Child Lead Poisoning
For many people, child lead poisoning can feel similar to a thing of the past, as developed countries have access to resources and information to prevent it. However, lead poisoning is still an all-too-real health concern to millions of people globally.

What is the Situation Surrounding Child Lead Poisoning?

Around the world, more than 800 million children have blood lead concentrations greater than five micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL). To be clear, it is dangerous to have any amount of lead in the bloodstream and five μg/dL is the CDC-established level at which medical intervention is needed. India has one of the highest rates of child lead poisoning, with around 275 million children having a blood lead level (BLL) of more than five μg/dL.

Child lead poisoning in India has many causes, as children can absorb lead almost anywhere in the environment. One can breathe it in, ingest it or absorb it through touch. Water undergoes contamination when it runs through lead pipes. Lead-containing spices and packaging contaminate food. Additionally, toys, paint and traditional Indian cosmetics and medicines can contain lead. Children also undergo exposure when around industries that deal with lead, such as battery recycling plants or mines. Impoverished areas suffer the most from lead poisoning, due to lower levels of awareness, access to medical care and higher amounts of lead in the community infrastructure.

Children’s Exposure to Lead

With so many methods of exposure, it is no wonder that so many Indian children suffer from lead poisoning with consequences that are dire. According to India’s National Health Portal, “Lead is a cumulative toxicant (increasing in quantity in the body over many years) that affects multiple body systems (neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and renal systems).”

Furthermore, lead poisoning is detrimental to mental health and causes disability. There is a relationship between childhood exposure and increased violence, aggression and criminal behavior. Annually, more than 500,000 new intellectual disability cases can be directly traced to lead poisoning. Data from UNICEF has shown that, on average, Indian children lose four IQ points as a direct result of lead exposure. UNICEF has stated that “A loss of five points across an entire population could result in a 57% increase in the proportion of the population determined to have intellectual disabilities…This has tremendous implications for both the capacity of society to provide remedial or special education programmes, as well as for their future leadership.”

Pure Earth

For this issue, preventative measures are the best solution. Pure Earth is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that focuses entirely on lead and mercury poisoning in low- and middle-income nations. The NGO is the largest organization dealing with international childhood lead poisoning and it solves lead poisoning one project at a time using a “5-Phase Solution.” The five phases include blood testing, source analyses, source-specific interventions, ongoing monitoring of BLLs and public education.

Each Pure Earth project is highly specific to the location it targets. First, the Pure Earth team will gather BLLs in the area, then the Pure Earth team will identify the most probable exposure sources. Once they have determined where the lead is coming from, they will design an intervention that eliminates the lead source. Finally, Pure Earth will continue to monitor BLLs and educate the citizens of the area about lead poisoning and how to avoid it.

One such project that Pure Earth has completed worked with lead poisoning in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, an Indian community in close proximity to a formal lead smelter. When an assessment found large amounts of lead in the yard of the local school and daycare, Pure Earth designed solutions to protect the residents. The solutions involved intensive cleaning, paving of dangerous outdoor areas, installing a drainage system to divert the runoff from the smelter and implementing a citizen education program.

The Toxic Sites Identification Program

Pure Earth works all over the world, but it has completed several projects in India. Additionally, it is currently operating a Toxic Sites Identification Program, which has identified more than 700 attention-needing locations in India since 2015.

Child lead poisoning can seem overwhelming. There are countless methods of exposure, and it causes sombering irreversible damage. Pure Earth has proved that change can happen by addressing the issue one step at a time.

Mia Sharpe
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Laos
Laos, known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is the only landlocked country located in Southeast Asia. It ranks as one of the region’s poorest countries, ranking 122 on the human development index. While the country has significantly reduced its poverty rate over the years, its people are still susceptible to falling back. Fortunately, various organizations as well as the United States government have continued to provide aid and elevate Lao society. Here are some innovations in poverty eradication in Laos, involving initiatives like UNICEF and the Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF).

Modifications in Child Education

Low completion rates in education have always been an issue in Laos, especially in regions such as the southern province of Saravan. UNICEF with the support of the Hong Kong National Committee has been training pre-primary teachers on effective teaching, learning and class management that center around children. This includes the use of learning corners, creating through local sources and children learning while at play, as well as access to distributed materials, which include coloring books, picture books and storybooks. Around 50 pre-primary teachers that received this training for 2021-2022 benefitted more than 4,000 children in Saravan’s southern province.

Improved Access to Water and Hygiene

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF worked with 23 schools in the Sarvan region to construct water stations, toilets and promote water hygiene activities. The benefits for the children have led to children not having to defecate in open areas, practicing proper handwashing techniques with soap and students going home to teach their families proper handwashing techniques. All factors incentivize cleanliness, which lessens the likelihood of disease.

People-to-People Ties with the United States

With Barack Obama being the first sitting U.S. President to visit Laos, the U.S. and PDR continue to work together through a harsh historical legacy to open a new era of bilateral relations. Because 70% of Laos’ population is under 30, the United States is using exchange programs that include Humphrey, Fulbright, the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program and Obama’s Young Southeast Asia Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) to engage and elevate the next generation of young leaders. English teaching programs will also emerge by introducing more teachers and language experts, improving English-language skills and increasing connectivity between younger generations of both countries.

The Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF)

The World Bank has been part of the PRF since its inception in 2002, empowering Lao villagers and improving village infrastructure. This has resulted in 165 villages establishing 915 Self Help Groups, totaling more than 10,000 members (85% female) between 2012 and 2019. About 15 of 23 pilot Village Nutrition Centers are still in operation as of 2016, allowing members to use products provided to continue making nutritious meals. PRF infrastructure activities have resulted in 87% of target households participating in voting on village priorities, with women identifying 90% of the subprojects. With such positive progress, preparations are currently underway to further improve both livelihood and nutrition activities.

As it stands, innovations in poverty eradication in Laos have been able to elevate the Lao people through historical hardship. While the country’s poverty rate has significantly decreased from 48% to 18% from 1993 to 2019, the implementation of further innovations in poverty eradication in Laos will need to continue, thus increasing the livelihood of the Lao people.

Jerrett Phinney
Photo: Flickr

Social Protection Programs in Eritrea
Eritrea is an African country with an area size of 45,406 square miles, which is slightly larger than the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Eritrea has a coastline on the Red Sea that shares maritime borders with Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, bordering Eritrea is the East African countries of Sudan in the west and Ethiopia in the south. Ongoing challenges have led to UNICEF’s implementation of social protection programs in Eritrea, which aim to improve nutrition, health, education and more.

About Eritrea and UNICEF’s Work

Eritrea is a former Italian colony that Ethiopia annexed in 1952. It became a sovereign state in 1993 after a referendum. Eritrea has received the designation of Africa’s most secretive and repressive nation as it imposes restrictions on freedom of expression.

Eritrea operates under a unitary system of government with no legislature or independent judiciary. The country has been in conflict in the Tigray region with Ethiopia for more than three decades. The heightened crisis in the region has continued to push Eritreans into exile. In November 2000, more than 96,000 Eritreans including children fleeing the conflict were registered as refugees with an increased call for humanitarian assistance.

UNICEF has stepped up with an emergency relief effort to provide lifesaving services to support Eritreans. In 2020, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan, Italy and the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) donated $6 million to UNICEF Eritrea’s Humanitarian Action for Children Fund. UNICEF in collaboration with the Government of Eritrea expeditiously utilized these resources in the provision of social protection programs in Eritrea for thousands of vulnerable Eritreans.

UNICEF’s Social Protection Programs in Eritrea

  • Nutrition. UNICEF procured life-saving medicines and supplements in 2020 to treat maternal health conditions and childhood nutrition concerns. More than 69,000 children younger than 5 years of age received treatment for malnutrition while about 250,000 children received vitamin A supplements. UNICEF distributed folic acid supplements to 170,000 expectant mothers and managed diarrhea-related conditions in 116,600 children. UNICEF procured 236 units of cold-chain technology to replace outdated equipment in Eritrea’s six regional facilities for effective storage of life-saving vaccines and inoculated more than 150 children against infectious diseases ranging from poliomyelitis to tuberculosis.
  • Health. UNICEF-led hygiene initiatives through the Community Sanitation program engaged 500 Eritreans in the production of sanitary kits and hygiene supplies. Approximately 12,000 hand sanitizers underwent distribution to more than five regional health centers while 20 disability centers and orphanages received 90 handwashing stations. UNICEF conducted mass media campaigns on public health awareness, sending out health information to about 500,000 Eritreans on effective hand washing and hygiene safety techniques. Home health training programs for 100 community health workers emerged, which aimed to meet the needs of children and pregnant women. The training programs led to a 10% decrease in infant mortality rates. The neonatal intensive care unit began in the Barentui region in 2019 as part of the community-based health program to cater to sick children. Health outcomes of more than 100 children have improved as a consequence of specialized health services in Eritrea.
  • Education. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted learning opportunities for children in Eritrea due to lockdown restrictions on public facilities. UNICEF, through the Mine-Risk Education program in schools, established 20 community education centers to provide learning opportunities in Eritrea to support 5,000 overage out-of-school children and provide training programs for 180 teachers. Educational supplies went to 7,220 vulnerable school children at the commencement of learning activities following the reopening of schools. Additionally, about 800 disabled children benefited from community-based rehabilitation services that UNICEF organized. The social services received support from community volunteers and behavioral health providers.
  • Cash Assistance. UNICEF coordinated disaster relief efforts for more than 5,000 Eritrean families. It mobilized resources to engage families in the production of household sanitary supplies at community rehabilitation centers while 494 vulnerable families obtained cash grants that benefited 2,000 children. The disaster response aimed to mitigate some of the socioeconomic effects caused by COVID-19. UNICEF coordinated efforts with the Eritrean government to provide welfare support and behavioral health services for about 500,000 families, including women and children.

Looking Ahead

UNICEF humanitarian interventions in Eritrea have been far-reaching and impactful but vulnerabilities from the Tigray conflict, harsh climatic conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic have created a significant humanitarian need with 1.2 million Eritreans experiencing poverty. Disruptions in supply chain platforms negatively impact food security in the country, thereby increasing child malnutrition concerns. UNICEF is requesting $13.7 million to meet the humanitarian needs of children in Eritrea in 2022. There is an urgent need to respond to the clarion call for humanitarian aid and support the people of Eritrea. The resources will provide and expand life-saving aid to this community and the vulnerable population within it.

Sylvia Eimieho
Photo: Flickr

Education Initiatives in Pakistan
Pakistan, a country of 220 million people, currently holds the “world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children,” according to UNICEF, equating to about 22.8 million children. Some factors that contribute to this high out-of-school rate are gender inequality, socioeconomic status and location of residency. USAID and UNICEF have implemented several education initiatives in Pakistan in recent years to help address the education crisis.

Pakistan’s Education Overview

According to a  study by Pak Alliance for Maths and Science based on data from the  Pakistan Social and Living Measurements Standards survey 2019-20 (PSLM), 32% of Pakistan’s children from age 5 to 16 years old are not in school. There are many reasons for this, such as gender norms, which assert that females’ sole roles should involve household chores and caregiving. Poverty also plays a role as many impoverished families simply cannot afford to send their children to school. Area of residency also factors in —  children who live in rural areas, such as the province of Balochistan, do not have access to a school within walking distance.

In addition to these factors, Pakistan’s education system faces several barriers that intensify the difficulty of completing a full education,  such as deteriorating school facilities that lack proper sanitation and electricity. In addition, underqualified teaching staff, widespread corruption and thousands of staff who do not show up for work leave children unable to receive a proper education.

USAID Initiatives

USAID has partnered with Pakistan’s government to increase access to education, especially for out-of-school children, and improve the quality of education in Pakistan overall. Given that the quality of teachers significantly impacts students’ education, USAID prioritizes the training of educators. In partnership with Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission, USAID established “two professional teaching degree programs.”

USAID has also provided training to educators “on how to teach reading” to students using appealing and age-appropriate materials in local languages. USAID has also created libraries in thousands of Pakistani classrooms to encourage literacy. Since 2013, USAID has given training to “more than 46,000 teachers and school administrators.” USAID also prioritizes developing education policies that cater to “local needs,” which will ultimately improve community involvement and enrollment in schools.

Since its education partnership with Pakistan in 2013, USAID has constructed “17 faculties of education” for teacher training and “built or repaired more than 1,600 schools” throughout Pakistan. USAID’s assistance has benefited more than 2 million primary school students in Pakistan and “improved oral reading fluency for 26% of grade-two graduate students.” USAID also gave around 19,000 scholarships to outstanding students so they can “attend tertiary education.”

UNICEF Initiatives

Since 2016, UNICEF has committed to reducing the number of out-of-school children in Pakistan. The organization is helping to strengthen Pakistan’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) systems “to improve school readiness,” reduce dropout rates and encourage school completion. Children from impoverished and vulnerable communities will see the most benefits from these efforts.

UNICEF has committed to promoting educational awareness to parents about “early learning, the importance of on-time enrolment and the lack of social protection schemes,” which will help break down barriers to students completing their education. Lastly, UNICEF’s education initiatives in Pakistan promote discussions on the Pakistani government’s “education budgeting and public financing” to highlight areas in need of improvement that can help strengthen Pakistan’s education sector as a whole.

Looking Ahead

These initiatives are essential to improve Pakistan’s poverty rate, which stands at 39.3% as of 2021 because education is a proven path out of poverty. According to the Global Partnership for Education, 420 million people would rise out of poverty through secondary education and “one additional year of school can increase a woman’s earnings by up to 20%.”

The education initiatives in Pakistan have already begun to address the education crisis and will continue to do so in the coming years. These efforts will encourage more enrollments and give way to higher school completion rates despite the socio-economic disparities that many impoverished children face, which will ultimately reveal itself through economic growth in the nation and a broader job market.

– Isabella Elmasry
Photo: Flickr

Education System in Nigeria
The education system in Nigeria faces several barriers, however, organizations are working to strengthen these systems, recognizing that education is the pathway out of poverty. Geographical difficulties, gender inequality and circumstances of poverty impact students’ abilities to attend school.

Education in Nigeria

In Nigeria, primary education is “free and compulsory,” yet the primary school net enrollment rate stood at just 64% in 2010, according to the latest available data. In the northern region of Nigeria, net school attendance rates are particularly low at just 53%, according to UNICEF. UNICEF also highlights the gender disparities in school enrollment, with just 58% of girls enrolled in primary school in 2010. These disparities are greater in the north because there are more economic barriers and socio-cultural norms that discourage school attendance, especially that of females.

Secondary education is helpful in bettering the development of the country and securing higher-paying job opportunities for the population. Over the years, Nigeria has made strides in gross secondary school enrollment rates, going from nearly 32% in 2007 to 43% in 2018, which is a significant change although still low. If one analyzes further, gender disparities are still visible in secondary education with 42% of girls enrolled in 2018 in comparison to 44% of males.

Population Increase

The population in Nigeria has increased significantly over the years, standing at 206 million people and making Nigeria the most populated country on the African continent. This population growth, however, means there are not enough schools to adequately serve the entire population. Overcrowded classrooms in Nigeria are not uncommon — UNESCO recommends 30 students per teacher yet many classes contain more than 100 students. Overcrowded classrooms are difficult to manage and are not conducive to both learning and teaching.

Lack of Equipment and Teacher Shortages

Because there is a general shortage of school resources, facilities and equipment, many schools must share laboratories and equipment. This serves as a barrier to learning because learning depends on the accessibility of the laboratory or equipment. Because there is also a shortage of teachers in the secondary education system in Nigeria (less than 50% of the required number of teachers), teachers cannot give students individualized attention because there are so many students in a classroom.

One of the main problems that threaten the education system in Nigeria is “ineffective monitoring of the implementation of educational policy.” In addition, there are disparities in resources allocated to government schools versus public schools, the latter often enduring fewer resources and equipment.

Nigeria Partnership for Education Project (NIPEP)

Beginning in 2015 with a budget of $100 million, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) has helped train and improve the quality of teachers in five Nigerian states through the Nigeria Partnership for Education Project (NIPEP). The overall aim of the project was to keep children in school, with a particular focus on girls, and increase the quality of education, even in religious schools.

Each school decides how to use the grants from the advice of the school management committees because schools know their unique needs. Overall, the GPE support in Nigeria has benefited more than 46,000 schools through learning environment improvements. The GPE assistance also allowed for the training of more than 132,000 educators and scholarships for more than 417,000 girls to purchase school attire and supplies.

The program came to a close in 2020 but the GPE continues to help Nigeria to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19  pandemic. At the peak of the pandemic in June 2020, the “GPE approved a $15 million COVID-19 emergency grant to support the country’s response to the pandemic in 16 states.” In August 2020, the GPE gave Nigeria a grant of $20 million to support the Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, “focusing on girls and internally displaced children, as well as host and marginalized communities who are suffering from lack of access to education.”

Looking Ahead

Education provides skills that increase job opportunities and earnings while helping to protect people from socio-economic vulnerabilities. A more equitable expansion of education would reduce inequality and lift the impoverished from the bottom rung of the ladder. Therefore, improving the education system in Nigeria would help improve inequality and poverty rates in the country.

Ander Moreno
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Indonesia
Young children between the ages of 0 and 14 made up almost 26% of the population in Indonesia in 2020. Moreover, according to UNICEF, about 2.1 million children endure child poverty in Indonesia in 2021. Taking a closer at the country’s circumstances of child poverty provides insight into the severity of the situation.

5 Facts About Child Poverty in Indonesia

  1. Secondary Education Completion Lags Behind. In Indonesia, the net primary school enrollment rate stood at 93% in 2018, however, in that same year, the net secondary school enrollment rate stood at 78%. The reason for this disparity stems from the fact that Indonesia offers free education only up until grade 9, meaning, the next three years of secondary education that follow are not free. This serves as a barrier to secondary school completion as many impoverished families cannot afford the costs. Additionally, some families suffer from such severe poverty that they require their children to work to add to the household income instead of going to school. Many parents also pull their daughters out of school to shoulder the burden of household responsibilities because they do not see girls’ education as valuable in comparison to boys’ education. In addition, in impoverished communities, child marriage is prevalent. Many families resort to taking their daughters out of school and pushing them into a child marriage to ease the economic burden on the family.
  2. Child Labor is Rife in Indonesia. In 2020, the number of child laborers in Indonesia equated to 1.17 million, with many working in agriculture. The prevalence of child labor stems from circumstances of poverty as well as a lack of access to education. Indonesia pledged to eradicate child labor by 2022, and although it has not fully achieved this goal, it has made significant progress. Between 2009 and 2018, Indonesia reduced the number of child laborers from 4 million to 2.9 million by improving access to quality education to prevent children from dropping out of school and engaging in labor. The nation also has a commitment to informing parents about the importance of children’s education.
  3. Child Marriage is Prevalent. Child marriage is more common in impoverished/rural communities. According to UNICEF, Indonesian girls from families “with the lowest levels of expenditure” are nearly “five times more likely” to enter a marriage or union before the age of 18. In addition, girls from rural Indonesia “are three times more likely to marry before age 18” in comparison to urban Indonesian girls. Over a span of 10 years, child marriage rates in Indonesia reduced by 3.5%, although this rate is still far from the goal of 8.74% for 2024. UNICEF also states that one in nine Indonesian girls enter into marriage before the age of 18, which equates to 375 girls marrying each day.
  4. Poverty Impacts Future Earnings. According to a study that the Asian Development Bank Institute published in September 2019, Indonesian children who grow up in circumstances of poverty are likely to earn less in their adulthood. The study says, “Our instrumental variables estimation shows that a child who lived in [an impoverished] family when aged between 8 and 17 years old suffers an 87% earnings penalty relative to a child who did not grow up in [an impoverished] family.”
  5. Save the Children Addresses Child Poverty in Indonesia. The global children’s organization has provided assistance to Indonesia’s impoverished children for more than 30 years. Save the Children has also provided emergency assistance for almost all of Indonesia’s natural disasters. When a severe earthquake and tsunami hit Sulawesi Island in Indonesia, Save the Children supplied water, shelter, hygiene supplies and healthcare to children and families. Emergency responders provided assistance to more than 70,000 affected children. Child sponsorship programs beginning in 2014 ensure children learn the knowledge and skills necessary for success and ensure the overall health and nutrition of children. All in all, Save the Children has provided more than 23,000 “[Indonesian] children with a healthy start in life” and “protected 45,079 children from harm” while supporting more than 11,000 families in meeting their children’s basic needs.

Looking Ahead

Although the situation of child poverty in Indonesia is improving, disparities remain. Geographical differences lead to inequalities between different regions, which directly affects the country’s children. The fact that the nation comprises 17,000 islands spanning about 3,200 miles makes it very difficult to assist all population groups. Regarding the nation’s economic development, since 2016, Indonesia maintained annual GDP growth of around 5% until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With ongoing efforts to reduce child poverty in Indonesia, impoverished Indonesian children can look to a brighter future.

– Ander Moreno
Photo: Flickr

Japanese Foreign AidJapan has been a controversial figure in foreign aid for a number of reasons. The nation is famous for its strict policies in terms of refugees and immigrants, only accepting 20 refugees out of 19,000 asylum-seeking applicants in 2017. However, historically, Japan has taken the ranks as a leading provider of foreign aid, especially during the 1990s. Even today, Japan ranks fifth in global foreign aid. While impressive, Japan faces criticism for its decreases in providing aid abroad when the nation takes in so few asylum seekers. However, currently, Japanese foreign aid is making a name for itself through the country’s significant contributions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Development Association (IDA)

In December 2021, Japan pledged to give $3.4 billion to the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank, a record donation for the nation. The aim of this contribution is to provide developing nations with the resources necessary to rebuild after the economic losses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Japanese Finance Minister Sunichi Suzuki announced, “Now is the time for global solidarity,” according to Reuters. Japanese foreign aid to the IDA will significantly help developing nations facing the highest levels of poverty globally.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Japan has extended its support to other nations beyond simply providing monetary donations. In September 2021, Japan doubled its goal of providing 30 million COVID-19 doses, extending this number to 60 million doses globally. Japan had distributed the first 30 million vaccines to nations with vaccine shortages, such as Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia.

The vaccines will continue to reach nations in need and may extend beyond Asia. This donation is crucial in eliminating the health care disparities among nations, especially as the impoverished in developing nations suffer the most from a lack of COVID-19 vaccines. Overall, this is beneficial for all nations because the intensity of the pandemic could calm as vaccine distribution accelerates.

Supporting Latin America and the Caribbean

When Japan is not directly sending vaccines, it donates to organizations that distribute vaccines. Japan donated more than $11.1 million to UNICEF in August 2021 to support Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The funds will support the storage of vaccines at ideal temperatures and assist in achieving “effective and inclusive vaccination” across the LAC region. Much of this donation will directly aid in the creation of vaccine sites and the payment of staff and health workers to operate such facilities.

UNICEF reports that children in the LAC region are enduring social, educational and emotional impacts due to COVID-19. Japanese foreign aid in the form of the donation will increase vaccination rates for normality to resume. UNICEF has coordinated much of the efforts to drive donations for vaccines in the LAC region, a region reporting more than 40 million cases and 1.4 million deaths by the close of July 2021, accounting for 20-30% of the global toll of COVID-19 cases. Thus, UNICEF applauds Japan for its donation to accelerate vaccination efforts in the LAC.

Current Top Aid Provider

According to data from the Overseas Development Institute, among the Group of Seven nations, Japan has donated the most in global aid for COVID-19 at $5.1 billion in 2020. In comparison, Germany pledged $4.4 billion while France committed $1.9 billion and Canada gave $1.0 billion. Falling on the lower end of the donation spectrum, Britain gave $990 million while the United States gave $103 million and Italy committed $50 million. However, the United States could surpass Japan’s total donations as the Biden administration has expressed several foreign aid commitments during the COVID-19 pandemic with more to come.

Nonetheless, Japan is contributing greatly to the overall mission of aiding developing countries amid COVID-19, whether it be through monetary or in-kind donations.

Now more than ever, critics affirm that developed countries can do more to support developing nations. Japan has certainly stepped up to the plate during this time of global crisis. Japanese foreign aid has become crucial for developing countries and their recovery from the pandemic.

– Rachel Reardon
Photo: Flickr

Inclusive Education Programs
UNICEF is working alongside NGO Zhan, a software development company and a youth center to help children in Kazakhstan who have visual impairments gain more out of online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program teaches children with visual impairments how to access useful learning resources and maximize the benefits of technology. Inclusive education programs are particularly valuable in developing countries where many often stigmatize disabilities and those with disabilities do not receive accommodation from schools. The COVID-19 pandemic has made inclusive education even more essential due to an expansive surge in digital learning, which is rarely accessible to children with disabilities.

UNICEF’s Approach

UNICEF and NGO Zhan program taught children how to navigate smartphones, computers, web resources and messenger and navigation apps. The children also learned the basics of programming and became familiar with several software programs, as UNICEF reported.

Children who participated in the program ended up with heightened abilities to communicate with their teachers, peers and families, both inside and outside of school. Children with visual impairments who learn technological skills like computer programming have better chances of finding stable jobs later in life. Inclusive education programs like UNICEF’s help provide opportunities to children with disabilities who may otherwise lack access to education altogether, especially in developing countries.

Educational Benefits

Children with disabilities are often marginalized within educational systems, which makes it difficult to find career opportunities as adults. Children with disabilities face disproportionate amounts of exclusion in low-income areas, according to the World Bank. Educational programs that provide learning resources for children with disabilities help put them on level playing fields with their classmates.

Teachers in developing countries often lack the training and resources to assist children with disabilities, so outside organizations like UNICEF can help make schools more inclusive. According to the World Bank, inclusive education programs may involve teacher training, removing physical barriers for students and obtaining accessible learning materials. These resources allow children with disabilities the opportunity to learn the same material as their classmates without falling behind in school or missing out on job opportunities in the future.

Socioeconomic Benefits

Around the world, 57 million children lack access to primary education. While many children with disabilities struggle to keep up in school without accommodations, others lack access to education altogether. Educational disparities in low-income areas are particularly common among young girls.

Inclusive education programs and policies can improve child literacy, gender equality and educational opportunities at large for children with disabilities. When more children have access to positive educational experiences, more children can enter the workforce and contribute to their local and national economies.

UNICEF’s program for children with visual impairments is a prime example of how inclusive education can benefit children’s education and social lives. Inclusive education accepts and embraces all children, allowing them to succeed in school and pursue their ambitions for the future.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Food Security in Nigeria
Nigeria is a West African country that stands as the most populous nation in Africa with more than 182 million citizens. The nation holds a high population growth rate as well as a high poverty rate. About 60% of Nigerians live in impoverished conditions, a consequence of several factors including conflict, drought and floods. The ongoing conflict and violence in Nigeria has not only led to more than 2 million internally displaced Nigerians but has also led to high food insecurity levels. The violence and conflict are “disrupting food supplies, impeding access to basic services and markets and limiting agricultural activities and livelihood opportunities.” With more than 8.7 million people facing food insecurity in the northern parts of Nigeria, establishing greater food security in Nigeria is more important than ever.

Reasons Behind Food Insecurity in Nigeria

The escalation of the conflict together with the crisis that COVID-19 caused and rising numbers of internally displaced persons make food insecurity in Nigeria a growing problem. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened both poverty and food insecurity in the nation. According to ReliefWeb, “embargoes on food items, the reluctance of manufacturing countries to export and the reduction of economic activities due to the pandemic has led to food price hike as high as 120% across markets nationwide.” Severe droughts and floods also impact agricultural output, exacerbating both food insecurity and economic insecurity, especially for rural people who depend on the agricultural sector for their income and sustenance.

How the World Food Programme (WFP) is Providing Assistance

Because food insecurity links to malnutrition, the WFP is providing “specialized nutritious food” to vulnerable children younger than 5 as well as pregnant and breastfeeding Nigerian women. With the support of UNICEF and Action Contre La Faim (ACF), the WFP is able to provide “an integrated package of essential health and nutrition services” to reduce and address severe malnutrition among vulnerable Nigerian people, especially in the most isolated and remote regions. In the most conflict and violence-ridden states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, the WFP aims to expand its food security efforts to support 1.9 million citizens by the close of 2022.

In November 2021, the WFP had supplied more than 12,105 metric tonnes of local food to more than 1 million people enduring food insecurity in the most conflict-ridden parts of Nigeria. Through $7.1 million worth of cash-based assistance in the form of “E-vouchers, prepaid cards, bank cards and mobile money,” the WFP was able to help more than 551,000 people buy “life-sustaining food and engage in livelihood activities” to secure an income.

To address nutritional deficiencies, the WFP supplied “nutrition support to 126,631 children aged 6-23 months and 87,396 pregnant and lactating women and girls,” among other efforts. According to the WFP, women formed 60% of the beneficiaries of the WFP’s aid efforts. In total, the WFP’s work helped more than 1.4 million people in November 2021.

The food insecurity crisis in Nigeria is ongoing due to limited food access as a consequence of the conflict, which is why the WFP seeks funding of $211 million between December 2021 and May 2022 to continue with the goals of the Country Strategic Plan (2019-2022).

The Road Ahead

The Nigerian government could establish greater food security in Nigeria by focusing on rural development, appropriate policies for food, political stability and the reduction of poverty. All these strategies must work in collaboration with international aid in order to see true success. With the support of the WFP, Nigeria was able to stabilize staggering levels of food insecurity in the nation. However, “4.4 million people are still entirely depending on food assistance” for their survival. Ongoing humanitarian assistance is necessary to provide emergency food relief and support and improve food security in Nigeria.

– Ander Moreno
Photo: Flickr

Audrey Hepburn’s Granddaughter
Decades after the late actress Audrey Hepburn’s passing, her granddaughter, Emma Ferrer, took on her grandmother’s legacy, becoming involved in international advocacy projects. Ferrer is a national ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees USA and a spokesperson for UNICEF. Here is some information about Audrey Hepburn’s granddaughter as well as some background on Hepburn’s work with UNICEF.

Audrey Hepburn’s Work with UNICEF

Late actress Audrey Hepburn’s humanitarian efforts made a significant difference in the lives of countless children. Hepburn was a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. UNICEF operates in more than 190 nations and regions to ensure that every child’s rights are protected. Her commitment to the organization began after a journey to Ethiopia in the late 1980s where she sought to assist individuals in areas impacted by a severe drought that brought famine to the nation. She subsequently communicated with journalists about the work occurring in Ethiopia, and as a result of her international fame, media interest and attention grew dramatically.

In the years thereafter, Hepburn made multiple philanthropic trips, aiding in areas such as Turkey, Venezuela, Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam and Sudan. Hepburn was a staunch advocate of UNICEF. She conducted new studies, organized ceremonies and enabled the organization to gain widespread media coverage. In 1992, she received the “Presidential Medal of Freedom,” the highest civilian honor. Despite her cancer diagnosis, Hepburn continued to work for UNICEF, traveling globally on the organization’s behalf. Hepburn died in 1993 after focusing the latter years of her life on humanitarian efforts. However, her granddaughter continues her legacy.

Emma Ferrer’s Work

Though Hepburn’s granddaughter Emma Ferrer never met Hepburn, Ferrer learned much about her grandmother through her grandmother’s legacy, which ultimately influenced her desire to follow Hepburn’s lead. Ferrer was inspired that such a high-profile celebrity would ally herself with humanitarian causes. Ferrer feels a sense of connection to her grandmother through Ferrer’s own work with UNICEF. Additionally, Ferrer is a fervent advocate of UNICEF’s work and the good that these efforts can achieve in the form of significant decreases in child fatalities, illnesses and malnutrition.

Ferrer’s passion for humanitarian endeavors began when she saw photos of lifeless children washing up on an international shore as a result of war. These heart-rending images prompted her to create artwork based on the images. In her free time, Ferrer writes on the well-being of youth in nations rife with conflict and violence. Her writing comes from extensive research and comprehension. She incorporates her understanding of the realities of disadvantaged people into her artwork.

Ferrer donated artwork proceeds to the UNHCR after her first exhibition as an art curator in 2018. She has collaborated extensively with nonprofit groups and her philanthropic activities and artwork serve to continue Hepburn’s legacy.

Ferrer reflects her grandmother’s values and fights valiantly to continue Hepburn’s legacy, notably campaigning to preserve children’s rights across the world. “I think it’s so important to have a history and a legacy that you want to carry on in your family, whether you’re famous or not,” Ferrer tells UNICEF.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr