The day of the African child
Since 1991, The Day of the African Child has been celebrated as an opportunity to advance African children’s rights. The day commemorates African students who were killed by police in a 1976 demonstration in Soweto, South Africa to protest education injustice.

The official theme of this year’s celebration, “Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting All Children’s Rights,” recognizes that conflict, natural disaster and disease currently affect 500 million children worldwide. The Day of the African Child (DAC) events have centered on promoting access to education but this year there was a focus on how access is jeopardized by conflict.

According to the UNICEF All in School initiative, 36 percent of the primary-school age children who are not attending school are prevented by their residence in conflict-affected areas. Overall, this accounts for 59.3 million children. The damage to structures and infrastructure makes it difficult for African children who live in conflict zones to attend school.

According to a recent African Union report, Africa remains the most conflict-prone continent in the world. Approximately 57 million children in the world do not attend school and 30 million of those children are in sub-Saharan Africa. Living in a conflict zone not only makes attending school unsafe but also affects children’s emotional health.

The 2016 DAC celebration took place at more than 100 events worldwide thanks to partnerships with organizations like A World at School, which utilizes a network of global youth ambassadors and faith-based groups to accelerate progress in education.

This year 500 young people from around Africa staged a ‘youth takeover’ at Ethiopia’s Africa Union, in Addis Ababa for the DAC. Youth ambassadors played a key role in the celebration and promoting the message.

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child provides member states with outlined suggestions for observing the DAC. Their recommendations further push the goals of the celebration by providing outlines of current conflict contexts in Africa, how they impact children and best practice for mitigating the impact.

The importance afforded to three decades of DAC and its worldwide events provides hope for the situation of children across Africa. While the struggles they face are remarkably diverse, more equitable access to education remains a priority.

– Charlotte Bellomy
Photo: Pixabay

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), passed in 1989, is the most widely accepted human rights treaty. This landmark piece is the first international treaty to ensure the civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights of all children under eighteen.

The treaty has 42 articles that are guided by four main principles. First, all children are equal and have the same rights. Second, every child has the right to have his or her basic needs fulfilled.

Third, every child has the right to protection from abuse and exploitation. Fourth, every child has the right to express his or her opinion and be respected.

All member states, except for the U.S. and South Sudan, have ratified the UNCRC. Here are ten ways in which the UNCRC supports children around the world:

10 Ways the UNCRC Helps Children Around the World

  1. It changed the way lawmakers and governments view children. Prior to the passing of the treaty, it was acceptable to view children as passive objects that were products of their parents. Through the UNCRC, children are viewed as distinct individuals with lives, needs and opinions separate from that of their parents.
  2. It gives power to international bodies to intervene to support children’s rights. The passage of the UNCRC gives aid agencies and relief operations more power, particularly with regards to children’s health, safety and well-being. Since 1998, for example, UNICEF has been able to rescue more than 100,000 child soldiers.
  3. It empowers international organizations into holding nations accountable. When nations are pressured or face sanctions for human rights violations, they are more likely to make efforts to fix things. Furthermore, it enables international bodies to create regulatory framework to ensure children’s rights are protected outside of their country, such as with refugees, immigrants, trafficking victims and asylum-seekers.
  4. It acknowledges that children exist and have the rights of citizens. Articles mandate that children have a right to documentation and their culture, even if it is not the culture supported by their country. This is especially important for children of marginalized ethnic groups and populations, such as the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Yadizis living under ISIS territory.
  5. It addresses children with disabilities. Children with disabilities worldwide are often excluded and marginalized, particularly when it comes to education. By saying that all children are entitled to the same rights, it empowers children whose voices are frequently silenced.
  6. It improves the quality of life for children around the world. By bringing children into the spotlight, it raises awareness for children’s rights. Working to improve the lives of children in developing countries is an indication that progress is being made. In the fight against global poverty, people are often fighting for the children. The UNCRC helped make impoverished children a more visible population for policymakers and governments to consider.
  7. It explicitly states that children have the right to go to school. As education becomes increasingly powerful as a means for empowerment, especially in developing countries, it is critical that everyone has the opportunity to go to school. Education leads to knowledge, employment and potential income, which benefits all families. By not excluding certain children from education (girls, special-needs children, children of marginalized ethnic groups), communities develop more power to fight global poverty at home and worldwide.
  8. It prohibits forced labor. Many articles mandate that children working is only acceptable if they are not exposed to hazardous conditions or violence and if the work does not interfere with their education. Most importantly, the children working must choose to; their parents cannot force them.
  9. It empowers children directly. Articles in the UNCRC state that children have the right to be heard. The old tenet that “children should be seen, not heard” is seen as an infringement against a child’s rights. A child knowing that they can stand up for themselves is a powerful thing.
  10. With it now comes the World’s Children’s Prize! Established in 2000, the World’s Children’s Prize (WCP) holds annual elections in which children vote on a children’s rights hero.

More than 36.5 million children have cast their votes in the WCP; more than 60,000 schools in 113 different countries take part in the opportunity to educate children about their rights and let them choose a hero for their cause. Past winners of the WCP include Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai.

The UNCRC was a landmark human rights treaty that empowers children and those who help them. A quarter of a century later, progress still needs to be made, but much is to be celebrated.

More children receive access to health care, birth registration, nutrition and schooling, and reductions have been made in infant mortality, children trapped in forced labor, and children recruited into the armed forces.

Let’s hope that further support from policymakers, governments and international organizations continue to promote children’s rights worldwide.

Priscilla McCelvey

Sources: Amnesty International, UNICEF, United Nations Human Rights, The World’s Children’s Prize
Photo: Flickr

Children are out of school: The original Millnenium Development Goals, set in 2000, aimed for every primary school-aged child in the world to be in school by 2015. At the time, 100 million children ages 6 to 11 were out of school. By 2012, significant progress had been made, but 58 million children were still out of school. However, as of 2015, that progress has been reversed, and the number of children who are not currently attending school has risen to 59 million. Looking at a wider age range, the discouraging trend still holds true. In 2011, 122 million children ages 6 to 15 were out of school, but by 2013, the number had increased to 124 million.

2015 marks the end of the MDG’s timeline, and 9 percent of primary school-aged children worldwide are still denied the right to education. 41 percent of these children have never set foot in a classroom and most likely never will, 20 percent had attended school in the past but were unable to continue for a variety of reasons and 38 percent will likely start late. The issue is worse in certain countries, with at least one million children denied the right to education in India, Indonesia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Tanzania.

Children are barred from receiving an education for various reasons. Child laborers often struggle to balance work with school and have a high risk of dropping out: this is the reality for 168 million children ages 5 to 17 worldwide. Between 93 and 150 children live with a disability, and may lack accessible school buildings, properly trained teachers and appropriate materials. Furthermore, in some areas there is a social stigma against children with disabilities attending school. Language barriers also present a challenge for the 40 percent of students worldwide who lack access to education in their mother tongue, an issue which primarily affects children from marginalized or isolated ethnic groups. The gender gap in education is also concerning: over half of out-of-school children are girls, and poor girls from rural areas with uneducated mothers are the ones most likely to not go to school. Contributing factors to girls’ lower attendance rates include rigid gender roles, gender-based violence and menstruation.

Currently, one of the largest barriers to educational access is conflict. 36 percent of out-of-school children live in countries affected by violent conflict. This can stem from political changes and war or organized crime and gang warfare, and poses multiple threats to education. Lives are lost and schools can be destructed or repurposed. Entire communities can be displaced and families dispersed. Students may stop attending school out of fear for their own safety. Families affected by conflict often find themselves worse off financially than before, making it even more unlikely that their children will complete their education.

Several solutions have been proposed to keep more children in school. Many are advocating for more humanitarian aid dedicated to education. Funds are not typically set aside in anticipation of emergency situations that interfere with education: recent examples include the war in Syria and the earthquake in Nepal. Currently, less than 2 percent of aid goes directly to education, and the global education community is now pushing for an increase to 4 percent. However, UNICEF is aiming for even more, with the goal of allotting 10 percent of aid to education specifically for children affected by conflict and natural disaster.

In September 2015, the UN will be implementing a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on universal access to primary and secondary education. This goal is ambitious, but not impossible, and governments must continue to invest money and effort into education until every child is in a classroom.

Jane Harkness

Sources: All in School 1, All in School 2, All in School 3, All in School 4, TES, UNESCO
Photo: Time and Date

Each year, approximately 15 million girls under the age of 18 are forced into marriage. These child brides normally have their husbands selected for them by their fathers, and they are not given any power or choice when it comes to their marriage. Many of them are forced to marry men much older than they are.

Child marriage is most prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. India accounts for one-third of the total child brides worldwide, even though the legal marrying age in India is 21 for men and 18 for women, as established by the 2006 Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act did not cause a significant decrease in the amount of child marriages that take place in India, where 47% of girls marry before the age of 18. Child marriage in India is more common in rural areas, where 56% of girls marry before the age of 18, than they are in urban areas, where 29% of girls marry before 18.

Societal traditions and norms allow child marriage to persist despite its illegality. Many brides are forced to marry early because the later they are married, the larger their dowry will have to be. It is still common in India to give a dowry or a present from the bride’s family to the groom’s at the time of marriage, although the practice was banned in 1961.

As The Guardian states, another reason why some parents marry their daughter at a young age is because they fear that their daughter might have sexual relations when she is a teenager, therefore shaming her family and lowering her chances of getting married later on. Child marriage is also widespread because poor families realize that marrying their daughter means that they have one less child to feed, since brides tend to go live with their husband’s family.

Since child marriage is illegal, weddings normally take place in the evening or at night. Police officers are bribed to not report the marriage.

The consequences of child marriage are devastating. Girls who marry young are not able to complete their education and are therefore forced to rely on their husband and his family. Even on the rare occasion that they have the chance to end the marriage, they are often not able to because they have nowhere to go and no way to support themselves. Girls under the age of 15 are also five times more likely to die in childbirth than those over the age of 20. Young brides are also more likely to contract HIV because they are forced to marry older men.

The International Center for Research on Women reports that girls in India who marry under the age of 18 are twice as likely to experience domestic violence. Child brides also experience sexual abuse, and many suffer from PTSD and severe depression.

Some girls are forced to enter a marriage agreement at an extremely young age and then go to live with their husbands when they reach puberty. This was supposed to be the case for Santa Devi Maghwal, an Indian girl from Rajasthan who was married at 11 months old and told that she would have to live with her husband when she turned 16. Maghwal is currently working with child right’s campaigner Kriti Bharti to annul the marriage. Luckily, Maghwal is not the only one who has turned to the law in order to end her marriage. Bharti made history in 2012 when she obtained India’s first annulment of a child marriage for sixteen year old Laxmi Sagara. Since then, Bharti has won 27 more annulments. While divorce is hard to come by in India, since courts are overburdened and take a long time to rule, annulments can be achieved as long as there is some proof — such as a birth or school certificate — that the bride was married before the age of 18.

Bharti has made progress, but India still has a way to go before it can truly end child marriage. For child marriages to end, societal norms and patriarchal customs need to end as well.

– Ashrita Rau

Sources: ICRW, CBN, National Geographic 1, National Geographic 2, UNICEF, Girls not Brides, The Guardian
Photo: Huffington Post

sierra_leone_banIn 2010, Sierra Leone banned visibly pregnant girls from attending school. Schools were shut down for nine months during the Ebola outbreak, but reopened again on April 14, 2015, with the ban still in place.

The ban is in effect because visibly pregnant girls supposedly set a bad example for their classmates. Sierra Leone’s minister of education, Minkailu Bah, argued that “innocent girls” could be influenced by those who are pregnant and pregnancy rates could increase.

Bah’s statement is far from the truth. Having pregnant classmates would most likely cause a drop in pregnancy rates. NPR explains that teen pregnancies in the United States dropped almost 6 percent from watching the MTV show, 16 and Pregnant. Girls who see their classmates pregnant would be less likely to become pregnant themselves.

Sierra Leone is one of the most dangerous places for expectant mothers, with high rates of maternal and child mortality. One-third of pregnant women in Sierra Leone are teenagers. The teenage pregnancy rates and incidences of maternal and child mortality were decreasing before Ebola, but have increased once again. Incidences of sexual violence rose during the Ebola epidemic, and girls, especially those who had lost a relative to Ebola, traded sex for supplies to help them survive.

The ban on educating pregnant girls is also detrimental because many girls see pregnancy as a turning point and are encouraged to work even harder to get an education because they know that they will have to support themselves as well as their children. The fact that girls who are inspired to get an education are not allowed to access it is extremely worrisome. If Sierra Leone lifts its ban, it will give these girls an opportunity to support themselves.

The ban also fails to acknowledge girls who are pregnant as a result of rape. Seventeen-year-old Isatu Gbanky was a student in Sierra Leone but was not allowed to return to school after it reopened because she was pregnant. Isatu said, “I was raped by a fellow student. He forced me to have sex while I was fetching water for my family. I hope the government makes an exception for girls like me.”

Isatu’s story is unfortunately not unique, but the government has yet to lift the ban on pregnancy for either rape victims or those who became pregnant through consensual sex. However, there is hope that the ban will end soon. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Irish Aid and the Department for International Development are working with Sierra Leone, and may be able to come to an agreement over a temporary solution which would involve pregnant girls getting a formal education outside the classroom. Since teenage pregnancy rates in Sierra Leone are so high, if this agreement is reached, it will be extremely significant for education levels throughout the country.

Pregnant girls attending school does not cause higher pregnancy rates. If Sierra Leone wants to lower its rate of teenage pregnancies, it needs to focus on making school cheaper and more accessible, rather than banning pregnant girls who want to attend. Girls who know that they can gain an education and have a future are less likely to get pregnant and more likely to focus on their schooling.

Ashrita Rau

Sources: The Guardian, NPR, VOA, NY Times
Photo: The Huffington Post

child development
Playing is fun! The importance of play goes beyond simply passing time or seeking health benefits. A study completed by scientist Jaak Panksepp supports the pre-existing hypothesis that play is critical to child development.

Panksepp, along with others in the scientific community, theorizes that humans, as social animals, need play to learn social rules and cues. Through sports, people form communication skills, learn cooperation and leadership and come to better understand others.

To test this idea, Panksepp experimented with rats. He isolated one group so they could not play, while allowing another group to play. When both groups were placed in the same cage, the rats that received more stimulation were better able to interact and mate than the rats that were not allowed to play.

A comparable study done on kittens by a different group of scientists observed similar results. The young cats that were unable to play failed to acquire certain social skills. And although the kittens that were deprived of play could still hunt well, they were more aggressive and had trouble fitting in socially with other cats.

Lack of play, especially at a young age, proves to be a serious problem. Panksepp concluded that, with play, both humans and animals learn to live in social groups, build relationships, express emotions and master skills that do not come instinctively.

The importance of play for child development cannot be understated, according to Panksepp and many others concerned with the health and well being of young people.

The U.N. and UNICEF hold play as a fundamental right for every child, and protect that right under Article 31 of the Convention of Right of the Child. Sport and recreation are essential components of a child’s education, allowing children to gain confidence and lead healthier, more balanced lives.

Unfortunately, children living in poverty and areas of conflict are the most deprived of play.

Children are denied their rights when they are forced to work at a young age. In an effort to support their families, poor children drop out of school and work long and hard jobs. Across the world, there are over 168 million child laborers. Laboring like adults prevents them from playing and gaining the important life skills that come with play.

War and violence also keep children from play. Those in conflict zones live in constant fear and cannot run and have fun outside. With current conflicts raging in Gaza, Iraq and Syria, to name a few, the impact of war on children’s lives today is extensive and pervasive.

Without play, children living in poverty and conflict are denied essential interactions. Childhood is a critical period to set the foundations for healthy development, and play acts as an important component to this growth. The study completed by Panksepp suggests that the conditions experienced by children in poverty and conflict can have long-term negative consequences on their development.

– Kathleen Egan

Sources: NPR, UNICEF, International Labor Organization

child labor
In a legal decision, Bolivian officials have changed the legal working age from 14 to 10, thereby becoming the first nation to legalize child labor.

Despite provisions for children who are working at such a young age, including their being supervised by a parent if they are under the age of 12 or that they must continue school, the legalization of child labor still violates the minimum working age protocol declared by the International Labor Organization. It is still “‘an abandonment of a child’s right to a childhood.”

Moreover, the Guardian reports that there are only 78 child labor inspectors and over 800,000 currently working. The promise that the child protection requirements for these new labor laws will be consistently upheld is unlikely.

Co-sponsor of the bill and deputy Javier Zavaleta told Time Magazine that he supported the bill in the hopes that it would help decrease the amount of poverty in Bolivia. He said that “extreme poverty is one of the causes, not the main one, of child labor, so our goal is to eliminate child labor by 2020. While it is ambitious, it is possible.”

Human rights activists, however, find it suspect that these officials are trying to justify child labor by claiming it will ultimately end child labor.

Children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, Jo Becker, told Time Magazine that “child labor perpetuates the cycle of poverty” and that “the Bolivian government should invest in policies and programs to end child labor, not to support it.”

Becker also explained that when children from poor families are sent to work instead of school, they are more likely to end up with low-wage jobs later in life, thus continuing the cycle of poverty and the misconception that child labor will help end it.

– Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: The Guardian, Forbes, TIME
Photo: VNews

female genital cutting
The preacher has performed many cuttings like this before. He holds up some broken glass to the light – he will use this to cut out the clitoris of the young girl. No anesthetic will be used. The pain she endures is thought to be a sign of her strength.

The young girl screams out against this horrific abuse to her body.

Over 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of Female Genital Cutting in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where it is most common, according to research from UNICEF.

The charity also estimates that 250 million women and girls alive today have been married since their 15th birthday.

In an attempt to highlight the issues of Female Genital Cutting and child, early and forced marriage, the UK government hosted the first international Girl Summit in London on July 22, co-hosted by UNICEF. Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai attended as well as women from across the world who have been affected by FGC.

The issue of FGC has been a growing concern in Britain where estimates from the Commons Home Affairs Committee reveal that 170,000 women and girls were living with FGC in the UK.

At the summit UK Prime Minister David Cameron revealed a £1.4 million prevention program aimed at ending the practice of FGC. New laws are set to come into effect, making it a crime for parents not to protect their children from female genital mutilation. Although illegal in the UK since 1985, no one has ever been convicted for FGC crimes.

The summit also revealed an “international charter” calling for the eradication of FGC and forced marriage within a generation.

Female Genital Cutting has no health benefits, is extremely painful and often leads to infections and in some cases death.

In its most severe form, the sensitive clitoris is completely or partly removed with crude and accessible implements in order to dull the sexual appetite of the girl. The genitals are then cut and stitched closed making sex impossible. Sometimes corrosive substances are poured in to scar and shrink the genitals.

Only a tiny piece of wood creates an opening so that urine and monthly blood can flow.

When the young girls are able to bear children they are un-stitched – and once the child has been born, stitched back up again.

The Girl Summit aims to raise the profile of this horrific practice which the Prime Minister has called a “preventable evil.”

He hopes that FGC can be ended in a generation. While so many of these types of summit fall short of meeting their goals, the issue of female genital mutilation and child marriage is finally being taken seriously by the international community. The new laws being introduced to the UK and the international charter raise the profile of this crime and may begin the process of eradicating this practice.

Female Genital Cutting Key Facts

· FGC Includes “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
· The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
· Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of new-born deaths.
· More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGC is concentrated.
· FGC is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
· FGC is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
· In December 2012, the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution calling for all member states to ban the practice.

– Charles Bell

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 3, UK Government, WHO
Photo: FBNewswire

In 2012, CNN’s Freedom Project released a documentary called “Chocolate’s Child Slaves,” where CNN reporter David McKenzie went to the Ivory Coast to investigate child labor issues. The investigation came 10 years after the Harkin-Engel Protocol (Cocoa Protocol) was signed into law in September 2001.

Cocoa is a major export in West Africa, with 70-75 percent of the world’s supply of cocoa beans grown on small farms in the region. In this area, many children grow up in extreme poverty and have to begin working to support their families. Some children are even sold by family members to human traffickers or to owners of cocoa farms, or abducted from villages in nearby areas, including Burkina Faso and Mali.

Ghana and the Ivory Coast currently produce about 70 percent of the world’s supply of cocoa and also have an extreme child labor problem. Any children who work on cocoa farms or plantations are exposed to health hazards, use dangerous equipment and tools and are subjected to physically demanding work. Many of these children are then also unable to go to school.

In 2001, U.S. Representative Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced legislation to require a labeling system to be put into place in the chocolate industry. The ultimate compromise between the government and the industry was to require chocolate companies to volunteer to certify they had stopped using child labor.

Eventually, the “Cocoa Protocol” required African governments to publicly release information and also included the creation of an audit system and ways to alleviate poverty in the area by 2005. This deadline was moved to 2008 and then to 2010, but today, many say that the requirements have still not been met in the area.

Two years after the release of CNN’s Freedom Project’s documentary, CNN went back to West Africa to see if any progress had been made in fighting child labor in the $110 billion industry. It is now estimated that up to 800,000 children work in the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast and live in extreme poverty.

In addition, the cocoa industry in West Africa is struggling to meet increasing demand for chocolate around the world. The demand is largely coming from emerging markets, with about 1.3 million people in China beginning to buy chocolate more frequently.

In order to deal with this major increase in demand as well as fight both poverty and child labor, many chocolate companies have started to invest their money in the farmers, many of whom are the poorest members of the population.

Nestlé’s “Cocoa Plan” plans to spread awareness about the issue of child labor in the industry and to also build schools in rural areas in the Ivory Coast. Nestlé has also pledged $120 million to be given over a period of 10 years, and are planning to give 12 million new disease-resistant and high-yielding cocoa trees by 2016.

American company Cargill has its own “Cocoa Plan,” and has founded 1,200 schools in the Ivory Coast to teach good agricultural practices to 60,000 farmers. By educating these farmers, they hope to end child labor.

Many hope that collaboration between chocolate companies, governments and NGOs will be enough to alleviate poverty in West Africa, which many consider the source of the child labor problem. For now, the consensus among all groups is to help farmers and their families get out of poverty and prevent young children from being forced to work and endanger themselves.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: CNN (1), CNN (2), Food Empowerment Project, International Labor Rights Forum, Huffington Post

It took the 2009 report of an eight-month-old boy being raped in an Accra care-house to alert Ghanaian officials that all might not be well with their country’s orphanages. Investigators of the rape discovered to their shock that, of the 32 children living in the orphanage, 27 were not orphans.

Since then, the Social Welfare Department has reported that only eight of the 148 orphanages currently in operation throughout the country are licensed, and that as many as 90% of the 4,500 children living in these homes have not lost both parents.

Young children are highly effective for fundraising. Ghana’s non-profit Child Rights International (CRI) estimates that a small orphanage could pull in as much as $70,000 a year with the vast majority of their funding coming from international donors and NGOs. However, CRI suggests that as little as 30% of yearly earnings are spent on child care.

Ghana isn’t alone in supporting a gross exploitation of children – roughly 28% of the 12,000 Cambodian children living in orphanages have lost both parents, and in Sierra Leone the number of true orphans living in a care-house is a minuscule 7%.

CRI’s Apiah explains that child-collectors target impoverished and rural communities where they “exploit the poverty and ignorance of parents” with promises of cash and an education for their children. There is a practice in some West African countries where poor families will send their children away to be cared for by relatives or caretakers who have the means to provide more for them, and many orphanages exploit this practice by having illiterate parents sign documents that sever all legal rights to their child.

“The problem stems from…systemic failure, which encourages the proliferation of unlicensed and unmonitored orphanage,” Apiah said. “These problems will be there as long as we continue to lack a firm social safety net to support poor parents to raise their children.”

Fred Sakyi Boafo, the National Coordinator of Orphanages and Vulnerable Children (OVC) has been pushing for placing children back in homes, whether with parents or surviving relatives, or with trained Foster Parents. He claims that when children stay in an orphanage rather than with a family unit it actually costs more to send them to school and provide care.

Joachim Theis, UNICEF head of child protection for West Africa, agrees when he says “A range of solutions, from safety nets to foster care to community care, have been shown to work, and re much cheaper than putting children in orphanages. Putting children into institutionalized care instead of a family setting must always be a last resort.”

It is also the responsibility of foreign donors and NGOs to thoroughly research the organizations they give money to as blind generosity is capable of causing more harm than good.

Lydia Caswell

Sources: Irin News, Ghana Web, Ghana Web
Photo: Orphan Aid Africa