by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
There’s good news in the fight against HIV/AIDS – treatment and prevention are working. People living with HIV are living longer and AIDS-related deaths are declining with access to antiretroviral therapy.
A new report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that 2011 was a game-changer for AIDS response with “unprecedented progress in science, political leadership and results.” The report also shows that new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic. New HIV infections were reduced by 21percent since 1997, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses decreased by 21 percent since 2005.
In sum, treatment has averted 2.5 million deaths since 1995.
“Even in a very difficult financial crisis, countries are delivering results in the AIDS response,” says Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. “We have seen a massive scale up in access to HIV treatment which has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere.”
According to UNAIDS and WHO estimates, 47 percent (6.6 million) of the estimated 14.2 million people eligible for treatment in low- and middle-income countries were accessing lifesaving antiretroviral therapy in 2010, an increase of 1.35 million since 2009.
The 2011 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report also highlights that there are early signs that HIV treatment is having a significant impact on reducing the number of new HIV infections.
Yet, around the globe, there were an estimated 34 million people living with HIV in 2010. We must keep making progress, and U.S. international aid is one of the keys to that progress.
A new analysis by amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research details the potential human impact of proposed congressional cuts to the U.S. International Affairs Budget. According to the analysis, proposed cuts to global health investments would have minimal impact on U.S. deficit reduction over nine years but would have “devastating human impacts in terms of morbidity and mortality around the world.”
An estimated cut of 11.07 percent across the board in FY13 alone would result in
Those are sobering statistics to contemplate, especially coming on the heels of a year with tangible improvements in the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
On World AIDS Day, let’s resolve to keep moving forward. The goals are clear:
zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
Read more about how ChildFund is helping reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on children and youth.
by LaTasha Chambers, ChildFund Communications Associate
Despite living in some of the most impoverished areas of the world, children remain optimistic about their futures, according to a new survey commissioned by the ChildFund Alliance.
The second annual Small Voices, Big Dreams global survey provides insight into the minds of some of the world’s most vulnerable and overlooked children from 44 countries.
Almost one in two children in developing countries is focused on a future career requiring a college education, recognizing that education can break the cycle of poverty. One-fifth (22.5 percent) of children who live in developing countries would like to be teachers when they grow up, while 20 percent want to be doctors.
However, with these children’s optimism comes the reality of daily encounters with crime, hunger and disease. One 11-year-old from Ethiopia shares, “One thing I mostly worry about is HIV/AIDS.” Answers like this from children living in developing countries were not uncommon and reveal the plight many of them face.
By contrast, children in developed countries who participated in the survey expressed few fears – illness and receiving an inadequate education were almost foreign to them. A majority of children in developed nations aspire to be athletes and artists.
“American children have the luxury of setting their career hopes high, but those in developing countries are focused on the single best way to disrupt the cycle of poverty — education, says Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund International. “What gives these children, as young as 10 years old, the permission to dream is the recognition that improving their lives is tied closely to the opportunity to learn. Sadly, for too many of these children, that opportunity does not exist. That is why so many ChildFund Alliance member organizations focus so much of our efforts on education.”
In the U.S. the dream of becoming whatever you want to be, even the president of the country, is so real because of the many opportunities that exist.
When children in developing countries were asked what they would do if they were the leader of their countries, a young girl in Afghanistan responded: “I will not be able to become the president of the Afghanistan, as a woman doesn’t have the right to be the president of Afghanistan.”
We still have much work to do ensure children everywhere are able not only to dream the biggest dream but also to make those dreams reality.
Americans take their bathrooms for granted, but for 2.6 billion people worldwide, a toilet is a luxury. To raise awareness of global sanitation needs, Nov. 19 is designated World Toilet Day.
“Children often suffer the most because of limited access to clean water and poor sanitation,” said Sarah Bouchie, ChildFund’s vice president for program development. “Poor sanitary conditions lead to more disease and less food, and precious family income must be spent on purchasing water or dealing with the effects of illness.”
Responding to water and sanitation issues is a primary component of ChildFund’s work to help children around the world.
Beginning in 2008, ChildFund helped Nam Phong, a village of 3,600 in Vietnam, construct latrines and water supply systems. Community members were also taught to adopt hygienic practices, which helped clean up streams and roads in the community.
In Timor-Leste, where 70 percent of people have no access to sanitary bathrooms, ChildFund built latrines, a community bathroom and provided hygiene training to children and families. In Afghanistan, we are partnering with UNICEF to teach children about sanitation and hand washing. ChildFund Afghanistan has assisted some 6,000 former IDPs (internally displaced people), refugees and vulnerable families lacking quality housing and bathrooms. We’ve provided building materials and a small economic incentive to help families construct a two-room house and latrine.
An initiative to install latrines in elementary schools in Mexico provides students privacy and protection, increasing their likelihood of staying in school. Girls in particular are less likely to attend school if there are no bathrooms.
“Improved sanitation in schools, better access to clean water and knowledge about how to prevent waterborne disease helps ensure the health and development of the world’s children,” Bouchie said.
Celebrate World Toilet Day and help flush out poverty.
By Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
With the arrival of the holiday season, ChildFund is launching a new program to shine the spotlight on children who live in extreme poverty worldwide.
Working with various performing artists, our LIVE! concert series seeks to introduce new audiences to ChildFund’s work in 31 countries and the life-changing impact of child sponsorship.
At each venue, the platinum-selling singer will be telling fans about ChildFund’s mission. Current ChildFund sponsors will be on hand to share their own sponsorship experiences and assist with signing up new sponsors at the concert.
Partnering with ChildFund this holiday season is an exciting new opportunity, notes David. “I believe that every child has incredible potential. Through its sponsorship program, ChildFund ensures that children have access to education, clean water and health care. Working together, we can change childhoods. And that’s the first step toward creating a better world.”
Volunteers are still needed from New York to California. You’ll get to attend the concert for free, and rev up your holiday spirit by helping others learn more about becoming a child sponsor through ChildFund.
Learn more by downloading the LIVE! Volunteer FAQs. To volunteer, call 800-458-0555 or send email to Questions@ChildFund.org. Hurry! Concerts are starting soon.
by Rory Anderson, ChildFund’s Director of External Relations
A vote on the International Affairs budget is likely to come before the U.S. Senate early next week. ChildFund and numerous other international development organizations believe further cuts will jeopardize the lives of children who already live in poverty.
Please take a moment to check the list of key senators to contact and be a voice for vulnerable children. An email or call from you today, this weekend or on Monday will really help. We’ve included the senator’s phone and fax numbers as well as the email of the lead staff on foreign policy. Senate offices do monitor and tabulate the feedback and concerns of their constituents. Even if they don’t immediately respond, your e-mail is registered, and your voice is heard. Thank you for speaking out for children.
When calling your senator:
Talking Points on Senate Action on the FY12 International Affairs Budget
Suggested Text When E-mailing Your Senator (please personalize and share your own thoughts):
Dear Senator __________:
As Congress and the Super Committee work to reduce our nation’s deficits, I respectfully urge you to oppose any cuts to the International Affairs budget, which funds programs for hungry and poor children around the world.
Worldwide, nearly 1 billion people are hungry, and one child dies every 3.6 seconds from poverty, hunger and preventable diseases. This isn’t the time for Congress to cut programs that provide vital assistance to those in need.
Programs for hungry and poor people make up only a fraction of the federal budget, but they have a tremendous impact. Yet the International Affairs Budget that funds these programs absorbed nearly 20 percent of the total spending cuts in the final FY11 spending agreement earlier this year, even though it’s only 1.4 percent of the budget. A vote on the International Affairs budget, which will come up for a vote in the Senate any day, is vulnerable to amendments that would make additional deep cuts.
International poverty-focused development assistance reduces the likelihood of conflict and strengthens our national security. Moreover, cuts to poverty-focused development assistance will restrict our ability to respond to humanitarian emergencies, such as the ongoing famine in the Horn of Africa.
We must care for and protect the most vulnerable children. As you consider deficit-reduction proposals, I ask you to take a balanced and fair approach and consider all areas of the budget, including revenues. Please form a circle of protection around funding for hungry and poor people at home and abroad.
by Rory Anderson, ChildFund’s Director of External Relations
In the face of historic deficits in the United States, some believe that Congress can balance the budget and rid America of debt if we just cut out spending on foreign aid. This is a myth — federal spending on foreign assistance is a mere 1.4 percent of the total federal budget. Yet the International Affairs budget line absorbed nearly 20 percent of total spending cuts in last year’s budget, and even deeper cuts — of an additional 20 percent or more — are being debated in the Senate later this week.
Don’t be distracted by the rhetoric—a 1.4 percent savings will not balance the budget. What these further cuts will do is jeopardize the future of children around the world who are already lacking the basics of care.
ChildFund and our peer organizations see the International Affairs budget as a strategic, cost-effective investment that leverages both public and private resources to tackle the root causes of poverty, conflict and extremism and respond to global humanitarian crises.
As we have seen recently with our relief efforts in Haiti, and now in the Horn of Africa, America continues to remain a beacon of light and hope for those living in extreme poverty around the world. Feeding a hungry child or helping his or her mother earn a sustainable living represents the best of our foreign policy. Through our aid to others, we are tangibly demonstrating America’s best values. And that builds goodwill for our nation around the world.
But the International Affairs budget is not just about charity; it is a long-term investment in growth at home. Right now, there is much talk in Washington about jobs. Today, one of every five jobs in the U.S. is related to international trade. The health and livelihood programs funded by the International Affairs Budget create these export opportunities for America, contributing to the security of our nation’s economic future. So, a vote in Congress to cut international affairs funding will negatively impact jobs in America.
What is ultimately at stake in the current debate in the Senate this week is American leadership and values, which can be measured by how the most vulnerable among us fare. Poor and hungry people do not have powerful lobbies, but they do have the most compelling claim on our national conscience and common resources.
Cuts to the International Affairs budget are not in America’s strategic interests, they do not reflect American values, and they could actually cost taxpayers more in the long run through more costly military involvement and delayed response to humanitarian crises that ultimately threaten the world’s economy.
If you agree, then please consider contacting your senators, and ask them to protect America’s values and its economic future by opposing any cuts to the International Affairs budget.
by Cynthia Price, ChildFund Director of Communications
I’ve been eating a salad each night this week, and what makes it so tasty is that the lettuce comes straight from my garden. I also toss in peppers and carrots fresh from the garden.
I take my garden for granted. If it doesn’t rain, I simply turn on the irrigation system.
In the Horn of Africa, however, when the rains don’t come, there is no irrigation system to turn on. There is no grocery store to go to. And so the worst drought in 60 years now threatens more than 13 million people.
But ChildFund is helping by bringing food and medicine to those in need.
My garden has decreased my grocery bill. I’m taking the savings and making sure children in the Horn of Africa get fruits and vegetables.
If you would like to help, too, you can make a tax-deductible donation to ChildFund’s ChildAlert Emergency Fund.
Guest post by Mark Lukowski
Editor’s Note: Yesterday was World Food Day. Mark Lukowski, CEO of Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, and a member of the ChildFund Alliance, shared a recent experience where he visited those in need in the Horn of Africa.
For example, I met children who receive their only meal of the day at school — a single serving of protein mix for lunch. I met a beleaguered mother who said, “When my children are crying because they are hungry, all I want to do is run away.” I met children who lacked energy and were very quiet because they did not have enough to eat, and I observed babies with swollen feet due to malnutrition. I met a father who walks 40 km to get potatoes to feed his family. I met two men that had walked for more than half a day to find food in a nearby town. And those who were able to secure food were often eating the same thing every day — maize, cooked wheat, wild cabbage, or protein mix.
So this World Food Day will be different for me. I am grateful for what we have, but at the same time I am inspired to do more for all the adults and children I met in the Horn of Africa for whom access to food is a constant struggle that never seems to end.
By Cynthia Price, director of communications
Wartini is a mother of four who says of her children: “I want them to be independent. I want them to always remember their family. I want them to be successful.”
These are reasonable hopes but when your family lives in one of the many slums in Jakarta, Indonesia, it might be easier to give up hope. The structure in which her family lives is not much bigger than the size of a living room in America. A dusty road littered with trash leads the way to her house. Up a narrow flight of stone stairs, a scrawny cat darts into a hole, before one stops and walks into the small home.
The front room has no furniture except for a wooden box on which a television sits. Even in the slums, television is not uncommon; it is a diversion. Stacked against the wall with the only window are 10 jugs of water. The rough plywood floor is worn but a freshly swept carpet atop the board is welcoming. It is the only place to sit – there are no couches. A vertical sheet of plywood separates the living area from the kitchen and sleeping area.
Wartini’s husband works what jobs he can. One day he is a laborer. The next he may clean the swimming pool of one of the luxury homes located only steps from the slums. Another day he is a driver.
Wartini also works. A few years ago, ChildFund provided her with money so she could operate a stall and sell daily goods. It was enough to provide for a few extras. She no longer needs money from ChildFund as she now operates her own water supply business. She buys water cooler sized jugs of water and sells them from her home. She sells each jug of water for 13,500 rhupias, which is about US$1.50.
When she is not selling water, Wartini is busy with the household. She cooks breakfast and prepares the children’s lunch boxes. Meals are traditional Indonesian fare: tempe, kerupa, rice and sambal. The family might eat meat once a month. She washes clothes and dishes. It’s a full day, but she does take Thursdays off, which she says is for social activities.
She has four children. Her oldest son, who is 21, is a laborer like his father as it’s the only work he can find. The second son attends senior high school. Her 7-year-old daughter Chika goes to school most days, but 4-year-old Andien does not because the Early Childhood Development Center is too far.
It’s a tough life, but Wartini is hopeful. “I cannot predict the future, but I want my children to have a better life.”
By Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund President and CEO
India is like no other place. It is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is developing rapidly. Yet at the same time the gap between the haves and have nots continues to grow. There are more hungry children in India than in sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly half of the world’s malnourished children live in India. And 7 percent of children do not live to celebrate their 5th birthday.
This week, I’m in India visiting our programs. We visit a gypsy community in Chennai. Mothers are excited to tell me how ChildFund has helped them. I’m particularly struck by Kumari, a 25-year-old mother. Bright eyed, she tells me, “ChildFund set up mothers’ clubs. We meet regularly to learn about immunization for our children, breastfeeding, preparing nutritious meals, registering births and personal hygiene.”
Kumari is happy to be raising a healthy son, Santosh. “I’m raising my child differently to how I was raised”, she adds. Kumari is proud of how far she has come and invites me to visit her home. Basic and dark inside, it is spacious and there is an old black and white TV, although not much else.
This gypsy community mainly lives from collecting scrap materials such as metal and paper at communal dumps and selling them. Marginalized, they are an often neglected group in society. No other organization provides assistance to them. ChildFund’s local partner came to know of them when working in a neighboring area.
One day a child came to beg for food. The next day, more children came. The local partner then started looking into the local area and found out there was a gypsy community living on its doorstep. The needs were great, but eight years later the project is going strong and providing key interventions in health, education and livelihood.
Kumari tells me: “Of course, life is still hard. We are fighting with the local authorities for permanent land titles. We still have no drainage, no drinking water and no proper roads. People don’t even look at us. But our community is starting to ask why we can’t move up in life. We want things to change. We want our children to dream of becoming doctors and teachers.”
Also in Chennai is the Adi Dravida Welfare Primary School, where ChildFund provides school materials and raises awareness among parents about the importance of education. We are helping children who are slow learners catch up with other children by providing more trained teachers, organizing remedial classes before and after school and using audio-visual aides for reading and writing. On the wall I notice a poster helping children count one to ten. I was expecting “1 cow”, “2 ducks”, “3 horses”, but the poster reads: “1 computer”, “2 TVs”, 3 “cell phones”…. Another sign of India’s rapid development.
I meet Chandrika, a mother of two. I ask her what improvements she has seen. She tells me, “My daughter has been attending both morning and afternoon classes for the past two years. The teacher, Nithya, provides individual attention to her. She takes time to explain things. Previously my daughter was lagging behind other children. Her grades have now improved and she can compete with other children. I want her to attend secondary school.” Chandrika herself only has a primary education and it is heartwarming that she recognizes the value of going to school.
Children are attending Adi Dravida Welfare Primary School more than ever. The school has new toilets and a well providing drinking water. What I like about the program is that while we are providing quality education to all children, we also have programs tailored to children of different abilities, where we focus on the individual. This is an intrinsic quality of ChildFund programs.
And yet barriers remain. Most children in this school are Dalits, belonging to scheduled castes. Essentially they are outcasts and looked down upon by other segments of Indian society. The challenge is to ensure they can progress to secondary school. At the moment they face severe discrimination in secondary school, which inevitably leads to dropping out, where they sit separately and do not interact with other children.
In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, not far from the Taj Mahal, is the city of Firozabad. Known for its glass industry, Firozabad is the world capital for glass beads and bangles. It is also a major center for child labor. Rajeev started working there full-time in the bangle industry when he was 5 years old. He would wake up at 4 a.m. and work all day. He didn’t go to school and never thought he would.
He told me, “I didn’t enjoy working. I was often tired. I would breathe in harmful kerosene fumes all day and apply toxic chemical on bangles. I was paid 35-cents per hour.” I take a look at his hands. Those are not the hands of a 13-year-old. They are the hands of an old man.
ChildFund works in Firozabad to protect children from exploitation by raising awareness of children’s rights. To date, 1,500 children have been “rescued”. Now 13, Rajeev is going to school, although he still works one hour in the morning before school and one hour after school. He is happy to go to school and wants to become a teacher.
This year ChildFund celebrates its 60th anniversary in India. We have a long and proud history in the country, and Rajeev is one of our successes.