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Child Marriage in Mauritania
Two horizontal stripes of red sandwich a large swath of green. Over the green is a five-pointed yellow star, centered above an upward-pointing yellow crescent moon. Mauritania’s flag is not just beautiful, it is also symbolic. The green, in particular, symbolizes hope. However, not all Mauritanians have hope. Child marriage in Mauritania diminishes hope for around 37% of Mauritanian girls. The country’s legal age for marriage is 18, but lax enforcement undermines the law, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Facts about Child Marriage in Mauritania

International human rights groups, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), have advocated for measures to prohibit child marriage. The practice correlates with some adverse outcomes and creates a cycle of effects that often mirror those outcomes. Some of these are:

  • Lack of Education – Child marriage consistently correlates to a lack of education. Getting an education becomes even more difficult after marriage. When girls must manage a household and raise children, they have little time for school. The opportunities that an education provides, including the chance for financial independence, dwindle. Beyond that, the problem is cyclical: Research shows that interrupting a child’s education may have a negative educational impact on the next generation.
  • Poverty – The poorest Mauritanian girls are almost twice as likely to marry before age 18 than their wealthier peers. Because married children are also likely to have financial prospects hindered by incomplete education, child marriage perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
  • Less Autonomy and Agency – According to an article published in J Women Polit Policy, in Mauritania, more than 50% of married girls have spouses that are a decade older. Research shows that this age gap, along with the educational disparities, results in less autonomy for the girls. This power imbalance typically persists throughout the union.
  • Psychological Distress and Isolation – These married girls leave familiar surroundings to live many miles away from friends and family. Alone and away from the familiar, they find themselves without a support system when they most need it.

Efforts to Address Child Marriage in Mauritania

Change takes time, but Mauritania has taken some steps to address the issue. Mauritania’s 2001 law making marriage under 18 illegal is not a solution on its own, but it is a first step that acknowledges the inherent problems with the practice. But guardians can circumvent the law by granting permission for a child under 18 to marry. The child must also agree, but his or her silence is considered consent. By eliminating this exception, the government would show an even greater commitment to ending child marriage in Mauritania.

Mauritania is one of several countries that has committed to ending child marriage by 2030, which aligns with target 5.3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. According to Girls Not Brides, the country demonstrated this commitment by addressing its progress in the 2019 Voluntary National Review, a government report delivered during a political forum. Mauritania has implemented the Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD). SWEDD aims to keep girls in school, recognizing that lack of education is a key correlate to child marriage. It also aspires to stigmatize child marriage through education.

Some may question the impact of these seemingly symbolic steps, but a research study submitted to the Ford Foundation found that “the failure to view early marriage as a problem is chiefly what accounts for the persistence of this harmful traditional practice.” As Mauritanians like to say, “A hen cannot lay eggs and hatch them on the same day.” With each signed agreement, each law and each international commitment, Mauritania is that much closer to stigmatizing and ending child marriage.

– Vickie Melograno
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Cuban Doctors
One of the most significant exports that Cuba continually delivers is doctors. Offering quality services at a price that the most vulnerable and impoverished patients can afford, these medical practitioners are changing the world. In 2020, patients worldwide called upon around 800 Cuban doctors and nurses at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch, an international NGO that advocates and researches human rights violations and other organizations claim a dark side to the philanthropic efforts that Cuba presents. Moreover, controversy surrounds Cuba’s medical internationalism with claims of Cuban doctors working under repressive regulations that violate their fundamental human rights.

Cuba’s History of Medical Internationalism

After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the socialist government addressed its main societal concerns: universal health care and free education. As a result, while revamping the health care system in the country through strategic methods, the government achieved its goals of providing free healthcare and quality education. Using these values, the Cuban government began a program to bring humanitarian medical aid worldwide. According to the BBC, Fidel Castro himself described the exported medics as Cuba’s “army of white coats.”

Its history of medical altruism began in 1963 when Cuba sent 56 doctors to replace the French doctors that left Algeria, according to TIME. After Algeria gained independence from France in 1962, one of the newly formed country’s main issues was the mass exodus of French doctors. According to Granma, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, more than 3,000 doctors left the nation. Cuba supported the country while it rebuilt its health care system.

Cuba would also help other nations in times of catastrophes, such as Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. With equipment and valuable knowledge, 380 Cuban health care providers were some of the first doctors to respond to the crisis. They operated four clinics in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, providing life-saving procedures such as amputations, sutures and antibiotics. In an interview with pharmacist Ildilisa Nunez, a member of the Cuban Miracle Mission, National Public Radio (NPR) reported that 605 people came to the clinic within 12 hours of the earthquake.

In that critical moment, Cuban doctors could provide the aid that the citizens needed, especially during the pandemic.

Cuban Medical Personnel During COVID-19

Forty countries worldwide received the aid of Cuban health care providers during the pandemic. While Cuba is often helping nations with weak health care systems, wealthier nations such as Italy and Andorra have received Cuban aid too. For example, in Lombardy, Italy, the region’s health minister Guilio Gallera asked for the help of Cuban medics in March 2020, according to The Economist. On March 22, 2020, 52 Cuban doctors arrived from Havana to help.

Some host countries, according to NBC, are learning from Cuba how to handle the pandemic effectively. These strategies include “isolating cases, tracing their contacts, screening for sufferers and swiftly applying therapeutic treatments like the antiviral agent interferon.” Even nations that have ended agreements, such as Brazil, have requested aid once more because of the pandemic’s damage. Brazil received 1,012 Cuban doctors that allowed them to practice in “basic primary medicine for two years without having to requalify to practice,” NBC reports.

The pandemic caused nations worldwide to turn to Cuba for aid. Still, there is a darker side to their humanitarian assistance.

A Violation of Human Rights

Human Rights Watch accused the Cuban government of imposing regulations that have violated Cuban medics’ fundamental rights. Some of these liberties included “the right to privacy, freedom of expression and association, liberty and movement, among others,” as Human Rights Watch reported.

Under the Resolution 168 of 2010 that the Ministry of External Commerce and Foreign Investment wrote, it is a disciplinary offense to have any relationships with others who are not consistent with the values that Cuban society holds. In addition, personnel deployed abroad, under the same order, must disclose all “romantic relationships” to their supervisors, Human Rights Watch reports. The government also limited the freedom of expression using regulations that the Human Rights Watch said were “unnecessary and disproportionate to any legitimate government aim.”

Not only do Cuban medics suffer from restrictive bans that limit their freedom, but they also endure threatening situations. Around 41% of Cubans that worked abroad say they experienced sexual assault while at their posts. If the deployed personnel wanted to leave the program, they would face an eight-year ban from Cuba, according to VOA News.

Though, the string of infractions does not stop. Multiple organizations, including Human Rights Watch, accused the Cuban government of exploiting the medical personnel wages. Prisoners Defenders reported that “doctors on average receive between 10% and 25% of the salary from the host countries,” with Cuba’s authorities keeping the rest, according to BBC. With lucrative missions that bring Havana $8.5 billion a year, a large sum of money is continually withheld from Cuban doctors, according to VOA News.

The Future of Cuba’s Medical Internationalism

While Cuban medical aid has helped countries worldwide, there has been a call to question how humanitarian the government has been to its employees. Only the future will tell if Cuba will end up before the International Criminal Court and the United Nations to face their crimes. However, in the end, the world needs the aid that Cuban doctors have provided for over half a century.

– Gaby Mendoza
Photo: Flickr

Colombia Tax Plan
On July 6, 2021, Colombia’s Independence Day, President Ivan Duque presented a new $4 billion tax plan. The plan aimed to help pay for social programs and pandemic-related expenses. Due to Colombia’s new tax plan, thousands marched through Colombia’s main cities in protest. Many are angry at their government since it did not solve any of the populations’ problems. Colombian citizens believe that the new Colombia tax plan is not doing enough to help their people.

Tax Reform

This new tax reform is much smaller than the previous $6.3 billion packages that the Colombian government presented in April 2021. The government withdrew the larger package due to mass demonstrations and lawmaker opposition. Even after many protests and marches, President Ivan Duque insisted that this plan is vital at a time of rising debt. The Colombian government must pass the plan to help social programs stay afloat.

As Duque opened Congress’s second legislative period of the year on Colombia’s Independence Day, Duque told legislators the “social investment law, which we will build between all of us, is the largest jump in human development in recent decades.”

The new reform places a higher tax burden on the company’s earnings. It discards the $6.3 billion package to impose a tax on basic items ranging from coffee to salt. The reason for protests for the new plan is that the plan seems to not be able to do enough for spending on education and job creation. In 2020, the economy contracted 7% and pushed an additional 3 million people into poverty, worsening conditions in Colombia.

The People of Colombia

Francisco Maltes is leading one of the groups of anti-government demonstrations while serving as the president of the Central Union of Workers. Malte’s union is part of a collection of unions that plans to present congress with 10 proposals on addressing Colombia’s social and economic crisis. Dissolving the nation’s riot police is part of their plans as well. This is creating a basic income program for workers that would make monthly payments of $260 to 10 million people. Maltes and his union tie directly into the recent string of protesting. Maltes has stated that protests will continue because President Duque has failed to solve Colombia’s list of problems.

During the Independence Day demonstrations, protestors also stated that they wanted justice for the death of many youths who police recently killed. Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy for human rights. It is currently collecting data linking police to the deaths of 25 confirmed young protesters during the recent wave of demonstrations. The number of deaths still remains a mystery due to many local organizations stating that the death count could be higher.

Withdrawal of New Tax Reform

After many months, the Colombian government unveiled Colombia’s new tax plan, much to the Colombian people’s dismay. The purpose of the Colombia tax plan is to address the social and economic crisis. However, the verdict across Colombia’s population is clear. The verdict on the impact of the reform punishes the middle-working-class and ruins any hope of economic recovery. This will push many people into poverty. Unless an agreement comes to fruition in Congress in the coming months, Colombia could risk its post-pandemic social and economic recovery.

Colombia has a rare opportunity to create a better and more ambitious tax reform through the current circumstances. The leadership of President Duque must bring Colombia together and come to a consensus, to make a version of this proposed reform bill a reality.

– Aahana Goswami
Photo: Flickr

child soldiers in MyanmarFor half a century, Myanmar has struggled to reduce its number of child soldiers. Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar has a long history of using children in armed conflict, which began when the country gained independence in 1948. In 2002, Human Rights Watch listed Myanmar as the country with the highest number of child soldiers. Though Myanmar has taken action to reduce this, the number of child soldiers in Myanmar is still disturbingly high, requiring greater intervention.

Previous Use of Child Soldiers

According to the Child Soldiers Global Report 2001, 20% of Myanmar’s army was made up of children younger than 18. Although Myanmar’s legislation does not establish compulsory military service laws, it does require each district to meet a recruitment quota. District authorities that fail to meet the quota often receive fines. Hence, to meet the quota, many underage children are coaxed into joining the army through financial rewards or prestige. Other times, the army abducts children from public areas, forcing them to become soldiers. The highest number of recruited child soldiers in Myanmar occured between 1990 and 2005 when the military junta was in power.

During this time, Myanmar received several on-ground assessments by the Committee of Experts of the ILO, followed by recommendations to revise the Village Act and the Towns Act. The Committee requested that the government amend these Acts to comply with the Forced Labor Convention of 1930. Hence, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by Myanmar in 1991.

After several concerns raised by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch verified that Myanmar had approximately 70,000 child soldiers in 2001. Myanmar’s government responded to international concerns in a letter to the U.N. Security Council in 2004. In the letter, the government demonstrated no interest in making any legislative amendments nor any intention to prosecute local authorities for forced labor and child abuse by stating that “the Myanmar Armed Forces is an all-volunteer force and those entering military services do so of their own free will.”

Gradual Measures to Reduce Child Recruitment

Finally, in 2005, four local officials received prison sentences for the illegal imposition of forced labor after supposedly recruiting child soldiers. In 2009, several rebel groups such as the Chin National Front signed unilateral deeds pledging to stop recruiting child soldiers.

In 2012, Myanmar signed the Joint Action Plan. This committed the government to work alongside the U.N. to prevent child recruitment. Following the Plan’s implementation in 2012, which established stronger age assessment procedures and the adoption of military directives prohibiting the recruitment of minors, 956 children and young people were released from the army. Further improvements occured in 2015 when Myanmar signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding the use of minors in armed conflict.

Since then, Myanmar’s government and the U.N. have launched several public awareness campaigns, also establishing a hotline so that citizens can report cases of recruitment of minors. As a result of the continuing decrease in child recruitment and Myanmar’s efforts to protect children, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres removed Myanmar from his annual “list of shame,” which names countries that have committed grave violations against children.

The Need for More Action

Despite Myanmar’s recent efforts to decrease the number of child soldiers, in 2021, the United Nations verified the recruitment and use of 790 children in the previous year. With 56 children dead and 17 children abducted, the U.N. believes Myanmar will return to the “list of shame” unless the government follows U.N. recommendations, including:

  • Release children using the framework of the Joint Action Plan
  • Make the 156 pending cases of suspected minors a priority among national courts
  • Prosecute those who are guilty

With 10 armed attacks in national schools in 2020, the United Nations also strongly recommends that Myanmar endorses the Safe Schools Declaration, which requires states to commit to safeguarding schools and universities from armed hostilities.

Existing efforts as well as implementing U.N. recommendations will help to fully eliminate the use of child soldiers in Myanmar, protecting the well-being of children across the country.

– Carolina Cadena
Photo: Flickr

Civil Strife in Belarus
Belarus, meaning “White Ruthenia” or “White Russia” alternatively, has housed many different cultures and peoples across its history. With a population of just under 9.5 million people, however, the nation certainly has the population, as well as the various important resources necessary to develop the society, population and accompanying hard and soft infrastructure of the country in the post-Soviet Era. Its capital city, Minsk, is both the largest city in the nation, as well as one of the most historically rich cities in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, civil strife in Belarus is a significant problem and relates to President Alexander Lukashenko as well as poverty.

About Belarus

Belarus has an economy that refines great quantities of Russian oil and produces petroleum, yet has rich natural resources like peat, clay, dolomite, sand, chalk, salt and potassium deposits as well; during Soviet times, it was an economically advanced region within the greater USSR and had one of the highest standards of living within that collective. These resources should have given the small nation a leg up moving forward, serving as a potential model of success post-Soviet dissolution for its neighbors.

Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s however, this did not come to pass. Additionally, while the country has ostensibly contained outright poverty in the time since, the reality remains that the nation continues to endure as one of the poorest countries in Europe. Accordingly, civil strife, in the form of demonstrations and civil disobedience, continues to grow as Belarus, as a whole, feels the discomfort and burden of over 25 years of authoritarian restrainment.

There is, unsurprisingly, a stagnancy of progress in the countryside, and unrest within the cities, as the economic and social potentials for each remain difficult to attain. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is the one thread that links all of these issues together.

Civil Strife in Belarus Under President Alexander Lukashenko

Since Alexander Lukashenko came to power in 1994, the parliament has experienced diminishment as a relevant national structure of power on numerous occasions, most notably in 1996. However, the Lukashenko administration has continued this type of behavior in successive decades too, culminating with the most recent Presidential election of August 2020 and the fallout from the alleged government-sponsored voter fraud. This invigorated national protests within the nation and would lead to the subsequent international incident featuring the now-infamous Ryanair flight and its most famous passenger, Belarusian anti-Lukashenko activist, Roman Protasevich. Yet, while the E.U. has sanctioned Lukashenko and his government upwards of four times in just the last 20 years alone for violating human rights in one way or another, positive domestic change remains difficult to find. On the occasions that protests have occurred, like in the aftermath of the aforementioned election, the authorities quickly took care of it, Soviet-style.

Poverty in Belarus

It is quite true that, compared to the poverty statistics of Belarus 20 years ago, the Lukashenko government has allegedly, and, if statistically accurate, drastically diminished the suffering of people through an enlarged public sector that includes many of the industrial innovations of the nation. The reduction of the national poverty from 41.9% of the population in 2000 to just 5% by 2019 is absolutely a massive jump to be sure. Yet, it remains true that Belarus is more of a translucent than a transparent nation, and that beyond any facade that its President or administration would like to portray, there are both deep nuances, as well as suffering that is feeding the push back against Premier Lukashenko.

To this point, the region around the city of Minsk, as well as the regions or oblasts of Grodno and Gomel have poverty rates much higher than the city of Minsk itself or Brest and its surrounding area. However, the Mahiliou or Mogilev region to the southeast of Minsk remains the poorest of them all however with a recorded 31% of people living in poverty. Within some of these regions, estimates have determined that poverty persists at a rate of one for every five citizens. All of this indicates that while swaths of the population are now above the poverty line due, in major part, to work in the public sector and other industrial innovations of the country, there are still masses whose cities, fields and country towns remain economically depressed, politically unheard and practically disconnected.

Solutions to Help Belarus Move Forward

With the aforementioned political, economic and social repression of the past 25 years, former Foreign and Defense Minister of Lithuania Linas Linkevicius raised a reasonable point when he stated that “….Lukashenko is ready to sacrifice everything, even the remnants of his country’s independence and sovereignty, to preserve his position. Partly also because, like all dictators, he has serious concerns about his own security after leaving….” To make the aforementioned quote as clear for the international community as possible, Lukashenko recently stated that he would rather die than agree to a new, internationally observed presidential election.

Yet, between the United States Agency for International Development, as well the United Nations, and of course Human Rights Watch and other NGOs like Ponimanie and Humanium are continuing to chip away at the hardships within Belarus. While NGOs like the first require little introduction, the latter two, since 2000 and 2008 respectively, have been doing this by working to reduce and eliminate poverty and crime in these places, by educating and protecting the children. This should assure all of the people the necessary resources for thriving, not simply surviving, as well as help enhance industry and the rate of societal innovation. While the European Union, the United States and the greater international community continue to look at ways of punishing Belarus’s government for its breach of human rights regarding the Ryanair incident, while sparing the people themselves, Alexander Lukashenko remains a major roadblock to any and all positive innovations.

Looking Ahead

 While some argue that it is the state-owned structure of Belarus that inhibits the financial development of its citizens, one can clearly see that other nations with high percentages of state-owned infrastructure do not necessarily suffer this particular hardship; what Belarus actually needs is the ambition to legislate opportunities for the people, for the development of the people’s national and domestic infrastructure, as well as the creation and maintenance of functional economic structures, from localized, egalitarian domestic trade unions all the way up to fully participating within the European Union economic structure. Only when national conditions and expectations meet those of the Belarusian people and the greater international community can one say that the country will have made real progress eliminating poverty and civil strife in Belarus. However, until then, the work continues.

– Trent Nelson
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

UNICEF's pledge to help children The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it physical, social and economic impacts that have been felt worldwide. Developing countries, in particular, are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. Furthermore, women and children are disproportionately affected by the impacts of COVID-19. In September 2020, UNICEF called on the international community to take action “to prevent this health crisis from becoming a child-rights crisis.” UNICEF’s pledge to help children during the COVID-19 pandemic targets 192 vulnerable countries.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Children’s Health

Children are not as vulnerable to the direct physical impacts of COVID-19, but nevertheless, children worldwide suffer from the indirect impacts of COVID-19. The BBC reports that in South Asia, the disruption of essential services such as nutrition and immunization programs has led to 228,000 deaths of children younger than 5. During COVID-19, “the number of children being treated for severe malnutrition fell by more than 80% in Bangladesh and Nepal.”

Furthermore, “immunization among children dropped by 35% and 65% in India and Pakistan respectively.” In 2020, across South Asian nations, India experienced the highest increase in child mortality at 15.4%. The COVID-19 virus has abruptly halted many essential programs and services that helped safeguard the lives of vulnerable children in developing countries.

The disruption of health services has also affected adolescents battling diseases such as typhoid, malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The BBC reports almost 6,000 deaths across South Asia stemming from the inability to access the required treatment. The deficiency in medical services also resulted in 400,000 unwanted pregnancies in teenagers due to inadequate access to contraception.

Child Labor and Child Marriage

The COVID -19 pandemic has resulted in widespread unemployment and reduced household income, causing a rise in cases of child labor, reports Human Rights Watch. Parental deaths stemming from COVID-19 leave children orphaned, unable to have their basic needs met. UNICEF warns the international community that “school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage.” The organization estimates that 10 million more girls are now at risk of child marriage due to the impacts of COVID-19.

The Impacts of School Closures

At the peak of COVID-19 in 2020, 91% of all students across more than 188 countries could not receive an education due to school closures. School closures deprive children “of physical learning opportunities, social and emotional support available in schools and extra services such as school meals.” Children from disadvantaged backgrounds face more barriers than children from more affluent families. These vulnerable children are at risk of losing the most in terms of educational progress.

The UNICEF Pledge

UNICEF has committed to work alongside “governments, authorities and global health partners” to ensure medicines, vaccines, nutritional resources and other vital supplies reach the most vulnerable people. UNICEF is prioritizing safe school reopenings, ensuring all safety protocols are in place. Where schools cannot reopen, UNICEF is working to develop “innovative education solutions” and provide remote learning support.

Since a lack of internet connectivity and electricity presents a barrier to online learning in impoverished communities, UNICEF has committed to ” bridge the digital divide and bring internet connectivity to 3.5 billion children and young people by 2030.” UNICEF is also working with governments and partners to ensure that children’s rights form a central part of COVID-19 response plans.

As the pandemic continues, the future is still unclear. During an unprecedented global crisis, UNICEF’s pledge to help children during COVID-19 shows its ongoing commitment to upholding children’s rights globally.

– Jessica Barile
Photo: Flickr

Uganda’s Economic Recovery
Uganda, like many other global nations, is battling the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic reversed a decade of economic progress for the country. On June 28, 2021, the executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $1 billion Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement for Uganda’s economic recovery in a critical time of need.

COVID-19’s Impact on Uganda’s Economy

According to the World Bank, Uganda’s real GDP grew less than half as much in 2020 than in the year before. A four-month nationwide lockdown deterred the economic activity of the industrial and service sectors. The country’s COVID-19 lockdown forced company closures and permanent layoffs, especially in the industry and services sectors. Many informal jobs were impacted, leading to a reliance on farming for income creation and food security.

A Rise in Child Labor

A 69-page report by the Human Rights Watch and the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights explains that many families’ household incomes dropped due to the pandemic’s effects. Furthermore, with schools shut down, the burden of decreased income fell on many children. Child labor surged as many children as young as 8 years old had to work in hazardous conditions in order to provide for their families.

Nearly half of the Ugandan children interviewed in the report worked at least 10 hours a day, sometimes every day of the week. Some children even reported working as much as 16 hours a day. Most of the children only earned a meager $2 a day while subject to dangerous work conditions. Children in agriculture were injured by sharp tools used in fieldwork and “the sharp edges of sugarcane stalks.”

Other children working in quarries “suffered injuries from flying stones.” Many children also reported violence, harassment and pay theft during their employment. Many employers try to exploit child labor and maximize production. Due to these circumstances, Human Rights Watch asserts that part of Uganda’s economic recovery must include targeted assistance to households with children.

Funding From the IMF

The three-year loan approved by the board under the ECF includes the immediate disbursement of $258 million for much-needed budget support. The disbursement follows the $491.5 million release of emergency funds in May 2020 to support the post-pandemic recovery of Uganda. In an effort to strengthen Uganda’s economic recovery, authorities seek to increase household income throughout the country. Authorities are encouraging inclusive growth by investing in the development of the private sector and enacting reforms in the public sector.

Uganda’s Economic Outlook

Uganda seeks to combat its financing issues as it goes forward. Hopefully, the crucial aid from the IMF will help create jobs by investing back into the industrial and service sectors. Also, the financing aid may help children return to school as parents find new work. Economic growth in 2021 and 2022 is estimated to climb to 4.3% before reaching pre-pandemic levels of growth. While some industries such as tourism may remain subdued for a while, other sectors such as “manufacturing, construction and retail and wholesale trade” expect to rebound in 2021. However, Uganda’s economic recovery is currently still tenuous. The government will need to tread carefully as the economy remains vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.

– Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr

Save the Children Aids Nepal In 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc in Nepal. The devastation left more than 22,000 people injured and almost 9,000 people dead, with hundreds of thousands of more people facing extreme poverty. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may prove to be an even more severe humanitarian crisis for the country. With more than 600,000 reported cases as of July 2021, the severity of the pandemic in Nepal is significant. In an effort to improve the country’s dire state and protect vulnerable populations such as children, Save the Children aids Nepal during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Impact of COVID-19 in Nepal

Nepal’s status as a landlocked nation with a medical system closely tied to India has resulted in serious healthcare concerns. Chief among these concerns is a lack of essential medical resources like oxygen tanks and COVID-19 testing kits, both of which are critical in the fight against COVID-19. Nepal normally obtains these supplies through India, however, the severe COVID-19 outbreak in India means India has minimal resources to spare.

Maggie Doyne is the co-founder and CEO of a nonprofit in Nepal, BlinkNow. Doyne, tells CNN Canada that “All of our medicines, all of our oxygen tanks, our ambulances, our food supply relies on India. So, you really can’t have a landlocked Himalayan country so reliant on another country that’s really struggling.” The nonprofit operates a school and a children’s home, among other facilities, in Nepal. It has also been one of the groups attempting to provide aid on the ground. In direct response to the country’s surge in cases, BlinkNow increased emergency food bank supplies available for vulnerable families and people out of work.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Children in Nepal

One particularly vulnerable population in Nepal is children. The Human Rights Watch and two partnering organizations released a report in May 2021 examining how COVID-19 impacts children. After speaking with 25 working children in Nepal, nearly all of them agreed that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their family’s financial stability. The children interviewed ranged from 8 to 16 years old.

The children worked jobs in construction, carpentry, mechanics and more, in an attempt to financially support their families. Many of the children work long hours, sometimes totaling 12 hours per day, which causes them pain, dizziness and fatigue. The use of child labor has increased in the country since the pandemic has forced lockdowns and school closures. Even as schools reopen, many children remain working to help supplement their parent’s income.

Save the Children Aids Nepal

Save the Children is taking action in Nepal to minimize COVID-19’s impact on children. The global nonprofit is dedicated to preventing child suffering, with efforts ranging from malnutrition prevention to emergency response measures. The nonprofit recently expressed concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on children in Nepal. School shutdowns hold back Nepalese children educationally and socially.

Not receiving an education hinders the chances of breaking free from poverty, according to Jennifer Syed, the country director for Save the Children in Nepal. Syed says that “The economic impact on households hurts children the most — they’re the ones who suffer the worst malnutrition; it’s the young girls who are forced into child marriage to reduce the financial burden on their family.”

To assist, Save the Children is donating more than 50 oxygen concentrators and 20,000 rapid testing kits. This will help Nepal’s government in the fight against COVID-19. In addition, Save the Children’s website states, “a further 100,000 PRC test kits, 200,000 rapid test kits and 1,000 oxygen concentrators will be given to the Ministry of Health and Population under agreement with the Global Fund.”

The Road Ahead

Save the Children’s efforts are essential to assist a country that has now surpassed India in COVID-19 related deaths per capita. The organization is also supporting Nepalese children through campaigns that promote personal protection measures and offer mental health support. Hopefully, Save the Children’s efforts will inspire aid from others in the near future as Nepal continues to fight the devastating repercussions of COVID-19.

Brett Grega
Photo: Flickr

famine in TigrayThe term genocide describes the systematic mass murder of a racial, political or cultural group. Genocides have been witnessed in countries such as Germany, Russia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But, the concept of genocide is more than an abstract term for something long passed. Acts of genocide occurred more recently in Rwanda and the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are also recent victims of such violations. Acts of genocide were also recently reported in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region, which borders Eritrea and Sudan, as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front looks to wrest control of the region from the Ethiopian government. Furthermore, the war in Tigray, which has also involved Eritrean military units, is not only taking lives through violence, it is causing a potential famine in Tigray.

Conflict Causes Famine

Tigray, home of the Tigrayan ethnic group, comprises only around seven million people, equating to 6% of the Ethiopian population. However, in the past months, its people and infrastructure have felt the force of the entire Ethiopian military. Furthermore, when a nation of 118 million people is wracked by conflict, there is bound to be difficulty transporting resources to all the rural and urban areas in need. Compounded by violence and displacement, famine puts Tigrayans at risk of malnutrition, exposure to the elements, illness and death. As the threat of both man-made and natural famine looms, the international community must intervene to address it.

Rising Poverty in Ethiopia

The famine in Tigray is occurring during a civil war further complicated by an externally intervening nation. While Ethiopia experienced famine in the 1980s, the current famine differs in that it results not only from natural causes but from human violence, creating desperate circumstances for Tigrayans living in poverty. Over the past few decades, Ethiopia had been making great strides in reducing poverty, with the national poverty rate dropping from 45% in 1995 to roughly 24% in 2015. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and recent military conflict, extreme poverty is back on the rise, not only in rural areas but also in the country’s largest city, Addis Ababa.

An Opportunity to Intervene

Despite the vast damage inflicted on the Tigray countryside by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, the powerful and committed Tigrayan Liberation Army “regained control of the regional capital” in late June 2021. This significant moment in the civil war marks a potential transition period and a crucial time for humanitarian organizations to step in and provide vital resources to the region.

Getting water and food to Tigrayans will be crucial during any lull in the violent outbreaks that have displaced nearly two million and killed more than 50,000 people across the region. The starvation-induced by both Ethiopian government actions and natural circumstances has forced hundreds of thousands of civilians into near-death situations.

In June 2021, 12 NGOs, including Amnesty International, signed a letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) calling for a robust international response to the crisis in Tigray. In particular, the letter calls on the HRC to address reports of human rights violations and acts of genocide in Tigray. Until peace is restored, NGOs and government agencies will do their best to sustain life in this historically and culturally rich region of Africa.

Trent R. Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in NepalChild poverty in Nepal is an issue that the country continues to struggle with. While the child poverty rate has decreased over the past few decades, it is still detrimental to the overall progress of the country. In combating this issue, it is important to understand the consequences that stem from living in poverty. Two of these consequences are high levels of malnutrition and child marriage.

Overview of Child Poverty in Nepal

While Nepal has seen improvements over the past few decades, the overall poverty rate remains high. The decline of the child poverty rate in the country has not matched the decline of the overall poverty rate. Between 1995 and 2006, there was an 11% decline in the overall poverty rate, yet the decline in child poverty in that time period was only 8%.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this issue by weakening Nepal’s economy and forcing children to stay home. The lack of income for parents and the lack of schooling due to the pandemic has pushed millions of households into a precarious situation. It is estimated that nearly 10 million children in Nepal live in impoverished circumstances. The presence of COVID-19 exacerbates the already damaging effects of child poverty, including malnutrition and child marriage.

Malnutrition Among Nepali Children

Maintaining high nutritional standards for children is vital for a country. It ensures children will grow up to be healthy and productive adults, fully able to break cycles of poverty. Child poverty in Nepal is detrimental, in part, because it leads to high rates of malnutrition. Malnutrition may cause developmental issues and results in chronic health problems later in life. While Nepal has made progress in lowering malnutrition rates among children, it is still a cause for concern. In 2019, 43% of children under 5 years old were malnourished. Moreover, 36% of these children suffer from stunting and 10% of these children suffer from wasting.

The country’s high poverty rate exacerbates this issue because low-income families are unable to afford a nutritious diet for their children. As a result, malnutrition rates in Nepal are directly linked to poverty. According to USAID, “17% of children in the highest wealth quintile are stunted as compared to 49% of children in the lowest wealth quintile.” These statistics demonstrate how poverty impacts child mortality. Malnutrition causes the deaths of almost half of all children who perish before reaching the age of 5 years old.

Due to the impacts of child poverty and malnutrition, the government has set up initiatives to improve nutritional standards in the country. Since the 1990s, programs such as the Vitamin A campaign have launched in order to increase the consumption of certain nutrients. In 2004, Nepal implemented the National Nutrition Policy and Strategy, which focuses on the nutrition of women and children.

Child Marriage and its Relation to Poverty

Child poverty in Nepal also directly impacts the rates of child marriage in the country. Despite the fact that marriage before the age of 20 is illegal, 37% of girls are married before the age of 18. Girls who marry at a young age are at a higher risk of facing domestic violence. Human Rights Watch states, “A study across seven countries found that girls who married before the age of 15 were more likely to experience spousal abuse than women who married after 25.”

Additionally, early marriages are associated with lower levels of education. Strict gender roles in Nepal dictate that married girls are expected to be homemakers so girls who get married while still in school often do not finish their education. Early childbearing also has health consequences for these young women. Poverty is a primary reason child marriages persist in Nepal, despite efforts made by the government to stop the practice. Young girls in impoverished families are married off to ease the economic burden on the family. One less child to feed is sufficient justification for a family to allow a child marriage. Some of these girls even welcome child marriage because it means they will have food to eat.

Looking Ahead

At a 2014 “Girl Summit” in London, Nepal pledged to end child marriage by 2030 in accordance with the U.N. Sustainable Goal to end child marriage by 2030. The government of Nepal partnered to develop the National Strategy to End Child Marriage in order to meet this objective.

Child poverty in Nepal continues as a challenge for the country and impacts a wide range of topics. Malnutrition and child marriage are pertinent issues associated with child poverty. With a government commitment and help from organizations, child poverty in Nepal can be combated.

Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr