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Education Inequality in Pakistan
Pakistan, a Muslim-majority country and home to over 221 million people, is trying to get girls the education they deserve. Education inequality in Pakistan exists primarily because of a lack of funding from the government, unsafe transportation, early marriage and poverty. Families living in poverty in Pakistan frequently choose between sending their children to school, hoping they get there safely, or buying household necessities. According to a 2018 Human Rights Watch article, “32% of primary school age girls are out of school in Pakistan, compared with 21% of boys.”

The Current Situation in Pakistan

Today, the youth population in Pakistan is larger than it has ever been. With 64% of individuals now under the age of 30, this new generation may be able to change Pakistan’s economy and education system, according to World Education News and Review. However, how can girls make a societal change when only 39% out of that age group, 2% of whom are female, have employment?

Women in Pakistan often do household chores such as cooking and taking care of the children while men in Pakistani culture are the breadwinners. Many in Pakistan see them as worthy of a proper education because they need those skills to create a prosperous life for their family. This adds to the gender and education inequality that exists in the patriarchal society of Pakistan.

For the girls who have the opportunity to go to school, they often face obstacles such as rape and discrimination. The gender-based violence present in Pakistan often occurs through child marriage, domestic abuse and maternal mortality rates. Many girls marry before they turn 18, and according to a 2018 article by TheirWorld, “In 2012 and 2013, 53.7% of married girls between 15 and 19 had never been to school.”

The gender discrimination that girls face in the educational system is an intergenerational problem. The United States has been working to aid Pakistan in furthering its educational system and obtaining education equality for girls.

Solutions

USAID aims to help girls in developing areas gain access to education, diminish the gender gap and keep girls in school when they are at high risk of dropping out. According to the Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education, 22.7% of children drop out of primary school. In an attempt to change those statistics, USAID has constructed and repaired 1,607 schools and awarded scholarships to 19,000 students in Pakistan in the past decade.

Education in Pakistan is often poor. School budgets are frequently low, infrastructure is improper and teachers are illegitimate. Change must begin on the inside, starting with the intentions of the Pakistani government.

In past years, Pakistan has fallen short when it comes to financing education. In 2000, Pakistan spent 1.8% of its gross domestic product on education. In 2017, Pakistan spent only 2.9% on education. According to the Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education, “The government has allocated Rs. 83.3 billion for Education Affairs and Services in the federal budget for 2020-21.” While there are plans in place to help Pakistan’s economy and promote education, some organizations are working on a more personal level.

Save the Children

Save the Children is an organization that strives to create a better future for children by providing aid to healthcare, education and disaster relief. In Pakistan, the organization’s goal is to raise awareness about girls rights, work towards gender equality and help improve the country’s education system.

“We want to help every child, each one is important but we know girls need more help breaking down those barriers,” said Save the Children’s Vice President of Public Policy and Advocating, Nora O’Connell, in an interview with The Borgen Project. Save the Children’s Choices, Voices, and Promises program aims to educate children about gender and social norms to move towards equality. The program intends to teach boys about the obstacles that their sisters and friends in order to create a supportive, less divided community. “In some cases we see boys helping their sisters with their chores so they have more time to focus on their school work,” said O’Connell.

Save the Children also has programs about sexual and reproductive health, teachers as role models and a mentor program. According to O’Connell, the mentor program is a great way for adolescent girls to stay in school when they are at risk of dropping out. Save the Children pairs girls with mentors who may have dropped out of school due to marriage or pregnancy, in order to show girls they are capable of moving past social barriers.

Through continued work, education inequality in Pakistan should become a part of the past. Everyone deserves the right to an equal and proper education no matter their gender. As the African proverb goes, “if you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”

– Jessica LaVopa
Photo: Flickr

Left-Behind ChildrenChina has undergone swift urbanization and development in recent years. However, reaping the rewards of this progress has not been easy for everyone. In search of better job opportunities, millions of Chinese parents in poverty have left their communities in hopes of creating a better future for their children. However, these parents must leave their children behind to do so. These left-behind children (LBC) may remain with a caregiver, family member, friend or institution, or they can be left entirely on their own.

There are about 70 million left-behind children in China, and they experience many effects of poverty. The average ages of LBC range from 6 to 17. While LBC are more prominent in rural China, the number of LBC has risen in urban areas as well. As a result, many children in China are mentally and physically ill, don’t receive a proper education and are essentially stuck in the cycle of poverty. Parental absence contributes to all of these factors.

Poor Quality of Education

While their parents seek more money in the city, left-behind children are left in inadequate school buildings with limited supplies and ill-prepared teachers. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Lijiah Zhang, an author and journalist who examines China’s left-behind children, stressed that education is the largest problem these children face. “Without their parents, the children are more likely to lose interest in their studies and sometimes drop out of school, the opposite of what their parents hope for,” she said. Indeed, over 13% of left-behind children drop out by the eighth grade. Another reason for dropouts is the household responsibilities some left-behind children must take on, such as agricultural work, which leaves them with no time for academics.

For those who do continue their education, the quality is waning. With teachers lacking incentives and resources, education is a large obstacle for LBC. Educators hired for rural teaching positions are often fresh out of training and possess little teaching experience to offer a proper education. But because they are cheaper to pay, schools that lack funding hire them constantly. The staff is overworked and tremendously underpaid, with some rural educators working over 12 hours a day. This poor teaching quality combined with cramped classrooms and a lack of technology sets rural children up for failure.

High Dropout Rates

Left-behind children dropping out of school perpetuates cyclical poverty. China’s economic expansion over the past 40 years has brought about 800 million people out of poverty, but it has also widened the gap between rural and urban communities. Families in poverty continue to struggle with money, and the number of parents deciding to leave children behind is rising. These children are stuck living with the effects of poverty, and with no parental guidance, they have little means of digging their way out.

Zhang stated that many LBC feel powerless in their situations, which leads to them losing interest in their schooling and dropping out, thus reducing their chances of climbing the employment ladder. Because of the difference in economic opportunities between rural and urban communities, poor children remain poor while the rich stay rich.

Lack of Safety and Health

Because left-behind children do not have parents to protect or guide them, they are more vulnerable to abuse. Forms of abuse include harassment from peers and guardians, sexual abuse and criminality. For example, in 2015 a teacher was sentenced to life in prison for raping 12 of his students, 11 of whom were left-behind children. Many children also experience extremely long walks to and from their schools, some of which take multiple hours. This leaves them alone and vulnerable to anyone passing by.

Living without parental guidance also takes a mental and physical toll on children. Left-behind children are much more likely than non-LBC to have depression, anxiety and behavioral issues due to parental absence. They are also more likely to suffer from chronic loneliness. In a survey of six Chinese provinces, 25% of LBC reported high levels of loneliness, which can worsen mental and physical health. While parental migration offers a chance at economic improvement, child development often deteriorates.

The diets of left-behind children are often also insufficient. According to a 2015 study, left-behind boys consumed more fat and less protein in their diets. This puts them at an increased risk for obesity and stunted growth. Zhang said: “I think the LBC’s diet is worse than non-LBC. Their guardians, usually their grandparents, are mostly very frugal. They also don’t have any idea about healthy diet or nutrition.” Limited nutrition can lead to poor school performance in addition to long-term health risks.

Helping Left-Behind Children

This crisis is well-known, and many organizations are working to aid these millions of children. Save the Children, OneSky and Humanium advocate for and offer direct assistance to left-behind children. So far, Save the Children has helped 310,000 vulnerable Chinese children. Specifically, it provides educational improvements and services to keep them from harm. UNICEF also offers services to LBC in multiple Chinese provinces, including social and emotional development and health administration. UNICEF continues to initiate projects to help these children.

Each year, millions of Chinese children suffer without their parents. The mental and physical health consequences along with the inadequate education they face make their everyday lives an uphill battle. Humanitarian assistance helps thousands of these children, but the causes underlying the crisis continue challenge poverty eradication. 

– Radley Tan
Photo: Flickr

Schooling During COVID-19As COVID-19 started spreading, schools around the world shut down. For countries with already poor schooling systems and low literacy rates, the pandemic created even more challenges. The world’s most illiterate countries are South Sudan with a 73% illiteracy rate, Afghanistan with a 71.9% illiteracy rate, Burkina Faso with a 71.3% illiteracy rate and Niger with a 71.3% illiteracy rate. Schooling during COVID-19 has only increased the struggles these countries face as they try to promote literacy.

Literacy is an important aspect of reducing world poverty, as countries with the lowest levels of literacy are also the poorest. This is because poverty often forces children to drop out of school in order to support their families. Since those children did not get an education, they will not be able to get a high-paying job, which requires literacy. Thus, a lack of education keeps people in poverty. If countries with low literacy rates make schooling harder to access due to COVID-19, the illiteracy rate will increase, and the cycle will continue. Below are the ways that the four least literate countries are continuing schooling during COVID-19.

South Sudan

After almost a decade of fighting due to the South Sudanese Civil War, literacy rates are already low in South Sudan, as the war inhibited access to education. The government-imposed curfew in response to COVID-19 forced children to stay home. This especially challenges girls, whose families expect them to pick up housework at home due to gender norms. The government provided school over the radio or television as a virtual alternative to schooling during COVID-19. However, impoverished children who lack access to electricity, television and radio have no other option. This lack of access to education for poor Sudanese children will further decrease literacy rates. As a result, children may be at risk of early marriage, pregnancy or entrance into the workforce.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, there was already a war going on when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, creating a barrier to education. In 2019 alone, 200,000 students stopped attending school. COVID-19 has the potential to make this problem worse. Importantly, Afghanistan’s schooling crisis affects girls the most; by upper school, only 36% of students are girls. Further, 35% of Afghan girls are forced into child marriages, and not being in school makes them three times as likely to be married under 18. If they do not finish school, there is a high chance they will never become literate.

COVID-19 may exacerbate girls’ lack of access to school. When schools shut down, the schooling system in Afghanistan moved online in order to continue schooling during COVID-19. But only 14% of Afghans have access to the internet due to poverty. Since many parents are not literate, they cannot help their children with school. School shutdowns may also decrease future school attendance, especially for girls. As such, COVID-19 will perpetuate illiteracy in Afghanistan, with many children missing out on school due to poverty.

Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, school shutdowns have put children at risk of violence. Jihadist violence, tied to Islamic militants, has increased in the country. Violence forces children out of school, with many receiving threats, thus decreasing the literacy rate. Though school was a safe space for children, COVID-19 is making this situation worse.

As an alternative for schooling during COVID-19, Burkina Faso has broadcasted lessons on the radio and TV. However, many students do not have access to these technologies. Even if they do, staying at home does not protect them from violence, which could prevent them from going to school. In Burkina Faso, many children also travel to big cities to go to school. But without their parents being able to help them economically, many are now forced to get jobs, entering the workforce early. This lowers the number of children in school as well as the country’s literacy rate.

Niger

In Niger, 1.2 million children lost access to schooling during COVID-19, lacking even a television or radio alternative. Schools have since reopened, but children still feel the impacts of this shutdown. Before COVID-19, at the start of 2020, more than two million children were not in school due to financial insecurity, early marriage or entrance into the workforce. COVID-19 forced many children to give up schooling forever, as they had to marry or begin work and fell behind in school. As a result, this lowered the country’s literacy rate.

Improving Literacy Rates During COVID-19

While COVID-19 did prevent many children from accessing the education they need, many organizations are working to help them meet this challenge. One of these organizations is Save the Children. It is dedicated to creating reliable distance learning for displaced students, support for students and a safe environment for students to learn.

COVID-19 has left many students without access to education, jeopardizing the future for many. In the countries with the highest illiteracy rates, a lower percentage of children with access to education means a lower percentage of the population that will be literate. Improving literacy rates is key reducing poverty, as it allows people to work in specialized jobs that require a higher education, which then leads to higher salaries. If literacy rates drop, poverty will only continue to increase. This makes the work of organizations like Save the Children crucial during the ongoing pandemic.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Haiti
In the poorest country in the western hemisphere, women in Haiti have long been subject to exorbitantly high rates of gender-based violence. In addition, the Haitian judicial system often leaves them without anywhere to turn and there is insufficient access to education across the country.

However, women are integral to local economies and to Haitian society. Women head approximately half of Haitian households. Street vendors, a key element in the Haitian economy, tend to be largely female. Additionally, many women own small farms, making them vital to the agricultural chain.

Moreover, Haiti’s Constitution guarantees women the right to participate in politics, protects women from workplace discrimination and claims to protect them from physical and sexual abuse. Nevertheless, the state of women’s rights in Haiti remains wanting.

Gender-Based Violence

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and civil unrest, lack of infrastructure, poverty and general political instability plague it. This creates structural inequalities that put Haitian women and girls at heightened risk for gender-based violence. According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) definition, gender-based violence includes violence towards a woman simply due to being a woman or violence that disproportionately harms women. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), “one in three Haitian women, ages 15-49, has experienced physical and/or sexual violence.”

The inequalities inherent in Haitian society have left women particularly vulnerable. In fact, lack of adequate food, housing, sanitation, clean water, medical attention and protection make them open pray in a society where misogyny is common and the majority of people live in poverty.

Inadequate Access to Judicial Systems

In addition to facing remarkably high rates of sexual violence, women also receive inadequate support from the judicial system when it comes to prosecuting perpetrators of gender-based violence. Social barriers discriminate against women at every step of the process while structural issues, including corruption, lack of resources and lengthy procedures make it nearly impossible to even bring a case to court.

As 59% of the Haitian population lives below the poverty line and 24% live in extreme poverty, prohibitively high legal fees make the formal justice system inaccessible for the majority of the population. For women especially, incumbent misogynistic norms result in administrators overlooking cases of violence against women, brushing them off as not being serious, failing to acquire adequate evidence or displaying a general disregard for victims and their families.

Nevertheless, there have been some developments that have facilitated an improvement in women’s rights in Haiti. These developments have aided in women’s access to the legal system and their ability to report accounts of rape or abuse. In 2005, rape was officially criminalized, accompanied by higher rates of sentencing perpetrators. The country has also introduced other legislation that focuses on Haitian women’s rights, including improved training and accountability standards for the judiciary and legislation addressing gender-based violence across sexual, criminal and domestic contexts.

Still, the lack of legal support for women often makes simply reporting rape a futile practice. Prejudices against female autonomy and preconceived ideas of women’s behavior can result in instances of victim-blaming. It is not unusual for police officers to question the victim’s actions as inviting the violence or point to their choice of attire as prompting the assault. This type of verbal abuse discourages women from reporting violent instances and further normalizes violations of women’s rights in Haiti.

Lack of Safe Learning Environments

Globally, girls are already at a disadvantage in terms of accessing and receiving a quality education. In Haiti, classes usually occur in French while most of the country speaks Creole. Additionally, private organizations often run schools that charge tuition families cannot pay, subsequently making access to education particularly challenging. In 2015, the UN Development Program found that Haitians of 25 years or more were recipients of an average of 4.9 years of schooling. Save The Children, a humanitarian aid program estimated that Haitian girls attend school only until age 7 on average. Many leave school due to high tuition or to provide an extra set of hands at home, a direct result of the high rates of poverty.

Gender-based violence, poverty, child marriage and pregnancy, all issues that disproportionately affect girls, are common factors impeding access to education. According to a USAID study, school was the second-most common place for “unwanted touching.” The lack of safe learning environments correlates with a high drop-out rate for girls.

This drop-out rate results in a productivity loss in the labor market and an increase in costs associated with women’s health. Additionally, social costs include high infant mortality for children of adolescent girls, less social empowerment and reduced skill sets in unemployed females.

Furthermore, girls who have limited education are more likely to remain poor, experience violence and carry more children, a cycle that continues into future generations. According to WomenOne, a nonprofit promoting girls’ education, a woman’s children are twice as likely to attend primary school if she did. In 2015, WomenOne worked in Haiti to build a school in the village of Berard in partnership with LinkedIn and BuildOn. It intended this school to educate an equal number of girls and boys. 

Because Haitian women have an important role to play within their communities, families and the workforce, prioritizing education for girls by creating safe spaces to learn is critical to both propel development efforts and elevate women’s rights in Haiti.

 – Samantha Friborg
Photo: Flickr

female education In India
Around the world, school years often begin with back-to-school shopping. Students buy new notebooks and fresh pencils, but what about motor scooters? New scooters just might be on the shopping list in India. In Assam, a state in northeastern India, the government has started a new program to incentivize female education. This program provides scooters to school-age girls, promoting female education in India through safer transportation.

Female Education and Literacy in India

In recent years, rates of female education in India have increased. More than 10% of young women from 11-14 did not attend school in 2006. However, this number dropped to 4.1% by 2018. However, the dropout rate for women remains unusually high. Save the Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting for children’s needs, found that around 70% of girls in India will drop out of school. Higher dropout rates among young women cause disproportionate literacy rates. Approximately 65% of Indian women are literate in contrast to 82% of men. The gap in literacy rates is even higher in rural areas than in urban areas. As of 2011, around 50% of females in rural areas are educated compared to 74.1% of men. In urban areas, 88.3% of men are literate in comparison to 76.9% of females.

The Culprit: Unsafe Transportation

A former sarpanch (elected head of a village government in India), Savita Parmar, told the Times of India that the reason for this distinction might be a lack of access to secondary schools in rural areas. In particular, a lack of safe transportation might caution parents against sending their daughters to study far away from home. One of the most significant barriers to education that women face is hassle-free transport to school. The Thomson Reuters Foundation conducted a poll to determine the worst countries for women to use public transport in 2014. India ranked quite high as the fourth most unsafe country.

Scooters to Keep Girls in School

Assam’s new policy aims to mitigate this problem and increase rates of female education in India. Education Minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya explained to the Thomson Reuters Foundation that “this will help many girl students to have hassle-free transportation to their respective colleges.” For girls that score the highest on their final exams, the government will reward them with a brand new scooter. The top 22,000 female students that score 60% or higher will be rewarded sometime in mid-October 2020.

Everyone Benefits from Female Education

The lack of safe transport options for women in India highlights the importance of Assam’s new policy. By providing scooters, not only is the government incentivizing girls to stay in school and rewarding them for academic achievement, but it is also providing a way for girls to continue their secondary education. By fighting for female education in India, Assam is working towards creating a better society for girls and women in India. Better-educated women are able to make more informed choices and earn higher levels of income, and they are equipped with better family planning skills, all of which can elevate their respective households and communities. Higher literacy rates can also boost the economy. According to Bloomberg, higher rates of female literacy can “yield a growth premium in GDP.”

There are still barriers preventing universal female education in India. However, with innovative solutions like Assam’s, India has the potential to empower its young women and ensure their equal access to education. A new scooter today could mean better literacy rates tomorrow.

Anushka Somani
Photo: Flickr

Organizations Helping During the Yemen CrisisLocated on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is a developing country that has faced numerous hardships within the last decade. Known as the worst humanitarian crisis, the country is having difficulties obtaining sustainability as it is currently undergoing a five-year-long war. This has increased poverty and caused uncontrollable famine. In response to the extreme and harsh living conditions, several nations and organizations are trying to provide any sort of relief. As nations contribute funds and donations, it is difficult to believe that one person can make a difference. However, every little bit counts. Here are five organizations helping during the Yemen crisis.

5 Organizations Helping During the Yemen Crisis

  1. U.N. World Food Programme: Yemen is experiencing an extreme shortage of food and everyday necessities. The U.N. World Food Programme supports several countries that lack such necessities. Unfortunately, the organization had to cut food rations in April. However, the U.N. World Food Programme still hopes to aid malnourished families and children in Yemen. It has provided food to 12 million people.
  2. UNICEF: As a non-profit organization, UNICEF finds ways to provide relief and emergency support to those in need. Emergency relief and support may include necessities such as vaccines, water, nutrition and school supplies. During the Yemen crisis, UNICEF has been able to provide support within each government in Yemen. During the COVID-19 crisis, UNICEF has provided testing equipment, respirators and face shields. It is also helping train 30,000 healthcare workers in hygiene and prevention.
  3. Save the Children: More than 12.3 million children are in need of assistance during this horrific time in Yemen. Save the Children is an organization that devotes time and effort to children in need. The organization hopes to provide as much assistance to the children as possible, whether it be food, water, shelter or education. As numerous schools have been destroyed or shut down, Save the Children has transferred numerous training teachers to provide education for the two million children who are out of school.
  4. Baitulmaal and Mona: Baitulmaal and Mona are both small, local organizations within Yemen where volunteers provide meals, medical assistance and supplies to nearby communities. Baitulmaal has provided more than 158, 000 meals as well as antibiotics and medical tests to people in need. Mona has reached tens of thousands of people with food, clothing and hygiene kits. Small organizations are incredibly important to consider as they have the ability to possibly bypass blockades within Yemen.
  5. Doctors Without Borders: Another way people are helping out during the Yemen Crisis is through Doctors without Borders. The organization consists of numerous doctors that travel to foreign countries in hopes of providing any medical assistance needed. Currently, the organization operates within 13 hospitals in Yemen. As numerous medical facilities have been shut down, Doctors Without Borders provides limited medical assistance that is needed during humanitarian crises.

As Yemen experiences supposedly the worst humanitarian crisis, it is necessary to target the several ways people can help. While there are several of organizations providing assistance in the Yemen crisis, these five organizations allow quick and accessible aid towards medical assistance and famine control.

Elisabeth Balicanta
Photo: Flickr

chlorhexidine reduces neonatal mortality
Although the neonatal mortality rate across the globe has been consistently decreasing, neonatal death is still common in many regions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), annual infant deaths were at an all-time low of 4.1 million deaths in 2017, decreasing from 8.8 million in 1990. However, the death rate in Africa is over six times higher than it is in Europe, illustrating a severe disparity. As such, there is still much more that people can do to lower neonatal mortality rates. One potential solution is chlorhexidine, which reduces neonatal mortality.

How Chlorhexidine Reduces Neonatal Mortality

To combat mortality rates, Save the Children and governments in Nepal and Nigeria have implemented chlorhexidine, an antiseptic found in mouthwash. When used to clean the umbilical cord as soon as possible after birth, chlorhexidine reduces neonatal mortality by preventing infection in newborns, which is among the top drivers of neonatal deaths across the globe. Save the Children and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) partnered to create a chlorhexidine gel to distribute in wrapped pouches. Save the Children noted that this gel “was developed to be suitable for use in high temperatures, useful in sub-Saharan Africa and [South] Asia where the risk of newborn infections is high and temperatures are hot.”

Chlorhexidine gel has become wildly popular in Nepal, where USAID created the Chlorhexidine “Navi” Care Program to distribute chlorhexidine gel. In Nepal, around half of deliveries happen at home, making newborns even more exposed to infection if they are not delivered in a clean environment. In fact, a large majority of deaths in Nepal occur within the first month of life. Moreover, infections cause half of those deaths. In Nepal, chlorhexidine has reduced neonatal mortality by 24% and decreased the rate of infections in newborns by 68%. The Chlorhexidine “Navi” Care program’s objective aims to distribute chlorhexidine gel to all 75 districts of Nepal.

The Lifesaving Effects of Chlorhexidine

Nepal is not the only country to see chlorhexidine reduce neonatal mortality rates. Nigeria, one of the most populous countries in Africa, has also seen success. Its neonatal mortality rate has dropped from 48 deaths per 1,000 births in 2003 to 37 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013. According to many estimates, infections cause at least one-third of newborn mortalities in Nigeria. In March 2016, Nigeria created a plan to scale-up the use of chlorhexidine to lower neonatal mortality rates. If this program succeeds, it will save 55,000 infants. Although this scaling up program started slowly, the Nigerian government has committed to continuing the use of chlorhexidine to prevent infection and fatalities. To do so, it has a plan in place to help local governments achieve their goals.

Across the globe, there are large imbalances in neonatal mortality rates. Countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia have a much higher neonatal death rate than countries such as Australia, Canada or China. In developing countries where poverty rates are higher, neonatal death skyrockets due to a lack of resources. This simple, cheap and over-the-counter chlorhexidine gel is saving lives across the globe. As chlorhexidine becomes even more accessible to every community, it is hopeful that neonatal deaths will continue to decrease.

Hannah Kaufman
Photo: Flickr

The History of the UNICEF Tap Project
In 2006, Esquire magazine’s advertising executive, David Droga, created a newfound ad campaign that would spark positive social change: the UNICEF Tap Project. The goal of the UNICEF Tap Project was to inspire regular individuals to supply UNICEF water. This is a subset of the UNICEF foundation that provides water, sanitation and hygiene services to disadvantaged children and adolescents. The project launched in 2007 and began as a physical campaign in collaboration with New York City restaurants. There, those dining would donate $1 to receive the tap water that they normally would receive for free. By 2008, the project became a massive success, as several thousand restaurants became involved.

Campaigns that Help Raise Money and Awareness

As the Tap Project continued, UNICEF leaders wanted ordinary people to understand what it is like for individuals in developing countries to only have access to dirty water. In addition, UNICEF created a vending machine, where you can pay $1 and push to have a bottle of dirty water come out. The buttons on the vending machine are the names of different diseases that people in countries that lack clean water are exposed to. For example, including typhoid fever, dengue and hepatitis. Moreover, in an advertisement for the Tap Project that shows footage of New York participants, UNICEF notes that nobody drank the water. However, many donated to the cause.

Soon, the campaign morphed into a website. This website asked participants to give up their phones, as a symbol of an unnecessary but desired item. In return, the participants can give another person something that they desperately needed: water. In 2014, the Tap Project launched this web app. For as long as participants did not use their mobile devices, UNICEF would donate water to those in need. The project took off and was sponsored by generous donations from companies like Giorgino Armani Fragrances and S’well Bottles. To amplify this campaign, celebrities and YouTube moguls like Bethany Mota began to promote it through their platforms. Through the UNICEF Tap Project challenges, every minute counts that the participants do not touch their phones. For instance, if participants did not touch their cell phone for 30 minutes, they would donate 11 water purification tablets.

Successful Mobilization Efforts

The UNICEF Tap Project mobilized thousands of individuals to give up their phones to give others access to clean water. After participating, users could share the page with friends and family, or they could chip in a donation of their own. Although the UNICEF Tap Project ceased after a decade, the project’s efforts contributed to a dramatic decrease in the number of children dying from waterborne illnesses. For example, the numbers reduced from 4,000 a day in 2006 to 1,000 a day in 2015. All in all, the UNICEF Tap Project directly aided almost half a million people and raised over $6 million.

What Can People Do to Help?

Although the UNICEF Tap Project ended in 2015, help is still needed. Today, 2.2 billion people still do not have access to clean water. Although the organization has moved onto the creation of new campaigns to aid those without access to clean water, there are a plethora of ways for individuals to help today.

  • Donate: One way that individuals can help is by donating to causes like UNICEF or Save The Children. The proceeds will go directly to those who need assistance with access to clean water.
  • Volunteering: A person can also volunteer their time with organizations that focus directly on helping and spreading awareness, such as charity: water or water.org. Alternatively, they can help sponsor nonprofits that aid those with clean water, hygiene and sanitation.
  • Education: People can educate themselves, their peers, or their family members about the struggles that occur in regards to the world’s poor in other countries.

Despite the end to the UNICEF Tap Project, there is a multitude of ways to bring clean water to communities around the world that need it. Whether it is through donations, volunteering or education, the acts of many may be able to continue in the UNICEF Tap Project’s footsteps.

Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr

crisis in yemenCivil war has taken over Yemen for over five years. As a result, upward of 12 million minors are in desperate need of some form of humanitarian aid, making the crisis in Yemen the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. Experts fear Yemen’s violent and impoverished conditions will have a severe effect on the mental health, and consequent futures, of the country’s children.

Violence in Yemen

As a country of extreme poverty to begin with, Yemen is struggling in this time of war. Violence and fighting remain constant as clashing forces, including the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition, fight for power.

Although all demographics in Yemen have been strongly affected, children are bearing the brunt of this crisis in Yemen. The Yemen Data project recorded over 17,500 deaths since the beginning of the war in 2015. The deaths of children were a large portion of the casualties, forcing Yemeni children to constantly fear the death of a friend, sibling or even their own death. Additionally, with approximately 12 airstrikes on Yemen each day, the sounds of war are consuming. The war is inescapable for those in Yemen.

Health and Nutrition During Crisis

Many of the systems taken for granted in developed countries collapsed in Yemen as a result of the war. Health services are extremely limited, leaving over 10 million Yemeni children without access to healthcare services, which are of great importance in one’s formative years. High rates of disease and unsanitary conditions due to the overcrowding of millions of displaced families make the lack of these services even more tragic.

Furthermore, the crisis in Yemen has placed over 10 million Yemenis at risk of famine, while double this number are already food insecure. Such malnutrition results in the hindered development of children in Yemen.

Another system that is important to the development of children in general is the education system. Like the systems mentioned before, Yemen’s educational system has also suffered amidst this continuing war. As of June 2020, almost 8 million Yemeni children were unable to attend school, damaging their development and futures.

Yemen Mental Health Studies

A recent study conducted by Save the Children, an organization aiming to better the lives of the world’s children through health, educational and aid services, surveyed over 1,250 Yemeni children and guardians. From this survey, Save the Children found 50% of the children who responded said they experience feelings of depression amidst the crisis in Yemen.

In addition to feelings of sadness, 20% of the children said they live in extreme fear. Parents and caregivers supported this statistic, claiming their children had experienced increased incidents of nightmares and bedwetting. Such common feelings and behaviors indicate a growing prevalence of mental health disorders, including PTSD and depression, in children in Yemen.

Consequences of the Crisis in Yemen

Dr. Carol Donnelly, a psychotherapist and professor of psychology at Northwestern University, told The Borgen Project about her concern for children experiencing the conditions of the crisis in Yemen. “If the trauma lasts for too long, which apparently it is, the kids could have all sorts of dissociative experiences (related to PTSD), just extreme mental health issues,” Donnelly said.

With constant fears of attack and altered living conditions in Yemen, Donnelly stated that there may be potential consequences of changing parent-child relationships during this crisis. “[Children] need to be in a relationship with an adult, not only for attachment emotionally, but just for learning so many things,” she said. “This relationship helps to wire the brain up properly, and if kids are not getting that because the parents are overwhelmed as well, we’re just going to have a whole generation of severely traumatized children. Children that will just be a burden on the entire society.”

She also referenced Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, explaining that we need to provide the most basic needs of these children, such as water and food, as a priority. Then we must provide these Yemeni children safety and shelter before ensuring they have loving relationships. By following this psychological theory, she hopes children will be able to mentally progress despite the crisis in Yemen.

Aid from Afar

Several global organizations are working to provide assistance to this generation of suffering Yemeni children in order to help them become successful regardless of their conditions. One such organization, Save the Children, has made efforts to make these children feel safe amidst the crisis in Yemen by creating engaging, peaceful spaces for children in Yemen to play and spend time with friends while consequently promoting further cognitive development. Here, these children can act without fear, as normal children would. Since the initiation of this project, almost a quarter of a million Yemeni children have visited these spaces.

Additionally, Save the Children is working to promote awareness around childhood mental health and rights in Yemen while also training mental specialists in the country. With only a couple of child psychiatrists servicing the entirety of Yemen, there is little education for the general population of Yemen surrounding this area of healthcare.

“Psychology is just … not recognized as a formal science in some countries yet. It is still very much stigmatized,” Donnelly agreed. “I think what would be a good solution is to have a psychologist train the people there how to simply be present and to exude unconditional love and empathy and to listen. That’s something anyone can do.”

– Hannah Carroll
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in the Philippines
Child poverty is an immense issue the world over, and it has only become direr during the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantine procedures mean that many people are no longer able to work. The effects of these procedures are pronounced in countries with high poverty rates. The high rate of child poverty in the Philippines means that the pandemic is affecting the most vulnerable.

Child Poverty and COVID-19

Poverty has a unique impact on children and can have long-lasting effects. UNICEF states that malnutrition, often due to poverty, can negatively impact children’s physical, social and emotional development. Poverty also increases the risks of children’s exposure to child marriages, violence, exploitation and abuse.

COVID-19 is increasing children’s vulnerabilities to these risks. According to the World Bank, 11 million people globally are at an increased risk of falling into poverty due to the economic shocks that the pandemic brought on. UNICEF and Save the Children claim that child poverty could potentially reach upwards of an alarming 700 million children globally if the world does not address the problem. Furthermore, children living in poverty may have increased risks from COVID-19 due to pre-existing conditions brought on by poverty, malnutrition and low-quality healthcare in poor communities, all of which can negatively impact their ability to recover.

What Does This Mean for Children in the Philippines?

The Philippines has made great strides in addressing poverty within the country in recent years. From 2015 to 2018, the country experienced a 5% decrease in its poverty rate. The World Bank suggests this decrease is unlikely to continue following economic shocks of the pandemic. The country is at risk of experiencing negative economic growth as a result.

Child poverty in the Philippines is significantly high at 31.4% in 2015. A rise in this figure could have potentially devastating impacts on the livelihoods of children in the country considering that 33% of Filipino children already suffer from malnutrition. In addition, 27% of the population lives in an urban setting. For those in poverty, this translates to cramped living spaces and a lack of access to clean water and sanitation. In 2011, 25% of the Filipino population lacked access to improved sanitation. These factors make social distancing and other health protocols to combat the spread of the disease increasingly difficult.

COVID-19 is also exacerbating a different crisis that Filipino children experience: cyber trafficking. Children in the Philippines are among those with some of the highest risks of cyber trafficking globally. With increasing risks of poverty in the Philippines, the online exploitation of children living in poverty will only grow. According to Senator Leila de Lima, former Justice Secretary for the Philippines, the vulnerability of online abuse for children is in part due to economic necessity. This relationship suggests a strong link between poverty and exploitation. COVID-19 prevention measures are also limiting activities to police this abuse. Lockdown measures have led to slowed investigations, the closing of courts and prosecutor’s offices. Human moderators of online abuse on social media platforms such as Facebook have also been being put on leave.

How to Help

UNICEF and Save the Children point to a need for increased services and programs for the poor, especially services or benefits that focus on children and families.

As poverty can reduce children’s resilience to combating the virus, aid relief is integral to increasing resilience and mitigating the potential increase in COVID-19 deaths due to child poverty within the Philippines. The Save the Children Philippines team, Building Urban Children’s Resilience against Shocks and Threats of Resettlement, is part of the response increasing children’s resilience to the virus. It distributes food relief packages and hygiene kits to poor families in Pasay City.

There are a number of actions one can take to support the reduction of child poverty in the Philippines. Calling one’s political leaders in support of the International Affairs Budget is one way a person could actively influence U.S. Foreign Policy to support the reduction of child poverty in the Philippines. Another option is to call in support of the Global Child Thrive Act which focuses on advancing early childhood development globally.

The Philippines receives $342,216,064 of U.S. Foreign Aid. However, only 25% of that goes to developmental food aid while a staggering 40% goes towards security. Making sure leaders are aware of the threat COVID-10 has on increased child poverty in the Philippines is one way to push them to support poverty reduction efforts.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr