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Child Poverty in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is among one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, child poverty in Nicaragua impacts one out of two children. Nicaragua’s population is young; out of 6 million people, 2 million are school-age children. To tackle the issue of child poverty, the Nicaraguan government has promised to create more access to education, sanitation and food security.

Nicaragua has a long history of chronic poverty. For much of the 20th century, the country was under a dictatorship. A revolution beginning in the late 1970s further decimated the well-being of many throughout the 1980s. The revolution ended with thousands dead and a need for Nicaragua to rebuild itself.

Child Poverty in Nicaragua

Child poverty in Nicaragua remains a critical issue. According to UNICEF, 50% of Nicaraguan children live in poverty, with 19% of them in extreme poverty. Furthermore, child poverty is much more prevalent on the Atlantic coast of the country. About 58% of children on the Atlantic coast had completed six years of primary education as opposed to 72% for the country as a whole. Moreover, 500,000 Nicaraguan children do not attend school at all, mainly because of the cost of education and the need to support their families.

When families need financial support, many children and adolescents have no choice but to enter the workforce. An estimated 250,000 to 320,000 Nicaraguans are child laborers. Some children work in sugar cane fields and mines, creating a dangerous work environment for them. In addition to child labor, human trafficking is a growing issue impacting young girls.

Preventing Child Labor

To curtail child poverty, the Nicaraguan government has signed agreements to make sure companies do not hire child workers. In 2019, the Nicaraguan government and private employers have signed 6,129 cooperative agreements that prevent the hiring of children laborers. The U.S. Department of Labor has found that the Nicaraguan government has done little to actually reduce young children in the workforce. However, the international community has been pressuring the country to be more aggressive in diminishing child labor.

Improving Education

An area of increased government involvement is in educational spending. Accepting the help of supranational organizations, such as The World Bank, the country has invested in education. The Alliance for Education Quality Project for Nicaragua has helped fund the training of primary school teachers and the construction of forty schools. Over 1,250 teachers received mentoring and more than 9,000 pre-school teachers obtained training. Additionally, the project supplied materials and equipment for the staff and students. Construction of most of the schools occurred in rural areas, improving these communities’ access to education.

Reducing the Infant Mortality Rate

The infant mortality rate is high, with child poverty in Nicaragua being the culprit. According to UNICEF, 74% of Nicaraguans use standard sanitation services and 52% have access to clean drinking water. Furthermore, 40% of children under 5 are malnourished. The Nicaraguan government and The World Bank have created strategies to tackle these issues. The Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) Sector Project (PROSASR), provided rural communities with adequate infrastructure for sanitation. Furthermore, access to food and clean drinking water has also seen improvements. The Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast Food Security Project has invested in agricultural and fishery techniques for farmers and improved socio-environmental practices. Impacting mostly rural communities, food security increased with 33% of beneficiaries being the youth.

Political and economic instability, stemming from the civil war, has created chronic child poverty in Nicaragua. Nonetheless, Nicaragua has implemented changes, with the help of the World Bank, to decrease the child poverty rate.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Unsplash

Guinea Worm Disease
“[I want the] last guinea worm to die before I do.” Jimmy Carter may soon get his wish. The former President of the United States has spent the last 30+ years on a number of humanitarian missions through his namesake nonprofit—The Carter Center—but people may undoubtedly see one particular mission as ranking among its magna opera. That mission is to eradicate Guinea worm disease (GWD), and frankly, those worms are unpleasant at best.

What is Guinea Worm Disease?

GWD is a parasitic infection in which extremely small worms enter the human body through contaminated water, leading to crippling, painful blisters about a year later when the matured female worm emerges. It has been infecting people since ancient times, and in the mid-1980s, an estimated 3.5 million cases existed across at least 20 countries, including 17 in Africa. In 2019, however, there were only 54 cases in humans.

Success in Reducing GWD

This is thanks largely to the efforts of The Carter Center, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. This partnership has been leading the charge against the disease both in introducing preventative measures in hotspots on the ground in Africa and by raising awareness in the developed world since 1986. Since no vaccine or other modern treatment exists for Guinea worm disease, The Carter Center’s strategies most often include working with health ministries and community-based volunteer groups in order to stop the spread of GWD and bring attention to it via health education.

The attention is important because of the rapid ability of the disease to spread. One missed case can lead to 80+ new infections over one year and delay a country’s ability to control the disease for just as long. This is partly why the WHO has strict criteria when assessing the disease in a given area.

When Can One Consider a Country Free of GWD?

A country must have zero new cases for at least three years for it to receive a declaration of being free of GWD. Despite the rigorous criteria, some countries continue to encounter problems confronting the disease. Chad, for example, has reported almost 2,000 infections in dogs in 2019—a testament to the disease’s stealth and endurance over the years.

In fact, “years” may be an understatement—GWD has emerged in Medieval Middle Eastern and Ancient Egyptian texts under a variety of labels, with some Egyptian mummies even showing evidence of the worm’s presence in their remains. The Old Testament even refers to it as a ‘fiery serpent’ (citing the on-fire feeling when the creature emerges through the skin).

The Correlation Between GWD and Sanitation

In more recent years, the disease received highlight in the early ‘80s as an international threat to clean water—which is where the fight to eliminate the disease originated. Even today, GWD exists primarily in countries—notably Chad and Ethiopia—that consistently rank among the poorest in the world (and are thus most lacking in access to clean water).

The Carter Center has sought to combat this shortfall as well, specifically by introducing a straw-like pipe filter that allows people in affected countries to drink from any water source without fear of contamination.

The eradication of the disease would mean the end of widespread, debilitating illness across several predominantly African nations. Although the fight has gone on for decades, the organizations working to eliminate it now say that the end is in sight. Even Jimmy Carter made his wish—that GWD would go before him—as he was battling cancer a few years ago.

Now, the eradication of all diseases of this sort will be the target of the U.S.’s End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act, which entered into law earlier in 2020. The goal of the act is to facilitate and coordinate an effective, research-based international effort to end neglected tropical diseases, such as GWD, with special emphasis on impoverished nations.

If the world meets international goals, GWD would become the second human disease (behind smallpox) and the first parasitic disease to experience eradication. It would also be the first disease to disappear without the use of a vaccine or medicine.

– Bardia Memar
Photo: Flickr

NGOs Save Thousands in the Philippines
Just a few weeks after Super Typhoon Goni made landfall on the morning of November 11, 2020, Typhoon Vamco hit the Philippines. These tropical storms have destroyed homes, lives, livelihoods, essential infrastructure and families. Without a doubt, the results of these storms have been calamitously tragic. However, NGOs provide inspiration and hope in their work for the victims of these tropical storms. NGOs have saved thousands in the Philippines.

 VAMCO and Goni’s Destruction

 On November 1, 2020, super Typhoon Goni made landfall on Catanduanes’ island before moving north-west over Manila with reported wind speeds of 140mph. Goni – locally referred to as “Rolly”- is one of the most powerful storms to hit the Philippines in over a decade. A few days after the storm hit the Philippines, the damage was staggering: reports determined that the storm killed 16 people, demolished thousands of homes, destroyed tens of thousands of farmers’ crops (estimated damage of $36 million to crops alone) and affected over 2 million people.

Although less intense, Typhoon Vamco had winds measured at 90mph when it made landfall in Patnanungan. Although hard to separate the damage from these two storms, reports stated that Typhoon Vamco – locally known as Ulysses – has killed at least 67 people, cut power to millions, caused 100,000 evacuations and destroyed over 26,000 homes.

Flooding Exasperates the Catastrophe

Unfortunately, as the government can better assess the damages and missing people, and gather an overall better understand of the situation in the coming weeks and months, the financial damage and number of people displaced and killed will grow. However, what might prove to enlarge the numbers more than a better understanding of the situation is the flooding and significant landslides.

As of Nov. 18, the flooding is the worst in recent memory and has affected eight regions and 3 million people, with 70 dead. Two-story-high flooding that has caused power outages has either separated many from their homes or trapped them on their roofs, further disrupting rescue efforts. Although flooding has receded, many villages are still only reachable through the air.

Perhaps the worst affected area is the Cagayan Valley in northeast Luzon; of the 28 towns in the Cagayan province, 24 are underwater from severe flooding. Explaining this disproportionality in flood damage is the fact that a dam in the Cagayan Valley, the Magat Dam, had seven of its gates break open following the storm, causing mass amounts of water to pour into the valley (the dam released near two Olympic sized pools of water per second). Here, over 20 people have died while affecting nearly 300,000 people as what looks like a brown sea of dirty water and debris submerges the valley.

NGOs Step Up for Thousands

In the face of all this destruction, one can find hope in the work of NGOs. NGOs have saved thousands in the Philippines who were either trapped on rooftops or in evacuation centers after losing everything they have ever owned.

For instance, CARE is an organization providing aid during the flooding. It is primarily working in Amulung and Gattaran, assisting in rescue efforts and providing resources such as food, hygiene products, shelter repair kits and sanitation materials.

The Philippine Red Cross is deploying utility vehicles to ferry thousands so that they do not become stranded in flooded towns. Stories have even surfaced of Red Cross workers treading through floodwater with torches searching for stragglers and missing people. The organization provides relief materials to those it does save including tents, generators, food, cooking equipment and tarps. Additionally, as a preventative measure, the Philippine Red Cross evacuated people and animals to evacuation centers while also prepositioning emergency response teams in vulnerable areas.

UNICEF has also done life-saving work. Just a day before Vamco made landfall, UNICEF launched “its Super Typhoon Goni/Rolly appeal amounting to $3.7 million.” With this amount raised, UNICEF has supported the most vulnerable communities in gaining access to water, sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, education, health and protection services.

Vamco and Goni are tragedies that have negatively affected countless lives through displacement, death and the destruction of their home and valuables. Nonetheless, the optimist can find inspiration in the fact that: NGOs have saved thousands in the Philippines.

– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Mental Health in Indonesia
In Indonesia, institutions have shackled and chained as many as 57,000 mentally ill patients, according to a Human Rights Watch report. The underfunded and understaffed medical sector, as well as mental health stigma, have led to this inhumane practice known as “shackling” or pasung in Indonesia. Indonesia’s shackling problem is improving, but the country has not entirely eradicated it yet. Additionally, the country is progressing toward improving mental health in Indonesia through its mental health sector.

Here is some information about the initiatives contributing to the improvement of mental health services and the reduction of stigma in Indonesia. The ultimate goal of these initiatives is to prevent mental health patients from experiencing cruel and insufficient treatments.

Indonesia Free from Pasung

The Indonesian government officially banned shackling in 1977 but has been working to formally end the process to this day. In 2010, the Indonesia Ministry of Health started a program called Indonesia Free from Pasung. It asked the government to collaborate with communities to address shackling.

The program provided mental health medications and training to community centers, and made mental health a primary mental health service. It also created community health teams intended to directly release and identify people with mental illnesses.

These teams include Tim Penggerak Kesehatan Jiwa Masyarakat (TPKJM) and the PIS-PK program. TPKJM works to monitor and facilitate the release of people from shackles. The PIS-PK program sends representatives from community health centers to identify families’ mental health statuses through home visits. The program was necessary because people were not frequently visiting medical posts, so were not receiving treatment. The program helped to identify Indonesians with mental health issues and direct them to resources.

The frequency of shackling has improved in the 10 years since the implementation of the program. Additionally, people do not stigmatize mental illness as much in Indonesia anymore. Moreover, community centers are more equipped to identify and treat people with mental health disorders. More groups are arising to address mental health issues and end the practice of shackling as well. However, only 20 out of the 34 provinces in Indonesia have successfully implemented programs to free people from shackling. Without full implementation, these programs are unable to free as many people as they aim to.

The Center for Indonesia Medical Students’ Activities (CISMA)

UNICEF partnered with the Center for Indonesian Medical Students’ Activities (CISMA) to promote mental health support for young people through online sessions on health on Zoom and YouTube. The sessions cover a range of mental health topics such as “Coping with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Their partnership’s aim is to provide awareness and information about mental health.

CISMA’s sessions are an amazing resource because they are accessible and provide psychological support for people who may not be able to see a therapist. CISMA’s initiative is also beneficial to Indonesia’s mental health sector because it raises awareness and tackles mental health stigma. The type of awareness it is spreading can keep people with mental illnesses out of shackles.

The WHO QualityRights Initiative

The WHO QualityRights initiative supports countries in implementing policies and services to improve the conditions of mental health services globally. It developed a toolkit of information to provide guidance on how to improve mental health services. This includes information on assessing mental health services and quality standard goals. It also provides e-training and other materials for mental health professionals, NGOs and people with mental illness and disabilities. This program is encouraging a human rights-based approach to mental health issues.

Indonesia has been improving in awareness and identification of mental health issues. The next steps are for the implementation of policies and programs to improve resources, as well as the quantity and quality of community centers.

International aid can assist in building community centers and medical schools. However, more is necessary, such as quality training and funds to hire nurses, therapists and psychiatrists. The country must also address the availability of medications and adequate facilities by providing more funding for mental health programs.

The country is moving in the right direction to improve its mental health in Indonesia. With increased development and a continued focus on the mental health sector, Indonesia may be able to eradicate the practice of shackling.

– Stephanie Jackson
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in the DRC
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has suffered from longstanding conflicts that have only exacerbated the country’s poverty crisis. About 70% of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. While these conditions have greatly affected the status of women’s rights in the DRC, much work is occurring to raise the standard of living for women.

Gender-Based Violence

The DRC documented more than 35,000 sexual violence cases in 2018, and U.N. Women reports that gender-based violence has risen by 99% with the onset of COVID-19. In war-torn states, conflict uniquely affects women and they are often subject to rape or sexual violence as a weapon of war. To combat these alarming statistics and improve women’s rights in the DRC, the country revised its strategy for combating gender-based violence in August 2020. The new national strategy includes a care framework for survivors, prevention methods for crimes and increased scope of the strategy throughout the entirety of the country, reaching over 51 million women in the DRC.

Women, Peace and Security

As of July 2019, a mere 16% of women constituted the DRC’s Senate, and none of the country’s Constitutional Court judges or provincial governors are women. The Women, Peace and Security agenda, as the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 adopted, aims to promote the inclusion of women in positions of power. The DRC’s National Action Plans (NAP) has incorporated it to better include women in decision-making. The DRC’s second NAP experienced enactment in 2019 and expectations have determined that it will be implemented until 2022, with the goal of increasing the inclusion of women and girls in economic and political decision-making to at least 20%.

Women’s Education

An estimated 52.7% of girls between the ages of 5 to 17 do not attend school in the DRC. Gaining an education directly links to an increase in women’s rights and independence, as staying in school commonly leads to lower rates of child marriage, increased financial literacy and expanded job and life opportunities. Although women’s participation in the workforce (70.7%) is roughly equivalent to that of men (73.2%), women’s participation comes primarily from agricultural work where lack of education and gender roles restrict women’s access to financial freedom and property ownership.

While poverty and lack of infrastructure have historically barred women’s and girls’ access to education, UNICEF has worked to improve educational opportunities and thus increase women’s rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UNICEF has partnered with the DRC’s Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education to facilitate distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, and has supported the education of close to 7 million students in the DRC.

Maternal Health

The DRC’s under-5 mortality rate is 84.8 per every 1,000 live births, and in 2011, the DRC accounted for half of all maternal deaths. Women are in particular need of proper healthcare facilities and ease of access to reliable medical centers, two factors that the DRC’s state of conflict and low status of women has greatly affected. To better aid pregnant women and uplift mothers post-birth, the DRC’s National Health Development Plan received €4.5 million ($5.3 million) in monetary aid in June 2020 from the European Union and UNICEF. The E.U. has sent additional doctors and provided blood bags, medicine, vaccines and food for newborns suffering from malnutrition, targeting six of the country’s provinces and 33 health zones.

Looking Forward

While the DRC continues to combat a myriad of issues in regards to women’s rights, it is clear that conditions are constantly improving and progress continues to occur in various sectors of society. As efforts make headway to improve women’s rights in the DRC, the country’s state of poverty and conflict should also experience reform.

– Caroline Mendoza
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Venezuela
As the political, economic and social unrest continues in Venezuela, an increase in awareness and response to human trafficking is more urgent than ever. Human trafficking is a crime that exploits someone for labor, slavery, servitude or sex. Some of the causes of human trafficking (relentless poverty, high unemployment rates, violence, civil turmoil and a lack of human rates) are motivating 6.5 million Venezuelans to flee their country. About 94% of Venezuelans live in poverty, with an estimated 300% increase in human trafficking between 2014 and 2016. The former Venezuelan President, Maduro, administration prioritized maintaining power and carried out tenuous trafficking eradication attempts, including a lack of investigations, prosecutions and convictions. In response to the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis, organizations like UNICEF, UNFPA, UNHCR and IMO are contributing strong efforts to meet the needs of citizens, refugees and migrants and prevent human trafficking in Venezuela.

Inconsistencies in Human Trafficking Criminalization

From 2013 to 2019, the Maduro administration was responsible for managing economic adversity, increased crime rates and immense migration in an attempt to obviate human trafficking in Venezuela. The Maduro administration utilized Misiones (government social aid programs) as a deterrent to poverty and human trafficking in Venezuela. Misiones benefitted some communities by providing basic needs and education but became ineffective in 2014 due to its shifting political agenda, administrative instability and insufficient funding.

Venezuela has established human trafficking as a crime, but it still does not have an anti-trafficking law and policy. The Maduro administration demonstrated the intention to combat the development of human trafficking. However, Venezuelan law in 2019 only criminalized select forms of trafficking with insufficient penalties, prevention, reporting and protection of vulnerable groups. The human trafficking industry usually percolates between developing countries, making the rapid increase the only quantifiable data. Despite the challenge in obtaining evidence, eradicating human trafficking is most successful through prevention methods, the punishment of the perpetrator and adequate protection for the victim.

UNICEF and UNFPA

Venezuelan women and children are particularly vulnerable to the risk of being trafficked while migrating to neighboring South American countries. The urgency Venezuelan migrants feel to send money back to their families increases the risk for criminal gangs and guerrilla groups to force children into begging and women into sexual and labor exploitation.

On May 28, 2019, UNICEF and UNFPA signed an agreement heightening the humanitarian aid response to nearly 1 million children, pregnant women and mothers. This joined effort provides drinkable water, sexual and reproductive health services, high-quality birthing support, educational resources and information to increase safety for those who gender-based violence affects.

UNHCR

With an 8,000% increase in Venezuelans pursuing refugee status over the past six years, hundreds of thousands prevail without access to basic necessities. Without the authorization to stay in neighboring countries, arriving Venezuelans are highly susceptible to trafficking and desperately in need of documentation, shelter, nourishment and medical attention.

In December 2018, UNHCR collaborated with IOM and host countries to commence the Regional Response Plan for Refugees and Migrants which prioritizes 2.2 million Venezuelan migrant’s needs and improves overall assistance. UNHCR has increased protection along dangerous borders, provided basic resources for relief and ensured that refugees and migrants receive adequate information about advantageous opportunities.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM)

The 1 million Venezuelan children working in the informal labor sector and an estimated 200,000 children in servitude is likely to increase due to human trafficking in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government supported programming to improve conditions for working children and assist victims of human trafficking. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) imposed a campaign translated as “Your Life Challenges with fiscal support from the U.S. This campaign aims to protect Venezuelan children, women and men from traffickers during their transit. “Your Life Changes” is a song that conveys cautionary implications for travelers who are vulnerable to human trafficking. The campaign includes live demonstrations and the propagation of informative materials to increase awareness of forced labor and human trafficking in Venezuela.

The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF)

Colombia currently hosts 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants, making The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) a crucial development in the prevention of and support for youth victims of human trafficking. From March to June 2018, ICBF determined that there were 350 Venezuelan victims of child labor in Columbia. ICBF provides care, programs, assistance, shelter and evaluations for Venezuelan child trafficking victims. The Institute focuses on the prevention of human trafficking through its educational training and increased awareness strategies.

A Continued Response

The responses from International Conventions, government policies and agencies to aid Venezuelans have undoubtedly protected many from their dangerous reality. However, Venezuela has remained a Tier 3 country as the government is not doing enough to eradicate human trafficking. The inconsistencies in the Venezuelan criminalization of trafficking and anti-tracking laws have compromised the well-being and lives of far too many. The Venezuelan crisis has stripped citizens of their humanitarian rights, calling for continued, collective efforts to assist those in need.

– Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in DjiboutiLocated on the Horn of Africa along the Bab el-Mandeb, an important maritime chokepoint is the small African nation of Djibouti. With a population of one million but high levels of poverty and limited funding for social welfare programs, child labor in Djibouti has been widespread historically. However, efforts from the government and international actors over recent years have started to reverse this phenomenon.

The Nation of Djibouti

According to Humanium, an NGO focused on protecting children’s rights across the globe, 42% of Djibouti’s population lives in extreme poverty. Child labor is primarily caused by extreme poverty, as parents force their children to work so that they can survive. Therefore, Djibouti’s children are some of the most vulnerable to child labor due to poverty throughout the nation.

As a result of their families’ financial situation, over 12% of children ages 5-14 work. Working can isolate children socially or prevent them from having the time to pursue their academic interests. Only 60-65% of children complete primary education in Djibouti. With many children unable to obtain an education due to work or other circumstances, child labor in Djibouti perpetuates the cycle of poverty generation after generation.

Government Efforts Toward Child Labor

Djibouti’s government has taken an active role over the past decade in reducing child labor. The active role is shown through establishing workgroups and various programs focused on identifying the contributing factors of child labor. One of the main projects is the Anti-Trafficking Working Group, which has improved cross-agency government collaboration to counteract human trafficking. The Prime Minister leads the National Council for Children in its efforts to secure birth certificates for immigrants, ensure education for refugees and reunify separated migrant families. Furthermore, the Council successfully established a temporary shelter for children living on the street in 2018. Therefore, it made these at-risk kids less likely to be coerced into child labor. The government established the National Family Solidarity program to decrease child labor. They supported Djiboutian households in extreme poverty via cash transfers. These programs represent a start to ending child labor in Djibouti, something that future leaders of Djibouti can continue to prioritize.

Despite the government’s efforts, various legal loopholes remain that benefit those who exploit child labor. Many of the statutes only apply to children working in the formal business sector. Therefore, Djibouti’s laws are less comprehensive than international standards. This is especially problematic because most child labor cases occur in the informal business sector. Some examples are working in small shops, selling items on the street and working in family-owned businesses in rural communities. Without true legislative changes, Djibouti’s laws will continue to fail in identifying and eliminating most child labor cases.

Additionally, there were only five labor law inspectors in Djibouti as of 2018. This means that Djibouti’s labor force of almost 300,000 has approximately one labor law inspector for every 60,000 workers. Without the resources or personnel necessary to expose and eradicate child labor, child labor will continue. This brings harm to Djibouti’s long-run humanitarian situation, living conditions and economic growth.

International Support

Yet, despite the shortcomings so far to end child labor in Djibouti, UN-sponsored efforts and aid from various countries/NGOs, present an optimistic future. UNICEF currently works with the government of Djibouti, the United States and the Humanitarian Action for Children Project to increase access to education for the most vulnerable Djiboutian children (orphans and those in poorer areas). This program has helped over 4,500 children obtain pre-primary, primary or secondary education in Djibouti. The U.S. government has also funded a $500,000 program to train law enforcement and expand communication capabilities between the private and public sectors, regarding ending forced labor/human trafficking. Finally, the World Bank oversees numerous programs that deal with the root causes of poverty and child labor in Djibouti by promoting human capital development and education.

Cooperation and a Promising Future

Going forward, it will be pivotal for the government to continue focusing on lowering the extreme poverty rate. Reforming legislation to meet international standards, then enforcing it as well as protecting children of all ages and backgrounds, is the next step in Djibouti’s fight against child labor. Improving human rights means better access to education. This will likely help the economic situation of Djibouti by breaking the cycle of poverty. However, the international community plays a crucial role in helping Djibouti. Some of the most successful initiatives have come from international partnerships and UN-sponsored programs. Cooperation is critical in Djibouti, whereas complacency will be catastrophic.

– Alex Berman
Photo: Flickr

recovery after the Beirut ExplosionOn Aug. 4, 2020, a warehouse fire at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon led to a large explosion. There was a significant amount of property damage and loss of life. The blast leveled the surrounding dockside area and sent shock waves throughout much of the city, causing widespread destruction. It was reported that at least 200 people were killed and over 5,000 were injured. In addition, 300,000 are estimated to be left homeless. This explosion is considered to be “unquestionably one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, far bigger than any conventional weapon” according to the BBC. Thankfully, UNICEF stepped in to aid in recovery after the Beirut explosion with multiple programs directed at short-term and long-term benefits.

UNICEF Aids in Recovery After the Beirut Explosion

It is difficult to imagine the devastating impact that a disaster of this magnitude has on people. This is especially true for families and children living in the affected areas. In the days immediately following the explosion, UNICEF reported that 80,000 children had been displaced, at least 12 children’s hospitals and other family healthcare facilities were destroyed. Many schools reported varying levels of damages and numerous children were missing or separated from their families. Thankfully, UNICEF stepped in to help children and families struggling with the short- and long-term effects of this disaster. They instituted multiple programs providing both immediate relief and continuing assistance in rebuilding.

These are just some of the ways that UNICEF has helped Beirut recover after the explosion.

WASH Program

One of the first actions taken by UNICEF for recovery after the Beirut explosion was to restore water service to damaged homes and facilities. In the past, the organization has provided Lebanese families with clean and accessible water through the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) program. After the explosion, this program was reoriented to focus on restoring and repairing water supplies in Beirut. Working with partner NGOs LebRelief and DPNA, UNICEF conducted house-to-house surveys and technical assessments of the damage and required assistance. In buildings such as schools and hospitals that sustained heavy damage, UNICEF and DPNA installed 1,000-liter water tanks. They repaired damaged or leaking pipes quickly so that these facilities could continue serving the community. Many of these installations and repairs are also being performed by Lebanese youth through a UNICEF program. It trains them on how to re-establish water connections for future career skills. Additionally, UNICEF and LebRelief restored water service to homes with vulnerable families affected by the explosion. They operated quickly to have water connections reestablished within days.

Hygiene and Baby Care Kits

Another important aspect of UNICEF’s response program in Beirut was to provide hygiene and baby care kits to vulnerable families, such as those with young children and damaged water service. These kits provide necessary supplies for dental, feminine and personal hygiene. There are also separate baby care kits containing creams, basic clothing and diapers. They are intended to support a family of five for up to one month and are delivered door-to-door as well as at temporary distribution centers. Through partnerships with various local organizations such as Medair, the Lebanese Red Cross, Concern Worldwide and Solidarités International, UNICEF was able to gather 10,000 kits and rapidly distribute over 5,000 of them by early September.

Safe Parks

The Beirut explosion caused long-lasting damage that necessitates assistance even after the initial need for emergency response has ended. This is especially true for many children, who must now deal with the trauma and destruction of the explosion on top of the changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Schools are closed and many homes are destroyed. As a part of recovery after the Beirut explosion, children need a place where they can be physically safe and find some form of normalcy and fun. UNICEF established safe parks in the heavily affected areas of Geitawi, Basta and Karatina. These parks provide children with psychosocial support and basic education in a safe space. The parks allow them time to play and develop since schools in Beirut are closed indefinitely. Children struggling with the trauma after the explosion can benefit from the stability and support provided by these safe parks. They can play games, do simple lessons and learn about coronavirus safety. This is a valuable escape for children struggling emotionally or physically with the disaster’s aftermath.

Emergency Cash Grant for Recovery After the Beirut Explosion

Even over a month after the initial incident, UNICEF is still providing assistance to families living with the impact of the Beirut explosion. They launched an Emergency Cash Grant program on September 15 to provide financial support to vulnerable and struggling families. The grant is available to households in the most affected areas with children, people with disabilities, people over 70 or a female head of the household. Through this program, up to three vulnerable household members will receive a one-time cash grant of 840,000 Lebanese pounds. The money provided by UNICEF will allow families struggling with the effects of the explosion on top of the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis to support themselves and recover from the damage caused by this disaster. Applications for this grant are available online and at various in-person registration sites. UNICEF is raising awareness for the program through community outreach in affected areas.

The explosion in Beirut was a terrible tragedy that left many families struggling to get back on their feet. UNICEF’s numerous assistance programs are an invaluable aid to this city’s recovery efforts.

Allie Beutel
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Over 89,000,000 people live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), making it the 16th most populated nation. Located in southern Africa, the DRC is one of the world’s poorest nations with around 72% of the population living in poverty. Sadly, infants and children are the main victims of this poverty making the need for help vital. Significant efforts from many different organizations have helped to save thousands of lives. Here are five important facts about child poverty in the DRC.

5 Facts About Child Poverty in the DRC

  1. Mortality Rate: The DRC has an 84.8 under-5 mortality rate out of every 1,000 births. This means that for every 100 children born, eight of them will not reach the age of 6. However, this number has dropped exponentially in the past 20 years due to the work of agencies such as USAID which has invested $34,000,000 to the cause. In 2014, USAID began the Acting on the Call Report which uses data analysis to pinpoint where it needs to allocate its funding. Helping mothers both before and after birth with medical supplies has saved thousands of children because of this data analysis. In the six years since, the under-5 mortality rate has dropped by more than 15.
  2. Education: Providing quality learning opportunities in school is a crucial aspect of breaking the poverty cycle. Over 7,000,000 children in the DRC cannot receive an education because of poorly funded schools and a lack of supplies. Improvement is coming as the government in the DRC has stated that it will allocate 20% of its spending budget to education in 2018 and maintain it at that level until 2025. This increased funding has led to more children reading and writing as now the DRC posts an 85% literacy rate for all children ages 15-24. Still, young girls experience discrimination as only 79% between 15 and 24-years-old are literate, proving that more work is necessary.
  3. Clean Water: Access to clean water is important to anyone, regardless of age. In the DRC, only 43% of people have access to basic drinking water services. This lack of water has contributed to the high infant mortality rates and will impact the Congolese for their entire lives. Projects to bring clean water to all citizens are occurring but the government is unable to expedite the process. Reports have determined that donors provide nearly 99% of water sector financing in the DRC, making every contribution meaningful. From 2008 to 2017, 2.3 million DRC citizens gained access to clean water as a result of Global Waters and other water relief efforts.
  4. Malnutrition: Right from birth, children in the DRC are in a food shortage. UNICEF has created a system to detect potential malnourishment by collecting data on child nutrition and household food security through a network of 110 sites. This has helped make sure that children and their families who may need assistance are identified and provided food. Additionally, Actions Against Hunger helped nearly 200,000 Congolese in 2019 alone gain food security and nutrition.
  5. Play Time: War and violence have become a common occurrence in the DRC. This has created a dangerous environment for young children to play with friends. Hearing these stories motivated Bethany Frank to create a toy to help DRC’s youth deal with trauma. PlayGarden, as it is known, is a small sanctuary that can include spatial awareness games that can reduce the likelihood of relieving symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many times, the focus on poverty eradication efforts goes towards resources and neglects the fact that children need to play.

Child poverty in the DRC is challenging to combat. But advancements in clean water, food and education will help pave the road to better conditions. The work that some are doing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not reached completion, but many children have benefitted from what they have accomplished so far.

Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Chile
Chile is one of the most economically advanced and prosperous countries in Latin America. However, large wage gaps and wealth distribution continue to be at the forefront of the nation’s problems. As a result, high rates of poverty prevail; approximately 14.4% of the population live below the poverty line with a high prevalence of child poverty in Chile as well.

Children, one of the country’s most vulnerable populations, are especially susceptible to the consequences that poverty causes. Those who come from poorer families are more likely to face spillover effects with regard to their education, as well as their overall health and well-being. Additionally, indigenous and migrant children face an added level of discrimination. Because of these issues, child poverty in Chile is a growing concern.

Education

Although school is mandatory for all children between the ages of 7 and 16, in rural areas, many children receive only limited schooling. There are an estimated 75,000 children who do not attend school. Oftentimes, children may abandon school in order to work and provide for their families.

The inequality with regard to access to education is even more evident in the higher education system, where enrollment costs are among the highest in the world. According to a survey released in 2017, 58% of Chileans believe that a lack of education leads to a lack of opportunities, further exacerbating overall poverty in Chile.

The good news is that UNICEF worked with the government in order to reduce child poverty in Chile by establishing laws and programs that provide additional protection for children’s right to education, like the development of the Inclusive Education Act and the New Public Education Act. UNICEF has also supported the Ministry of Education in developing strategies to train teachers, which emerged through a partnership with UNICEF and Fútbol Más, an organization that works to ensure the well-being of Chilean children.

Labor

Correlated to the lack of access to education, 6.6% of children between the ages of 5-17 are participants in child labor. Additionally, there are gender discrepancies within child labor; 9.5% of boys and 3.9% of girls engage in the workforce. Child labor is often a result of high unemployment rates; families expect and depend on their children to accrue revenue. The most common industries of work are commerce, hotel, restaurants, social services, agriculture and construction.

Moreover, the conditions of the workplace can have a negative impact on children’s overall health; approximately 70.6% of working children work at jobs that are dangerous. Those who work in agriculture are especially susceptible to perform unsafe tasks. The lack of public data available, including how much money goes toward inspection and the number of labor inspectors, further worsens how the country manages child labor.

Still, progress has occurred. In 2017, Chile developed a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, updating its list of hazardous occupations prohibited for children, as well as its inspector laws. The government also revised the Anti-Trafficking National Action Plan in 2019 and continues to support programs that address child labor, though commercial sexual exploitation and child labor are ongoing issues.

Abuse

Not only does violence occur within the workplace, but also within the confines of the home. Children who become victims of physical, sexual and psychological domestic violence will frequently turn to the streets in order to escape their alarming home environments. Many end up in cities, surviving day to day and not knowing what their next source of water or food will be. These “street children” lack proper education, as well as many other resources necessary for a developing child.

About 547 adolescents and children lived on the streets during 2018. Fundación Don Bosco is an organization that gives opportunities to both children and adults who live in the street. The organization offers food, housing, psychological and psychiatric assistance to children and their parents, with the hope of rebuilding familial ties and reintegration. As previously mentioned, family abuse, and thus division, is the main reason why children take to the streets. Because of this, Fundación Don Bosco followed and offered professional support to 191 street children and their families.

Native and Migrant Children

In addition to street children, native and migrant children are two more marginalized groups that are especially susceptible to child poverty in Chile. About 5% of Chile’s population comprises of indigenous people, primarily the Aymara and the Mapuche. These children do not have the same access to education and healthy lifestyles as other children, due to their family’s lower economic status. As a result, they are likely to engage in labor work, from the fields to the factories, in order to help support their families. All the while, they can experience discrimination or people may view them as inferior due to their indigenous status.

Migrant children also face discrimination, especially with regard to their education. As a result, in 2017, the Ministry of Education evaluated migrant children in the education system in order to better assess and understand their role within the system, as well as to help identify barriers related to overall school inclusion. This led to the creation of the program, Chile Recognizes, which assists in regularizing the identity situation and status of migrant children.

Despite the evident fact that there is child poverty in Chile, economic and social progress has occurred. In 2019, the National Prosecutor’s Office signed an agreement to help improve coordination in providing services to children in need, as well as ensure that both Chile’s standards and reality with regard to children’s rights and development align with those of international expectations and treaties.

Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr