Posts

Childhood Malnutrition in NepalChild malnutrition in Nepal, a relatively small nation in Asia, has been a persistent issue. The lack of food throughout the country has significantly contributed to illness and death. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has worsened. Though there have been multiple failed government attempts to reconcile the food supply, Nepal is slowly finding its way back to proper nutrition for children with the help of organizations such as UNICEF.

Child Malnutrition in Nepal

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, Nepal ranks as the 148th most impoverished country in the world out of 189 countries. It continues to struggle with low general well-being because of civil unrest, a difficult geographical landscape and poor infrastructure. A combination of these factors has also impacted food availability. Food that is available often lacks the nutrients necessary for children to maintain proper health and growth. As a result of malnutrition, children battle stunted physical and mental growth, severe weight loss and compromised immune systems.

In addition to poor nutrition, many children are also exposed to contaminated water, which can lead to chronic diseases. According to the Nepali Times, a recent Johns Hopkins University survey showed that severe malnutrition impacting children younger than 5 could cause 4,000 childhood deaths a year due to insufficient food from lack of income caused by the pandemic. A quarter of Nepal’s population already lives under the poverty line. The pandemic has pushed more families closer to impoverishment.

The Solution

Due to multiple failed government efforts to help assist families, it is clear that part of the issue lies in the poorly structured national, provincial and local governments. Though the government has made efforts to tackle malnutrition in Nepal, including the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Plan that led to major strides against child malnutrition in the past, the issue persists.

To combat child malnutrition in Nepal, UNICEF has partnered with the government of Nepal in order to treat malnourished children with nutrition response and recovery actions. It has also taken the initiative to educate and provide resources for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Nutrition education aims to raise awareness of the importance of ensuring infants receive essential nutrients.

Furthermore, UNICEF is helping the government of Nepal to strengthen its response to prevent more malnutrition in the country. Nutritional assistance is also provided in the form of micronutrient powder for children and iron folate supplements for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

The Road Ahead

Though child malnutrition in Nepal has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still hope. With help from UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations, Nepal has a chance to address this persistent issue. Moving forward, it is essential that the government and humanitarian organizations continue to prioritize child malnutrition in Nepal.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

child marriage in iraq
Child marriage consists of a formal or an informal union between two participants where at least one participant is younger than 18, according to UNICEF. Forced child marriage mostly occurs in countries where poverty is prevalent such as India, Africa and the Middle East, including Iraq.

Child Marriage Statistics in Iraq

According to The World, a public radio program, Iraq’s gross domestic product (GDP) decreased by $38 million from 2013 to 2017 due to decreasing oil prices and economic collapse in its struggle against ISIS. Many associated the decrease in GDP with an increase in the percentage of child marriages, which rose to 24% in 2016, surpassing the percentage of child marriages in 1997 by 9%. The trends in these percentages indicate that there is a correlation between the percentage of child marriage in Iraq and the country’s economic state.

According to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), the percentage of women aged 20-24 who married before the age of 18 was 27% in 2018, indicating that the current female population of those married before the age of 18 in Iraq consists of 5.6 million out of 20.7 million women. FIGO also reports that child marriage is more common among impoverished families who reside in rural areas, rather than among wealthy families who live in urban areas. The percentage of child marriages in rural versus urban areas differs by 1%, signifying that approximately 207,000 more young girls enter into early marriage in rural areas than urban areas.

Iraq’s Personal Status Law

Iraq’s Personal Status Law forbids child marriage and increases women’s marriage and custody rights. Despite the sound solidarity of this law, article 8 of Iraq’s Personal Status Law allows for a judge to authorize an underage marriage if the judge concludes that the action is urgently necessary or if the father of the bride gives his approval of the marriage.

Child marriage supporters in Iraq continuously push for proposed amendments to the Personal Status Law to abolish legal difficulties when forcing children into marriage. The parliament in Iraq has rejected these proposals, including an amendment that would allow for families to have their own laws in religious communities, thereby authorizing the families to offer their 8-year-old daughters for marriage.

Article 8 of the Personal Status Law allows a loophole for judges to authorize underage marriages with or without permission from a father, even though the article is noncompliant with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which works to gain equality for women and eliminate patriarchal norms that discriminate against women.

Risks Associated with Child Marriage

Young girls who enter child marriage are not only susceptible to physical health risks including rape, early pregnancy and early delivery, but they are also vulnerable to psychological risks, including experiencing social shielding from their families and domestic violence. Due to substandard responses by officials, violence and rape continue to present themselves as consistent issues in child marriages.

Although Iraq has criminalized rape, the government can drop charges as long as the victim and perpetrator get married. Since Iraq has not criminalized rape between spouses, the government receives few reports of domestic violence issues and families of the two spouses usually discuss resolutions.

Reasons for Child Marriage in Iraq

Oftentimes, families force young female family members into marriage for financial benefit or to settle feuds and make amends with another family. Additionally, the monetary benefits that follow a marriage may reduce an economic burden or provide more income to a family living in poverty. In communities where schools are available for women, families may marry off their daughters earlier to avoid payments for schooling. On the contrary, some parents believe that marrying their daughters early will protect them and ensure that their futures are stable.

Organizations Fighting Child Marriage

In 2016, the United Nations announced an initiative called the Global Programme to End Child Marriage, which has assisted 7.9 million girls from 2016 to 2019. The program increases education and healthcare access for young girls, educates families about the risks of child marriage and supports governments in developing strategies to end child marriage.

Additionally, Girls Not Brides is a program that has committed itself to put an end to child marriage. Girls Not Brides ensures that girls in more than 100 different countries, including countries in the Middle East, are able to achieve their life goals. Girls Not Brides consists of approximately 1,500 member organizations that raise awareness about child marriage, hold governments accountable to create national strategies to end child marriage and share solutions with communities and families. UNICEF reports that the combined efforts of organizations that combat child marriage, including Girls Not Brides, have prevented 25 million arranged child marriages.

The Road Ahead

Child marriage in Iraq is a controversial, ongoing practice despite Iraq’s Personal Status Law that emerged to prevent the occurrence of underage marriage. Young girls in Iraq who enter into marriage provide monetary gain for their families, especially those living in poverty, but experience physical and psychological damage that lasts a lifetime. Organizations such as the United Nations and Girls Not Brides continue to aid victims of child marriage in Iraq by providing healthcare, education and support. Hopefully, with the continued efforts of various NGOs, incidents of child marriage in Iraq will significantly reduce.

– Lauren Spiers
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in ChadThe World Health Organization defines female genital mutilation as “any procedure that involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Despite constituting an international human rights violation, FGM remains a pervasive issue affecting the lives of many women, especially in developing countries. According to UNICEF, at least 200 million girls and women have undergone genital mutilation globally. FGM is particularly prevalent in Chad, a landlocked country in Northern Africa, despite laws banning female genital mutilation in Chad. Over the years, steps have been taken to reduce the prevalence of FGM in Chad.

The Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in Chad

BMC Public Health explains that, in Chad, the citizenry continues FGM practices in both religious and traditional contexts. FGM is a hazardous practice, often done without anesthetic, putting girls and women at risk of both short and long-term health effects. These effects include genital swelling, bleeding, the inability to pass feces and urine, urinary tract infections and birth complications, among other consequences.

A BMC Public Health research article based on data from 2014-2015 indicates that, in Chad, 50.2% of women and 12.9% of girls have been genitally mutilated, endangering their health. There are multiple conditions that affect this staggering statistic. First, BMC Public Health explains that women with lower levels of education are more likely to experience FGM. Poverty levels also drive the practice as impoverished families have their daughters undergo FGM with the intention of marrying them off, granting impoverished families dowries and the benefits of marrying into a wealthier family. The practice of FGM tends to follow ethnic and religious traditions and is most common among the Sara ethnic group and other Muslim tribes.

Addressing FGM in Chad

While FGM prevalence has been decreasing throughout much of the world, Chad, Mali and Sierra Leone have seen an increase of 2–8% over the last 30 years. This increase in prevalence demonstrates the importance of efforts addressing FGM in Chad, especially now, when poverty rates are heightened due to COVID-19. With the help of NGOs, the U.S. government and tribal leaders, Chad is fighting the deeply entrenched traditions of FGM to protect the well-being of young women and girls.

NGOs play a vitally important role in the creation of long-term programs aimed at changing societal and cultural norms surrounding female genital mutilation in Chad. These NGOs can expand their reach with support from the Chadian government. For example, the Chadian government aided the Chadian Association for Family Well-Being in its work surrounding FGM education and awareness. This education includes seminars, campaigns and conferences explaining the dangers of FGM.

The Role of the US

Not only has Chad’s government stepped up to combat FGM but the U.S. has played a critical role in education surrounding FGM practices. From 1997 to 1999, the U.S. Embassy’s Democracy and Human Rights Fund supported a locally implemented FGM education program to change norms surrounding FGM in Chad. This resulted in a roundtable meeting with “doctors, judges, parliamentarians and NGO representatives, a national seminar” and four regional seminars, all of which helped spread awareness of the dangers of FGM in Chad.

Mobilizing Tribal Leaders to Fight FGM

Due to the cultural and ethnic ties surrounding the practice of female genital mutilation in Chad, tribal leaders have played an important part in the movement to end FGM. Because of the trust bestowed upon tribal leaders, they can increase awareness about FGM’s consequences and generate support for the laws banning its practice among ethnic groups throughout the country. In order to motivate and educate tribal leaders, the Red Cross of Chad set up an advocacy program that creates initiatives and training sessions for tribal leaders to combat FGM in their communities.

While the inhumane practice of FGM continues in Chad due to deeply entrenched cultural roots, the U.S. and Chadian governments play consequential roles in combating the prevalence of FGM. This support is crucial as female genital mutilation in Chad severely harms girls’ and women’s health, impacting their futures and their abilities to rise out of poverty.

Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr

impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana
Ghana’s poverty rate has halved over the past 20 years, but COVID-19 stunted the country’s progress. Amid an economic crisis, many Ghanaian people have lost their jobs, healthcare and education due to the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana is severe, especially for women and children.

Child Labor is on the Rise

Global child labor decreased by nearly 40% between 2000 and 2020, but COVID-19 forced many children into the workforce. Before the pandemic started, 160 million children participated in child labor. If countries cannot mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19, around 168.9 million children could be in child labor by the end of 2022. Children in low-income countries like Ghana are particularly at risk of experiencing child labor. Between expansive school closures, increased unemployment and lost family members due to COVID-19, Ghanaian children have become more susceptible to child labor since the pandemic started.

Children and families often turn to child labor because it is the only option available to meet their basic needs. Ghanaian children as young as 8 years old work jobs in industries such as mining, carpentry, fishing and transporting goods to support themselves and their families. Most countries have developed economic relief packages to assist families who are struggling, but it can be challenging for low-income countries to afford adequate social protection programs. The World Bank found that low-income countries, on average, spend only about $6 per capita in response to the pandemic. Adequate social protection programs may be necessary to fully combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

Educational Opportunities are Sparse

Many Ghanaian children have lost their educations since the pandemic started because of school closures or the need to drop out and support their families. At a shortage of proper funding, schools in Ghana struggle to afford food, technology for remote learning and resources for students with disabilities. Food insecurity has increased for students who formerly relied on their schools to provide meals every day. According to a recent study by Innovations for Poverty Action, 72% of Ghanaian children in public schools did not receive their usual daily lunches and 30% said they experienced hunger as a result of their schools closing. Without access to education, Ghanaian children are at risk of hunger and exploitation due to the vast impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

To combat malnutrition, UNICEF is providing children with micronutrient supplements, such as iron folate, to improve children’s health. The Girls Iron Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) Programme, which UNICEF helped the Ghana Health Service implement and develop, has reduced anemia in girls from the Northern and Volta Regions of Ghana by 26%. UNICEF is also helping Ghana attain educational resources and create school programs that are inclusive to students with disabilities.

Ghana’s Limited Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has decreased access to healthcare in Ghana, particularly for pregnant women seeking antenatal care. According to UNICEF, many pregnant women did not receive any antenatal care during the pandemic, either because it was unavailable or because they feared contracting COVID-19 at a health facility. Additionally, many children who were supposed to get standard vaccinations when the pandemic broke out did not receive them due to a vaccine shortage and fears of catching COVID-19 at health facilities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with Ghana to make healthcare more accessible, ensuring health facilities are safe and have the resources they need. As the first country to receive the COVAX vaccine in February 2021, Ghana has been on the road to recovery from COVID-19 for several months. The country also received 350,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in May 2021. The Ghanaian government, UNICEF, Gavi and WHO are collaborating to endorse and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, which will help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

Unemployment and Wage Reductions Skyrocket

According to the World Bank, more than 770,000 Ghanaian workers experienced wage reductions between March and June 2020 because of the pandemic and 42,000 workers experienced layoffs. While some businesses received support from the government, others did not or were unaware that such resources were available. Many businesses had to close at the beginning of the pandemic, which led to long-term financial struggles. The World Bank is working with the Ghanaian government to help businesses overcome damage from the pandemic and gain resilience in preparation for other economic changes. The organization is focused on raising awareness about government support programs like the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme, which protects jobs and benefits small businesses. The World Bank is also working on creating long-term, educational solutions that prepare young people in Ghana to enter the workforce with adaptability, certifications and a wide range of skill sets.

Solutions in the Works

Many organizations are working alongside the Ghanaian government to combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana. Organizations like UNICEF and Human Rights Watch are actively working to provide Ghana’s impoverished people with the resources needed to survive, including food, water, healthcare and education. The COVID-19 vaccine offers hope that Ghana will recover from the pandemic, opening the door for improvements in healthcare, education and jobs.

Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

increased poverty in PalestineThe Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has been ongoing for more than 70 years, has placed strain on the economic stability of Palestinian citizens. In the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has further contributed to the economic challenges that people have faced in Palestine, leading to a widespread and worsening state of poverty. Increased poverty in Palestine calls for increased international aid and support.

Poverty in Palestine

A large portion of Palestine’s population lives below the poverty line and cannot afford food, clothing and shelter. In 2017, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) found that one in every three Palestinians lived in poverty, equating to almost 30% of people. The Gaza Strip had the highest concentration of citizens living in poverty at a rate of 53%.

Inadequate work opportunities and low wages play a large role in poverty in Palestine. Research indicates that the job status of the head of the house greatly impacts the risk of poverty. The PCBS also found that 42.1% of households whose heads did not have a steady job lived in poverty compared to 25.8% of households with an employed head of the house.

This is especially alarming when one takes the unemployment rate into account as 43.1% of Gaza’s citizens were unemployed in the last quarter of 2020. The average monthly wage for those with a steady source of income in Gaza is a mere 682 ILS (about $207). Many people earn below the minimum wage, making it difficult for Palestinians to pull themselves out of poverty.

The Effect of COVID-19 on Poverty

The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed the little progress that Palestine made toward economic stability. While Palestinians were able to narrowly dodge the first wave of the pandemic, the next two waves destroyed economic gains. The World Bank predicted that “after growth of a mere 1% in 2019,” the Palestinian economy may contract by a minimum of 7.6% in 2020. In addition, due to decreased revenue, the financing gap could increase from $800 million in 2019 to more than $1.5 billion in 2020. Vaccines have become an issue as well.

Although the U.N. released a statement declaring that Israel is responsible for providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Israel excluded Palestinians from the vaccination campaign until recently. Israel prioritized only Palestinians working in Israel, overlooking the millions of Palestinians living in or near Gaza, for whom Israel has allotted only 5,000 doses.

Without vaccines, Palestinians are unable to leave their homes for work and food, plunging them further into poverty. The international COVAX scheme, backed by the WHO, should cover up to 20% of vaccine requirements for Palestinians. Palestinians have also sourced “limited quantities of vaccines from elsewhere” but have a long way to go to achieve herd immunity.

Education in Palestine

Many Palestinian children no longer have access to safe schooling. A U.N. report detailing the violence keeping children out of school mentions “threats of demolition, clashes on the way to school between students and security forces, teachers stopped at checkpoints and violent actions of Israeli forces and settlers on some occasions.”

These conditions impacted more than 19,000 children in the 2018 school year, limiting their ability to safely obtain an education. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the struggles of securing an education, especially for the impoverished population of Palestine. The Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights reports that 34.83% of Palestinian students could not join virtual classes due to a lack of resources and internet connection.

Due to a lack of education and opportunities, Israeli officers have arrested many children trying to cross the Israeli border for a better life. As of April 2021, 71.4% of children who attempted to cross the border were school dropouts trying to escape increased poverty in Palestine.

Organizations Working to Reduce Poverty

Organizations like UNICEF are addressing the education crisis through initiatives such as the Life Skills and Citizenship Education Initiative, which began in 2015. The program focuses on enhancing life skills and improving citizenship education. UNICEF also conducts “entrepreneurship skills programs for adolescents to support their future employment.” The program includes internships and career counseling.

In 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) spent $57 million of U.S. funding to ease poverty in Palestine, assisting more than 430,000 citizens. This included 33% of women-led households and 4.3% of the disabled population. The WFP provided cash-based transfers, food packages and “agriculture assets and training” to address increased poverty in Palestine.

The Road Ahead

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has severely worsened the state of poverty in Palestine as citizens end up in the crossfire. However, the ceasefire that Palestinian and Israeli officials announced in May 2021 may be a step in the direction of safety and stability for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Greater international support will help lower poverty rates and raise the quality of life in Palestine.

Mariam Abaza
Photo: pixabay

Access to Education in PalestineAmid the escalating Israel-Palestine conflict, there remains a generation of Palestinian children denied access to traditional education. Despite immense adversity, education remains an important priority in Palestinian society. Education is, in part, a mode of sustaining Palestine’s unique culture amid exile and foreign occupation. More than 95% of children are enrolled in basic education across Palestine. While impressive, this statistic obscures the tribulations and barriers that Palestinian youth experience in their educational journeys. Both males and those with disabilities are at a disproportionately higher rate of not completing their education with 25% of boys dropping out of school by age 15. Equally concerning, is that “22.5% of boys and 30% of girls aged 6-15 years with a disability have never enrolled in school.” International aid organizations are committed to improving access to education in Palestine.

Low School Completion Rates

Low rates of school completion are inherently tied to Palestine’s failing job market. The economy is crippled by decades of sanctions and isolationism. Currently, youth unemployment rates are 40% in the West Bank and 62% in Gaza. Simply, many young Palestinians do not see the incentive in completing their education if it will not guarantee them job opportunities.

For the Palestinian education system to thrive, the state’s circulation of job opportunities needs to be drastically improved. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) offers a technical and vocational training program to Palestinian refugee youth to help them gain skills for the Middle Eastern job sector. The UNRWA runs eight centers with a capacity for about 7,500 students. Furthermore, UNICEF works on “life-skills and entrepreneurship skills programs for adolescents to support their future employment.”

Influence of West Bank Violence on Education

Violent episodes of conflict along the West Bank and Gaza Strip hinder education in Palestine. Due to the crisis in the region, almost half a million children in Palestine require humanitarian assistance. The closure of the Gaza Strip and its accompanying physical access restrictions vehemently infringe upon the liberties and learning potential of young Palestinians. Having to regularly pass by military checkpoints and settlements on the way to school has untold psychological effects on Palestinian youth. Even at home, almost 90% “of children are subjected to psychological aggression” and 74% are physically punished.

Organizations such as UNICEF fight to create violence-free environments across Palestine. “It is our collective duty to protect every child on the journey to school and at school and to ensure that they can access the quality education which is the right of every child, everywhere,” says Genevieve Boutin, UNICEF special representative in the State of Palestine. She further explains that education is integral to achieving peace.

The Future of Palestinian Education

Still, much remains to be done to improve access to education in Palestine. Across Palestine, classrooms remain immensely overcrowded and underfunded. From a lack of classrooms to textbook shortages, Palestinian students are forced to beat the odds. Sometimes, students must study with no light due to frequent power outages. In fact, the Gaza Strip is only able to garner a meager four to six hours of electricity daily.

It is crucial that the United States and other powerful countries increase their humanitarian assistance and aid to the Palestinian territories. As violence continues to erupt, the U.N. is actively involved in mediation efforts. International organizations must continue targeted development projects in marginalized Palestinian communities. The future of education in Palestine depends on the unity and support of the international community.

Conor Green
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Syria
The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Syria and other war-torn nations has been severe. Some countries have cut foreign aid to Syria amid the pandemic, which will greatly affect Syrians already living in dire circumstances. Other countries and organizations have increased aid, recognizing that now more than ever, foreign aid is urgently needed in Syria.

The Crisis in Syria in Numbers

During the pandemic, many Syrians have lost sources of income. A drastic rise in food prices and a drop in the value of the Syrian pound are further exacerbating the country’s humanitarian crisis. In 2020:

  • About 4.5 million people became food insecure, bringing the total to about 12.4 million food-insecure people, nearly 60% of the population.
  • Food prices in Syria increased by 236%.
  • The poverty rate increased to a staggering 90%.
  • Roughly 24 million people require humanitarian aid to survive.

Decreased Foreign Aid

Global economic struggles have led to cuts in foreign aid budgets across the globe. At a March 2021 Brussels donor conference, the U.N. asked countries to pledge $10 billion to alleviate the effects of the Syrian civil war, which the pandemic has further aggravated. The international community only pledged $6.4 billion in aid to Syria. A clear example of the impacts of reduced aid is apparent in the humanitarian relief efforts of the World Food Programme. The organization had to reduce food apportionments to Syrians by 30% in order “to stretch existing funding.”

Adding to aid concerns, the United Kingdom, normally a world leader in foreign aid, plans to donate almost 50% less in 2021 than it did in 2020. The cut has been met with much domestic and international backlash. However, other countries have dramatically increased aid. Germany’s 2021 pledge is its largest in four years, promising more than $2 billion worth of aid to Syria.

Organizations Aiding Syria

Funded by national governments and private donors, various organizations are working to alleviate the effects of COVID-19 on poverty in Syria. The World Food Programme (WFP), which provides food to nearly five million of Syria’s most vulnerable people every month, won the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts in 2020.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have started coordination and planning for the vaccines promised through COVAX to cover the priority 20% of the Syrian population. Boosting the low vaccination rate in Syria will undoubtedly help alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Syria.

The Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund (SCHF) is also essential in coordinating aid. Since the U.N. created it in 2014, the SCHF has worked to increase the quality of humanitarian assistance in the country. It assigns funds to the NGOs and aid agencies best suited to meet shifting needs so that funding has the greatest reach and is utilized most effectively for the most significant impact.

The SCHF has already laid out its first “standard allocation” strategy for 2021, dividing the money among efforts that will improve living conditions, provide life-saving humanitarian assistance and foster long-term resilience by creating livelihood opportunities. Its “reserve allocation” sets aside funds to address unforeseen challenges that may arise.

The Road Ahead

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated poverty and food insecurity in Syria. Due to the global economic crisis caused by COVID-19, there will likely be more gaps in humanitarian relief funding. Wealthier countries need to step in to assist more vulnerable countries during their greatest time of need. While organizations commit to helping Syrians most in need, support from the international community will ensure a stronger and more comprehensive response.

Hope Browne
Photo: Flickr

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

The 4 Impacts of Child Poverty in Malawi

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

Save the Children in Malawi

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

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

Mary McLean
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and DisabilityMany factors can contribute to poverty in China, including disability. Due to socioeconomic barriers and discrimination, people with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty. With a high population rate, China has one of the largest numbers of disabled people living in poverty. Unemployment, lack of education and discrimination are just some of the many challenges this population faces in China.

9 Facts About Disability and Poverty in China

  1. High Disability Population: The total population of people living with disabilities in China reached 85 million in 2018, which is 6.5% of the total Chinese population. In 2006, men accounted for 51% of the disabled population while 49% were women. Many of these individuals often do not receive adequate support due to discrimination or “ableism,” meaning social prejudice against people with disabilities. In an article titled “Gender and Disability in Chinese Higher Education,” China is categorized as an ableist society with a number of injustices facing the disability community. As such, people with disabilities are “often seen as persons presenting inconvenience and burdens to society.” Ableism in China has also led to many children with disabilities being abandoned. Some statistics estimate around 98% of abandoned children in China may have disabilities. Thus, societal prejudices contribute significantly to the lack of support that individuals with disabilities in China receive.
  2. Lack of Education: The lack of quality education offered to people with disabilities in China has disadvantaged these individuals academically and economically. In China, the gap in education quality for disabled individuals is growing. Poverty remains a crucial obstacle in the empowerment of those living with disabilities. Due to this lower quality education, individuals aged 15 and above with disabilities have an illiteracy rate greater than 40%. This difference is staggering compared to the 3.3% illiteracy rate for the same age group without disabilities. Similarly, the lack of education provided to people with disabilities in China causes these individuals to experience challenges during the employment process. Jobs often require proficiency in language skills, leaving disabled individuals at a disadvantage.
  3. Lack of Monetary Support: Often, Chinese employers do not provide sufficient support to individuals with disabilities. Employment services for disabled people in China are at the initial stages, and they have proven to be inadequate to help unemployed, disabled persons obtain jobs. The quality of employment, including wage levels and conditions of work, have room for improvement. Because of the lack of proper services to economically empower people with disabilities, these individuals often live in poverty.
  4. High Disability Rate in Rural Areas: The disabled population in urban areas accounted for 20.71 million, or 20.96%, of the population. Meanwhile, the disabled population in rural areas is 62.25 million, or 75.04%. There are significantly more disabled people living in rural areas compared to urban areas. The employment difference is mainly due to this gap in the urban and rural populations. Initially, China had a very agricultural-based economy. However, with recent economic reforms, the country has industrialized, and most of the population now lives in urban areas. Many rural residents face obstacles in moving to urban areas, mainly because most only receive short-term contracts that do not entitle them to urban residency status. The lack of residency status prevents them from accessing proper healthcare services and other benefits. This gap is an even more significant barrier for people with disabilities, as a lack of appropriate care can be detrimental to their health.
  5. Discrimination Against Disabled Employees: China’s anti-discriminatory laws, especially in employment, are often not followed. China has laws that ensure protection and equal rights for disabled people. However, employers frequently ignore these laws. While the Chinese government installed a quote system in 2008 with penalties for failing to abide, many employers preferred to pay the fine than hire a worker with a disability. These discriminatory actions put workers with disabilities at a greater disadvantage for finding employment and gaining support from their government.
  6. High Mortality Rate: According to the U.N., in countries where “under-five mortality,” meaning the probability (per 1,000) that a newborn will die before reaching the age of 5, has decreased below 20%, the mortality rate for children with disabilities may be as high as 80%. In China, the 2019 mortality rate for children under five is 7.9%, which is less than 20%. This means that there is a high death rate for children with disabilities. Additionally, there is a lack of medical services available for families without health insurance to support a disabled child.
  7. Adult Opposition: Parental opposition and the lack of trained teachers represent further obstacles to quality education. Students with disabilities do not receive adequate learning because there is a lack of trained teachers who know how to create an inclusive environment at school. Research has shown that although 77% of teachers have experience teaching students with special needs, 60% of teachers have not received the proper training nor know how to teach them in an inclusive environment. This ineffective education system for students with disabilities sets the foundation for future disempowerment in China’s economic and social spheres.
  8. Disability Cycle: Disability and poverty are creating a cycle in which one reinforces the other. Low-income individuals often lack access to quality healthcare, and this healthcare disparity further aggravates the burdens of these groups. These healthcare programs expose individuals to diseases that can lead to long-term disabilities. Disability can then lead to decreased productivity, preventing these individuals from working, and thus resulting in unemployment. Ultimately, higher unemployment rates lead to higher poverty rates, creating a cycle of poverty and disability.
  9. Lack of Employment: Discrimination and bias hold back disabled individuals from employment and lead to higher poverty rates. People with disabilities in China face prejudice and discrimination and are often marginalized and “largely invisible” to others. Research studies exploring the discrimination that individuals with disabilities face reveal that birthing or raising a person with a disability was believed to bring shame and guilt to the family. Because of this widespread stigma, there is a belief that people with disabilities are incapable of working, which causes many barriers for them in accessing employment opportunities. As a result of less employment, there is an increase in poverty.

Looking Ahead

While poverty in China affects a significant portion of its population, it has disproportionately affected individuals with disabilities due to the unique economic and social disadvantages they face. From lack of employment opportunities, lower-quality education and poor healthcare access to the persisting stigma associated with disabilities and rampant discrimination, challenges for people with disabilities are numerous in this country. China can continue to support its disabled community through education initiatives, economic opportunities and protective legislative actions.

– Philip Tang
Photo: Unsplash

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Madagascar
Madagascar, an island enriched with a culture of religious diversity, castes and classes and growing tourism, is the fifth poorest country in the world. In fact, the pandemic has raised Madagascar’s poverty rates from 75% to 78%. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Madagascar has been significant but the country is working to slow the spread of the virus.

Before the Pandemic

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Madagascar was seeing an economic boom with a growth rate of 4.9% in 2019, its highest level in over a decade. The country made such economic progress largely due to an increase in exportation activity. Despite significant improvements, barriers such as inadequate infrastructure, lack of competition in key sectors, poor governance and slow progress in human capital development continued to restrict further economic growth in Madagascar.

During the Pandemic

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Madagascar has restricted global trade and hindered Madagascar’s major industries. This sent the country into a sudden, spiraling recession. Madagascar’s economic progress has faced a sharp decline due to the pandemic. The country is dealing with a GDP deflation of -4.2%. This economic loss is due to unemployment and other poverty-causing factors such as loss in trade and tourism revenue.

From 2017-2019, Madagascar’s unemployment rate was 1.7%. This rate increased to 1.9% in 2020. Madagascar’s current total number of COVID-19 cases is 42,216, far fewer than many other African countries. However, the CDC classifies Madagascar as having very high levels of COVID-19 cases, as cases have been rising recently.

A deeper look at pandemic caused factors that are affecting Madagascar’s economy and increasing poverty rates:

  • Drop-in Exports – Madagascar’s strongly developing mining industry contributed to its economic growth. The country produces about 6% of the world’s nickel, cobalt and ilmenite. Nickel prices have reached an all-time low, causing Madagascar to close its plant and drop exports. The Chinese and U.S. markets, which in sum take in 25% of Malagasy exports, closed during the pandemic as well, limiting Madagascar’s export opportunities. The closure of Chinese and U.S. markets limited Madagascar’s export opportunities.
  • Tourism – More than 45,000 Madagascar residents work directly in the tourism industry. Since the start of 2020, Madagascar has lost about half a billion dollars in tourism revenue. As a result, those who worked in the industry are facing the prospect of poverty. “Overnight, we pretty much had zero tourists,” says Thierry Rajaona, chairman of the Madagascar Business Group, in an interview with Africanews.
  • Containment Measures – Enforced governmental restrictions on movement keep those susceptible to poverty in place. This prevents people from seeking jobs or accessing markets. These precautionary governmental regulations help keep cases under control but contribute to further food and housing insecurities and increased poverty.

The Future

Although the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty in Madagascar continues to be a prevalent problem, getting Madagascar back to a state of economic growth is a reachable goal for a lot of groups. A group of private Magalyze companies holds optimistic goals for the future, expecting Madagascar to achieve a 5% growth rate through the collaboration of public authorities. Rebuilding Madagascar’s economy requires political governmental action to mobilize domestic resources and stimulate Madagascar’s struggling but essential industries.

The World Bank estimates that Madagascar will gradually recover by 2023. During this recovery time, mass testing and contact tracing should help reduce the effects of the pandemic. President Andry Rajoelina made a statement in March 2021 against mass vaccinations, calling for an “herbal remedy.” The World Bank says that a vaccination-centered campaign is necessary to ensure that the country does not experience a resurgence of cases. Vaccination is among the most effective ways to help developing countries recover from the economic, health and social impacts of COVID-19.

As of June 2021, 0.68% of Madagascar’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. In early May 2021, Madagascar received its first batch of 250,000 COVID-19 vaccinations because of the global COVAX initiative, which plans to cover vaccines for 20% of Madagascar’s population.

Solutions

UNICEF has been working to combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Madagascar through holistic efforts. In May 2021, UNICEF received 200 new oxygen concentrators which Madagascar used to help those suffering from COVID. These oxygen concentrators will help COVID-19 healthcare as healthcare facilities in Madagascar often run out of medical supplies. Additionally, UNICEF is working to rebuild Madagascar through advocacy that addresses malnutrition, healthcare access and poverty. These sectors of advocacy are interconnected as 60% of those living in Madagascar live over 5 km from a healthcare facility and often lack reliable transportation and roads to reach such facilities. Access disproportionately affects those living in poverty and has links to gender and literacy inequalities as well.

The Ministry of Public Health is working with UNICEF to promote public engagement and communication in relation to COVID-19 risks. This includes updating databases and preparation plans to deal with further cases and the next winter period.

Founded in 1999, SEED Madagascar (Sustainable, Environment, Education & Development) is a charity dedicated to addressing Madagascar’s distinct needs through sustainable development. SEED has already reached over 2,380 community members through COVID-19 informational sessions and 16,533 people on proper handwashing demonstrations. The organization has been working to train health workers and school teachers on COVID-19 prevention.

Looking Ahead

Prior to COVID-19, poverty rates in Madagascar were dropping as its economy grew. This growth stunted once the pandemic hit Madagascar’s communities. As the GDP fell, more and more civilians stumbled into poverty because of job loss and health expenses. Various organizations have been partnering with Madagascar’s government to lift people out of poverty and help the country reduce COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths. As trade networks strengthen and the tourism industry picks up again, leaders are hopeful of returning growth to Madagascar’s economy and further reduction of poverty rates.

– Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Flickr