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Child Poverty in BurundiThe East African country of Burundi is one of the poorest in the world. Its meager economy relies heavily on rainfed agriculture, which employs approximately 90% of the people there. Burundi is Africa’s most population-dense country and nearly three out of every four people live below the poverty line. One of the lamentable realities of Burundi’s poverty is the effects it has on children. Child poverty is a serious issue in Burundi and the country has a current score of 5.46/10 on Humanium’s “Realization of Children’s Rights Index.”  Burundi is deemed a black level country by Humanium, meaning that the issue of children’s rights is very serious.

The State of Child Poverty in Burundi

In Burundi, 78% of children live in poverty. Poverty especially affects children in the rural parts of the country. Poverty also disproportionately affects children of the indigenous Batwa people. Additionally, child poverty in Burundi has seen an unfortunate and notable increase since 2015, when violent unrest occurred following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement of a third term, which was unconstitutional. The roots of the poverty problem in Burundi stem from a few different factors, the most predominant one being hunger.

Chronic Hunger in Burundi

Despite having an agriculture-centric economy, more than half of Burundians are chronically hungry.  The lack of food in the country is due to the fact that even at the peak of the harvesting season, food production is too low to sustain the population. Food production in Burundi can only cover a person for 55 days of the year. The lack of food also means prices are much higher. As a result, it is not uncommon for households to spend up to two-thirds of their incomes on food, even during harvesting season. One reason for Burundi’s difficulties in growing enough food has been frequent natural disasters that destroy crops and yields.

Hunger and Education

Hunger is so prevalent and intense in Burundi that despite having free and compulsory school for children between the ages of 7 and 13, the country faces growing dropout rates due to hunger. Another problematic issue for Burundian children facing poverty is schooling after the age of 13. After 13, school is neither free nor compulsory, making it exponentially less accessible and thus reducing opportunities for upward mobility. Much of Burundi’s education system has been negatively affected by Burundi’s civil war, as schools were destroyed and teachers were unable to teach.

Street Children in Burundi

Burundi has many “street children.” As the name suggests, these children live on the streets and are incredibly poor, left to fend for themselves. Street children have no humanitarian assistance from the government and consistently face police brutality, theft and arrests. Kids in Burundi become street children because families are sometimes too poor and hungry to stay together or they have to flee from child abuse or family conflict.

Organizations Addressing Child Poverty in Burundi

Although the reality of the child poverty situation in Burundi is dire, there are good things being done to improve the situation. While the government in Burundi is not providing adequate help, there are several humanitarian organizations providing assistance to those in need.

The NGO, Humanium, works on raising awareness, partnering with local projects to help children and providing legal assistance to victims of children’s rights abuses. The World Food Programme (WFP) has also been working in Burundi since 1968 by providing food such as school meals, malnutrition rehabilitation to starved children and helping to improve food production. Additionally, organizations like Street Child are working to build schools and eliminate as many barriers to education as possible for children in Burundi and elsewhere. Groups like the WFP, Humanarium and Street Child do substantial work to help children in Burundi. It is vital that the work continues and that more organizations participate in alleviating child poverty in Burundi.

– Sean Kenney
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in JamaicaA whole 2.8 million people live in poverty in Jamaica. The strain of poverty is heavy on all people, however, for children, it is more severe. Jamaica is yet to tackle the many factors impacting child poverty.

Facts About Child Poverty in Jamaica

  1. At least 25% of Jamaican children live under the poverty line. With the struggling economic state in Jamaica, it is difficult for the government to prioritize increasing investment in children. Instead, a large amount of the country’s national budget is dedicated to debt repayment. Because poverty is most widespread in rural Jamaica, hidden from the eyes of tourists, issues impacting children are rarely addressed.
  1. Jamaica does not have equal access to education. Minors living in rural areas may not have the option to attend school at all. While primary school is free, secondary and higher education is not, meaning that schooling beyond the primary level is often too expensive for underprivileged families. Beyond accessibility, Jamaican schools often lack resources for proper learning which means children are not able to thrive in an educational setting.
  1. Jamaica has a high incidence of HIV/AIDS affliction. This contributes to an overall high child mortality rate. In numbers, 10% of Jamaicans who have HIV/AIDS are under the age of 18, often as a result of mother-to-child transmission. In addition, AIDS deaths in adults result in many children becoming orphaned.
  1. High unemployment rates lead to unstable socio-economic conditions. Without a way to earn a stable income, many in Jamaica turn to gang activity and crime to survive. Exposure to extreme violence is common for Jamaican children, and because of high poverty levels, many young boys often join gangs themselves. In addition, many unemployed residents are forced to live without access to running water and proper sanitation which means children and families live in unacceptable conditions.
  1. Child labor is widespread and often essential for a family’s survival. With high poverty rates across Jamaica’s rural communities, some families must send their children to work, purely out of desperation. In cities, children are often seen selling merchandise, washing car windshields and begging for money. For many, living the life of a child is an unaffordable luxury.

The Jamaican Childcare and Protection Act

Jamaica still has some work to do in terms of protecting its children from the harsh realities of poverty. However, the country has progressed in this regard, by implementing crucial legislation for the protection of children. The Jamaican Childcare and Protection Act was passed in 2004 and promotes the safety and best interests of children in the country. The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) and the Children’s Register was established under this Act. The OCA was established with the purpose of protecting and enforcing the rights of children and the Children’s Register consists of the information reported regarding suspected ill-treatment of a child. Child labor is also specifically addressed in the Act.

While child poverty in Jamaica is still a significant concern, the country has made progress and will continue to do so in the future as key issues affecting the country’s most vulnerable populations are addressed.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in costa ricaDespite being one of the most progressive countries in Latin America in terms of free education, no military and access to healthcare, there are still many people living in poverty in Costa Rica and the youngest people are oftentimes hit the hardest. More than 65% of poor Costa Ricans are under 35 years old and children under the age of 18 make up the largest group of the poor. Additionally, many of the children who are impacted by child poverty in Costa Rica are indigenous. When it comes to children, issues include child labor, child mortality and disparities in education.

Things to Know About Child Poverty in Costa Rica

  1. Primary school in Costa Rica is free and mandatory and many children have access to the education system. However, many children who come from poor families or rural areas miss out on education because they work to provide for their families. About 8% of children in Costa Rica are not educated and 9% of children from the ages of 5 to 14 are economically active as their families depend on the money their children generate. As a country that is a major producer of coffee, work and harvesting is a priority in Costa Rica. In fact, during the coffee bean harvest, the teachers and students in poor regions in Costa Rica go to the farms to work in order to afford school supplies.

  2. Costa Rica has a large number of child trafficking victims. About 36,000 children in Costa Rica are orphans and due to the lack of or dysfunction in their family structures, many of these children are at risk of exploitation, drug abuse and gang violence.

  3. Although Costa Rica has the longest life expectancy in Latin America and an effective health care system, there are still issues regarding child mortality. Roughly, 10% of children in Costa Rica die before reaching the age of 5. These are often the children who are born into families living below the poverty line, indigenous families or rural families.

  4. Violence against children in Costa Rica is a concern. In fact, there were over 700 sexual violence cases in 2009, though it is estimated that much more went unreported. The physical and psychological abuse and violence that children endure has serious consequences for their development and health.

SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children’s Villages initially started with a commitment to caring for orphaned or abandoned children throughout the world. There are SOS Children’s Villages in three cities in Costa Rica: San José, Limón and Cartago. SOS Children’s Villages aim to address child poverty in Costa Rica. The organization provides Costa Rican children with day-care, education, medical services and vocational training, sports facilities and playgrounds. Children whose parents cannot take care of them are often taken in. The organization has a comprehensive approach: preventing child abandonment, offering long-term care for children in need and empowering young people with the resources to reach their full potential.

The organization’s YouthCan! program trains adolescents to enhance their skills and competencies in order to achieve employment. In Costa Rica, where almost 100,000 young people were unemployed in 2016, the youth development program lasts for three to 12 months. The program consists of life skills training, employability training and helping the youth find jobs and further training opportunities.

Through organizations like the SOS Children’s Villages, child poverty in Costa Rica can be successfully alleviated.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Child Protection SystemThe child protection system in Greece has long been criticized for its lack of consistency and the inability to provide adequate protection for abused children. The lack of investigations, follow-up from social service professionals and incidents of returning children to the care of abusers are not uncommon.

A Lacking Child Protection System

While the lack of a sufficient child protection system has been attributed to the financial crisis, in Greece, child protection services were underfunded before the financial collapse. The inability to develop a structured and cohesive child protective system has denied many children of their rights. Reduction in personnel, lack of funds, insufficient resources and inadequate collaboration among social service entities have caused dysfunction within the child protection system.

The Institute of Child Health

The Institute of Child Health has taken a stand in many cases impacting the lives of the youth in Greece. The Institute of Child Health is overseen by the Greek Ministry of Health and has advocated for funding and mental health support for abused children. This entity has developed a protocol to allow the networking of services to meet the needs of children that are victims of abuse. Through unified procedures and the development of a digital records system, the organization has made efforts in the modification of the child protection system.

While the efforts made by the Institute of Child Health have been ignored by the Greek government, the government has implemented an initiative that will streamline processes and improve the conditions for child abuse survivors. Yet, the Greek government has been slow in implementing changes that will impact the lives of children systemwide. Currently, children of abuse are required to repeat their stories multiple times, risking retraumatization. With the implementation of the Child Houses or Child Advocacy Centers, testimonies are recorded. Through this method, children will only need to provide their testimony once. The implementation of this process is one step in addressing a significant problem within the child protection system.

Greece Implements New Adoption and Fostering System

For decades, many children entering the child protection administration have been placed in hospitals due to an incomplete foster care system. In Greece, the child protection system relies upon institutions, children’s homes operated by the state, the Greek Orthodox Church and NGOs, to provide care for children removed from their families. However, the lack of an adequate foster care system and institutionalizing children removed from their families presents another problem in the child protection system in Greece. Institutionalized children are subject to inadequate living conditions, living in wooden cages or tied to their beds, leaving children with life long trauma and further victimization. The children spend months in an institution due to being removed from their families and the inability to locate a suitable foster or adoption home.

In July 2020, Greece implemented a new adoption and fostering system that demonstrates progress toward revamping a crippled child protection system. With this new system, a more effective process will allow more accuracy in the evaluation of applications from prospective applicants. The new system establishes full transparency, documentation and expert control of the process. The Greek prime minister believes this implementation addresses past bureaucratic hurdles and will expedite the process of connecting children with families. Other steps that are in the works include the registration of minors in child protection and training of professionals that will work with prospective foster and adoptive parents.

The Need for Further Progress

Lacking child protection in Greece has jeopardized the safety and wellbeing of many children. Due to the lack of uniform protocol, collaboration among service providers and unclear mandates and responsibilities, children that enter the custody of child protective services continue to relive their abuse. While steps have been taken to rectify this problem, Greeks remain positive that further progress within the child protection system will come.

– Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in KyrgyzstanPatriarchal culture and deep-rooted traditions within the country have contributed to child marriage in Kyrgyzstan. Despite the legal age for marriage being 18, an estimated 19% of girls in Kyrgyzstan are married before this age. Due to the country’s history and various social factors, child marriage in Kyrgyzstan remains an issue. Organizations such as the National Federation of Women’s Communities of Kyrgyzstan, are fighting for girls’ rights in the country.

History of Child Marriage in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan was formerly a member of the Soviet Union. Under Soviet control, many of the traditions and values of the country were repressed. Following the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union, the government of Kyrgyzstan attempted to maintain power by appealing to nationalism and reviving the traditions of the country. One of these traditions was the practice of child marriage, which has seen increases in many Central Asian countries following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Factors Associated with Child Marriage

Social issues, including poverty, lack of education, cultural emphasis on honor and practices of bride kidnapping, contribute to the practice of child marriage. In Kyrgyzstan’s poorest households, 16% of girls are married as children compared to 9% of girls from families with higher incomes. Girls with primary or no education are more likely to be married by the age of 18 than girls with a more substantial education – 4% compared to 33%, respectively.

Kyrgyzstan culture emphasizes family honor and child marriage is linked to the desire to ensure that girls do not engage in premarital sex. Child marriage is also linked to the practice of bride kidnapping, where the girl is taken by force to the house of a man who wants to marry her and is slowly convinced by him and his family to agree to the marriage. An estimated 12,000 bride kidnappings occur each year and it is believed that many girls agree to child marriages in an attempt to avoid being kidnapped.

Effects of Child Marriage in Kyrgyzstan

Child marriage causes many hardships for women and girls in Kyrgyzstan. Due to the unequal nature of child marriages, domestic violence is common for child brides. Child brides often face difficulties during pregnancy and childbirth due to their young age and immature physical development. These marriages often put an end to girls’ education as they have to drop out of school to raise children and undertake domestic tasks. This limits their future ability to find jobs and become financially independent, putting them at risk of being unable to leave abusive relationships.

In addition, because child marriages are illegal under Kyrgyzstan’s laws, many of these marriages are not officially registered with the state until both parties are over the age of 18, the legal age for marriage. Since women in unregistered marriages do not have access to resources such as property, alimony and child support, they are limited in their independence and ability to leave a marriage.

The National Federation of Women’s Communities of Kyrgyzstan

A key organization combatting child marriage in Kyrgyzstan is the National Federation of Women’s Communities of Kyrgyzstan (NFFCK). NFFCK is an organization created by teenage girls with the mission of giving girls throughout the country the tools and knowledge necessary to avoid child marriages and other forms of gender discrimination. The organization provides sex education and awareness programs regarding health issues, smoking and drugs, in addition to teaching leadership skills. NFFCK also is an advocacy organization, conducting awareness campaigns on social issues such as child marriage to create policy changes.

A grant provided to NFFCK by the U.N. Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women allowed the organization to create an educational program, Educating Girls Through Education, Art and Media, in three villages. The program had benefited 600 people as of 2016.

Over the course of just two years, NFFCK worked with 41 girls to avoid child marriage through its education and leadership-building programs. NFFCK provided nearly 500 girls with some form of “practical support” and more than 1,600 girls with “consultations on child marriage and bride kidnapping.” Overall, NFFCK has educated 12,000 girls on their rights.

Governmental Efforts to End Child Marriage

The government is also committing to do more to end child marriages. In 2016, President Almazbek Atambayev passed Article 155, which creates a legal basis for the punishment of adults who perform marriage ceremonies involving minors. The 2015-2017 National Action Plan on Gender Equality also included awareness programs for the public and the military on the harmful effects of child marriage. Still, an estimated 14% of girls under the age of 18 were married in 2019, indicating that child marriage in Kyrgyzstan remains a serious issue. With ongoing efforts and commitments from the government and organizations, child marriage in Kyrgyzstan can be successfully combated.

– Sydney Leiter
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in RwandaRwanda, an East African country, has a population of about 12.3 million. Around 45% of the country’s population, roughly 5.4 million, are under the age of 18. The rate of poverty has decreased from 59% to 40% since 2000. Additionally, the rate of extreme poverty was reduced to 16% from 40%. While the country achieved its Millennium Development Goals, child poverty in Rwanda continues to be a significant issue faced by the population. Therefore, Rwanda aims to end child poverty with one of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets focusing on reducing the number of impoverished children by half by 2030.

The Effects of Child Poverty in Rwanda

The rate of impoverished Rwandan children ages 0 to 17 is 39%. Children disproportionately undergo the struggles of poverty and it significantly impacts their well-being since they lack basic needs. Impoverished families in Rwanda, especially in rural areas, experience high rates of mortality among children under the age of 5. About 50 children out of 1,000 births in the country do not live past the age of 5 years old..

Impoverished children also struggle greatly with malnutrition. As a result, many children face low birth weight and infections. Malnutrition creates lasting effects on children, specifically in terms of cognitive development and physical growth. Furthermore, Rwandan children struggle with the impact of poor sanitation. A clean and safe source of water within 500 meters of a house is only accessible to 47% of Rwandan households. Additionally, 64% of households own a latrine. Lack of access to quality sanitation and water sources contributes to 38% of Rwandan children being stunted.

Child Poverty in Rural and Urban Areas

In terms of deprivation of sanitation, water, housing, education and health due to poverty, there is a gap between children living in rural areas and children residing in urban areas. Moreover, 83.5% of the rural population in Rwanda consists of children. In urban areas, 38% of children ages 0 to 23 months undergo multiple deprivations as opposed to 61% of children in rural areas. Additionally, in urban areas, 22% of children ages 15 to 17 are considered “multidimensionally poor” with a deprivation rate of 16% among children ages 5 to 14. On the other hand, in rural areas, the deprivation rate of children ages 5 to 14 is 32% and 50% of children ages 15 to 17 are “multidimensionally poor”.

Government Solutions

The Rwandan Government has worked toward further developing its Vision Umurenge Social Protection (VUP) program by including child-sensitive social protection. In 2011, the government passed Law N.54 to protect children’s rights but there is inequality in the law’s implementation, which prevents children from receiving its full benefits.

While Rwanda has witnessed a recent decrease in child poverty, through a Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA), UNICEF provides recommendations to further efforts to eradicate poverty among children. UNICEF suggests increasing the support provided by the Rwandan Government’s social protection program, VUP, to give children greater access to social services and to decrease the number of deprivations due to poverty. Furthermore, UNICEF recommends that the social protection program considers overlapping deprivations when providing services. UNICEF also emphasizes the importance of prioritizing the most vulnerable groups of children, especially those living in rural areas and children ages 0 to 23 months.

– Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

Intergenerational Transmission of PovertyMore than 780 million people live below the poverty line, as a result of and contributing to the intergenerational transmission of poverty. More than 160 million children at risk of continuing to live in poverty by the year 2030. Similarly, those living in poverty will likely remain in poverty. In other words, poor parents raise poor children, who are more likely to remain poor as adults. This intergenerational transmission of poverty refers to two or more successive generations of a family living in poverty. The intergenerational transmission of poverty includes financial, material and environmental assets, human capital and attitudes, cultural and other knowledge or traditions. Therefore, those seeking to end persistent poverty must prioritize childhood poverty.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international agreement that sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child (up to 18), regardless of race, religion or abilities. This agreement expresses that children should live free of the deprivations of poverty. Unfortunately, millions of children are still living in poverty. Children are particularly more vulnerable to the impacts of poverty, malnutrition and poor health.

Effects of Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty

This is especially true in developing countries that are riddled with poor sanitation, poor access to clean water and electricity, lack of healthcare services, and a lack of transportation. Such risk factors affect their physical, cognitive and social development. As a result, disadvantaged children are more likely to perform poorly in school, have low incomes and high fertility rates. Consequently, these children will ultimately provide poor care for their children. These deprivations then initiate another cycle of the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Child poverty is a global issue, not just one in developing countries. For example, in the United Kingdom during the 1970s, 19 percent of men who experienced relative poverty as a teenager also experienced poverty while they were in their thirties.

Even when children live in relative poverty, in which they lack the minimum amount of income needed in order to maintain the average standard of living in the society in which they live. They also have much poorer opportunities in education and healthcare, which disproportionately affects their chances of climbing out of poverty.

In Guatemala, a study found healthier children from advantaged homes are more likely to continue their education beyond primary level. These children, consequently, tend to have better cognitive skills during preschool. These children were compared to children with early biological, social and psychological risk factors. Thus, the results show the effects of poverty affect educational success. Subsequently, it also affects the ability to attain jobs with livable wages.

Childhood poverty can also affect society as a whole and feeds into the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Poverty contributes to low educational attainment leading to a less productive workforce and unemployment due to lower skills and productivity.

Strategizing Against Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty

UNICEF aims to improve the lives of millions of children and disrupt the intergenerational transmission of poverty. To do so, UNICEF provides an agenda to ending childhood poverty:

  • child poverty should be an explicit part of the global development framework and its implementation;
  • every country should explicitly prioritize the reduction of child poverty on their agenda and include appropriate national plans, policies and laws;
  • expand child-sensitive protection systems and programs, improve access to quality public services for the poorest children;
  • an inclusive growth agenda to reach the poorest and most deprived.

Children with a good start in life are much less at risk of being poor as adults. Tackling childhood poverty should be a priority when addressing the intergenerational transmission of poverty. When we help children climb out of the cycle of poverty, we are not just helping them individually, we are also helping society prosper.

Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

What UNICEF Stands For
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is a program dedicated to providing developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries as well as supporting humanitarian efforts globally. UNICEF operates in over 190 countries in an effort to protect and save children’s lives.

How UNICEF Works

UNICEF receives its funding through donations from government entities around the globe as well as private donors. Of these funds, government entities are responsible for two-thirds of the organization’s resources. UNICEF stands for transparency. It reports that of the donations it receives, nearly 92 percent is distributed to relief programs.

UNICEF was founded in 1946 in an effort to help war-torn children in the many countries affected by World War II. In 1953, UNICEF dropped the words International and Emergency from its title in an effort to extend its reach to children in need in developing countries.

What UNICEF Stands For

Today, in cooperation with governments and NGOs, UNICEF stands for providing health care to children, promoting children’s rights and providing immunizations, adequate nutrition, safe food and water as well as basic education. UNICEF’s ultimate goal is to ensure that no child ever goes hungry, thirsty, dies prematurely or is bought, sold or otherwise victimized. In order to achieve this, UNICEF works with families in need and helps ensure adoption policies are in accordance with the best and most ethical practices today.

UNICEF stands for transparency in the nonprofit sector. It receives high praises from many watchdogs for its monetary transparency policies. Of every dollar spent, 90 cents go to children’s efforts, seven cents go toward fundraising efforts and three cents go toward overhead and administrative costs. As well as being transparent, UNICEF excels at working with other agencies and private businesses to fight for children’s rights.

UNICEF’s Partnership with Google

UNICEF works with companies like Google to respond to emergencies such as earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Most recently, UNICEF has worked with Google to help aid children and families affected by hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

As well as emergency aid, UNICEF and Google collaborate to support the annual flu shot campaign provided by UNICEF. This collaboration has raised over $600,000 toward UNICEF’s immunization program.

In 2016, Google helped UNICEF by donating $1 million to help fight the spread of the Zika virus. Google worked with UNICEF to build a program which tracked the anticipated outbreak of the virus and developed technology that is applicable to not only the Zika virus but other virus outbreaks in the future. With Google’s help, UNICEF helped prevent the spread of the Zika virus and saved the lives of many children and families around the world.

UNICEF is a program with the noble intentions of promoting children’s health and happiness around the globe. Many of the programs provided by UNICEF have helped greatly in reducing the abuse of children in over 190 countries. With its clear mission of transparency, UNICEF succeeds in providing aid to children and families in need. With the help of NGOs and companies like Google, UNICEF is set to continue its story of success in the future.

– Dalton Westfall

Photo: Flickr

facts about child soldiersAlthough improvements have been made to end the use of child soldiers, it is believed that close to 300,000 child soldiers are still being recruited and forced into war across the world today. Child soldiers are children under the age of 18, some even as young as seven years of age, who are used for any purpose in a military or armed group. Child soldiers can act as cooks, messengers, informants, soldiers, suicide bombers or even sex slaves.

Why do people use child soldiers? Armed forces can manipulate children easily, they do not eat very much food, and they do not have to be paid. Soldiers take advantage of this and use children as pawns in their dangerous battles.

10 Child Soldier Facts

  1. Forty percent of the world’s armed forces use child soldiers.
  2. Though child soldiers are often associated with African conflicts, they have been used throughout history in armies all over the world.
  3. Children who are poor or have little access to education have a higher chance of being forcibly recruited.
  4. Some children choose to enter the military to escape poverty or because they believe they will be offered safety and security by doing so.
  5. Sometimes, as part of their recruitment, child soldiers are forced to kill family members or neighbors to desensitize them and make it so the children cannot go back to their homes and communities.
  6. Children are often used to man checkpoints when there is no active combat taking place. The soldiers will stand several meters back so if anyone starts to fire a weapon, the child soldiers will be the first ones to get hit.
  7. Girl soldiers are often used as “wives” and are sexually abused. Human Rights Watch has reported girl soldiers being impregnated by their commanders and having to fight with their child strapped to their backs.
  8. Child soldiers are known to be fighting in at least 14 countries, including Afghanistan, India, Iraq and Thailand.
  9. If child soldiers are released, they often lack basic survival skills because they were supplied food and shelter in battle. This makes it difficult for them to survive if and when they become free.
  10. When child soldiers are released, many are shunned and given little if any support to reintegrate into their communities. If there is a lack of rehabilitation support, children are frequently recruited back into the military.

These are only a few of the most disturbing facts about child soldiers. Children from all around the world are ripped from their youth and thrown into a merciless world of battle. In order to help these children return to a normal life, UNICEF has established rehabilitation centers in current and former conflict areas. The support these centers provide is crucial to healing former child soldiers and reintegrating them into their communities. This work combined with international pressure to end the practice can make these facts about child soldiers part of the past instead of the present.

– McCall Robison

Photo: Flickr

Zade Dirani becomes a UNICEF Ambassador
Zade Dirani recently became the Regional UNICEF Ambassador for the Middle East and North Africa. The famous Jordanian pianist is continuing on with his steadfast involvement in advocacy and charity work. Dirani joins the ranks of other ambassadors like Egyptian actor, Mahmoud Kabil and Lebanese entertainer, Nancy Ajram.

Previously, as the founder of the Zade Foundation for International Peace and Understanding, Dirani demonstrated a passion for helping others.

Now in his new partnership with UNICEF, he will be working to further the rights of children in the Middle East and North Africa, with a special focus on children caught in conflict or dealing with violence and poverty.

Dirani is an immensely talented pianist. Previously described as a “Piano Prodigy” by People Magazine, he has touched tens of thousands of people in live performances, including Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth.

In the past, through his namesake foundation, Dirani used his musical talent working with young musicians to foster a culture of peace and understanding. Work done through the Zade Foundation attempts to create peace builders and future community leaders.

The piano superstar is already hard at work. Dirani went on his first a field visit as a UNICEF Ambassador to a Za’atari, Jordan refugee camp and to the neighboring town of Mafraq, Jordan.

There, he played for groups of around 300 children and adolescents. Dirani met and spoke to youth from various different backgrounds, bringing joy to many who had fled the violence in Syria.

Dirani spoke about the experience saying, “I wanted to bring my music to children and youth – today and in the months to come – as a way to engage them and become a form of therapy for those who have witnessed things that no child should ever experience.” His talent and commitment to his cause are inspiring and a valuable asset to UNICEF.

Jordan Little

Photo: Flickr