the drug war, 11,664 Mexican youths did not attend primary school, compared to 106,131 in 2019.

In 2011, 7,000 Acapulco teachers protested against gang violence threatening their schools. They called on the government to provide safety in the face of teachers being attacked, extorted and kidnapped. More than 100 schools shut down in Acapulco due to teachers standing up to cartels who had demanded half their salaries in extortion. Schools only reopened four years later, in 2015, after the Mexican National Guard stepped in to ensure student and teacher safety.

Mexican citizens have increasingly mobilized to demand accountability from their government and better protection for schools. In 2014, the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero sparked national protests over the government’s inability to provide a safe, educational experience for teachers and students. Mexico continues to fight drug-related violence affecting schools, knowing how important education is in reducing poverty and improving opportunities.

– John Zake
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

School Feeding in West AfricaThe COVID-19 pandemic forced schools across West Africa to shutter their doors. These widespread school closures had a deleterious effect on the education and well-being of western Africa’s most vulnerable children. Youth were not only deprived of an education but also a chance to receive a meal through their country’s school feeding program. As schools gradually reopened as COVID-19 rates subsided, school feeding in West Africa provided an avenue for children to receive nutritious food, a commodity that some children only attain through their educational institution.

What is School Feeding?

School feeding refers to a meal provided at a child’s school at no cost to the child’s family. According to the World Bank, it is “most frequently designed as a social protection measure for poor and vulnerable communities with the key outcome being an improvement in education through increased enrolment, reduced absenteeism and enhanced gender equality.”

With a full stomach, school feeding often leads to children’s increased ability to concentrate and learn. Additionally, per the World Food Programme (WFP), “every $1 invested in school meals has a $9 return on investment.” Finally, school feeding provides incentives for families to send girls to school instead of keeping them at home or marrying them off early.

Thus, initiatives to support school feeding in West Africa are crucial because of their remedial effects on the harmful repercussions of school closures. Fortunately, international organizations are partnering with government authorities to provide increased funding and efficacious implementation for school feeding in West Africa. Specifically, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Liberia have benefited from foreign assistance.

Home-Grown School Feeding in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is an impoverished West African nation bordered by Guinea and Liberia. According to the WFP, in 2022, more than 65% of residents living on less than $1.25 per day.

As food prices skyrocket across the nation, school feeding programs remain essential for children and their families. In 2021, the government of Sierra Leone launched an initiative to transition the nation to a home-grown model, according to the WFP. This novel type of school feeding allows local agricultural workers to directly supply schools with fresh produce.

Of note, the WFP is assisting the government by launching a pilot program in the town of Tawuya. The pilot initiative has been a blessing to local female farmers. Adama, a Tawuya resident and mother of seven, told a representative of the organization that the “WFP created a means for us women to earn money regularly.” Overall, the WFP’s intervention in Tawuya has enabled many families to overcome food insecurity.

The McGovern-Dole Program in Senegal

Currently, 751,000 Sengalese citizens are food insecure and 17% of children younger than 5 are malnourished. In response to the food security crisis in Senegal, Counterpart International, an organization focused on establishing enduring relationships with at-risk communities, announced in October 2021, that the nation would be the recipient of a $25 million McGovern-Dole program award. The McGovern-Dole program is an initiative by the United States Department of Agriculture to curtail childhood hunger by providing food and financial assistance to developing nations.

The new initiative seeks to bolster school attendance, literacy and community health through school feeding and enhance the Senegalese government’s ability to implement the program. In a 2021 article in Counterpart International, Brian Dotson, Director of Food Security at Counterpart International, commented “…this project will provide a vital safety net for food-insecure families living in poverty in Senegal…”

Save the Children’s $25 Million Project in Liberia

According to the 2021 Global Hunger Index, Liberia ranks 110th out of 116 countries. In an effort to ameliorate hunger in Liberia, Save the Children launched a $25 million school feeding program on June 2, 2022

The funds from Save the Children will help the Liberian government implement its “Liberia Empowerment Through Attendance, Reading, and Nutrition (LEARN) Project.” Although this is a program implemented by both the government and NGOs, the majority of its funds are supplied through donors. Thus, Save the Children revitalized the LEARN program which has distributed more than 10 million school meals to more than 45,000 Liberian children.

Western African Governments Take the Lead

As these three programs demonstrate, school feeding in West Africa is indispensable. While international organizations have largely funded and implemented these programs, western African governments have also taken action to strengthen school feeding.

According to Brookings, 27 countries from across Africa voiced approval for a United Nations school meals coalition that aims to exceed pre-pandemic school feeding levels. Specifically, President Patrice Talon of Benin and President Macky Sall of Senegal have allocated additional funds for their nation’s respective school-feeding programs. Additionally, the African Union, a collective organization of 55 nations, endorsed home-grown school feeding and marked 2022 as the “Year of Nutrition.”

– Alexander Portner
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 vaccines for young childrenIn late June 2022, the CDC and FDA approved the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines for young children such as Pfizer and Moderna for children ages 6 months to 5 years old. While countries worldwide have received vaccinations from Pfizer and Moderna, the U.S. is the first country to approve vaccines for children under five. Though children in this age group are less likely to experience severe infection than other age groups, the vaccines for young children were worth recommending as it works to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As countries across the globe continue to vaccinate their people, what does the U.S. approval of vaccines for children under five mean for people worldwide?

COVID-19’s Effect on Children Worldwide

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 543 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide. As of December 2021, 17,200 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in adolescents under the age of 20, making up 0.4% of deaths worldwide. The effect on children is harder to understand. Data on child excess mortality and case numbers are inconsistent. Numbers disproportionately represent high-income countries and while the pandemic hits the poorest children the hardest, the effects on middle and low-income countries are underreported.

Along with the direct health effects of contracting COVID-19, children are experiencing indirect effects from prolonging the pandemic. Specifically in low-income countries, children have been affected by the strain on the healthcare system, such as disruptions from routine care and lost family income.

For example, according to UNICEF, 80 million children under the age of one may miss out on other essential vaccines because of the disruptions of the pandemic in May 2020. With increased vaccination rates worldwide, the hope is the pandemic can be mitigated and such effects on children will decrease.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for young children approved in the U.S. have a smaller dosage than their adult counterparts. For Moderna, two doses given four weeks apart are 25 micrograms each. With Pfizer, three shots contain three micrograms each. Each vaccine contains just a fraction of the dosage given to adults.

Worldwide Childhood Vaccine Distribution

Since the beginning of the pandemic, health care responses have not been equitable across the globe. While 66% of the world has been vaccinated against COVID-19, only 16% of people in low-income countries have received one dose as of May 2022. Initiatives similar to the WHO’s COVAX program has helped distribute COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries. As of May 2022, Pfizer has distributed 3.5 billion COVID-19 vaccines to over 175 countries.

As the U.S. was the first country to approve Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for children under 5 years old, other efforts are underway across the world. Pfizer and Moderna are not the only COVID-19 vaccines, as a Cuban vaccine has been given to over 1.7 million children under the age of 18. This vaccine is now being produced for Iran, Vietnam and Venezuela.

Vaccine Regulations and Authorizations

Pfizer and Moderna are some of the most prominent vaccines as they are making up around 33.6% of the total vaccines distributed in Africa. The companies are working to get vaccines for young children approved in other countries. Pfizer says they are committed to protecting all age groups from COVID-19 and are working to ensure other countries will follow the actions of the U.S. authorization. The company plans to submit authorizations for vaccinations under five to regulators around the world. For example, the company will request authorization from the European Medical Agency beginning in July 2022.

Ultimately, the vaccine regulations and processes differ for each country. Countries will license various vaccines for different age groups depending on their own analysis of the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. As WHO’s Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan states, countries should follow their guidelines to determine their own calculated risks. Vaccine companies like Pfizer and Moderna will work with health care providers, governments and communities as they continue to expand access to healthcare throughout the world.


While it is unclear when each country will approve vaccines for young children and start distributing the shots, companies similar to Pfizer are working around the world to make sure children will have access to the vaccine.

Abigail Turner
Photo: Flickr

Play PovertyThe Chilean poet Pablo Neruda once said that “a child who does not play is not a child.” Play, as defined by the World Economic Forum, is “freedom for children to engage with and learn from the world that surrounds them.” However, for millions of children in poverty, play is “an elusive luxury.” “Play poverty” is a term describing this scarcity of play among socio-economically disadvantaged children.

With rising research on the benefits of play on child development and performance, “play poverty” has become the focus of several NGOs and well-known organizations, such as FIFA.

The Power of Play

The World Economic Forum states that “Play is the rocket fuel of child development.” Psychologists believe play is crucial for brain development. Specifically, play “promotes connections between nerve cells, helps develop motor skills and coordination” and trains the brain to make sound decisions at an early age. As a result, the brain develops the “cognitive, emotional and social intelligence” that adults rely on.

In poor regions, many children are forced to forego their education to work or care for their families. In the regions most prone to low enrolment rates and the harsh realities of life, “time for play is often displaced by the chores and responsibilities that are so familiar to children growing up in poverty.” According to Right to Play, an NGO aiming to empower vulnerable children, play helps children stay in school while protecting them from exploitation and benefiting their future. Additionally, play helps children escape from “their harsh reality” of poverty, war and natural disasters.

Current Efforts by FIFA and Adidas

Adidas, FIFA and the FIFA Fan Movement, an organization connecting FIFA and the people, have collaborated to give ball donations to NGOs fighting for social good. The pandemic has left thousands of footballs unused; with sustainability in mind, the FIFA Fan Movement nominated 34 NGOs around the world and nine were selected. FIFA believes that their donation will help support “sport as a tool for building life skills such as teamwork, communication, hard work, discipline and a healthy outlet of physical activity.”

Case Study: Tanzania

In Tanzania, despite no school fees since 2015 in lower through secondary school, roughly 2 million children under the age of 13 are currently not enrolled or attending school.  About 70% of Tanzanian children between the ages of 14 and 17 are not enrolled in secondary education. Unsurprisingly, UNICEF found that “primary school-aged children from the poorest families are three times less likely to attend school than those from the wealthiest households.” The children are not out-of-school due to the financial burdens of education it is partially free. The reason is that Tanzanian parents often rely on their children to be a further source of income or guardianship. Unfortunately, this often forces children into vulnerable positions such as working under hazardous conditions or early child marriage. In fact, two out of five Tanzanian girls get married before the age of 18.

Jambo for Development

Luckily, Jambo for Development, a Tanzanian-based NGO, is one of the nine organizations to receive 108 footballs from FIFA. The NGO’s mission, which has a long history of support from FIFA, is to enable all children to have an equal opportunity at achieving their dreams. With FIFA’s help, Jambo for Development has a good chance at making some Tanzanian children’s dreams come true, as they will be equipped “with the skills and tools to address and embrace the new realities of tomorrow.”

– Lena Maassen 
Photo: Flickr

Hope of ToysSmall towns do not often get credits for great deeds, but some of the best things in life come from the most unexpected places. This is the case for the Happy Factory which began in the small town of Cedar City, Utah. What started out as a hobby for the founders after retirement has grown to help children in poverty, children dealing with sickness and children living in the midst of violence. These toys have brought happiness to many when everything else seems so dark. The hope of toys could mean all the world to every child they reach.

About the Founders

Charles and Donna Cooley retired from Southern Utah University in 1995, where Donna worked as the head cashier at the university and Charles worked in the sports department. After retiring Charles took up woodwork, making animal cut-outs which were donated to Primary Children’s Medical Center after Donna painted them.

The couple saw the hope of toys for the children who received them and felt so much happiness. The Cooleys knew they had to continue their work. The hobby became a full-time project and job. The happiness that the Cooley’s toys brought to children inspired the name, “Happy Factory.Charles Cooley died in 2011, but Donna and thousands of volunteers continue this work today.

Making Happy

From its humble beginnings, the Happy Factory has grown immensely. The motto of the founders is “We may not be able to make a toy for every child in the world that needs one-but we’re going to try.” And their efforts have made a sizable impact in the world.

All of the organization’s work that goes into creating the toys is done by volunteers and the wood that is used to make them is donated and repurposed. The toy donations have expanded from the original local hospital. Since 1995, over 1.5 million toys went to different organizations and countries all over the world. In 2017 they made donations to the ravaged communities of Iraq and Afghanistan with help from the U.S. military.

This is all help to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Humanitarian Services (LDS Humanitarian Services). The Happy Project was able to go worldwide via the LDS Humanitarian Services as they provide relief efforts in areas hit by natural disasters.

Making an Impact

The charity has also moved towards making steam shovels, which have been sent far and wide, according to its website. The conception of this came when the Happy Factory’s owners visited a hospital in Salt Lake City. The hospital needed to acquire specialty wooden items that would help children dealing with bone, muscle and joint difficulties. The physical therapist at the hospital called Charles and when asked about it he promptly asked for plans.

These toys have made a particular impact on disabled children. They have stimulated the children to do things they thought were previously impossible. In some places, this is the only form of therapy available for children. Since their introduction to Happy Factory’s production line over 2,610 of these steam shovel toys have been delivered all over the world.

This organization is giving the hope of toys and making an impact in the lives of children, but also in the hands that take the time to make the toys, as well as the people that deliver them. Every helping hand and penny makes a difference. In the words of Robert Workman, a man who helped inspire Happy Factory, “One toy makes a drop in the bucket and it’s a pretty big drop for the child that gets it.”

– Kelsey Jensen
Photo: Flickr