For the majority of Africa’s children, only those who learn to read and write will manage to escape the trenches of poverty. Across the continent, millions of children live on less than a dollar a day, and the only way to ensure a better quality of life is by mastering basic arithmetic, reading and writing; education paves the only way for better-paid jobs. But the power of education does not lie solely in the mastery of numbers and letters. Equally powerful in the fight against global poverty is the role that education plays in helping children to protect themselves against deadly diseases. Education and disease-prevention are intrinsically connected.

According to UNICEF, 1,500 African children die daily from malaria, a lead killer of children in the continent. The disease, both preventable and curable, kills 660,000 people annually, most of them African children. “Malaria is truly a disease of poverty — afflicting primarily the poor who tend to live in malaria-prone rural areas in poorly-constructed dwellings that offer few, if any, barriers against mosquitoes.” Malaria is just one of the deadly diseases that has devastating effects on the population’s children. According to UNICEF, 2.1 million adolescents (ages 10-19) were living with HIV/AIDS in 2012. Without education, children become even more vulnerable and susceptible to death by disease.

UNICEF’s Schools for Africa is one organization that is committed to spreading health information and improving education in Africa for children. According to the organization’s research, every third child in sub-Saharan Africa doesn’t get the chance to go to school. Without this opportunity, a child is at a severe disadvantage when it comes to escaping death. “Simple information on day-to-day hygiene and prevention saves lives and keep families together,” states the organization. Children who attend school have an opportunity to learn basic, life-saving facts about HIV, nutrition, hygiene, health and sanitation, as well as increased access to health check-ups and immunizations. Schools for Africa is working with governments, local authorities and communities in 13 countries in Africa to create safe environments in which children can learn, and has thus far raised $164 million for this cause.

School plays an enormous role in changing the lives of African children—from providing basic education, meals, access to clean water, to incredibly powerful information about health and disease. Children who attend school have an incredible advantage and opportunity to overcome the barriers with which poverty oppresses children. African children need improved access to school, trained educators and life skills programs in order to both survive and pull themselves out of the trenches.

— Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: UNICEF, UNICEF USA, Schools For Africa

Education in Nicaragua

Many children in Nicaragua attend school for a few hours in the morning or evening, and work during the remainder of the day. Children must attend school in shifts in order to accommodate other students and to contribute financially to their families according to The Tico Times article, “Is Nicaragua’s education system failing?”

Abbreviated school days combined with student and teacher poverty has resulted in poor education in Nicaragua. UNICEF estimates that only 55 percent of children complete primary school and enter into secondary school. During secondary school the rate of completion continues to drop. While attendance rates have increased in the past ten years, university entrance exams demonstrate a continuous pattern of poor education quality in schools.

At the center of the quality issue, Nicaraguan teachers have very low salaries, earning an average of only $266 per month. The teachers also have a limited amount of supplies and facilities for students, forcing them to limit their curriculum. In The Tico Times article, José Treminio, Nicaragua’s education vice minister, exhibited concern about teacher’s salaries, stating, “We are determined to solve educational problems. We have a commitment to make a leap in the quality of education.” As a result, government has promised a small salary increase for teachers in 2014.

However, in a Nicaragua Dispatch article, “Impoverished teachers, poor schools”, Tim Rogers describes the financial struggles and government promises involved in Nicaragua’s education system. He states, “Nicaragua’s cash-strapped school system is delivering a poor quality of education.” Rogers maintains that the Nicaraguan government has not produce promised education results.

Rogers explains that the government, under the leadership of President Daniel Ortega, expresses a strong interest in improving national education. The government, however, only allots a small amount of the budget towards education, sending the public mixed messages about their endeavors. The amount does not provide enough money for adequate teachers’ salaries, student supplies, or school facilities.

The International Development Association (IDA), a division of the World Bank, offers aid to impoverished countries, providing loans or grants to promote economic growth. In 1995, the IDA partnered with the Nicaraguan government through the First Basic Education program. From 1994 to 2004, this program increased enrollment in primary schools in Nicaragua.

The IDA reported that, “The project contributed to an increase in the enrollment coverage of pre-schools and primary schools, particularly in targeted poor and indigenous communities.”

Even though Nicaragua now has a high primary school enrollment rate, school exams still show low student performance. In response, the IDA acknowledged that the quality of education still remained very low and initiated a similar program to strengthen the education system overall. IDA’s programs combined with an increase in government funding suggests that a sustainable system of education in Nicaragua is possible.

– Jaclyn Ambrecht

Sources: Tico Times, NICA, Nicaragua Dispatch, Child Info, World Bank
Photo: Compassion Internation

Kenya is an improving country that has the potential to be a strong power in Africa. Programs like World Bank and UNICEF are recognizing this potential in the country, and are providing funding to allow Kenya to reduce poverty and improve the lives of all citizens.

World Bank has approved a Sh340 billion loan to Kenya, equivalent of about $4 billion, to start during the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The loan will be a five-year partnership to increase opportunities and prosperity for all citizens.

An article in Standard Digital said, “The new five-year Country Partnership Strategy will help Kenya succeed in its efforts to boost economic growth, create more jobs for young people, build vital infrastructure, and devolve power to regional communities.”

The effects of this loan are intended to reach all citizens. It will help the poorest people develop and will protect the vulnerable from slipping into poverty. This way, people at all economic levels will benefit from the prosperity the loan will bring.

World Bank hopes the loan will remove some power from the government and give more power to the citizens. The goal is to improve the standard of living for everyday citizens by supporting them, their businesses and their communities. They are also emphasizing the need for more jobs in agriculture and establishing permanent incomes for farmers.

UNICEF is also supporting Kenya and their goal of improving the lives of street children. With their help, the Kenyan government is able to allocate Sh276 million to the rehabilitation of street children.

Labour Secretary Kazungu Kambi said that this year, “orphans and vulnerable children, persons with disabilities and elderly will receive Sh12 billion in cash transfers.”

Developments have already been seen in decreasing poverty, improving diets and increasing school enrollment.

Schooling is a main focus of the Kenyan government. In the past 10 years, large amounts of money have been put toward improving education systems and providing free schooling for all citizens. By eradicating all obstacles to education and other basic services, the government hopes to see an improvement in overall child welfare.

World Bank and UNICEF, in collaboration with the Kenyan government, are making strides toward ending poverty in Kenya. These financial assistances are just the first step in ensuring that Kenya’s people are prosperous and the country reaches its full potential.

– Hannah Cleveland 

Sources: All Africa, Standard Digital
Photo: USAID

Primary Education in Somalia
Many years of civil war have led to unrest in all aspects of Somalian life. Among the areas most affected is primary education in Somalia. Though the United States is doing a great deal to help rebuild, significant differences in the infrastructures of both countries’ primary schools still remain.

Primary schooling is the earliest stage of education in a child’s life, aside from nursery, pre-schooling or kindergarten programs. It is an important phase in the learning process because it teaches children the basics of reading, writing and math that they need for later education and life in general.

Because primary schools are the foundation of an entire educational system’s organization, attention to their efficacy is critical. Comparing primary education in the U.S. to that of a developing country such as Somalia provides interesting insight into the reasons that higher education in both countries may differ so significantly.

From the beginning of formal schooling, fewer children are receiving an education in Somalia. While education at the primary level is mandatory for all children in the U.S., roughly 42 percent of primary school aged children are enrolled in school.

In the U.S., primary school lasts from first to fifth grade, resulting in five years of fundamental education. In Somalia, however, primary school ends in fourth grade. Though schooling continues beyond these four years, many children do not. Dropping out before the fifth grade level becomes almost a social norm, as only 8 percent of Somali children enroll in secondary school.

Accessibility to education in Somalia and the U.S. accounts for these staggering differences. Public education is available to all students in the U.S., making the compulsory nature of schooling possible. However, due to the number of schools destroyed by civil war in Somalia, easily accessible education is not a luxury available to all Somali children.

The children that do attend school in Somalia also face obstacles that U.S. students do not encounter regularly. For example, the teacher-to-student ratio in primary schools in Somalia is one to 33. The average number of pupils per teacher in the U.S. is less than half of that, giving each student greater opportunity for individual attention.

Gender inequality is also apparent in the Somali education system. The current social barriers in Somalia do not encourage women to receive an education, so it is not surprising that less than 36 percent of students are female. Because schooling is mandated by U.S. laws, gender disparity is not a noticeable issue in American primary schools.

Other issues U.S. pupils are less likely to face are disparity of textbooks and other learning materials, a lack of qualified teachers and unstandardized curricula.

In the U.S., curricula are standardized by state. Education at the primary level does not vary too much. Most students learn to read and write at the same age and acquire the same basic skill sets during first through fifth grade.

Consistency is lacking among primary schools in Somalia. What one child learns in second grade may be completely different from what another child learns in second grade at a different school. The lack of a standardized curriculum makes country-wide assessments difficult. Even though the Ministry of Education in Somalia would like to rebuild the educational system, the absence of standardization does not provide an adequate place to start making improvements.

A good place to start may be government funding. Public schools in the U.S. are government funded, but many of the primary schools in Somalia cannot function without receiving at least some financial support from students’ parents. A child raised in a poor family may not be able to afford primary education.

The quality of public education varies in the U.S. depending on the economic state of the school’s area, but public education is always available. In order to provide the most help to the Somali educational system, aid should be given to ensure that some sort of schooling is always available to children, especially at a young age.

The good news is that many U.S. aid programs are working to rebuild schools in Somalia.

SAFE, the Somali and American Fund for Education, works with schools in Somalia to ensure their credibility as learning institutions. The organization looks at the community’s involvement in their local schools and awards certain areas money to fund construction of new school buildings. The even better news is that these schools include all levels of learning through twelfth grade, including primary education.

– Emily Walthouse

Sources: SAFE, Classbase 1, Classbase 2, MOE Somalia, NCES, UNICEF
Photo: Atlanta BlacK Star

Solomon Islands Diarrhea Outbreak
The nation of Solomon Islands is facing a new and deadly threat after flooding destroyed delicate water infrastructure. The Solomon Islands diarrhea outbreak has already killed 18 people and threatens to claim more lives if measures are not taken soon.

Solomon Islands was decimated in early April by a series of destructive floods. The small nation, located north and east off the coast of Queensland, Australia, saw 60,000 of its residents made homeless by the storms—over 10 percent of its population.

The flood’s direct damage to human life was great enough, but two months later, outbreaks of diarrhea in late May and early June are extending the death toll. The rotavirus, a deadly and highly-contagious virus transmitted by vomit and fecal matter, has claimed victims in six of Solomon Islands’ ten provinces.

The virus is communicable by food, drink and, depending on the sick person’s hygiene, basic physical contact. Those who contract the virus show symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea within 1-3 days of infection.

Though upward of 20,000 children were vaccinated against the rotavirus following April’s flooding, the contamination of Solomon Islanders’ water supply was complete enough that over 1,000 cases of extreme diarrhea have been reported in the past two weeks. Most of the infected are young, and all 18 of the reported deaths have been children under the age of 5.

Rotavirus causes intense diarrhea, which in turn leads to severe dehydration. If untreated, this dehydration can kill. At a certain point, children simply stop drinking water despite their desperate need for it, and proper medical intervention is required to save a child’s life.

Fortunately, UNICEF is fighting the Solomon Islands diarrhea outbreak with two very basic tools: soap and information. The soap is distributed in the hardest-hit areas, and colorful, hand-shaped information cards are also given out. These cards not only emphasize the importance of hand-washing by their shape, but they also contain valuable tips for staying safe and healthy during the outbreak.

Instructions for preventing the spread of the rotavirus include washing hands for at least 10 seconds after using the toilet, before handling or eating food and after caring for or coming into contact with any infected individuals.

Health officials currently do not plan on bringing the rotavirus vaccine back to Solomon Islands. Instead, they predict that proper hygiene should be enough to put an end to the outbreak.

In the meantime, parents who notice signs of illness in their children are urged to bring them to a doctor right away. Doctors can provide a child with oral rehydration salts and zinc tablets, both of which help prevent dehydration and can reverse even severe cases.

However, this safety net may not be so reliable. Dorothy Wickham, correspondent for Radio New Zealand, reports that hospitals in Solomon Islands are becoming overburdened. Doctors may not be able to treat all of the children who are brought in, and epidemiologist Jennie Musto predicts the outbreak could last up to another month.

For now, both parents and aid groups are doing what they can to combat the outbreak and to keep their children safe.

– Patricia Mackey

Sources: World Vision, WHO, Australia Network News, 3 News, Radio New Zealand International, Pacific Scoop
Photo: Parade

shot@Life Provides Vaccinations for Impoverished Nations - BORGEN
The United Nations Foundation [email protected] aims to give everyone the shot they need to live a happy and healthy life.

The [email protected] campaign is almost exactly like it sounds. This campaign works with volunteers to provide much needed vaccinations to the extremely impoverished nations of the world through advocacy and donations.

[email protected] educates, connects and empowers the American people to support vaccines, and vaccinations are one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries.

The campaign is basically a national call to action for a worthy global cause. The foundation rallies the American public and members of Congress to help them understand the fact that together they can save a child’s life every 20 seconds just by expanding access to vaccines.

The global foundation encourages the American public to learn about, advocate for and donate to provide vaccines. [email protected] aims to noticeably decrease vaccine-preventable childhood deaths and give every child a shot at a healthy life within the next 10 years.

This campaign began in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by philanthropist Ted Turner. The [email protected] campaign was created in order to build upon the U.N. Foundation’s 13-year legacy in global vaccine efforts as a leading partner in the Measles Initiative and Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The [email protected] campaign draws on their core abilities through advocacy, community-building and communications in order to raise awareness for their cause.

There are a few causes in which they already have seen excellent success: the campaigns Nothing But Nets and Girl Up.

The Nothing But Nets campaign is dedicated to providing insecticide treated mosquito nets to impoverished peoples in order to prevent the spread of malaria from mosquito bites.

The Girl Up campaign was started in order to provide aid to young girls in poverty-laden nations. This campaign utilizes the help of teenage leaders in order to raise awareness about how young girls are being treated around the world.

[email protected] is also partnered with some of the largest names in fundraising, nonprofits and charities. They have received partnerships from UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Lions Club, to name a few.

This U.N. Foundation is uniquely positioned with in-house expertise and leadership to successfully bring [email protected] to the awareness of an American audience.

The nonprofit also utilizes social media in participation with news companies and webpages to give a portion of its advertising revenue on each company’s behalf for each like or share an article or blog post receives.

Providing vaccinations to the world’s poor is another huge step in the process to end global poverty. Getting vaccinations mean children will not die from diseases that are preventable such as smallpox, measles, polio and tuberculosis.

More children living into adulthood could potentially slow the birthrates and stabilize the life-expectancy of the people living in African nations as well as extremely impoverished parts of India.

The [email protected] campaign is dedicated to providing peace of mind to all the nations of the world.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: CDC, GirlUp, HuffPost 1, HufFPost 2, NothingButNets, [email protected]
Photo: Children’s Futures

Force for Change

Ever wonder what it would feel like to be a Wookie? Or how about a Jedi Apprentice with a knack for pod-racing? Well thanks to Disney, Lucasfilm and Bad Robot productions, fans can turn their dreams into a reality by supporting the Star Wars: Force for Change campaign, a movement dedicated to finding innovative solutions for some of the world’s biggest challenges.

“We’re thrilled to offer a chance to come behind the scenes as our VIP guests and be in Star Wars: Episode VII. We’re even more excited that by participating in this campaign, Star Wars fans will be helping children around the world through our collaboration with UNICEF Innovation Labs and projects,” said director J.J. Abrams in a recently released YouTube video.

In coordination with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Innovation Labs, the Star Wars: Force for Change campaign will give fans the opportunity to appear in the new movie by contributing $10 through the Omaze fundraising platform. All funding will go toward aiding impoverished children living in places such as China, Uganda, South Sudan and Zambia.

“UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to help the world’s most vulnerable children and young people identify solutions and create change,” said Christopher Fabian, UNICEF Senior Adviser on Innovation and co-Lead of the Innovation Unit.

Contributions from the Force for Change campaign are already being funneled into sustainability projects across the globe, most recently in China, where solar-powered learning kits were recently distributed to underprivileged children who lacked access to basic education.

“We work together with the greatest technologists and designers of our time to create open-source solutions that help millions of people. The support from Star Wars: Force for Change will help to bind these innovators together on a mission to solve the world’s most pressing problems, and create a better future,” said Fabian.

Other technology-related projects that are being explored include solar-powered computer kiosks, mobile tracking applications and text messaging solutions which set out to notify families of medical results. While such news is encouraging, many will remain in the dark as most of the world’s poorest regions lack access to basic technology. It is estimated that nearly 60 percent of the globe’s population—around 4.2 billion people—lack access to the Internet, a statistic that Star Wars: Force for Change hopes to decrease.

“We wanted to honor and carry on that positive spirit as we start production on Episode VII and use Star Wars to make a difference in the world. Star Wars: Force for Change will help us do that, letting us give back to the fans who keep Star Wars alive, and raising much-needed funds for programs,” said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm productions.

As UNICEF works toward creating innovative solutions for some of the world’s most troubling challenges, fans and supporters alike can show their support by making donations through Omaze through the end of May until July 18. While a $10 donation gives you the chance of winning a role in the Star Wars movie, there are a number of different giveaways and reward levels you can reach by increasing your donation amount.

– Jeffrey Scott Haley

Sources: CNET, LA Times, Omaze, UNICEF, UNICEF USA
Photo: Charity Streams
Photo: Flickr

UNICEF has stated that the children living in South Sudan are currently in great danger of disease and death. The UN Secretary General believes that half of the South Sudanese population will starve, flee or die by the end of this year. Most of the people escaping to neighboring countries are children or women. UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt has expressed concern over the growing “children’s emergency.” South Sudanese children “need humanitarian assistance; they need their leaders to protect their lives, their rights and their futures; and they need the world to listen – and demand action on their behalf.” In mid-December 2013, South Sudan became embroiled in a nationwide conflict that started as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, who had been forced out of office by Kiir a few months earlier. Since then, the nation has become a “living nightmare for its children.” More than half a million children have escaped, but women and young girls are becoming more susceptible to sexual assault and gender-based violence. Thousands of children have been taken from their families to be recruited into the armed forces for South Sudan’s civil war. Many schools and hospitals are under attack as well. Approximately 80 percent of children under the age of five living in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity (three of the most conflict-ridden states in South Sudan) face increased risk of disease and death. Additionally, the Ministry of Health has reported an outbreak of cholera in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Around 80,000 people have been fully vaccinated, but the number of cholera cases is doubling every day. Given the growing spread of the disease, UNICEF has made efforts to help alleviate the public health issue by establishing a center for cholera treatment, providing triage and medical tents and supplying clean water and oral rehydration solutions. However, the threat of disease is not the only issue facing the South Sudanese children. Over 50,000 children are at risk of dying from malnutrition, and 740,000 children under the age of five suffer from food insecurity. Some are forced to drop out of school in order to spend their days searching for wild leaves, bulbs, grasses and berries to eat. South Sudan, one of the poorest nations in the world, is being pushed “to the brink of famine” as the rate of malnutrition among South Sudanese children continues to increase. Supply routes have been disrupted, doubling the prices of staple crops since the conflicts began. Displaced families are finding difficulty in planting crops ahead of the imminent rainy season. As a result, the expected harvest in September is likely to disappoint, intensifying the war-torn nation’s hunger crisis. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has criticized both Kiir and Machar for their apparent lack of concern for the current state of South Sudan. “How much worse does it have to get before those who can bring this conflict to an end – especially President Kiir and Dr. Machar – decide to do so?” UNICEF has asked for all parties and individuals to “provide unhindered and safe access for humanitarian assistance; and to respect their own agreements to stop the violence against children, sexual and gender-based violence, and the recruitment of children.” – Kristy Liao Sources: The Guardian, The Telegraph, UNICEF, UN News Centre Photo: SOS Children’s Villages

Maldives has made significant strides in creating a robust and effective education system for its young students. In 1978, the government of Maldives created a unified state education system. As a direct result, the literacy rate of the nation has increased from 70 percent in 1978 to 98 percent today. Additionally, the literacy rate is now even for men and women while primary education is universal throughout the nation.

However, there are unique challenges in further improving access to education in Maldives. One of the toughest challenges is a matter of geography. There are 192 inhabited islands in Maldives, many of which are isolated and difficult to travel to and from. While secondary and special education is particularly strong in the capital city of Male, 70 percent of students live on islands far away from Male, so access to these institutions is difficult.  Furthermore, two-thirds of teachers on these islands are untrained and do not have proper facilities or resources to hold classes. And recruiting teachers from other islands or teachers from abroad is tough.

While Male has flourished as a contemporary cultural center, there is a distinct disconnect between the city and the rural areas of the country. Students from islands deemed too small to even host a secondary school must make costly and time-consuming travel arrangements to schools in larger areas. This leads to families hesitating to send their children off to school. It also creates a gender gap in secondary schooling.

Only 65 percent of the population attends secondary school and only seven percent attend a university. The result is a workforce that is not qualified for an industrial and technological job market that can further improve and diversify the economy of Maldives. And with 35 percent of its population under the age of 18, Maldives will face a significant amount of young people entering the job market as under-qualified.

To combat these issues, organizations such as UNICEF and Microsoft are partnering with the government of Maldives to create innovative solutions.  UNICEF is in the process of creating 20 “Teacher Resource Centers,” which will give rural teachers Internet and satellite access to online databases and curriculum.  Microsoft is launching the “Coding Your Way to Opportunity” grant program to encourage youth in Maldives to participate in computer programming.  These programs are crucial steps in helping Maldives continue to develop a sustainable education system.

– Taylor Diamond

Sources: UNICEF, World Bank, UN Development Program
Photo: EDC Online

What do the 700 million people who watched the world cup in 2010 have to do with global poverty? 700 million people is the number of people who survive on less than a dollar a day, which is 10 percent of the world’s population. A shocking 80 percent of the world’s population survives on less than 10 dollars a day. That is almost 6 billion people living in poverty worldwide.

There are a little over two billion children living in the world currently and half of those children live in extreme poverty every day. According to UNICEF, 22,000 of those children die each year, which is roughly the same number of college students attending at a state university in the United States.

The children living in poverty stricken areas do not have access to proper education. The number of school days missed by these children are over 433 million days of absence. Those days not attended could have been utilized to provide a better life for themselves and their families, but because of their circumstances they are ensnared in that world. Children need access to health resources, clean water and sanitation. Unfortunately, almost one billion children do not receive access to those essentials.

Another major problem that touches nearly half of the world’s population is access to water. Over one billion people in developing countries to not have access to clean water and one in three of those people live on less than one dollar a day. The average toilet flush usage is about three liters of water, which is more than the ordinary quantity of access to water in developing countries. This issue causes problems with human development in these developing nations and causes daily life to continue to be a battle. Nearly half of those populations are suffering from health problems linked to the lack of sanitation and fresh water.

In developing countries the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow each day. This limits areas in poverty, particularly rural, isolated areas to accept limitations to opportunities and resources. The progress that has been formed in developing nations is at times threatened by climate change, famine and economic changes making growth in areas of poverty more difficult. The access to clean water, wellness services and education remains difficult to obtain, causing movement between the class systems stagnant. One answer to the issues of worldwide poverty and climate change is the implementation of the proper education for small marginal farming techniques like irrigation and crop rotation. Food security in the growing nations is a number one goal to continue to reduce worldwide poverty.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: Global Issues, World Bank
Photo: PKH