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Child Poverty in Myanmar
Although the overall poverty rate in Myanmar reduced to around 25% in 2017, the child poverty rate has increased to 31%. More than 5.5 million children in Myanmar lived in poverty or extreme poverty in 2017. To make up for the lack of food and basic necessities in their households, these children are likely to take jobs in construction and factories, exposing them to hazardous working conditions. As a result of child poverty and child labor, Myanmar ranks 112 out of 172 countries in Save the Children’s End of Childhood Index, which measures the extent to which children are “missing out on childhood.”

Children’s Rights, Child Mortality and Rural Births

In the early 1960s, the world saw Myanmar as one of the most prosperous nations in South Asia due to its abundance of natural resources. However, in 1962, a coup d’état that established a military dictatorship under the Burma Socialist Programme Party pushed children’s rights aside.

Unsurprisingly, fundamental rights are not equally shared across Myanmar’s socioeconomic makeup. A high poverty rate is accompanied by high child mortality. As of 2019, the mortality rate for children under 5 was 44.7 per 1,000 live births compared to 5.6 deaths per 1,000 births in the United States. Additionally, the exact number of children born is unknown as around 65% of births are not officially reported due to midwives only registering rural births informally.

Limited Access to Education

The Myanmar government does not allocate sufficient funds to education and many families cannot afford to send their children to school. Consequently, around 3% of children in Myanmar have had no education and an estimated 8.6 million people older than 15 are illiterate. Without education or basic literacy skills, it is virtually impossible to find a high-paying job outside of factory or construction work.

Child Labor Working Conditions

In Myanmar, the poverty trap forces 1.1 million children aged 5-17 into dangerous working conditions. Unable to participate in both school and the formal workforce, these children find themselves stuck in an inescapable cycle of generational poverty. They work as porters, cleaners, cooks, field laborers and more, either due to coercion by the Burma National Armed Forces or to help supplement their household income.

Some employers are quick to exploit an influx of undereducated child workers who are unaware of the health and workers’ rights violations they face. The standard workweek in the United States is typically 40 hours, but a quarter of child workers in Myanmar aged 12-17 typically face workweeks of 60 hours or more. Most child labor takes place in rural areas and a minimum of 197 children work in dangerous conflict-ridden areas such as Kachin, Rakhine and Shan due to coercion.

Breaking the Cycle of Child Poverty

To break the brutal cycle of generational poverty that forces children to choose between putting food on the table and getting an education that will propel their success, it is crucial for impoverished families in Myanmar to receive consistent and sufficient resources from organizations and government agencies.

UNICEF is helping to break the child poverty cycle in Myanmar by teaming up with non-governmental organizations and focusing on improving access and quality of education. It is also working to shield children from violent coercion and abuse, especially children in marginalized communities. Providing Myanmar’s children with adequate education and protecting them from forced labor will allow them to live safer and more opportunity-filled lives.

Child poverty affects millions in Myanmar and poses a threat to generations to come. There is room for hope, however, as organizations such as Save the Children and UNICEF focus on alleviating the extreme conditions that many children of Myanmar face through building partnerships and delivering results on a large scale.

Melanie Goldsmith
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

Child Poverty in MalawiChildren make up more than half of Malawi’s population and many children live in poverty. In 2018, 60.5% of children in Malawi aged 0-17 were considered multi-dimensionally impoverished. Above their necessities, children have a complicated set of socio-economic needs. Child poverty in Malawi has both immediate and long-term consequences for children. They include the deprivation of education, shelter, health assistance and nutrition. These deprivations significantly affect an individual’s ability to rise out of poverty. Organizations such as Save the Children work to meet the needs of children to ensure a better and brighter future.

The 4 Impacts of Child Poverty in Malawi

  1. Deprivation of Education: In Malawi, 87.6% of children do not receive an education. Roughly 85% of adolescents aged 15 to 17 have not finished primary school. Furthermore, “78% of children are two or more grades behind for their age.” In the age range of 15 to 17, 13% of children are illiterate. They cannot read or write in either English or the local language of Chichewa. Educational deprivation disproportionately impacts rural areas. Furthermore, “children whose parents have less than primary school education are more deprived than those with parents who have more than primary school education.”
  2. Deprivation of Nutrition: One of the most serious challenges of child poverty in Malawi is nutrition. Poor diets and infectious diseases wreak havoc on the immune system and may lead to stunted growth. According to UNICEF, “Stunted children are more likely to drop out of school and repeatedly experience lower productivity later in life.” In Malawi, 37% of children are stunted. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of children younger than five years old have anemia. Undernutrition is responsible for 23% of all child deaths in Malawi. Malnutrition is one factor leading to Malawi’s high child mortality rate, with roughly 25% of Malawian children dying before age five.
  3. Shelter Deprivation: Household size, education and work status of the head of the home influence home deprivations among children aged 5 to 14. Roughly 50% of children in Malawi live in homes with insufficient roofs or floors.
  4. Deprivation of Health Assistance: Sufficient access to healthcare is essential to improve a child’s development and well-being. Most impoverished households in Malawi lack access to medical care. This means children receive treatment at home by an unskilled healthcare provider or do not receive treatment at all. The main component to deprivation of healthcare is financial affordability. There is plenty of evidence that low income and high healthcare costs are barriers to access. There are many factors limiting healthcare access such as living in a remote location, long distances to health centers, high travel costs and low educational attainment.

Save the Children in Malawi

Save the Children has helped Malawian children since 1983, ensuring “that children in need are protected, healthy and nourished, educated and live in economically secure households, while helping communities mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS.” In 2019, Save the Children protected more than 84,000 Malawian children from harm and ensured the proper nourishment of more than 170,000 children.

With consistent support, Save the Children can combat child poverty in Malawi. Every action to help an impoverished child strengthens a child’s ability to rise out of poverty and secure a brighter future.

Mary McLean
Photo: Flickr

Economic Development in NicaraguaEconomic development in Nicaragua has encountered issues that have slowed the country’s development. Nicaragua declared itself an independent country in 1821. However, it has directly felt the crippling effect of economic issues from the onslaught of crimes. As recently as 2020, Nicaragua was recognized as a critical threat location for crime by the Overseas Security Advisory Council. Nicaragua has also encountered natural disasters. As of November 2020, Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes respectively, caused more than $740 million in damage.

However, even with mounting external and internal pressure, economic development in Nicaragua has shown potential for improvement. This change is based on securing educational opportunities that turn into growth in economic projects. Private organizations have created community centers and offered low- and middle-income citizens better access to education. Such organizations have also created jobs by amplifying the reach of renewable energy, agricultural irrigation expansion and fortification of infrastructure.

Nicaraguan Poverty

Nicaragua has faced an uphill battle in economic growth due to its criminal and poverty-stricken background. The conflict between rival gangs within the country exacerbates this issue. This instability has also caused a decline in economic fortitude. Moreover, inflation has reached undeniably high levels, and people have left Nicaragua in droves to pursue better economic opportunities. The people left behind continue to suffer from a lack of proper healthcare and education.

Education Improves Economic Development

The educational system within Nicaragua is adjacent to the poverty level. Children within the educational system find themselves facing the challenge of completing school due to a wide range of reasons. A recent study from the USAID reported that an estimated 72% of Nicaraguans do not finish secondary school, leaving them likely to be impoverished. In addition, more than 18% of teachers do not have more than primary school education. This creates a new generation of unprepared Nicaraguan citizens.

The correlation between educational attainment and job development is significant. It is the bridge that keeps many Nicaraguans in impoverished income brackets. With the constant issues that many lower-income Nicaraguan students face, there has been an increase in steering them toward an attainable educational path and improving educational success.

Formative Ways of Change

Outside help from the U.N. and the U.S. has created a shift in economic and educational development in Nicaragua in recent years. Organizations such as Save the Children and the World Bank have supported the upturn of educational prowess within Nicaragua. Save the Children has created an infrastructure for educational access by establishing toll roads and paving new ones. Additionally, the World Bank has established more community centers with creative and technical workshops to teach and fortify skills. The skills taught include knowledge of irrigation, infrastructure fortification and a new era of clean and renewable energy.

The organizations have also increased job development and commercial development projects from the private sector. These development projects have provided more job opportunities within the industries of agricultural irrigation, the fortification of infrastructure, renewable energy and the reinforcement of trade.

Projects of this magnitude were given more than just a prime objective with the World Bank portfolio. Such projects totaled more than $400 million for nine planned projects. These projects include the enhancement of telecommunications, roads, education, health and insurance for natural disasters. Two credits have already been passed together, worth more than $100 million, to combat COVID-19 and help those most affected by hurricanes.

The Nicaraguan educational system has had a rise in scholars coming through the ranks to create an ever-growing class of job-ready individuals. Problems of organized crime and violence have troubled Nicaragua in the past, but there is hope to establish a better economic system that can create many more jobs and lead Nicaragua to a better future. Organizations like the World Bank and Save the Children are instituting an educational and job pathway for young and experienced Nicaraguan citizens alike to create a more prosperous Nicaragua.

Mario Perales
Photo: Unsplash

Children in GazaMalala Yousafzai is an activist who works to provide educational opportunities to girls around the world. Yousafzai began the Malala Fund in 2013. The Malala Fund helps girls gain access to 12 years of free, quality education in a safe environment. Today, Yousafzai continues to help children in developing countries with access to education. In May 2021, Yousafzai made a significant donation to safeguard children in Gaza. With the assistance of Save the Children, Defense for Children International Palestine and KinderUSA, Yousafzai’s $150,000 donation will help children and families in Gaza rebuild their lives.

The Conflict Between Israel and Palestine

The Gaza bombings since May 10, 2021, caused devastating damage to infrastructure and depleted resources for the two million people living in Gaza. The violence between Israel and Palestine is worse than it was during the Gaza War in 2014. While the tensions reached a ceasefire on May 20, 2021, the conflict stems from more than 25 years of issues between Israel and Palestine. The U.N. reports that 72,000 Palestinians have fled their homes in search of safety in the aftermath of the violent outbreak. Gaza’s hospitals are running low on resources to treat the thousands of wounded victims impacted by the bombings and violence. Many of these victims include children.

Malala Yousafzai Supports Children in Gaza

In May 2021, it was reported that “six hospitals, nine health clinics and about 50 education facilities were damaged in Gaza.” Furthermore, crucial infrastructures were destroyed and water pipes burst, all while hospitals struggle to care for those in need of medical attention. In order to address these issues, Yousafzai donated a total of $150,000 to three nonprofit organizations in order to help children in Gaza. These organizations are working to provide clean water for children and rebuild schools that were damaged during the conflict. The organizations will also provide medical resources for the children in Gaza.

Organizations Helping Children in Gaza

Yousafzai donated $100,000 to Save the Children, a global nonprofit organization addressing the needs of children in areas where children receive few resources. Save the Children creates programs with families, community leaders and local councils to foster successful and long-term change. As a result of Yousafzai’s donation, Save the Children will provide clean water access and food vouchers for children in Gaza. Moreover, the children will receive mental health support. The organization will also provide nutritional support for pregnant women and new mothers.

Other organizations aiding Gaza are Defense for Children International Palestine (DCI Palestine) and KinderUSA. Yousafzai donated $25,000 to each. DCI Palestine safeguards the rights of Palestinian children. Additionally, KinderUSA is an American Muslim organization with a goal to help “children in crisis through development and emergency relief.” KinderUSA responds to emergencies involving children in Pakistan, Turkey, Uganda, Somalia, Syria and beyond. In 2013, the organization provided winter clothes to Syrian children to protect them from the potential impacts of the harsh weather.

Hope for Children in Gaza

Save the Children asserts that a ceasefire on its own is not enough and that more must be done to safeguard the fundamental rights of children in Gaza. Yousafzai believes that Palestinian children deserve to live in peace and safety with opportunities to pursue an education and reach their full potential. With the help of organizations fighting to protect children’s rights, children living in Gaza have hope of a better tomorrow.

Nia Owens
Photo: Wikimedia

Children in Pakistan
Pakistan is a mostly Muslim country between Afghanistan and India in South Asia. The country gained independence in 1947 and the government operates as a parliamentary democracy. In recent years, the country has adopted Sunni Islam’s essence, with Northern Pakistan facilitating a sanctuary for various Islamic extremist groups. The life expectancy in the country averages 67 years. In 2015, an Asian Development Bank report determined that 24.3% of Pakistanis live below the poverty line and UNAIDS claimed that 190,000 Pakistani are HIV positive. The organization also stated that the number of deaths from HIV cases has increased by 385% since 2010, with only 12% of patients receiving treatment. Unfortunately, the number of children in Pakistan with HIV has been significant.

Recent HIV Outbreak

Between April and July 2019, medical professionals diagnosed 735 children in Pakistan with HIV. The World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled the epidemic as a Grade Two Emergency. This implies a moderate approach to combating the problem since, according to WHO, Pakistan is one of the lowest spending countries when it comes to funding for health. Pakistan utilizes only 3% of its GDP for healthcare, whereas its neighbor, Afghanistan, allots 10%. Per person, Pakistan spends less than $45 on annual healthcare.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many essential health issues have received neglect. In September 2020, Lancet Global Health constructed an investigation around how the pandemic has affected other health crises. In its findings, reports determined that deaths for HIV have increased by 10% since the beginning of the pandemic. The medical system has been under stress due to the pandemic, leading to a decrease in medical support for HIV. During this time, a local reporter named Gulbahar Shaikh, who had been covering a story in Ratodero around this time, decided to have his children tested to be safe. He was reportedly stunned when his daughter, Rida, came back positive for HIV.

Solutions

In November 2019, cases of HIV-positive children in Pakistan started to emerge in Ratodero, a city just north of Larkana. In fact, reports stated that 1,132 children had HIV in Ratodero. As soon as possible, the local government sent experts to respond. During their investigations, it came to light that many of the patients did not have infected parents, which set off a red flag to officials. They later found that many of the infected children saw a doctor named Muzaffar Ghanghro. He was a cheap, in-town physician working primarily with children. Finding this, officials made Ghanghro obtain a test for HIV too. Even when his results came back positive for HIV, he denied the results.

The officials found Ghanghro fully responsible for the increase in outbreaks within children in Ratodero, and police arrested him. He spent about two months in jail but the pediatrician has not received any charges.

In 2019, $6.3 million went into funding investigations for children in Pakistan with HIV, resulting in the shutting down of 300 medical facilities in Ratodero. However, unlicensed private clinics still function on “nearly every block,” and several facilities do not even have a place for physicians to wash their hands.

Save the Children

In 2020, UNAIDS and the United Nations HIV program reported that 2.8 million individuals under 20 were living with HIV. Additionally, over 50% of those individuals were under 10 years old.

An organization fighting for the betterment of children named Save the Children works in Pakistan. Together with the National Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Network, the organization provides reputable health facility managers to implement more humane health responses. The Mothers, Newborn and Child Health Program (MNCH) is an integral part of what Save the Children offers for healthcare. The program provides improved services from households to hospitals to moms and their children. The program’s focus is on the already existing primary healthcare facilities within areas of poverty in Pakistan. The program ensures a healthier emergency and medical experience for children in Pakistan.

Save the Children also has an initiative explicitly targeting individuals with HIV/AIDS. The project consists of providing more support to the physicians practicing in Pakistan. This program provides care to People Living with HIV (PLHIV) through Community and Home-Based Care services. The service actively raises awareness on transmission causes along with referring cases to further investigations. Together with the other efforts, Pakistan hopes to change the trend of rising HIV numbers.

– Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Vietnam
Although poverty has reduced in Vietnam, child poverty in Vietnam is still a key issue. Due to political reforms, Vietnam has enjoyed steady economic growth and poverty reduction over the past few decades. In fact, per the World Bank, Vietnam’s poverty rate has decreased from 50% in the 1950s to 2% as of 2019. Despite these recent gains, around 4 million Vietnamese children still live under the poverty line. In fact, 24% of Vietnamese children suffer from stunting due to malnutrition, while 10% are out of school. Ethnic minorities, especially those living in rural areas, are particularly high-risk for child poverty.

Today, many organizations are fighting child poverty in Vietnam decreases and children receive a happy, healthy start. Here are three nonprofits fighting child poverty in Vietnam.

Children of Vietnam

Founded in 1998, Children of Vietnam aims to utilize effective, personal strategies to lift children out of poverty. The organization focuses on serving particularly vulnerable youth. This includes those with disabilities, ethnic minorities and students at risk of dropping out of school.

The organization has several initiatives helping various groups impacted by child poverty in Vietnam, such as the Empowering Single Mothers Initiative. This initiative works to meet the immediate needs of single mothers and their children while simultaneously helping them develop important business and educational skills. The program involves microloans, training on micro-business and school scholarships for single mothers’ children. Another initiative is the Delivering Clean Water and Sanitation Initiative which operates by bringing large water filtration systems to schools and communities in rural areas. In 2021 alone, the nonprofit has provided 1 million meals to hungry children, 480 interventions to children with disabilities and 795 scholarships.

Save the Children

Save the Children began working in Vietnam in 1990. Since then, it has received the reputation of being one of the leading charities aiding those suffering from child poverty in Vietnam. Its main focus is on health and nutrition, in addition to providing assistance in the areas of education and livelihoods, child protection, disaster risk reduction and emergency response. The organization primarily operates by working in tandem with governmental agencies, schools and local networks to provide aid. In 2020, Save the Children was able to positively impact the lives of over 7 million children in Vietnam.

ChildFund

ChildFund partners with local organizations to support the education, health and long-term opportunities for ethnic minority children in Vietnam. When working with children aged 0-5, the program focuses on ensuring health, security and child-friendly learning corners in the home. The 6-14 age range centers on education and confidence building, with experiential learning training playing a key role. Programs for ages 15-24 are based on the principles of skillfulness and involvement and include participation in vocational training and securing employment. Through its sponsorship model, the program has benefited over 33,000 children and their families over the past 25 years.

Despite ongoing issues of childhood poverty, organizations such as Children of Vietnam, Save the Children and ChildFund are working to provide sustainable, community-based resources for those suffering from child poverty in Vietnam. As these initiatives continue to grow, the outlooks of impoverished children and families in Vietnam will grow alongside them.

– Nina Lehr
Photo: Flickr

Alliance to End Educational Poverty
The G7 Alliance, otherwise known as Group of Seven, is a global intergovernmental organization made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The key principles of this organization are freedom and human rights, democracy and the rule of law and prosperity. The organization promotes sustainable development through “a community of values” by convening at yearly G7 summits. Most recently, the G7 has entered an alliance to end educational poverty in developing countries. 

The G7 Alliance and Goal 5

The G7 Alliance derives from Goal 5 of the G7 Alliance’s Global Goals. The goal is to achieve gender equality. The G7 hopes to do this by ensuring equal access to quality primary and secondary education for both boys and girls. Together, the priorities aid in the path to end poverty in developing countries by 2030.

The G7’s 2021 effort toward Goal 5 includes sending 40 million more girls to school within the next five years. To achieve this, G7 countries will allocate $15 billion to support women and girls’ education in low- and middle-income countries. This movement also includes action to aid in an additional 20 million girls across the world learning how to read by 10 years of age.

Many developing countries already neglected education, especially for women and girls, before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic inflicted a new set of conditions that worsened education reform in countries that need it most. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 132 million girls around the world lacked access to an adequate education. Additionally, only one in four countries has equal likelihoods of upper-secondary school attendance for boys and girls.

According to Save the Children, the effects of the pandemic have threatened to reverse the gains that many areas have made regarding girls’ education in recent years. About 11 million girls are currently at risk of completely losing their access to education. In Ethiopia alone, the COVID-19 pandemic forced over 26 million children to leave school due to school closures. 

Moving Forward in the Alliance to End Educational Poverty

The G7 Alliance’s commitment toward Goal 5 is one of the largest in terms of scope and projected impacts. However, the Alliance has yet to decide the details of where the funding must come from and where the funding must go.

The G7’s alliance to end educational poverty is placing education at the forefront of policy reform and international aid as countries adjust to the constant new norms that come with each day of the COVID-19 pandemic. This priority could positively affect global economics and accelerate overall global recovery and wellbeing.

– Kylie Lally
Photo: Flickr

vaccinating Zero-dose childrenGavi, the Vaccine Alliance has partnered with Save the Children to expand the reach of vaccination efforts and health services for vaccinating zero-dose children. Millions of children around the world go without routine vaccinations every year, creating dangerous situations in developing nations plagued with diseases such as pneumonia and measles. The partnership intends to address this problem through a coordinated response of immunization programs to reach children in the most disadvantaged places on Earth.

The State of Global Child Vaccinations

There has been an undeniable trend of progress in global child vaccination rates over the past several decades. The rate of children fully vaccinated against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus stands at 85% today compared with 20% in 1980. Likewise, the rate of vaccinations protecting against measles and polio rose from less than 20% in 1980 to 85% in 2019, while rates of vaccinations for rubella rose from less than 10% to more than 70% in the same period of time. However, despite the obvious progress in child vaccinations, there is still a sizable portion of children who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated, leaving them susceptible to life-threatening diseases.

Approximately 20 million children are either under-vaccinated or completely unvaccinated across the globe, with more than 60% of this number coming from just 10 countries including Nigeria, Ethiopia and Pakistan. About half of the 20 million receive no routine vaccinations whatsoever, making them zero-dose children. These children overwhelmingly live in developing nations, many of which are high-intensity conflict zones. More peaceful areas in developing nations still lack adequate infrastructure and millions of children living in remote and marginalized communities have little or no access to healthcare.

The Risks for Zero-Dose Children

Zero-dose children are some of the most vulnerable people on the planet as they are easy targets for life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, measles and HPV. Pneumonia kills more than 800,000 children every year, making it the leading infectious cause of preventable child deaths in the world. It is a treatable disease, and if diagnosed early, pneumonia treatment over a three-to-five day period can be successful using antibiotics costing just $0.40. However, in low-income countries lacking access to clean water, healthy diets and affordable healthcare, it is a life-threatening disease as almost all child pneumonia deaths occur in developing nations.

Other major diseases of concern to zero-dose children include measles and HPV. Global measles cases are on the rise again, reaching levels not seen in more than two decades. In 2019, the world reported about 863,000 cases of measles compared with only 360,000 the year before. This alarming escalation turned even worse with the arrival of COVID-19 as many countries had to suspend immunization services and programs leaving even more children unable to get vaccinated. Furthermore, while the rate of global HPV vaccinations has steadily increased for several years, fully-vaccinated girls only make up about 15% of the world with many developing nations lacking any vaccination programs. These low coverage levels around the world mean the likelihood a child born today will have all necessary vaccinations by age 5 is less than 20%.

The Partnership

Thankfully, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Save the Children plan to make a global impact with a vaccination program intended to reach zero-dose children. Save the Children already works in developing nations by training and supporting frontline healthcare workers, delivering life-saving medicine and improving immunization coverage. Gavi will leverage this existing presence to expand immunization programs for vaccinating zero-dose children. The partnership between the two organizations will work by sharing key learnings and best practices to explore adding vaccinations to current treatments of pneumonia, malaria and malnutrition for children in low-income communities.

This program will build on the healthcare successes of Save the Children in developing nations and expand the reach of vaccinations to Gavi-supported countries such as Angola, the Republic of the Congo and Cameroon. Immunization efforts will prioritize fragile and high-conflict areas but other locations with major immunization gaps will also receive aid and vaccination increases. Additionally, the partnership will address vaccine hesitancy among parents by implementing community-based education programs and will continue the advancement of COVID-19 vaccination access in developing nations. These efforts stand to make an immense difference in developing nations and millions of children and their families stand to benefit, as do entire communities, as higher levels of immunizations lead to less infectious diseases.

The Road Ahead

Although health innovations in the past half-century have contributed to a major decrease in preventable child mortality rates, there are still far too many children who die from infectious diseases and many of these children are completely unvaccinated. In response to this situation, Gavi and Save the Children have teamed up with efforts in vaccinating zero-dose children in the world’s most impoverished nations. By building on the successes of current operations and introducing vaccinations into existing health programs, the partnership will strive to decrease the immunization gap and continue making headway toward the global goal of no zero-dose children.

Calvin Nordhougen
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water in SomaliaSomalia is facing an ongoing humanitarian crisis that has affected millions. Over 70% of the country’s population is currently living in poverty, with more than 4.8 million people suffering from food insecurity. Political instability, armed conflict and extreme weather coupled with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has caused the country’s GDP to decrease by 1.5%. Extreme weather caused over $3 billion worth of damage to Somalia in 2018 which was more than 50% of the country’s GDP. The current state of Somalia has only deteriorated with the need for humanitarian support increasing. Food insecurity, malnutrition and access to clean water in Somalia are major issues requiring continued humanitarian attention.

Access to Clean Water in Somalia

The United Nations has reported that over 2 billion people globally lack access to clean water. UNICEF reports that only 52% of the population of Somalia has access to a water source. With such a low percentage of the Somali people having readily accessible clean water, preventable diseases become a greater threat. Access to clean water in Somalia means improving sanitation, hygiene and decreasing susceptibility to diseases like cholera, diarrhea and respiratory infections.

Save the Children has reported that droughts have left 70% of Somali families lacking access to clean water. The survey gathered responses from over 630 families in 18 provinces of Somalia. Droughts have led to crop failures resulting in more people struggling with food insecurity. Without access to clean water, women and children face an increased risk of health-related issues, like preventable diseases and childbirth complications.

Providing Clean Water in Somalia

Mercy-USA for Aid and Development is a nonprofit organization from Michigan that has been working in Somalia since 1997. The United States-based nonprofit has projects spanning several countries including Syria, Kenya and Yemen. The programs in Somalia are developing self-reliance skills through education, skill training and food and water assistance. In order to combat the crisis of accessibility to clean water in Somalia, Mercy-USA is building wells for the Somali people. The organization has built over 700 wells, which have provided clean water to over 750,000 people. The organization can build a new well for $3,500 which can provide water to an entire community.

CARE International is a non-governmental organization based in Switzerland that has been providing humanitarian aid to Somalia since 1981. The organization has been helping mitigate the damage that extreme weather like floods and droughts have had on Somali agriculture. CARE’s programs in Somalia have helped over 250,000 people through improvements to clean water accessibility, sanitation and hygiene. The organization works with local authorities and international organizations to treat preventable diseases like acute watery diarrhea. CARE International has provided over 10,000 people access to clean water. The organization’s ongoing projects include efforts to improve agriculture, sanitation and develop local businesses.

Looking Forward

With extreme weather displacing communities and damaging agriculture, more people are finding themselves without access to clean water in Somalia. The Somali government is working to expand assistance and opportunities to those suffering from the effects of poverty with the support of humanitarian organizations like Mercy-USA and CARE International. The poverty rate is expected to remain at 71% as the Coronavirus pandemic further exacerbates food insecurity and displacement. Continued humanitarian support is necessary to improve the situation of the Somali people and ensure everyone has access to clean water in Somalia.

– Gerardo Valladares
Photo:Flickr