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Child Poverty in Cuba
Cuba is home to an impressive school system that aids the fight against child poverty. This developed as a result of the communist government which made a point of increasing literacy rates and education overall. Despite these efforts, child poverty in Cuba continues to affect the youngest inhabitants of the island.

During the “Special Period” after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba experienced widespread food insecurity and a lack of essential materials such as gas for transportation and medicine. Cubans refer to this time period between 1991 and 2000 as the “Special Period” because of the abrupt decline in food security. The situation began to improve when, in 2000, Venezuela began aiding the island. Today, the effects of the “Special Period” continue to affect child poverty in Cuba.

The Health of Children in Cuba

Examining the health of children can be helpful in indicating how severe child poverty is in a country. According to the UNICEF country profile for Cuba, in 2019, 5.1 children per 1,000 live births under the age of 5 died. In comparison to the lowest rates in the world in countries like Iceland and Norway, Cuba has substantial room for improvement. It is important to note that since the year 2000, the under-5 child mortality rate has dropped from 8.769 children per 1,000 live births to the 2019 rate.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has cited the most common causes of under-5 child mortality as infectious diseases, birth anomalies and complications. Notably, infectious diseases are often treatable and preventable. In Cuba, infant mortality is falling but perinatal disorders cause 80% of deaths.

In Cuba, the Global Nutrition Report found that only 17% of children aged 0 months to 59 months received hydration treatment when they had diarrhea. This is concerning considering that WHO cites diarrhea as a leading cause of under-5 child mortality. In 2014, the World Bank reported that 60.9% of children who had diarrhea in the two weeks preceding the survey received treatment. This implies that more than one-third of children who have diarrhea do not receive treatment in Cuba.

Additionally, low birth weights are rising slightly in occurrence in Cuba. A graph in the Global Nutrition Report depicts the trend. Between 2000 and 2010, the prevalence of children with low birth rates dropped. In 2010, 5.2% of children were born underweight and in 2015, reports stated that 5.3% were underweight. This change is small but may signify poor nutrition for expectant mothers, affecting the size of their children upon birth.

Education in Cuba

Education, another measure of the severity of child poverty, provides promising numbers for Cuba. Mass education of the public is a main focus of the Cuban government as a result of its campaign against the U.S. and has been since the 1959 Cuban Revolution. The reported numbers show that this focus has paid off in terms of mass education, though.

Poverty can significantly affect education. A study reported that poverty can affect how ready a child is for school and whether they can succeed academically. Cuban children are generally doing well in schools. UNESCO reported a decrease in illiteracy (the report determined that only 1,933 people aged 15-24 were illiterate in 2012). These rates are a reflection of the education system when those people were learning literacy.

The Novak Djokovic Foundation reported that primary school is compulsory in Cuba. This means that a vast majority (UNICEF reported that 99% of children complete primary school) of Cuban kids attend school. This statistic implies that many kids do not complete primary school.

Despite this effective system, one can see child poverty in Cuba through education as well. UNICEF reported that only 48% of children under the age of 5-years-old have more than three age-appropriate books in their household.

Solutions

Foreign charities are working in Cuba to help meet impoverished children’s needs. Specifically, the organization Inspire Cuba worked on a project called Shoes That Grow, which provided shoes to children in Havana, Cuba. These shoes are adjustable so that a child can use them for up to five years. Meanwhile, the MDG Achievement Fund has been working with the Cuban government to fight anemia in Cuba. The program the MDG Achievement Fund implemented is called the Joint Programme, which has been attempting to increase Cuban people’s access to food filled with micronutrients. Finally, while no in-depth descriptions exist of what social programs the Cuban government enacted to fight food insecurity, organizations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) have cited that social programs largely eradicated hunger and poverty on the island, including the poverty and hunger of children.

As previous reports have noted, Cuba has made advancements in the education and health of its children (decreasing under-5 mortality rate and high literacy rates), overall reducing child poverty in Cuba. It is important to note that while child poverty in the country has improved, holes still exist in the system, such as a lack of diarrhea treatment for sick children and limited educational materials. However, through continued efforts, child poverty in Cuba should become even less prevalent.

– Susan Morales
Photo: Flickr

children in migration
In February 2021, the European Union announced the new E.U. Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme in collaboration with UNICEF and the U.N. Refugee Agency. This initiative aims to ensure protective services for migrant children. The year 2020 marked the highest migrant population ever recorded with 280.6 million people. Nearly 15% of this population are children under 19. Extra care is necessary to ensure this vulnerable group can receive proper protection.

Creating the Programme

Children in migration are often at risk of gender violence, physical harm and exploitation as they travel to their destination. This is due to the lack of resources, government protection and spending long periods in immigration detention facilities. The E.U. created its Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme to address these risks of abuse in order to better protect minors in these situations. These protections are especially crucial because of the rising number of unaccompanied children in migration.

The plans include training for government officials who work with migrating children, increasing awareness of gendered violence and alternative care plans for migrant children to replace traditional immigration detention. Efforts will go towards provided education for officials to recognize child abuse and learn proper intervention techniques for the child’s safety. The program will focus on the countries El Salvador, Mexico, South Africa and Zambia.

The program expects to use approximately €7.5 million in funding and already received €7 million from the European Union by its launch date. Hopes are high that the program will protect many children within its 30-month duration; in Mexico alone in 2019, an estimated 52,000 children had to migrate.

The Risk of Gender Violence for Children in Migration

Children in migration are incredibly vulnerable to gender violence. This consists most commonly of sexual violence and exploitation. Perpetrators can easily take advantage of children without families, safe housing options or defenses. Migrating children are often subject to rape, sexual assault or even human trafficking while traveling to their final destination.

Small case studies from around the world report high rates of migrant children experiencing gender-based and sexual violence. However, the exact rates are difficult to find because so many cases go unreported. Since most children in migration do not have legal protection or support, they do not report assaults in their destination country. Girls are more likely to face gender violence, but migrant boys also report high rates of sexual violence. While migrant boys and girls face different challenges, both need special protection.

Research found officials under-trained to properly care for abused children’s needs once they reach safety. Increasing psychosocial training to assist children with sexual abuse or trauma could better prepare officials in locating resources to aid the child’s mental or physical needs.

Options for Alternatives to Migrant Children in Detention

UNICEF has already been educating partners on alternatives to putting migrating children in immigration detention, especially when they do not have accompaniment. Some children in detention have even reported sexual abuse and neglect by center workers. They need special protection even in an environment catered towards caring for migrating children.

Instead, UNICEF’s recommendations include new foster care programs or homestays with families that are trained and willing to house unaccompanied minors or children whose parents have been detained in immigration detention. Additionally, referral networks must appraise migrants of their rights and point children in migration towards protective environments.

Hope for Migrating Children

While the E.U. Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme is focusing on only four countries in the world, the findings from this project can be instrumental in pioneering solutions for government officials and social workers across the world working to support children in migration. With increased intervention and assistance, children in migration can safely seek refuge without fear of abuse.

– June Noyes
Photo: Flickr

The Path to Poverty Reduction in Tanzania
On the East African coast, Tanzania is home to many tourist attractions for visitors from around the world, such as beautiful beaches, trees and nature. However, Tanzania is still an impoverished country in Africa. Thankfully, developments are emerging in relation to poverty reduction in Tanzania.

The Economy in Tanzania

It is not uncommon for the economy of impoverished countries to fluctuate. At times, foreign aid helps boost the economy, and when foreign aid is low, the economic outlook is less than positive. Much of Tanzania’s economic development and exportable resources relate to the agricultural trade. Most Tanzanians live in rural areas that make it simple for them to grow crops. Agriculture accounts for approximately 28% of Tanzania’s gross domestic product or GDP, and 80% of the country’s labor force has employment in the agricultural industry. Estimates have determined that Tanzania is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies with a 6.3% increase in national GDP between 2007 and 2017.

Poverty in Tanzania

Amid the beauty and natural scenery which attracts millions of tourists annually, approximately 49% of Tanzanians live in poverty. In 2018, approximately 17 million people in Tanzania lived in poverty, living below the international poverty line—those who make less than $1.90 a day.

In spite of this, Tanzania has recorded an improvement in economic growth in the past decade. According to The World Bank, Tanzania’s poverty levels decreased by approximately 8% over the course of a decade. Most of this improvement occurred in rural areas, which were initially more poverty-stricken than urban areas.

Education in Tanzania

In Tanzania, pre-primary, primary, secondary ordinary, secondary advanced and university education exist. According to UNICEF, Tanzania has reached almost universal access to primary education. However, about 2 million children between the ages of 7 and 13 are currently not in school, leaving only 3.2% of children enrolled. The quality of education is also an important factor at play. Some children do not always learn all that they may need in a classroom, as a result of the student-to-teacher ratio being approximately 131:1. Having a large number of students per classroom and attempting to equally divide attention between students are not ideal for teachers.

However, UNICEF is making an effort to help reduce the number of children that are out of school in Tanzania. UNICEF’s “For Every Child” initiative is also tackling issues on a policy level, supporting policies that improve the root factors of low enrollment, particularly for girls and children with disabilities. UNICEF is training teachers on how to support vulnerable youth and create alternate learning methods for children who struggle to remain in school. Some of the educational goals the organization aims to have met by 2021 are to improve the delivery of quality education, to improve learning strategies and to help children gain access to education.

Looking Ahead

Despite being a relatively impoverished nation, the country has worked toward poverty reduction in Tanzania throughout the years and is continuing to do so. Maintaining economic growth in the agriculture sector and improving child education are important factors in helping Tanzania build a brighter future for its citizens. Tanzania is on a path to poverty reduction and structural improvement.

– Amina Aden
Photo: Flickr

Sahrawi Refugees living in AlgeriaFor more than 45 years, Sahrawi refugees have left Western Sahara into neighboring countries fleeing conflict and instability. Many Sahrawi refugees have found themselves living in camps in Algeria. In these camps, refugees struggle with food and water insecurity, lack of medicine and healthcare access. This overview of the forgotten crisis of Sahrawi Refugees living in Algeria will provide insight into the ongoing humanitarian struggle.

The Refugee Camps in Algeria

A conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front over Western Sahara’s sovereignty has gone on since Spain withdrew from the area in 1975. In the wake of this conflict, hundreds of thousands of Saharawi people have been displaced and have sought refuge in countries like Algeria. For more than 45 years, the Saharawi people have been living in camps in Algeria’s Tindouf region, which borders Western Sahara. There are five camps housing more than 150,000 Sahrawi refugees near the Algerian town of Tindouf. These refugees live almost entirely on humanitarian aid and assistance. The Algerian government has worked to improve the living conditions of these refugees by providing secondary education, healthcare services, land and infrastructure improvements. The government also works with international organizations like the UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF to continue supporting Sahrawi refugees.

Challenges for the Sahrawi Refugees

The situation of the Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria is referred to as the ‘forgotten crisis’ because there is little media coverage of their situation. According to the World Food Programme, over 88% of the Sahrawi Refugees are either at risk or suffering from food insecurity. Acute malnutrition affects roughly 8% of Sahrawi children aged five or younger and over 50% of Sahrawi women between the ages of 15 and 49 suffer from anemia. The COVID-19 pandemic has added further difficulties to the situation of the Sahrawi refugees. Since March 2020, the Sahrawi are under quarantine, with humanitarian aid continuing to arrive.

The Sahrawi refugee’s dependence on humanitarian aid has left the people lacking ways to be self-sufficient. Sahrawi refugees are at risk of radicalization or social unrest. There are few employment opportunities and frustration develops with the ongoing conflict in Western Sahara and vulnerability to flash floods and sandstorms. The lockdown has also caused many Sahrawi refugees to loose jobs, causing them to rely more heavily on aid.

Bilateral Aid

Despite being known as the “forgotten crisis,” there is still work being done to improve the Sahrawi refugees’ situation. In 2020, the EU provided more than $9 million in humanitarian aid for the Sahrawi refugees, primarily food, water and medicine. World Food Programme rations provide Sahrawi refugees with 2,100 calories a day and $5.4 million has gone toward combating malnutrition of women and children, which has been a persistent problem for refugees. There are plans to extend the water network in the camps to improve the efficiency of delivering water to the refugees. More than $500,000 have been used to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by improving hospitals and their capacities to deal with sickness. Efforts have been made to support disabled refugees to ensure they are part of the community.

Swiss contributions to the WFP’s efforts in Algeria have totaled more than $30 million over several decades. The programs have encouraged more than 40,000 children to attend school through a meal program which paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic but will continue afterward. While the Sahrawi camps are under lockdown during the pandemic, humanitarian aid provides necessary food, water and medicine to refugees. The Algerian government has included the Sahrawi refugees in its national response plan to support them throughout the lockdown in the form of sanitary services, medical supplies and a referral system to track the virus.

NGOs Helping the Sahrawi Refugees

Several nonprofits are working to help the Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria. The Danish Refugee Council has been working in Sahrawi refugee camps since 2016, providing over 200,000 people with training in business skills, self-sufficiency, business grants and technical support. Oxfam International has been providing fresh produce, clean water, farming skills and community support for refugees since the start of the crisis in 1975.

The conflict in Western Sahara continues to displace thousands of Sahrawi refugees and leaves them with few options and relying on humanitarian aid to survive. The forgotten crisis of the Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria has gone on since 1975. The Sahrawi refugees face many challenges in their daily lives, but humanitarian aid has allowed the community of refugees to survive. Until the conflict in Western Sahara resolves, there needs to be a greater awareness of the current refugee situation and continued humanitarian support for the thousands of Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria.

– Gerardo Valladares
Photo: Flickr

Global Polio Eradication InitiativeMost think of polio as a disease of the past, eliminated from the world through scientific advancement. However, the disease remains present in some countries and runs the risk of spreading again if it is not contained. In the words of Ban Ki-moon in 2012, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, “Wild viruses and wildfires have two things in common. If neglected, they can spread out of control. If handled properly, they can be stamped out for good. Today, the flame of polio is near extinction — but sparks in three countries threaten to ignite a global blaze.” The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) seeks to finally eradicate polio throughout the world.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative

It is a truly global project, led by a partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, Rotary International, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Furthermore, the Initiative involves 200 countries around the world. The Initiative started “in 1988 after the World Health Assembly passed a resolution to eliminate polio.” Over 33 years, the Initiative has secured more than $17 million worth of contributions from donors and financing.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has a well-developed and comprehensive plan which has produced numerous successes and lays out a roadmap to completely eradicate polio. One goal is integration. The GPEI seeks to integrate national governments’ vaccination plans with the polio vaccine, allowing children to get the polio vaccine as part of national immunization schedules. Enhanced integration also includes joint delivery of the polio vaccine with other vaccines, integration of polio surveillance with surveillance of other diseases and harmonizing data systems.

Routine vaccination of children is the crucial part of the plan, along with supplementary vaccination when needed. Areas that are most susceptible to an outbreak often receive supplementary vaccinations in targeted campaigns or through National Immunization Days.

Polio Success Stories

The success of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative since its founding is undeniable. The GPEI estimates that the global incidence of polio has decreased 99.9% since its inception. Polio efforts saved more than 1.5 million lives and prevented 16 million people from polio-induced paralysis. In addition to this, the GPEI administered more than 2.5 billion polio vaccines to children across the world.

Africa is a shining example of the GPEI’s success in eradicating polio. Even after the development of the polio vaccine in 1954, the disease remained endemic for decades and the continent struggled to track cases and vaccinate children. Around 1996, wild polio paralyzed 75,000 African children a year. The GPEI helped to coordinate cooperation between African national leaders and multinational NGOs, leading to greater tracking and quick responses to outbreaks.

As part of the Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign, the GPEI and other contributors provided nine billion doses of the oral polio vaccine and vaccinated 220 million children every year. Thanks to this work, Nigeria became the only country where polio was still endemic by 2016. In 2020, after four years without a polio case, the GPEI declared Africa polio-free. The elimination of a highly contagious and dangerous disease is a remarkable success story.

Remaining Countries and At-Risk Countries

While it is near eradication, polio remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While concerning, there were less than 30 reported cases of the disease in these countries in 2018. Children miss out on coverage for polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan for various reasons, including a lack of infrastructure and an unstable political situation. Still, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative continues to vaccinate children, provide surveillance of the disease and work to develop new vaccines, diagnostic tools and antiviral drugs.

The failure to eliminate or contain polio completely could lead to a resurgence. If not contained, this could lead to 200,000 or more global cases a year within 10 years. The GPEI, in support of the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, works extensively with leaders in the countries to vaccinate children and provide teams of volunteers.

Children need multiple doses of the vaccine for effective prevention and vaccinations must be widespread in order to prevent any community transmission. For this reason, the GPEI has identified five main at-risk countries that are vulnerable to outbreaks and require greater surveillance:

  1. China
  2. Indonesia
  3. Mozambique
  4. Myanmar
  5. Papua New Guinea

Approaching the Finish Line

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has had major successes so far and is nearly at the finish line of eradicating polio from all nations of the world. Unprecedented global cooperation and collaboration have been the driving forces behind its achievements. Global collaboration is integral for addressing all aspects of global poverty.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Gender-Based Violence
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee defines gender-based violence as any harmful act that a person perpetrates against another’s will and that occurs due to socially ascribed differences between females and males. This includes acts that inflict physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty inflicted both in private and publicly. More than 700 million underage marriages occurred in 2020. Furthermore, approximately 137 women die at the hands of a partner or member of their family each day. Moreover, poverty and gender-based violence intertwine.

Poverty and Gender-Based Violence

Poverty exacerbates gender-based violence in many ways. This violence interrupts opportunities for education and employment. In addition, women and girls are more prone to experiencing poverty and exploitation. Children who are a product of child marriages are less likely to receive an education. Also, these children have a higher chance of living in extreme poverty. Moreover, women and girls living in poverty are more vulnerable to trafficking and sexual exploitation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cultural and social norms are highly influential in shaping individual behavior, including the use of violence. Norms can protect against violence, but they can also support and encourage the use of it. Research that the World Bank Group and Sexual Violence Research Initiative conducted suggests that interventions targeting gender norms are some of the most effective in addressing gender-based violence.

Social and Gender Norms

Many social norms exist that perpetuate gender-based violence. These norms often vary by region, religion and other factors. Thus, the norms are very difficult to influence.

Families emphasize the sexual purity of women. As a result, female genital mutilation is prevalent. The value of family honor is above the safety of women. This can lead to honor killings. Domestic violence can stem from the disproportionate authority of men in disciplining women and children.

Gender-Based Violence Scale

A collaborative team from Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, UNICEF and other organizations developed a scale for analyzing changes in beliefs and social norms. Researchers wanted to provide a way to measure the impacts of primary prevention programs in humanitarian settings. About 30 items exist across three categories. Researchers administer this scale to communities to help them understand attitudes towards acts of sexual violence, the importance of family honor and the authority men employ.

Addressing Child Marriage

A collaborative team from Queen’s University and the ABAAD Resource Center for Gender Equality found benefits in enforcing interventions focused on precipitators to child marriage, such as poverty and a lack of legal protections. The researchers proposed the tailoring of interventions to the varying attitudes and beliefs within a community. This team learned that men attributed an increase in rates of child marriage to poverty. However, women attributed it to an increase in a lack of security through laws and social services. This research contradicts a one-size-fits-all program design that suggests adaptive interventions to be the most impactful.

Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Peru

Community engagement and gender-based violence interventions are an invaluable aspect of humanitarian development. Peruvian community health workers employed participatory methods to gather community insights and found seven key aspects of engagement: community leaders’ support, conversations with community members, bystander intervention data for gender-based violence, shared ownership among health workers and leaders, connections with broader stakeholders such as government officials, understanding of what encourages and causes gender-based violence and support from trusted and influential people outside the community.

Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence Bill in Iran

The Iranian government passed the Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence bill to provide support for survivors of gender-based violence. This bill includes provisions for educational programs on vulnerability detection, expanding mental health support for victims of gender-based violence, an evidence-based plan for advancing gender equity and offers an important acknowledgment of this step on behalf of Iranian women.

Poverty undeniably intertwines with gender-based violence. Its connection can be complex and difficult to influence, but research and programs such as these demonstrate successful approaches and the invaluable nature of their effects.

– Amy Perkins
Photo: Flickr

Women and Children in YemenThe impacts of the war in Yemen continue to cause tremendous humanitarian suffering, with more than 24 million people in need of assistance. The persisting armed and political conflicts in Yemen have already reversed human development by 21 years, leaving around 19.9 million lacking sufficient healthcare and 16.2 million experiencing food insecurity. The humanitarian crisis disproportionately impacts women and children in Yemen as they are more vulnerable to mortality, malnutrition, violence and health issues.

Women and Children in Yemen

In 2019, more than 12 million children in Yemen needed humanitarian assistance and 2 million children were not attending school before COVID-19 even set in. In 2020, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Acute Malnutrition analysis analyzed 133 districts in southern Yemen. The analysis reveals a 15.5% increase in young children experiencing severe acute malnutrition. This fact puts 98,000 children at risk of death unless an urgent intervention exists.

In 2018, Yemen’s Gender Inequality Index (GII) value was 0.834 compared to the world average of 0.439. This reflects the female struggle to improve well-being due to gender disparities that affect reproductive health, education, employment and more. The conflict and impact of COVID-19 in Yemen have increased food insecurity and affected nutrition and access to health services, leaving at least 250,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women requiring malnutrition care in 2020.

The crisis in Yemen has disproportionately affected women and increased their rates of poverty, hunger and displacement.

The Effects of the Crisis in Yemen on Women and Children

  • Increased gender-based violence and sexual violence.
  • Roughly 75% of the displaced population consists of women and children.
  • Increased widowhood leaving women susceptible to poverty.
  • Lack of adequate healthcare access can severely damage women’s reproductive health.
  • Increased incidents of child marriage.
  • Lack of educational access due to destroyed infrastructure and school closures.

Save the Children

Save the Children is the largest aid organization in Yemen. Its teams are assisting children in receiving essential care. The organization, which began responding to the crisis in Yemen in 2015, has provided more than 3 million children with life-saving care. The teams attend to children younger than 5 years old who are experiencing malnutrition. Save the Children also has temporary learning programs in place to address the lack of education during the conflict. The organization has also supported nearly 100,000 parents to secure the basic needs of their children.

UNICEF

UNICEF responded to the crisis in Yemen by providing physical, mental and medical health care services to children and families. In 2019, UNICEF reached more than 390,000 children and parents/guardians with psychosocial support. UNICEF also gave measles inoculations to more than 556,000 children and reached 2.3 million children under 5 with primary healthcare services.

Women, Peace and Security (WPS)

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda aims to strengthen women’s participation, reallocate power and protect women’s rights in various countries. Women’s organizations, civil society, government agencies and U.N. entities collaborated to develop a National Action Plan (NAP) for Yemen in 2019 that aligns with the WPS Agenda to protect women and increase women’s involvement in political, economic and social expansion. The NAP should meet its goals between 2020-2022. The main objectives are:

  • Increase women’s engagement in decision-making roles.
  • Prevent violence against women and increase women’s protection from violence.
  • Provide support to girls and women affected by violations and abuse.
  • Make efforts for women’s empowerment and education.
  • Include women in humanitarian aid and relief programs.

The above organizations and strategies work to ensure the health, protection and well-being of millions of women and children in Yemen. This support can safeguard the world’s most vulnerable groups during times of crisis and conflict.

Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Sudan
In Sudan, authorities have declared that they will ban female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, a monumental push forward for girls and women’s rights. Sudan will adopt the eradication of child marriage into all articles of the African charter on the rights and welfare of a child, reported The Guardian. Sudan’s authorities hope that these new additions allow for more protection for Sudan children. Here is some information about FGM in Sudan.

FGM in Sudan

Female genital mutilation involves the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons. Different types of FGM procedures exist, however, the core purpose is that it is a rite of passage into adulthood and a pre-requisite for marriage.

As of July 2020, laws in Sudan are making the practice of FGM punishable by up to three years in jail. By enforcing stricter laws against FGM, Sudanese government officials project a decline in FGM rituals. According to an in-depth analysis conducted by UNICEF in 2016, nearly two-thirds of circumcised women experienced FGM as early as ages 5 and 9 years and more than one-tenth of women married before 15 years of age.

Child Marriage in Sudan

People in Sudan commonly practice child marriage and about a third of Sudanese girls marry before the age of 18. Child brides are prevalent in Sudan due to several factors such as poverty, level of education and harmful traditional beliefs that younger girls are easier to socialize into obedience. Some Sudanese families believe they must marry off their daughters when they reach puberty to “protect” their chastity.

The Psychological Effects of Child Marriage and FGM

Child marriage and FGM can be detrimental to girls in Sudan as they can experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Sudanese girls are 23% more at risk of suffering from cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Child marriage can also often lead to domestic abuse due to a potential imbalance in the power dynamic. The inequality in power threatens young girls’ ability to negotiate contraception, risking frequent early pregnancies. As the Sudan government and world leaders fight to put an end to child marriage and FGM in Sudan, this could, in turn, decrease potential long-term damaging psychological and physical effects on vulnerable Sudanese girls and women.

Plan International

Plan International is one of the many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) helping to end gender-based violence amongst vulnerable children and young people in Sudan. Since 1977, Plan International has been working towards inspiring girls and young women of Sudan to reach their full potential instead of entering into a cycle of violence and poverty. Through advocacy, academic opportunity, leadership outreach and mentorship programs that address child marriage and gender-based violence, Plan International has been inspiring girls and young women to obtain new opportunities. Helping advance children’s rights and equality for girls through its programs and projects is how Plan International aims to aid in the fight to eliminate child marriage and female genital mutilation.

As a new era in girls’ and women’s rights is present in Sudan, the road is still full of challenges. The process of complete abolishment of these crimes against humanity might be extensive but world leaders have pledged that these crimes will no longer exist by 2030. Fortunately, the future looks promising as Sudan’s government officials begin to consider how to improve female’s living conditions.

 – Jessica Barile
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in Nepal
Since 1951, USAID has been implementing various development programs in Nepal. With a poverty rate of 25% as of 2010, Nepal is a developing country and has benefited greatly from these programs which cover areas such as agriculture, education and environmental issues. Here are some examples of USAID programs in Nepal.

USAID’s Agriculture Programs in Nepal

An important aspect of USAID’s work in Nepal has been to improve the livelihoods of those who work in agriculture. As a rural country, agriculture accounts for about 34% of Nepal’s GDP, yet malnutrition has been a persistent issue due to low productivity and limited access to markets. As a result, 36% of children in the country suffer from stunting, which further results in a multitude of lifetime ailments.

To combat these issues, USAID has worked under the U.S. government’s Feed the Future Initiative to improve crop yields and subsequently increase profits and access to quality foods for farmers. As Nepal’s terrain is mostly mountainous, the average farm is very small, with over 50% of farms being less than 0.5 hectares. Furthermore, factors such as low-quality seeds, poor soil management and substandard infrastructure further contribute to low productivity. As a result, 83% of farmers rely on agriculture for their income, yet for 60% of them, agriculture does not meet their dietary and monetary needs.

USAID programs in Nepal have the intention of addressing these issues by engaging with various governmental entities as well as the private sector. Its Feed the Future Initiative emphasizes the production of specific crops that can produce high yields and are resistant to environmental events such as drought and waterlogging. As a result, Nepal has seen increases in rice, maize, lentil and vegetable production.

USAID’s Education Programs in Nepal

USAID has also worked to improve education standards in Nepal by providing a better quality of education for younger students. It has also worked to increase access to schools for communities that the 2015 earthquake affected.

USAID has been concerned about literacy amongst Nepali children. According to a study from 2014, 19% of third graders could not read the Nepali language, while less than 13% of them were able to read Nepali “with fluency and comprehension.” To combat this, several USAID programs in Nepal regarding education have emerged to improve reading standards. The Early Grade Reading Program has a design to increase the number of students in grades one to three who can read and write Nepali. Stretching over five years, this $53.8 million program seeks to design instructional material and standardize reading standards across the country.

After the 2015 earthquake, USAID has also been diligent in rebuilding schools that experienced destruction. Along with the Government of Nepal, USAID was instrumental in building over 1,000 schools which serviced about 93,000 students. USAID equipped these schools with learning materials, sanitation facilities and training for teachers.

Additionally, USAID Nepal has prioritized gender parity in education. Along with UNICEF, it has launched the Zero Tolerance, Gender-Based Violence Free Schools project, which aims to eliminate gender-based violence in schools and create equal education outcomes for boys and girls. The segregation of girls during their menstrual cycle and child marriage also occur in Nepal and they have a negative impact on educational outcomes.

The Zero Tolerance project is a three-year, $5 million project which reaches at least 100,000 students across 200 schools in areas of the country with high levels of gender-based violence. It seeks to promote awareness of gender-based issues in order to create safe learning environments for all students.

USAID’s Environmental Programs in Nepal

As a country with an extremely high level of biodiversity, Nepal has received attention from the U.S. government due to its vulnerability to environmental issues. In addition to this, the fact that a large portion of Nepal’s population has employment in sectors that are heavily dependent on the environment further underscores the need for biodiversity conservation.

USAID has implemented several projects with the goal of biodiversity conservation. The Program for Aquatic Natural Resources Improvement, known locally as the Paani Program, aims to protect Nepal’s many river systems. While Nepal’s waterways are crucial for the livelihoods of many people as they are the main habitat for many fish species, and provide irrigation and power dams, they also suffer from stress due to overpopulation and overuse. The Paani Program aims to instruct locals on how to efficiently manage their waterways. It has identified certain indicators of river health, such as soil fertility and water quality, and instructs locals on how to analyze the data and provide data for authorities to use.

In all, USAID programs in Nepal cover a wide range of areas regarding the country’s development. By focusing on things like agriculture, education and the environment, USAID has a commitment to improving the lives of ordinary Nepali citizens.

– Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a major tourist destination, reeling in an estimated 6.5 million visitors in 2018. However, it also hosts a largely divided society with 40% of its population falling under the poverty line. Due to this poverty, Dominican children struggle considerably, dealing with several issues that do not allow them to succeed and confine them to a life of poverty. Here is some information about child poverty in the Dominican Republic.

Limited Access to Proper Education

One of the hardest struggles Dominican children must deal with is a lack of proper public education. These children in poverty attend public schools which often provide low-quality education with a lack of resources and poorly trained professionals. Due to a lack of financial resources, these schools also suffer from ill-suited scholastic programs and buildings in need of repair. Consequently, “more than 40% of Dominican children are uneducated,” and just 60% of enrolled children complete their primary education. Another problem worth addressing is the Dominican Republic’s high rate of repetition, especially in rural areas, with 44% of students in grades one to five, being three or more years older than the appropriate age and 60% of students in grades six to eight, again being older than the age they should be. 

Child Labor

 These children are then must work in order to support their struggling families. In fact, 2.1% of Dominican children from ages 10-14 are obliged to join the workforce. In fact, 28.1% of working children work in agriculture, 8.6% work in industries such as construction and producing baked goods and 63.4% have employment in public services. Many of these jobs are unsafe for children and some even suffer sexual trafficking and exploitation, especially Haitian children who traffickers frequently send to the Dominican Republic. 

Mistreatment and Abuse

Due to a lack of enforcement and prohibition, Dominican children frequently suffer from abuse. As of 2014, reports determined that 62.9% of children experienced physical or psychological mistreatment by their caregivers. This treatment of children in the Dominican Republic is concerning and leads to adults who deem it right to use violence to solve conflict and gain power. In fact, 8% of Dominican men from ages 15 to 49 consider it justified to physically abuse their wives for at least one reason, while 2% of Dominican women in the same age range agree with this justification of abuse. 

Child Marriage

Another significant issue young Dominican women struggle with is the regularity of child marriage. In fact, 36% of Dominican girls must marry before they turn 18 and 12% marry before they turn 15. Furthermore, as of 2014, 21% of girls from ages 20-24 reported having given birth before the age of 18. These marriages are harmful to these young women, who must place their own education and goals to the side to become wives and mothers against their will. 

Lack of Identity

Another huge problem for Dominican children is the number of births that are not on the official record. “More than a quarter of births in the Dominican Republic are not officially reported,” concluding in a large number of children with no identity or nationality. This leads to huge difficulties for these children who will never be able to fully enjoy their rights as citizens. For example, the Ministry of Education requires students to have a birth certificate to graduate high school, forcing all unidentified children to be unable to get a degree, leaving them with the least amount of opportunities to succeed. 

Solutions

Several organizations have emerged and the Dominican Republic is passing legislation to aid and raise awareness on these critical issues regarding child poverty in the Dominican Republic. Some of these organizations include Save the Children and UNICEF, which raise money to support poor communities by providing potable water and promoting health and hygiene.

Save the Children also focuses on improving education for Dominican children, using its platform to refurbish school buildings, build gardens, enhance teacher’s knowledge and improve sanitary infrastructure. It has protected 1,665 children from harm and provided 27,318 children a healthy start to their lives. Furthermore, The Ministry of Labor has increased the number of hired inspectors from 148 to 205 in 2019, demonstrating moderate improvement in decreasing child labor. More than anything, the Dominican Republic has made considerable improvements in healthcare, providing healthcare to 366,236 poor citizens who had previously lacked it through the Health Sector Reform APL2 (PARSS2). These improvements target the Dominican Republic’s most critical issues, including education, child labor and sanitation, helping alleviate the prominent issue that is child poverty in the Dominican Republic.

– Juan Vargas
Photo: Flickr