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

Poverty in the Czech Republic
In the European Union, the Czech Republic ranks second in terms of the risk of its population falling below the poverty line. A record low of 3.4% of the Czech Republic’s population is at risk of poverty according to Eurostat data. This is in comparison to the average of 10% of the European Union’s population that poverty threatens. With that in mind, here are five facts about poverty in the Czech Republic.

5 Facts About Poverty in the Czech Republic

  1. The Czech economy has been on an upward trend, which has helped young people. The improvement of the Czech economy has helped reduce the poverty rate in the country. The GDP growth rate and unemployment levels are among the best in Europe. The unemployment rate for the country was 2.9% in 2017, which ranks among the top tier in the world. The GDP growth rate of 3.18% in the Czech Republic is among Europe’s best and the GDP rose to $245.2 billion in 2018 in comparison to $186.8 billion in 2015. This has benefited young employed Czechs between the ages of 18 and 24, of whom only 1.5% were at risk of poverty in 2017. With a high labor shortage, this in turn has increased the wages young Czechs can attain.
  2. Women are at a higher risk of poverty. The Czech Republic has one of the highest wage gaps between men and women. On average, a Czech woman’s salary is 22% lower than her male counterparts. Women on a pension and single mothers are the two groups that poverty in the Czech Republic most affects. Mothers who come back from maternity leave often see a reduction in pay after returning to work, up until age 50. Women, who on average live six years longer than their spouses, often see a rise in their expenses after the death of their spouses.
  3. Education plays an important role. Education plays a large role in determining poverty status in the Czech Republic, especially among youth. Children whose parents are relatively low-skilled and low-educated are one of the highest at-risk groups for poverty in the EU. However, children of the well-educated in the Czech Republic are among the lowest risk for poverty in the EU. Because of the risk of poverty from their parents, some children struggle with living in adequate housing while trying to maintain their education. For those children who struggle to finish their education, SOS Children’s Villages will assist them with job training and living facilities.
  4. Measures that the new government introduced have helped. The new administration, which took power in 2014, has undertaken reforms to increase social welfare and attract financial investment. These reforms have improved the living conditions in the country which have played a role in reducing poverty. The Czech Republic also introduced an online tax reporting system that should increase revenues and decrease tax evasion. The economic reforms have resulted in a budget surplus (1.6% of GDP in 2017) and a decrease in unemployment from 6.1% in 2014 to 2.9% in 2017, as well as increased GDP per capita by over $2,000 from 2015 to 2017.
  5. Housing costs are expensive. For two straight years in 2017 and 2018, the Czech Republic had the least affordable housing in Europe according to a study by Deloitte Property Index. The average Czech worker will have to work 11.8 years in order to have enough money to be able to afford a home. This was the highest figure in the study and 59% higher than the average. Factors relating to the housing market include lack of new apartments on the market, regulatory measures by the Czech National Bank and public sentiment. However, some cities like Ostrava do have affordable housing and housing is becoming more affordable in other cities as well.

These five facts about poverty in the Czech Republic highlight a few key points. New government measures have helped in the fight against poverty as well as the growth of the Czech economy. Young people have been doing extremely well in the country which has helped bring the overall poverty rate down. However, the nation can still do more work in the fight against poverty, especially in terms of helping female workers in the country and making housing more affordable. Overall, one can be optimistic about how the Czech Republic is taking further steps to reduce poverty in the country.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Flickr

Economy and Poverty in Greece
The economy and poverty in Greece are two subjects that connect to one another. Starting in 2010, Greece has been climbing its way out of an economic crisis. The country is slowly paying back billions of dollars in debt due to chronic fiscal mismanagement. In the last decade, poverty in Greece has grown rampant. Incomes have crumbled by more than 30% and more than one-fifth of Greeks are unable to pay rent, electricity and bank loans. Additionally, one-third of families have at least one member who does not have employment. Due to its financial downfall, more than a third of Greece’s 10-million-person population is in poverty. Many citizens doubt that this nation will be able to turn things around fast enough and help those most in need.

5 Facts About the Growth of Poverty in Greece

  1. In 1999, the euro launched in 11 European countries. However, Greece did not meet the fiscal criteria due to its budget deficit and debt-to-GDP ratio.
  2. Greece adopted the euro currency in 2001 but did so by distorting its finances. During that time, Greece’s budget deficit was more than 3%. Additionally, it had a debt level above 100% of its GDP.
  3. In 2004, Greece held the summer Olympics in Athens. This cost the country approximately $12 billion, which it did not have.
  4. The United States suffered through a crisis of its own which triggered a global banking and credit crunch in 2007-2008. As a result, borrowing costs rose around the world, subsequently affecting Greece.
  5. The EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) granted $146 billion in loans to Greece over the course of three years in 2010. In exchange, Prime Minister Papandreou promised to cut spending and increase taxes.

According to economist and former finance minister of Greece James Galbraith, the last decade will go down in Greek history as a period of asset-stripping, poorly funded health care and education, unemployment, bankruptcies and foreclosures, homelessness and even suicide.

The Good News

While financial devastation has affected Greece and its people, there is some good news. Greece now has more control than ever before when it comes to its economy. For the first time since 2010, Greece can borrow money at standard rates. The hope is that Greece will be able to pay back loans faster and with less burdensome contingencies.

How the United States is Helping Greece

The United States government and its people are attempting to help solve the issues regarding the economy and poverty in Greece. One way that people can help is simply by donating. Foundations such as SOS Children’s Villages works with children, families and communities to prevent family breakdown and ensure that children’s rights are met. Meanwhile, The Hellenic Initiative is an organization that is answering Greeks’ calls by providing a critical safety net to families that the crisis hit the hardest along with their relief partners. By donating to one or both of these organizations, children who have experienced abandonment or became orphans will receive a second chance, vulnerable families will be able to obtain psychological support and Greek hospitals will be better equipped.

Greek Americans who have dual citizenship can also help solve the problem of the economy and poverty in Greece because many can still vote in Greek elections and use their voices to make a difference. As for appointed leaders, Americans can urge their senators and congressmen to continue supporting Greece by exporting defense articles, medical, construction, food processing, specialty agriculture and packaging materials. Another way to show leaders that helping Greece matters is by simply emailing or calling them.

Though it has been a tough decade for Greece and its people, everyone and everything is capable of resilience. It may take a while for the nation to fully recover, but it can get there faster with a little hope from its people and a little help from the United States.

Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Russia
Although coverage on Russia often dominates the American news cycle, people give little attention to the prevalence of poverty in the country. Many Russians live in unacceptably impoverished conditions and face food insecurity. Hunger in Russia is on a downward trend and both NGOs and the government are undergoing concerted efforts to address both poverty and food insecurity in the country.

10 Facts About Hunger in Russia

  1. Poverty Rate: Although the rate of extreme poverty in Russia—those living under the international poverty line of $1.90 a day—is at zero percent, 13.2 percent or 19 million Russians live in poverty under the national definition of $12.80 a day. This is a contested figure, however, as some claim that the poverty rate is as high as 14.3 percent.

  2. Poverty and Hunger: Poverty is the primary factor behind hunger in Russia. Other than those living in dire poverty, most of the population consumes over 2,100 calories daily—well above the 1,900 calories a day guideline that the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) set. Those with higher incomes in Russia ingest over 3,000 calories a day, similar to those living in developed nations.

  3. Food Insecurity: People with disabilities, older people with little sources of income and families with children are some of the populations who face the most food insecurity in Russia. Another population that often faces food insecurity is people with HIV and those who inject drugs (PWIJ) and these make up an estimated 2.3 percent of the population. The irregular schedule and often low socioeconomic status of PWIJ means they often face hunger and malnutrition.

  4. Rising Food Costs: In 2016, the average Russian consumer spent 50.1 percent of their income on food—the highest percentage in almost a decade. This was due to the Russian government introducing embargos on many food exports from Western countries as retaliation for sanctions in 2014. Consequently, food costs spiked for consumers. Since 2014, the price of frozen fish has increased by 68 percent and the prices of butter and white cabbage have respectively risen by 79 percent and 62 percent.

  5. Global Hunger Index Rate: Despite these increases, in 2019, the Global Hunger Index gave Russia a score of 5.8, which qualifies as a low level of hunger. This number is representative of statistics which reveal that less than 2.5 percent of the overall population suffers from undernourishment. This is a dramatic decrease from 2000 when the nation had a GHI score of 10.3 or a moderate level of hunger: 5.1 percent of the population lacked nourishment. This level of undernourishment was the result of a struggling economy still reeling from the demise of the Soviet Union. In fact, from 1999-2000, more global food aid went to Russia than Africa. Since then, however, the macroeconomic conditions in Russia have largely improved resulting in higher incomes that allow consumers to afford food. This trend is also evident in the statistics for wasting and stunting in children under 5: in 2000, those percentages were 4.6 and 16.1 percent respectively, whereas in 2019 they are 3.9 and 10.7 percent.

  6. Growing Food: While the skyrocketing high food costs do pose a risk to Russia’s future GHI index score, both urban and rural Russian families are turning to their own backyards to produce their food. In 2016, approximately 25 percent of Russians relied on fruits and vegetables harvested in their own backyards. This is a continuation of a tradition dating back to the mid-20th century where Russians would combat food shortages under a communist regime by quietly supplying their own food.

  7. Obesity: While the rates of hunger in Russia decreased over the past two decades, the percentage of obese people increased. In 2015, almost 60 percent of the adult population was overweight and 26.5 percent obese. These numbers strongly correlate with socioeconomic status and education levels. Studies suggest that this is the result of a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in dairy, meat, sugar and alcohol. Experts suggest that just decreasing food prices for healthier foods—such as fruits and vegetables—will not be enough to combat obesity. Instead, there must also be a robust public health program.

  8. Declaration to Halve Poverty: However, there is also good news. As previously mentioned, poverty is the primary cause of hunger in Russia and, on May 7, 2018, a Decree of the President declared an initiative to halve poverty by 2024. Russia plans on achieving this goal through a stimulus plan worth $400 billion that builds new infrastructure and invests in research. While some are pessimistic about Russia’s ability to meet this target, economists at the Brookings Institute believe that even with an annual GDP growth rate of 1.5 percent—a conservative target—through increasing the efficiency of existing social assistance programs and dedicating slightly more funds towards poverty reduction, this ambitious goal is possible.

  9. Investing in Agriculture: Furthermore, over the past decade, the Russian government has also heavily invested in promoting nationwide agricultural self-sufficiency. The Russian government is committing itself to eventually self-supplying 80 to 90 percent of most foods. In order to achieve this target, the country is now subsidizing large farms. The agricultural sector grew by 5 percent in 2016 and 2.4 percent in 2017. People will eventually see the long term impact of these policies on hunger in Russia and whether this investment can lower the costs of food for everyday people and lower the rates of hunger in Russia.

  10. SOS Children’s Village: There are also a variety of organizations working towards preventing hunger in Russia. One such organization is the SOS Children’s Village which specifically helps children whose families can no longer support them. The organization, which started working in Russia in the late 1980s,  also engages in advocacy work with the government to ensure the utmost protection of these children and their nutritional needs.

In conclusion, while hunger in Russia remains a serious problem, there is a reason for cautious optimism. As displayed by the remarkable decrease in rates of undernourishment in the population over the past 20 years, the government, the global community and NGOs are working to end hunger in Russia.

– Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in India
India is the second most populated country in the world with around 1.3 billion inhabitants and the seventh-largest country in terms of size. It is also a prominent figure in the United Nations and other international deliberative assemblies. The country’s top exports include petroleum, medicaments, jewelry, rice and diamonds with major imports consisting of gold, petroleum, coal and diamonds. India’s main trade partners are the United States, Saudi Arabia, China, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While the country wields power as a major partner in worldwide trade and holds the title of the 17th largest export economy, many Indians still struggle to make ends meet. Indian children, in particular, must carry the heavy burden of supplying for their families far more often than any child should. The following are 10 facts on the reality of child labor in India and what the country is doing to improve these children’s quality of life.

10 Facts About Child Labor in India

  1. Poverty is the main driving cause of child labor in India. There is often an increased reliance on child labor in India due to the need to provide a necessary income contribution to one’s household or out of an obligation to fund a family debt, especially considering the susceptibility of Indian families to enter poverty. In some cases, a child’s income amounts to 25 to 40 percent of a total household income.
  2. A lack of quality education also causes children—particularly girls—to turn to work. Girls are two times more likely to take on domestic jobs like cleaning, cooking and general housekeeping if out of school. Also, even though India’s 2009 Right to Education Act made education for 6 to 14 year-olds compulsory, it did little to improve the educational infrastructure across all of India. A 2006 survey found that 81,617 school buildings lacked blackboards to display class content on and that around 42,000 state-supported schools conducted classes and academic activities without an actual building.
  3. Child labor affects 5 to 14 year-olds disproportionately and is present in some of India’s most unsafe industries. Almost 60 percent of all working five to 14-year-olds are located in five of India’s 29 states. The latest available census found that of the 10.1 million children in India between the ages mentioned above, 2.1 million live in Uttar Pradesh, 0.1 million in Bihar, 0.84 million in Rajshahi, 0.7 million in Madhya Perish and 0.72 million in Maharashtra. Around 20.3 percent of Indian children work in hazardous industries such as mining gemstones and construction — even in spite of the existence of laws that are supposed to prohibit this activity in India.
  4. Indian legal rulings on child labor have brought about unorganized trade, called the informal sector–an area of trade that has little to no regulation on the production of goods. Though it is not the greatest source of GDP growth in India, the informal sector still constitutes 90 percent of the workforce in the country. Because of the nature of child labor and the need to often choose work over education, the majority of child laborers work in this unskilled sector. Government-mandated inspections are infrequent, and employers rarely uphold legal rights for workers and do not enforce minimum wage standards.
  5. Production work in India can range from seemingly harmless to very harmful. Many children at work in India take part in “bangle-making, stainless-steel production, bidi-making, hotels, and small automobile garages and workshops.” However, some of these workers experience serious health issues as a result of their involvement. One such sector is incense production, which causes respiratory tract problems. The ILO finds that girls are more likely to work in this sector, and as such, are often more susceptible to these health issues.
  6. A decades-old child labor law in India requires amendments to solve the issue of loopholes. The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 defines a child as a person of 13 years of age or younger. This ruling prohibits children from working or from employers putting them to work. Adolescents are of age 14 or older, and may work in unhazardous occupations. The law, however, does not outline all types of work that can become unsafe after an extended period. The penalties for violating this rule are also not enough to encourage employers to move away from adolescent work.
  7. Maintaining child labor in India is detrimental to the country’s economy. Investing time and funding in children’s education upfront might feel like an economically unwise choice, but in the words of Frans Roeselaers, ILO International Programme director on the Elimination of Child Labour, “ [childhood education investment] gives enormous, almost astronomical returns in terms of both productivity and increased wages once the child grows up and becomes a worker.” Not only do companies benefit from more educated workers, but individual households will also experience an improved quality of life thanks to the higher salaries of the jobs more educated people can obtain. As a result, the government would also benefit from those higher salaries in the form of greater tax returns.
  8. India has made or is in the process of making various efforts to establish institutional unity and solve the child labor crisis. The state of Andhra Pradesh, India is working on an economic model that would eliminate the need for child labor and urge other Indian states to follow suit or use as its example as inspiration for similar approaches. The Universal Alliance of Diamond Workers (UADW) is working to establish the involvement of children in the gemstone industry as unsuitable in many respects. Also, the M. Venkatarangaiah Foundation in India has strategized different and adaptable approaches to “prevent early drop-out and involvement in child labor, by motivating parents, easing enrolment problems and bridging the gap between home and school.” The initiative utilizes groups of government teachers, officials elected to represent their community at a higher governmental level and other community members who have counsel to provide based on experience and observation. As this effort grew in acceptance and implementation, 85 villages rid their industries and establishments of any opportunity to utilize child labor.
  9. Recent updates to rules on child labor in India have resulted in improvement. As of 2017, the Indian government moved to ratify both ILO Convention 182 and Convention 138–two improved standards of labor laws that the country hopes to introduce as status quo in years to come. India’s leaders also devised a new National Plan of Action for Children that establishes the National Policy for Children. This policy focuses on helping improve the conditions and tolerance for continued child labor and child trafficking.
  10. There are several organizations already working to address India’s child labor crisis specifically. Groups like CHILDLINE India Foundation, Save The Children India and SOS Childen’s Villages India are all working to combat child labor in India.

Although India has a long way to go to eradicate child labor, it is making serious steps towards its goal. The help of various NGOs and the improvement of existing laws should help reduce child labor in India.

– Fatemeh-Zahra Yarali
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Orphanages
UNICEF defines an orphan as “a child under 18 years of age who has lost one or both parents to any cause of death.” The United States and various other Western states have largely phased out orphanages — institutions aimed at caring for and housing children who have lost or been separated from their families. Parts of the developing world continue to use them, however. Keep reading to discover 10 facts about orphanages.

10 Facts About Orphanages

  1. The physical shelter of orphanages is a benefit for children who have become separated from or lost family, however, they need much more than that. Orphan children require affection, figures they can look up to and a sense of emotional security to ensure they reach their fullest developmental potential. While many orphanages have not provided this care in the past, the United Nations’ implementation of the “Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children” in 2009 calls for the strengthening of social services programs. Additionally, this document calls for the prioritization of family-oriented alternatives.
  2. For tourists looking to do some kind of service work abroad, volunteering in orphanages may not be the best way to do it. Throughout South Asia, human trafficking continues to plague many countries and can lead to the separation of children from their families. To continue attracting high paying tourists, many “orphanages” actually contain children whose parents or families are capable of taking care of them.
  3. Globally, the main reason for children winding up in orphanages is not due to parent loss. Rather, children often become separated from their parents due to poverty, which restricts parents from giving their children the care they need. In Sri Lanka, 92 percent of children in private institutions had at least one surviving parent, but these parents were unable to provide adequate care for their children.
  4. Many children who live in orphanages end up staying for extended periods of time, which can cause developmental delays in their social, emotional and intellectual developments.
  5. The number of orphanages is increasing, particularly in Asia, even though the number of orphans is decreasing. People’s living conditions are steadily improving around the world, and because of this, families are forcing fewer children from their family homes. Orphanage volunteerism, however, is a profitable market, which unfortunately means that the children’s wellbeing is often placed on the back burner.
  6. Oftentimes, the volunteers at orphanages are short-term, meaning that the kids living in the orphanages are not able to form healthy, long-term caretaker relationships. The best option would be to have qualified locals work in the orphanages, which would ensure that relationships last the duration of the children’s stay.
  7. A study conducted by the Bucharest Early Intervention Project found that if children under the age of two years old moved from institutional care to a foster care situation, they had a significantly higher chance of making developmental gains than those who stayed in institutional care.
  8. Donors and governments are usually well-intentioned while setting up orphanages but fail to see the long-term negative consequences that arise when children are in these institutions for prolonged periods of time. Creating a space in which disenfranchised children can exist together seems easier than helping an entire society of impoverished families create sustainable households.
  9. Children who end up in orphanages due to family separation do so because of natural disasters, displacement, economic hardships and other forms of conflict. Allowing them the chance to reunite with their families if possible is an effective way to ensure they do not suffer the negative effects of staying in an orphanage long-term.
  10. NGOs and governments often overlook children in institutions such as orphanages. SOS Children’s Villages, however, is an organization that focuses almost exclusively on orphaned children. Hermann Gmeiner founded the organization in Austria in 1949, because he saw the devastating effects of World War II on children firsthand. Today, SOS Children’s Villages works in 135 countries and villages. Instead of simply institutionalizing orphaned children, SOS Children’s Villages works with various communities in order to provide education and as close to family bonds as possible for the children.

These 10 facts about orphanages shed important light on what people largely think is a positive industry. While there are positive intentions behind the construction of orphanages, many do not provide children with the tools or developmental skills necessary to maintain long-lasting, healthy relationships. However, with help from organizations like SOS Children’s Villages, hopefully orphaned children will have a better future.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Help People in Belarus

The meltdown of Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant shook the world and showed the grim reality of the potential dangers associated with radiation. It has been over 30 years since the morning of April 26th, 1986, but even so, the effects of the nuclear meltdown can still be seen today. To help people in Belarus it is necessary to understand the impact of the radiation.

Since the accident, Belarus has seen increased levels of genetic disease and cancer in its population which can be traced back to the original incident. Over two-thirds of the radioactive fallout landed on Belarusian soil. The Belarusian Government acknowledges and tries to address these public health concerns, but due to lack of resources, they are limited in their efficacy. There is no ultimate solution to the question of how to help the people in Belarus. Nonetheless, the efforts of international organizations contribute to easing their problems.

Several charity organizations are working to improve the lives of disadvantaged Belarusians. One such charity is called Belarusian Victims of Chernobyl. Founded in the UK in 2001, this organization dedicates its efforts to providing financial and general aid to impoverished Belarusian families. Belarusian Victims of Chernobyl also focuses on improving access to medical care for sick Belarusian children, many of whom don’t have proper access to treatment.

Another charity that has improved the lives of thousands of children since the nuclear accident is the SOS Children’s Villages group, in partnership with the “Children of Chernobyl” organization. SOS Children’s Villages began working in Belarus immediately following the disaster and has since been providing treatment to children suffering from radiation-related illness.

The SOS Children’s village is a shining example of how to help people in Belarus. The level of radiation released during the accident was so high that large areas of radioactivity still exist today. According to the Chernobyl Children International fundraising group, over 1 million children still live in zones that are active with radiation.

Institutionalization of children with special needs is a huge problem in Belarus. Often, sick or disabled children are the most vulnerable to being put in a government-run care facility. Poverty is a huge issue as well, and the combination of impoverished families and disabled children has resulted in the institutionalization of many of these such children. The Belarusian Victims of Chernobyl charity offers families like this financial assistance to keep families together and ensure these children get the care they need.

One of the simplest ways to directly help people in Belarus is to donate funds or volunteer your time to charities like The Belarusian Victims of Chernobyl, SOS Children’s Village, and the Children of Chernobyl. Even the smallest contribution can have rippling, wide-spread effects.

Tyler Troped

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Central African Republic
Following a 2012 armed insurgency that fought for national control, a coalition of rebel militia factions started the Séléka movement and installed a new ruling regime that led to an unprecedented level of poverty in the Central African Republic.

Currently, the Central African Republic (CAR) ranks among the poorest countries both on the continent and globally. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) 2013 Human Development Report which classifies countries’ performances using a gamut of developmental variables, the Central African Republic ranked 180 out of 187 countries.

Additionally, as a result of current conflict in the country, the Central African Republic’s economic prospects are dismal at best, which is exemplified by its average income per capita of $750.

Implications of Poverty in the Central African Republic

The civil war has disproportionately affected the children of the Central African Republic; more than 50% of the population is below the age of 14. Children that manage to avoid becoming internally displaced persons or child soldiers often never enter the educational system. Moreover, teenage girls are more likely to be illiterate; they attend primary school at rates 21% lower than their male counterparts.

Unfortunately, the people of the CAR also have to contend with terrible health conditions. Currently, more than 120,000 persons live with HIV. Approximately 11,000 individuals require a recurring dose of antiretroviral drugs in order to prevent spreading their disease to a fetus.

The plight of people in the CAR is largely caused by the absence of sustainable agricultural practices. Apart from the effects of conflict, insufficient agricultural infrastructure has produced an alarming food security crisis — more than 10% of children in CAR suffer from malnutrition.

Although the humanitarian situation presents daunting challenges, the international community continues to demonstrate its commitment through stalwart relief efforts. Notably, S.O.S Children’s Villages International has created two-day care facilities, medical centers and educational services that are available to the people of the CAR for free.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is another international actor that has made an impact on poverty in the Central African Republic. So far, the WFP has provided meals to families with children under the age of five and plans to distribute 1.1 metric tons of food across the country in 2017.

In addition to international organizations and global nonprofits, governments that provide foreign aid have helped combat poverty. The United States plays an essential role in reversing poverty; in the past four years, the U.S. has contributed $190 million to the CAR and plans to contribute more than $31 million in 2016.

The global community must continue to prioritize curbing poverty in the Central African Republic, with both assistance programs and greater media coverage of the day-to-day plight for those in the country. It is practical to provide aid, as it is essential for international stability.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

SOS Children’s Villages
SOS Children’s Villages is a nonprofit group whose mission is to provide every child with the opportunity to grow up in a loving home to secure their futures as successful adults.

This international organization was founded in 1949 by Hermann Gmeiner to help orphaned children in Europe rebuild their lives after World War II. Now, SOS Children’s Villages sponsors vulnerable children and fragmented families in 125 countries, across 12 different continents, with headquarters in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

SOS Children’s Villages aims to help families stay together by offering community outreach programs that provide each family with a development plan designed specifically for their needs.

The nonprofit offers aid to children who have lost their parents, those living in an orphaned household and those whose parents suffer from a life-threatening disease. Funding for these villages comes from donations, volunteer workers, corporate partnerships, fundraising and sponsorships that offer donors the chance to support an orphaned child.

Each child that lives in an SOS village receives guaranteed education and health care. Nearly 100,000 children are enrolled in 187 SOS primary and secondary schools. Tens of thousands of people attend the 51 SOS vocational training centers created to enhance employment opportunities.

“If SOS Children was not here, our children would have become street children, with all the risks this may cause. Today, we are proud of ourselves, and many of us have found dignity. We can now stand on our own feet,” said a mother in Dakar, Senegal, now able to find financial independence thanks to an SOS outreach program.

With 150 SOS villages in 45 African countries, more educational projects are run in Africa than in any other continent. According to UNICEF, educating young people can support economic resilience and stability, as children learn to address family vulnerabilities and gain skills for future employment.

A total of 79 SOS medical centers have been built by the organization, primarily in Africa and the Middle East. In more remote areas that lack clinic access, SOS children train local people in the medical field, passing on first-aid skills and health advice garnered from SOS family health awareness campaigns.

Because vulnerable children often live in non-democratic societies, SOS prides itself on strong communication with central and local governments that hold legal responsibility for the welfare of these children. According to SOS, this has allowed them to bring aid to children in Zimbabwe, where other organizations have been asked to leave.

“As a result of the various economic opportunities that were created for many vulnerable families since the inception of the project [SOS Children’s Villages Ghana], more than 78 percent of caregivers have become more self-reliant and are capable of accessing social services like health, education, water and sanitation without external support,” said Alexander Mar Kekula, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Ghana.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: Ghana Web, SOS Children’s Villages 1, SOS Children’s Villages 2, SOS Children’s Villages 3, SOS Children’s Villages 4, SOS Children’s Villages 5, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr

“Give me sweets” is one of the phrases filling the air of Nairobi and the streets of Kenya as a whole.

Anyone who has ever been a tourist in Kenya is probably familiar with those words and the collection of palms pressing themselves onto the windows of the tourist vans. While it may have seemed like an annoyance or an adorable group of Kenyan children, what is really pressing itself against those cars is one of Kenya’s greatest problems.

According to Kenya Children of Hope, there are over 250,000 children living on the streets of Kenya. However, with the 1.1 million children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, the numbers are likely higher than what is reported.

Many of these children are sent by their parents to work or beg on the streets. Others are either orphaned or abandoned.

I remember walking through Nairobi with my parents as a young child and wondering why children and teenagers were lying down in the middle of squares in Nairobi. The answer I was given was that they were “sniffing glue.” I did not know what that meant at the time, but this drug problem is one of the many issues facing Kenyan street children.

The other issues facing these children include harassment (sexual and otherwise), a general danger of violence, sexual exploitation, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, abuse, neglect, hunger, lack of shelter, pregnancy and lack of sanitary conditions.

Yet another problem facing street children in Kenya is the information surrounding them. Kenya Children of Hope states that the number of street children that are counted and reported differ from study to study. There is little consistency and it is hard to target a problem that is not fully understood.

How can the United States, the Kenyan government or outside organizations know how much aid to put toward street children in Kenya if they do not know how many there are?

Another issue with the research on street children in Kenya is the under representation of street girls. Kenyan Children of Hope reports that 25 percent of street children in Nairobi District are girls. Part of the reason for lower coverage of street girls may be because of the occupations taken my each gender.

While boys tend to collect garbage, beg and find odd jobs, street girls often end up in the sex trade.

There are many good people working to help and feed these children on a small scale, like a teacher described by BBC news. Other organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages are doing good work and raising money to sponsor one child at a time.

While this work is necessary, the organizations working to help Kenyan street children need more funding. Rather than helping one child at a time, focus should be put on aiding all of the poor children in Kenya.

– Clare Holtzman

Sources: BBC, Kenya Children of Hope, SOS Children’s Villages
Photo: Amka Kenya