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Child Poverty in Austria
The Republic of Austria is a landlocked nation located in Central Europe. With its rich history and picturesque mountain views, Austria is a well-traveled country in the European Union (E.U.). Nevertheless, child poverty in Austria is a topic of discussion for many officials and leaders in the Central European nation. In 2019, approximately 372,000 Austrian children and youth younger than 20 years old lived in households vulnerable to social exclusion and poverty. These children, in particular, are more likely to be deprived of opportunities and basic needs in comparison to wealthier households. As such, organizations aim to address child poverty in Austria.

4 Facts About Child Poverty in Austria

  1. Roughly 6.2% of Austrian children live in conditions of relative poverty. About 33% of Austrian children “live with at least one person” who is a migrant. In this case, it is notable that poverty disproportionately affects the migrant population. Other children in impoverished conditions come from large families or single-parent households.
  2. Austria has a particularly high number of child refugees. In Austria, “1,751 unaccompanied migrant children applied for asylum in 2017.” Austria takes in many migrant children from the Middle East and from other war-torn areas of the world. Vienna, the capital of Austria, funded a program for unaccompanied minors coming to Austria, particularly trafficking victims.
  3. Child trafficking is rife. The United States Department of State’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report for Austria specified that a Vienna-based program offered legal, psychological, social, language and medical assistance to victims, including child trafficking victims. Though this program did not work in practice, it still aided NGOs and other organizations that advocate for children, migrants and asylum seekers to better identify trafficking victims. Therefore, this initiative still aided the overall global human trafficking crisis, with a particular focus on children.
  4. Rising child poverty rates. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which began in Paris, France, is an organization with various member countries that have commitments to world trade and overall economic progress. It reported that children from Austria are relatively better off when looking at the organization’s average poverty numbers, though these numbers are deceptive. Despite this fact, in 2015, the OECD reported an increase in the number of Austrian children living in relative poverty, even though the country is performing relatively well according to OECD standards.

SOS Children’s Villages

Several organizations aim to address child poverty in Austria. One such NGO is SOS Children’s Villages. The organization’s founder, Hermann Gmeiner, was an Austrian citizen. Gmeiner established the organization in the Austrian town of Imst, Tyrol, in response to the growing number of children suffering “without parental care in post-war Austria.” The organization works with children and families to tackle child poverty worldwide. SOS Children’s Villages has a large presence in Austria, with various initiatives like family strengthening programs, support for children who do not have adequate parental care and accommodation for refugee children. Over the last seven decades, SOS Children’s Villages has improved the lives of more than 4 million children worldwide.

With organizations committing to reducing child poverty in Austria, there is hope for Austrian children to look to a better and brighter tomorrow.

– Rebecca Fontana
Photo: Flickr

Ahmad Joudeh and SOS Children's VillagesAhmad Joudeh is a world-renowned ballet dancer and is famous for his performance in Eurovision 2021. His background is less well-known. Growing up in a refugee camp in Syria, Joudeh dreamed of dancing. In 2021, he began volunteering with SOS Children’s Villages, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting children and families in poverty and providing humanitarian assistance where it is needed.

Ahmad Joudeh Growing Up

Ahmad Joudeh grew up with aspirations of dancing since he was young. For much of his young life, he lived in a refugee camp. Joudeh lived in an environment where poverty is the norm. The people around Joudeh were primarily unsupportive of his dancing. However, he defied traditional expectations of men in Syria and would dance in the streets.

Joudeh studied dance at the Enana Dance Theatre for almost a decade from 2006 to 2015. He made his biggest appearance on the world stage in Eurovision 2021. In his free time, Joudeh teaches at the SOS Children’s Villages. Joudeh dances with the children and volunteers to inspire them in the art of dance and help them build confidence to navigate any issues that may arise while living in poverty.

SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children’s Villages is an international organization with more than 130 “villages” in operation. The organization was founded by Herman Gmeiner in 1949 after witnessing the effects of World War II on local children. Gmeiner developed SOS Children’s Villages with the help of family, friends and generous donors. Since then, Gmeiner’s organization has blossomed to help children on an international scale.

The SOS Children’s Villages help families struggling financially by training parents in skills for workplace environments or counseling families as needed. The organization works one-on-one with children to provide education and health services while advocating at policy levels and providing safe spaces to explore.

Children and Families Using SOS Children’s Villages Services

Since children and families involved with SOS Children’s Villages face financial difficulties, they often do not have the tools or resources to help themselves. As a result, a significant number of SOS Children’s Villages residents rely on education. With volunteers, the organization reaches out within the communities where volunteers operate. The volunteers engage the families and children struggling and provide quality education on life skills.

When SOS Children’s Villages are helping a child or a family, the villages provide a safe space. For hours each day, the families are cared for in a safe environment to foster new habits and skills until each individual or family no longer requires the organization’s services. SOS Children’s Villages operate in areas where poverty is high. For example, in the main village in Syria where Ahmad Joudeh volunteered, the poverty rate reached 80%. The village works with families to ease financial burdens in both the short and long terms.

Building Community

The education provided to parents and children worldwide through this organization helps each person find a good job or mentorship. In addition, with its advocacy work, SOS Children’s Villages helps build protection within communities and in governments to support families in poverty.

Because people born into poverty often do not have access to higher education, they are likely to remain in poverty. In 2018, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) surveyed childhood education, attendance and poverty and found that more than 250 million children globally cannot attend school due to the cost. SOS Children’s Villages provide education to children at no cost to the families to break the cycle of poverty.

Understandably, Ahmad Joudeh knows the strains poverty can have on children. The mental health issues that develop in children living in poverty are most commonly anxiety and depression. So while SOS Children’s Villages operate to ease physical and financial difficulties, Joudeh dances with the children and strives to help them achieve their dreams.

Ahmad Joudeh’s Involvement and His Hopes for the Children

Joudeh has a deep respect for the work of SOS Children’s Villages. For some time, he has taught dancing in the organization’s village in Damascus to help build long-term goals for children. In 2016, Joudeh also did a workshop with the children in the SOS Children’s Village Vicenza. Joudeh dances with the children and guides them to work through their anxieties and constant worries around them. The mental toll on children in poverty in the areas where SOS Children’s Villages operate is devastating.

Joudeh dances with the children step-by-step, providing undivided attention, teaching them to focus on the music and not the world. The safe space he creates through dance grants these children an opportunity to explore and feel free without worries about what the outside world may bring or what challenges await their families. Joudeh dances with the children because his dreams of dance have expanded over the years. The freedom Joudeh finds in dancing is a feeling he hopes to extend to the children in the SOS Children’s Villages.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in BulgariaThe impact of COVID-19 globally is undeniable. From Canada to Ukraine, every nation is fighting the virus. Bulgaria is facing a similar battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty. Organizations are fighting to keep both under control while implementing solutions to address the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bulgaria and around the world.

The Fight Against COVID-19

Bulgaria’s first COVID-19 case occurred on May 8, 2020, which was later than many of its neighbors. The Bulgarian parliament quickly went into a state of emergency on May 13, 2020, due partially to the weak healthcare system. Discussions about how to balance the economy and COVID-19 precautions soon started. Despite the government’s best efforts, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bulgaria was significant.

The Past Against the Present

Bulgaria’s past has contributed to its present state. Bulgaria became its own independent country in 1908, with the occurrence of World War I six years later. The defeat of Bulgaria in World War I saw the loss of 100,000 people. Twenty years afterward, World War II started, resulting in an eventual Soviet invasion. Communism ruled for the next five years.

These events led to economic unrest for several years. Bulgarians boycotted and protested the crisis several times throughout the years, most recently in 2013. The first protests led to Bulgaria joining the European Union but the transition was rough on living standards. Structural reforms in the late 1990s led to faster growth and better living for Bulgarians, with some economic issues in 2008, 2013 and 2014, despite overall improvement. The impact of COVID-19 on Bulgarian poverty has many experts concerned about a possible relapse into economic decline.

The Virus Against the Economy

The negative impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bulgaria began when the country’s economy was doing well. COVID-19 dragged the economy into a recession throughout 2020 and 2021. As a result, poverty in Bulgaria in 2021 could increase before it declines. Job losses and poverty have hit young people especially hard. Bulgaria will take time to recover from the economic shock of COVID-19, according to many experts. Alongside high productivity, experts have emphasized several components that Bulgaria must prioritize for its economic recovery:

  • Optimal use of EU money
  • Reopening of businesses
  • Reducing crime rates
  • More job prospects
  • More educational opportunities

Solutions in the Present

Bulgaria’s long-term recovery will take years, but organizations are currently attempting to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on Bulgarian poverty. SOS Children’s Villages prioritizes the well-being of young people who have suffered the most from poverty in Bulgaria.

SOS Children’s Villages dedicates itself to helping lift children and teenagers out of poverty all over the world. The organization has two bases in Bulgaria — the cities of Sofia and Trjavna. Its focus is on strengthening families, improving care in families and providing support for young people. The organization also promotes advocacy and improves emergency programs for unaccompanied refugee children. Reducing the child poverty rate is the overall goal of SOS Children’s Villages in Bulgaria.

Despite the significant impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bulgaria, organizations like SOS Children’s Villages are providing substantial aid. With the continued commitment of organizations, poverty in Bulgaria will reduce and Bulgaria will find its way to economic recovery,

– Audrey Burran
Photo: Flickr

Mental health in ItalyItaly is the fourth most populous nation in Europe, with a population of 60.36 million people as of 2019. As it stands, Italy remains one of the most COVID-19 affected countries, and the resulting lockdown has had a noticeable impact on the mental health of the Italian population. However, there is more to the story of mental health in Italy than the effects of the pandemic.

Italy’s Past Relationship with Mental Health

Italy passed Law Number 180 in 1978. Law Number 180 blocked all new admissions to Italian mental hospitals. This subsequently led to all mental hospitals in Italy closing by the year 2000. This change came about so that mental patients would receive similar treatment to other patients with physical ailments. Psychiatric wards that still exist in the country are located inside general hospitals with roughly 10 available beds in these wards per 100,000 people, and only 46 beds per 100,000 people in community residential facilities. These numbers can also vary significantly between geographical areas.

The State of Mental Health in Italy

In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, Italy had been doing relatively well in terms of mental health. For example, in 2016, Italy had one of the lowest suicide rates among G7 countries, at 6.3 suicides per 100,000 people. This is less than half the rate of the United States in 2016, which was 13.3 suicides per 100,000 people. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that in 2017, 5.1% of the Italian population suffered from some form of depressive disorder and 5% of the population suffered from an anxiety disorder.

The Effects of COVID-19

The full effects of COVID-19 on mental health in Italy are unknown. However, psychological studies conducted while lockdown measures were in place provide some clarity on the subject. One online survey issued approximately four weeks into lockdown measures in Italy showed notably increased rates of post-traumatic stress syndrome, symptoms of depression, insomnia, symptoms of anxiety and perceived stress.

The Future of Mental Health in Italy

According to experts, there are going to be psychosocial and economic ramifications resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, due to the trauma associated with being a frontline worker, there is a projected decline in the mental health of frontline doctors and nurses. This decline will also affect members of the Italian population that have undergone any psychological distress because of the pandemic.

Steps have already been taken to help those suffering from COVID-19-related stress. In March 2020, the Italian government launched a national mental health service intended to combat the rise of mental distress in Italy. The program works with institutions and regional associations to provide free emergency help from psychoanalysts and psychologists. The new mental health service can also provide necessary mental resources to low-income families and individuals living independently as they are more at risk of developing mental health disorders.

Additionally, SOS Children’s Villages, an organization that has also taken action on the issue of mental health in Italy during COVID-19, has partnered with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the City University of New York and the WHO to train individuals on how to provide low-intensity psychological interventions to individuals in need of psychological aid.

The “Living with the Times” toolkit made by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support also helps to provide adults with the tools necessary to support one’s mental health, as well as the welfare of those around them.

Italy has a unique relationship with mental health treatment, and COVID-19 presents an unusual challenge for the nation. Efforts by the institutions that have partnered with the Italian government, as well as local NGOs and nonprofits, aim to reduce the damage caused by COVID-19 by making mental health care widespread and accessible.

– Brendan Jacobs
Photo: Unsplash

Child Poverty in Germany
Germany is located in west-central Europe and has a population of more than 83 million people and rising. Despite being a wealthy country, child poverty in Germany persists and impacts millions of children all across the nation. Here are some facts about the issue and examples of how the German government and nonprofit organizations are trying to fix it.

Single-Parent Households and Immigrants Suffer the Most

A total of 2.8 million children in Germany live in poverty. This means that approximately 21.3% of those under 18 grow up without the resources and living standards their peers enjoy. The families that poverty most impacts are those that only have one parent to provide for the children. In fact, 44% of single-parent households are struggling with poverty. This percentage is even higher for immigrant families and large families.

Poverty in Germany Equals Severe Life Restrictions

While child poverty in Germany does not necessarily mean that all children affected are starving, it often presents noticeable consequences for their lives. Growing up poor often results in children lacking access to basic things such as cars or electronics that are increasingly necessary for education. It further impacts the children’s social lives, since they often cannot afford to participate in clubs and activities or do not live in places big enough to have friends over. Child poverty also links to an increased risk of health problems due to families not being able to afford nutritious foods and having less balanced lifestyles.

The Strong Families Act

The German government introduced and passed the Strong Families Act in 2019. The act intends to help families with financial struggles by reforming the child benefit supplement system. A total of one billion euros ($1.2 billion) that the German government spent between 2019 and 2021 is supporting the reform. The reform includes making it easier for families to access aid that the government provides and to have the maximum supplement increased to 185 euros ($224) a month. The Strong Families Act further encourages parents of low-income families to make more money, as the child benefit supplement no longer instantly reduces due to the extra amount they earn.

Child poverty in Germany has a significant impact on education and future perspectives for those it affects. A study from 2019 showed that 36% of 25-year-olds who had experienced poverty as children were still living in poverty due to a lack of resources. For reference, only 20% of 25-year-olds who did not grow up poor were having the same financial struggles. The German government is attempting to change that by investing 220 million euros ($265 million) yearly through the Strong Families Act. The money will pay for school meals and transport for families in need and further raises the aid for school materials from 100 euros ($121) to 150 euros ($182) each year.

SOS Children’s Villages Help Children in Poverty

Outside of the government, there are several nonprofit organizations that are trying to help children who grow up in poverty. A very well-known organization is SOS Children’s Villages, an Austrian organization with more than 40 locations in Germany. It provides a wide variety of services to families in need, including daycare, counseling and aid to help prepare poor children for their future. SOS Children’s Villages was especially supportive of unattended youth in need who came into the country as a result of the refugee crisis in 2015. The organization offered language courses, integration support and cared for the children’s emotional needs.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: Flickr

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

Things to Know About Child Poverty in Costa Rica

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

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

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

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

SOS Children’s Villages

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

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

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

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

poverty eradication in Spain
While Spain is officially classified as a high-income country, it is not exempt from unceasingly high rates of poverty. Philip Alston, a U.N. expert, recently commented that poverty rates in Spain are “appallingly high” and among the highest in all of Europe. However, efforts to achieve eventual poverty eradication in Spain are underway.

Context

In 2018, over 26% of people in Spain were at high risk of poverty or social exclusion. Moreover, poverty particularly affected children (minors under the age of 18) — with nearly 33% of them either currently living in poverty, or at-risk. A contributing factor in the lingering poverty within these communities is the perpetuation of social immobility among citizens. According to Forbes, Spanish citizens born into families of wealth earn 40% more than people who are born into low-income households. The opportunities these people have to rise out of poverty on their own are nearly non-existent.

The Spanish government and nonprofit organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the issue of high poverty rates within the country. The government, along with other organizations are employing strategic innovations and other strategies every day to address poverty eradication in Spain. 

Government Innovations & Strategies

In March 2019, the National Strategy to Prevent and Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion passed as a new poverty-reduction movement. With its effective timeline lasting through 2023, the strategy includes four key components: (1) the reduction of current poverty, (2) raising social investment in education and employment, (3) increased social protections for at-risk citizens and (4) improving the effectiveness of public policies surrounding poverty eradication in Spain. This movement serves as an important step for the country’s government because it creates a space to address poverty eradication in Spain on a federal level — catering to the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Spain has recently made vast improvements to its minimum income scheme. With the goal of bringing 1.6 million people out of poverty, the new plan will ensure that families have an income between $514 and $1,130 per month, depending on their eligibility. The social program will take into account the number of children per household, single-parent households, annual income and finally, assets. In the words of Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, this poverty reduction strategy has birthed “a new social right in Spain” and looks to dissolve deeply ingrained social inequalities among its people.

Nonprofit Initiatives

The Spanish government is not the only body taking action to alleviate poverty. Organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages are actively working on lifting communities out of poverty. While the organization recognizes that Spain is actively working to address national poverty at large, it believes there is more to do in supporting individual families. Spain has the third highest childhood poverty rate in all of Europe and SOS Children’s Villages primarily targets these vulnerable and at-risk children through their many day centers and homeless villages. In hopes of creating more safe and secure Spanish households, it also focuses on psychological counseling for families and works to aid unemployed citizens in finding work. With ongoing humanitarian work in eight locations within mainland Spain and the Canary Islands, SOS Children’s Villages is an example of an organization that is actively working towards poverty eradication in Spain.

Implications

On both the public (federal) and private levels, Spain is developing new innovations and strategies to address its crippling poverty rates. The government’s plans to improve social programs and safety nets while ensuring income guarantees will potentially affect millions of people in struggling Spanish communities. Supplemented with the aid of nonprofit organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages, the goals of these programs hold promises of a better, more secure future for millions of people.

Karli Stone
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in India
Poverty has been at the forefront of India’s issues for an incredible amount of time. Based on the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) from Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, about 55% of Indians were poor in 2005-06. However, despite this grim reality, there have been various innovations in poverty eradication in India. The Indian government, with help from nonprofits, has come a long way in improving the welfare of the people. The number of people in poverty decreased from 630 million poor people to 360 million.

Nonprofits Making a Difference

The Akshaya Patra Foundation is a not-for-profit NGO that works with the Indian government to provide poor children meals during school. Its goal is to keep children both nourished and wanting to go to school. Since 2000, it has grown into the largest nonprofit lunch serving organization in the world. Akshaya Patra provides food every day to over 1.8 million children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has provided poor and at-risk people with almost 60 million meals and 760,000 grocery kits.

Another great organization helping in the fight against poverty is SOS Children’s Villages, with over 500 SOS Children’s Villages and 400 SOS Youth Facilities in more than 133 countries around the world. SOS Children’s Villages is a nonprofit that has dedicated itself to providing children with safe, loving environments with better access to food, education and health. In India, SOS Children’s Villages cares for over 25,000 children across 22 states, ensuring stability and better situations for those in need.

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is an international organization dedicated to researching effective ways to reduce poverty around the world and help create programs and policies that better alleviate these issues. IPA conducts randomized evaluations to find accurate insights into the causes of poverty. It then utilizes its findings to help governments and other institutions create more effective programs. Through its extensive network of world-class university researchers, IPA has “…designed and evaluated more than 550 potential solutions to poverty problems…” with over 280 more evaluations in progress.

The Work of the Indian Government

Additionally, the Indian government has initiated multiple programs and policies to help reduce poverty. India is the first country to make corporate social responsibility mandatory in the world. This ensures that big companies like Mahindra use their resources to help the poor. The government also has an important green initiative, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or “Clean India,” that ensures the health of the environment and people improves. This initiative focuses on increasing sanitation accessibility and standards in India, with the building of over 100 million toilets since October 2014.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian government has proved its dedication to upholding these standards. It issued a three-month-long campaign, Samudayik Shauchalaya Abhiyan (SSA), from June 15, 2020, to September 15, 2020, to emphasize the construction of Community Sanitary Complexes (CSCs) in villages. This campaign supports the influx of migrant workers/merchants traveling back to their home villages due to the pandemic.

Levels of poverty in India have improved over the years, but the country and nonprofits need to do more work. Fortunately, there are many institutions and programs in place continuing innovations in poverty eradication in India.

Saayom Ghosh
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in ZambiaZambia is quickly becoming one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most urbanized countries, but homelessness in Zambia is becoming increasingly prevalent. Zambia’s housing stock has a national deficit of 1.3 million units, which is projected to double by 2025. More than 60% of the Zambian population is under the poverty line, living on $2 a day; 40% are considered to be facing extreme poverty, with $1.25 a day. Roughly 70% of people living in urban areas do not have access to proper housing. They live in informal settlements that often have inadequate access to clean water or sanitation.

Urbanization Spurs Zambia’s Housing Crisis

High-income jobs are typically found in urban areas, making the urbanization rate nearly double the population growth rate. Increased urbanization increases the demand for jobs, stagnates wage growth and raises the price of housing. According to a 2010 estimate, when you compare purchasing power, the cost of living in Lusaka is higher than in Washington, D.C. In 1996, Zambia’s National Housing Policy was put into place. This policy recommended that 15% of the country’s budget every year be designated for housing developments. This policy was awarded the 1996 “HABITAT Scroll of Honor” by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, commending the policy’s focus on involving community participation.

Zambia’s Homeless and Poor People’s Federation was founded to raise awareness and offer possible solutions to Zambia’s housing crisis. It opened a house model during Lusaka’s 83rd Agricultural and Commercial Show. The Federation aimed to demonstrate the power and intelligence that the homeless community can leverage in finding solutions to the problems they face. It wanted to raise awareness around the concept of building incrementally and using low-cost building materials.

Child Homelessness & Solutions

Roughly 1.5 million Zambian children live on the streets, either due to being orphaned or due to extreme poverty. There are roughly 1.4 million orphans under the age of 15 in Zambia, and roughly 750,000 of these children were orphaned due to HIV/AIDS. This has led to a crisis in Zambia, as many street children are being exploited for child prostitution.

What’s being done to address child homelessness? First, approximately 75% of all Zambian households care for at least one orphan. The Zambian Ministry of Sport, Youth, and Child Development partnered with the Ministry of Defense to create youth rehabilitation and reintegration programs. Since the start of these programs in 2006, roughly 1,200 children have completed the rehabilitation program, with mixed results.

Other organizations are working to protect the rights of vulnerable children in Zambia. SOS Children’s Villages, established in 1996, helps provide safe housing for disadvantaged youth in Zambia. It also provides accessible education and medical treatment. To date, over 4,700 Zambian children have received education from SOS Children’s Villages, and over 7,000 have been enrolled in the Family Strengthening Program. Additionally, over 688 Zambian children have been provided with alternative care. Meanwhile, UNICEF works with the Zambian government to improve policies surrounding social services and the protection of Zambia’s orphans.

Land Policies Aim to Address Homelessness in Zambia

Several groups are working to improve housing conditions for Zambia’s homeless population. Habitat for Humanity raises awareness around land rights and focuses on empowering Zambian community members to advocate for the issues important to them. In 2018, 1,965 people volunteered with Habitat to help improve the housing available for people living in Zambia. The Internally Displaced Peoples’ Voice (Zambia) likewise promotes housing rights for vulnerable populations.

The Zambia Land Alliance promotes pro-poor land policy, criticizing past Zambian land rights policies for being too narrow and allowing abuse by public officials. For example, the Zambian Land Acts of 1995 state that “conversion of rights from customary tenure to leasehold tenure shall have effect only after the approval of the chief and the local authorities,” which can become problematic when local officials are not acting in the best interest of the affected communities. The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources has revealed that some public officials have been selling land to foreign investors, specifically commercial farmers, who then push out small, local farmers. There are currently land policies being drafted that emphasize the importance of improving land delivery mechanisms in Zambia.

Conclusion

When thinking about Zambian homelessness, it is important to look at the nation’s history. Many members of the United Nations have emphasized the impact of colonialism in spurring global homelessness, calling for greater support from developed nations. Dennis Chiwele of Zambia suggested that homelessness is often incited by urbanization and a lack of governmental safety nets. Countries like the United States should help nations like Zambia cope with these more complex side effects of urbanization.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in AfricaSub-Saharan Africa is the region in the world that hunger affects the most. In fact, 319 million people experienced undernourishment in 2018. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in four suffers from hunger, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 28 countries in Africa are dependent on food aid. Sub-Saharan Africa is a hotbed of chronic hunger largely due to its extreme poverty. However, poverty not only causes widespread hunger in Africa, but it also creates poverty. Malnutrition depletes nations of strength and productivity, effectively keeping the entire nation trapped in poverty. Africa will not escape poverty until it escapes hunger.

Chronic Hunger

Chronic hunger in Africa occurs when the daily energy intake is below what is necessary for a healthy and active life. The word “chronic” implies that it occurs for an extended period of time. While the current state of hunger in Africa may seem bleak, Africa has made progress. Malnutrition has declined by 4% between 2000 and 2014 due to economic growth and smart policies. However, malnutrition still remains a large issue in certain populations.

Hunger in Children

Children are most at risk for hunger in Africa and the hunger crisis particularly impacts them due to the fact that the first 1,000 days of a person’s life are critical in regards to nutrition. When a child does not receive proper food in the first 1,000 days, they can suffer physical and mental developmental delays, disorders, inability to fight disease and high infant mortality rates. Bill Gates noted his experience in African nations where people asked him to guess a child’s age based on their height. Children who Gates thought were 7 or 8 years old were in reality 12 or 13. This is due to the stunting that 28 million children in Africa experience. Malnutrition leads to stunting that not only impacts children’s height but also brain development. Stunted children are more likely to fall behind in school, miss critical reading and math milestones and go on to live a life in poverty.

Multiple Factors

Hunger in Africa is a complex crisis with many root causes. SOS Children’s Villages outlines some key causes of widespread hunger in Africa.

  1. The population continues to increase in sub-Saharan Africa and food production cannot keep up.
  2. Unfair trading structures lead to the European Union (E.U.) and the U.S. subsidizing domestic agriculture, resulting in farmers being unable to compete with cheap food imports.
  3. The high level of debt that characterizes many African nations, combined with poor governance and corruption, impede economic development. This consequently perpetuates mass poverty and hunger.
  4. The disease profile of Africa including AIDS and malaria creates an obstacle to individuals digesting their food properly. It also inhibits the productivity of the labor force leading to food scarcity.
  5. Conflict in Africa breeds economic instability, unproductivity and a growing refugee crisis.

However, the hunger crisis in Africa is not only complex due to its causes, but also because other issues largely interconnect with it and amplify it. For example, climate change creates weather patterns such as droughts that cause food insecurity. Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are all examples of nations facing successive crop failures and poor harvest due to drought, with Southern Africa experiencing its lowest rainfall since 1981.

A lack of access to clean water and sanitation leads to increased rates of disease that create another obstacle to nutrition. Poor health care infrastructure in Africa amplifies the obstacle of disease to malnutrition. A lack of health care stops children from getting vaccines such as the rotavirus vaccine that would lead to children having fewer bouts of diarrhea. Furthermore, health care can provide individuals with supplements and vitamins to make up for key gaps in their diets, as the nutrition strategy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows.

Organizations Working to Aid Africa

The complexity of the hunger crisis makes it incredibly difficult to combat. Fundamentally, Africa needs more research and funding. Bill and Melinda Gates are two people who have done tremendous work in Africa, donating over $600,000 to their Alliance to End Hunger Program. Through his work, Gates recognizes the complexity of hunger and notes that if he had one wish, it would be for the world to better understand malnutrition and how to solve it.

However, the continent is making progress to reduce widespread hunger in Africa. For example, organizations such as the SOS Children’s Villages provide family strengthening programs that give short and long term aid including food, access to medical care, school supplies and support with financial and household management. SOS Children’s Villages also provides emergency relief for the hunger crisis and famine to countries including Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Malawi. SOS Children’s Villages is currently active in 46 African countries, providing aid to 147 villages that would otherwise be in acute danger of malnutrition or starvation. Programs such as these need to not only continue but also to experience amplification via increased funding and research.

– Lily Jones
Photo: Pixabay