Health

Malaria’s Threat to Children

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

IWorld Malaria Day logomagine a world without mosquitos. Some scientists believe we could eradicate them without disrupting the ecosystem, and experiments to that end are underway.

Why? Because every minute, malaria takes the life of an African child. That’s an important fact to remember as we mark World Malaria Day.

How Malaria Spreads
A parasitic illness spread by female Anopheles mosquitos, malaria is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5 in Africa. Every year, malaria kills 10,000 women and 200,000 infants worldwide. It’s especially dangerous during a woman’s first and second pregnancies. Infants become vulnerable again at 3 months, when the natural immunity they shared with their mother begins to wane.

Mosquitos bite mainly between dusk and dawn, and they carry four different parasites. The most lethal — and most common — malarial parasite is Plasmodium falciparum. Anopheles mosquitos in Africa have long lifespans and prefer to bite humans rather than animals. As a result, 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur in Africa, although India also has a significant problem. The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone, all countries served by ChildFund, have the highest occurrence rates in the world.

Rainfall patterns, temperature and humidity affect mosquitos, so malaria infections peak during and immediately after rainy seasons. Epidemics occur when climate conditions change or when seasonal workers, immigrants or refugees lacking immunity move into malarial areas.

216 million annual cases of malaria Approximately half of the world’s population is at risk of catching malaria. In endemic areas, adults develop partial immunity through many years of exposure and illness, so most deaths occur in young children. In regions with lower infection rates, a sudden epidemic can decimate the population.

Links to HIV and Poverty
Mozambique and Zambia have high rates of cerebral malaria — which virtually guarantees death — as well as co-infection with HIV. More than 90 percent of their populations are at ongoing risk for malaria, and more than 10 percent have AIDS.

Existing HIV infection increases the risk of malaria and also the severity and complexity of the illness; HIV infection also interferes with the medications used to treat malaria, making death more likely. Malaria also increases the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Malaria is endemic in 27 of the 31 countries where ChildFund works.Malaria is closely linked to poverty: The lower a country’s gross national income, the higher its malaria mortality rate. For children under 5, parasite prevalence is worst in poverty-stricken, rural communities, where lack of access to health facilities, effective diagnostics and treatment options is commonplace. Poor-quality housing offers little protection against mosquitoes, and the cost of insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying with insecticides is challenging for those living on less than $1.25 a day.

To avoid malaria, families need to sleep under insecticide-treated nets nightly, and houses must be sprayed every three to six months. ChildFund is working to combat the spread of malaria in Guinea, India, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Uganda and Zambia, and you can help by purchasing bed nets for children and families.

On World Malaria Day, let’s strike back against this threat to children.

View a video to hear a mother in Guinea describe how her children’s health has improved with treated bed nets.

Leaving Footprints on One Day Without Shoes

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund International writer

Last April, ChildFund workforce specialist Ann Latham-Anderson asked the children in her neighborhood an important question: If you didn’t have shoes, what would you miss most?

One Day Without Shoes

Ann Latham-Anderson’s winning feet.

Then she let them draw on her feet with magic markers, and her husband and daughter chipped in with drawings of children on her toes. The next day at work, she won our foot-decoration contest.  “It did take a while to get the ink off my feet,” Ann says with a laugh.

One Day Without Shoes, on April 16, is an engaging day at ChildFund’s international office in Richmond, with contests and music, but it also reminds us about the impact something simple like a pair of well-fitting shoes can have on children’s health, education and future opportunities.

In developed countries, “we have so many options of what kind of shoes to wear,” says Sadye-Ann Henry, a treasury assistant who won the pedicure contest last year. One activity, walking on rocks, showed Sadye-Ann “how tender our tootsies are” and a glimpse of the challenges the children we serve face every day.

Ann, Sadye-Ann and many more of us at ChildFund, including some of our national offices, are preparing to join in on One Day Without Shoes by going without shoes at the office. This event, started by TOMS Shoes six years ago, is meant to raise awareness about children’s education and health and how shoes play a role in helping create opportunities for a better future.

children's feet

Children in the countries ChildFund serves need shoes to stay healthy and attend school.

In many developing countries that ChildFund serves, children must have uniforms and shoes to attend school. Also, when children have only flip-flops or no shoes at all, they’re vulnerable to cuts, diseases and hookworm infection, which have long-term implications like stunted growth and compromised health.

Anyone can participate in One Day Without Shoes. Just kick off your shoes and join the rest of us in creating awareness of an important cause.

In Brazil, Advocacy for Clean Water

By Priscila Oliveira, ChildFund Brasil

Reflecting the fifth article of the Universal Declaration of Water Rights — ”Its protection is a vital need and a moral obligation of men to the present and future generations” — ChildFund Brasil strives to educate communities about water preservation for the benefit of future generations.

The project “Meu Meio, Minha Vida” (My Surroundings, My Life), is part of the Vigilantes da Água (Water Watchers) program and is a result of the efforts invested in the communities of Vereda, Bidó, Pedra do Bolo, Tombo and Empoeira, in the Jequitinhonha Valley, a semi-arid region in the state of Minas Gerais in eastern Brazil.

Brazil water watchers

A group of water watchers in Brazil gather at a pond.

ChildFund Brasil’s local partner organization, Municipal Community Association of Medina, carries out the program, which trains community leaders to monitor water quality and educate the community on advocating for their right to have access to clean water. Currently, 18 men and women monitor water quality, which benefits more than 200 families.

For Maria de Almeida, a 42-year-old farmer from the community of Tombo, participating in the program has been valuable. “This project made us learn more about the water we use,” Maria says. “And, knowing that it was contaminated, we now fight for improvement and for the preservation of the springs. I feel happy to participate in the project and for the opportunity to educate other people.”

Brazil water watcher

One water watcher gets a sample.

Paula Gava, coordinator at the Medina community association, notes, “The program is a way of working on environmental issues as a whole in the community, of making everyone reflect on the environment. At the moment, we discuss the situation of water availability.

“The reality is that there is a lack of water during this period of drought, and furthermore, we’ve detected coliform bacteria contamination,” he adds. “We already have people mobilized and aware of the bad water they consume. Our job is to provide information so that the community can organize themselves, feel empowered to demand clean water and become part of the solution.”

As the program continues, community groups are working with Minas Gerais’ rural extension agency and municipal health and agriculture departments to improve the quality of water.

Help Stop TB in Their Lifetime

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communications Specialist

Tuberculosis is rare today in the United States and other developed countries, but in developing nations, it is a killer. Globally, TB has created 10 million orphans and is one of the top-three causes of death in women ages 15 to 44.

Today, March 24, we mark World TB Day by joining with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and other international organizations to raise awareness and mobilize political and social commitment toward progress in the care and control of tuberculosis.

children in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has the world’s highest tuberculosis incidence and mortality rates by far.

Caused by an airborne bacteria, TB often attacks lungs and has developed strains that are resistant to multiple drug treatments. It also strikes people with weak immune systems, particularly those infected with HIV. In the 1800s, Western Europe saw the number of tuberculosis deaths peak at nearly 25 percent, but with better medical treatment and understanding, the TB mortality rate fell by 90 percent by the 1950s.

Now, as the virus mutates and resists standard drug therapies, developing nations are experiencing the same level of risk as Europe did a century ago. This year marks the second half of WHO’s two-year campaign Stop TB in My Lifetime, a program that is significant to countries ChildFund serves in Africa and Asia.

Globally, tuberculosis is second only to AIDS as the greatest killer from a single infectious agent. At least a third of HIV-infected patients worldwide are also diagnosed with TB, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, tuberculosis is often the infection that is directly responsible for death. In fact, testing positive for tuberculosis often masks HIV-positive status, which makes proper medical treatment far more difficult than for patients who have one disease or the other.

Ugandan girl holds memory book

In Uganda, TB and HIV infections are often combined, making treatment difficult. This child holds a memory book her HIV-positive parents created for her.

Despite the overall decline worldwide in incidences of TB and the development of rapid diagnostics, the combination of HIV and TB and its accompanying challenges have kept Africa from being on track to halve its tuberculosis deaths by 2015, a WHO goal.

WHO estimates that 500,000 children were newly infected in 2011, and 64,000 died. Tuberculosis is particularly difficult to diagnose in children; current TB tests are largely inaccurate for children.

Poor communities and vulnerable populations also suffer disproportionately from TB. At highest risk are young adults, infants, diabetics, smokers, those infected with HIV, people who are malnourished and anyone living in crowded or unclean conditions — such as refugees and others displaced by a natural disaster, political oppression or civil unrest.

Because TB threatens the well-being of children where we work, ChildFund supports local government initiatives and public messaging. Here are some facts about ChildFund-supported countries and their exposure to TB:

Sierra Leone has the world’s highest prevalence and mortality rates; tuberculosis incidence there is one and a half times as high as in the second-ranked country, and Sierra Leone’s mortality rate is almost twice as high.

mother and child in a Timor-Leste garden

Timor-Leste has the world’s eighth highest incidence rate of TB, but good nutrition can make families less vulnerable to infection.

Cambodia ranks fifth for prevalence and Timor-Leste eighth, but both countries tie for fifth-highest mortality rate because Cambodia has an edge in successful treatment.

Joining those three nations as very-high-incidence countries are The Gambia, Liberia, Mozambique, the Philippines and Zambia.

Areas of high prevalence include Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Thailand, Uganda and Vietnam. Uganda, where TB and HIV infection forms a lethal combination, has a treatment success rate of only 71 percent.  Ethiopia and Guinea also have lower-than-average success rates: 83 percent and 80 percent, respectively.

The story isn’t entirely bleak, though. Some countries have made impressive progress. Between 1995 and 2011, 85 percent of all new infections and 69 percent of relapsing cases were successfully treated. And between 1990 and 2011, the overall mortality rate fell by 41 percent.

However, every year funding falls $3 billion short of WHO’s goal to make quality care accessible regardless of gender, age, type of disease, social setting or ability to pay. International assistance is especially critical for the 35 countries designated as low-income — including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Uganda. Of these, The Gambia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are not currently among the top 50 recipients of Official Development Assistance.

Please join us in taking action to end the burden of tuberculosis in the lifetimes of the children we serve. When you sponsor a child or make a donation to Children’s Greatest Needs, you’ll be helping to ensure that children in our programs live healthier lives.

World Water Day: Fátima’s Story

Reporting by ChildFund Mozambique

 To mark World Water Day on March 22, we’re focusing on the myriad challenges children and families face without a reliable source of clean water.

a girl drinks water from a cup

11-year-old Fátima.

My name is Fátima. I am 11 years old, I live in Gondola, Mozambique, and I attend Bela-Vista Primary School.

Formerly in my school there was no water source, which compelled us to walk long distances with a 20-liter container looking for water in other neighboring communities between 5 and 7 kilometers (3 to 4 miles) away from the school.

Consequently, our lavatories were unclean and classrooms floors were rarely mopped up, which exposed all of us to the risk of catching diseases related to poor hygiene.

Luckily, a water borehole has been dug on our school grounds by ChildFund, so now we are very happy because we do not need to walk long distances to access water anymore. Drinkable water can be obtained 7 to 10 meters (23 to 30 feet) away.

Our classrooms are not dusty anymore because we keep them neat, and our lavatories are always clean. We are less likely to catch diseases, as we now quench our thirst with treated water from the borehole.

women at a water pump

Fatima’s mother (in red coat) gets water at the pump.

This lady pictured in the red coat is my mother. She is pumping the water up here at my school for us to use at home. The beneficiaries of the water are not only schoolchildren but also the neighboring community.  We don’t need to walk long distances looking for water to drink, to cook, to wash our clothes and to give our animals to drink.

Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.

Progress in the City of the Water Wars

 By Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager

 Cochabamba, a city in central Bolivia, made it into the news in 2000 for its “water wars.” Today, its communities still struggle for access to clean water, but ChildFund makes life a bit easier for residents by providing education and water purification systems. Today, as we mark World Water Day, we take a look at the situation in Cochabamba.

In the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, water is a scarce resource. The city is located in an extremely dry valley, where most of the scenery is dominated by desert and dusty roads with little greenery or vegetation.

Bolivian mother

Luisa, a mother of five, lives in Cochabamba, an area with a serious water shortage.

Luisa is a mother of five children, ages 11 years to 7 months. She and her husband, Zenón, arrived in Cochabamba a few years ago with many other migrants from Bolivia’s rural areas when the country’s main mining company closed and left thousands of people unemployed.

 The family settled in a marginal area of Cochabamba, where no electricity, paved roads or water services are available.

Bolivia landscape

Cochabamba is a dry region in central Bolivia.

The water problem in Bolivia is not new. In fact, Cochabamba’s water wars made news in 2000 after protests over water prices erupted into violence. The conflict inspired several movies and documentaries. Today, more than a decade later, Bolivia continues to suffer from South America’s lowest water coverage levels, as well as low quality of services, especially in terms of sanitation.

ChildFund Bolivia works in the most vulnerable and deprived areas of Cochabamba through local partner Obispo Anaya to help families gain access to purified water, educating them about water-usage techniques and improving hygiene and sanitation systems to avoid the spread of diseases that include diarrhea, chagas disease (a parasitic infection), respiratory and skin infections.

Luisa has worked as a community leader with ChildFund Bolivia’s local partner for the past seven years, and one of her family’s main concerns is water. Having to buy water has always been an additional expense that was eating up a big portion of their small monthly budget. Her family still has to buy water, but the expense is lower thanks to ChildFund’s efforts.

mother and daughter

Luisa and her 10-year-old daughter Maria Elena get clean water.

At the ChildFund-supported community center, families receive training on how to use a simple water purification system, which requires only sunlight and plastic bottles to kill germs, viruses and bacteria that can be present in water.

“We don’t need to buy bottled water anymore or boil it,” Luisa says. “We used to spend much more money for water. We still have to buy it from the water truck, but we spend less.” The family still buys two to three tanks full of water a week, which is approximately 15 bolivianos (US$2), half of what Zenón makes in one day of work.

Now Luisa trains other mothers in her community about proper usage of water purification systems. Her children are also healthier: Baby Tania is growing much stronger, as well as her brother Jonas, who is 3. Luisa’s three older children attend school and have healed from the skin infections that they used to get before the family began using the water purification system.

ChildFund’s program has helped me in many ways… to take better care of my children,” Luisa says. “They have taught us how to better clean our house and avoid diseases, and how to use water better and wash our hands, and I can see the difference, as my little babies don’t get sick anymore, as the elders did.”

Were you inspired by today’s blog post? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.

Clean Water: A Learning Essential for Southern Philippines School

By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

It’s quiet in the neighborhood around Nabilid Elementary School. The school sits amid a small community of 10 houses and a sari-sari store that sells packets of instant noodles, soda and junk food. The peace is only broken by the roar of an occasional jeepney bus, carrying children and their adult guardians to and from school in this section of the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.

classroom with adults and children

Nabilid Elementary School, in the Philippines, lacked a functional water system until recently.

Amid the dust and black exhaust, passengers have to cover their noses and mouths with handkerchiefs. Thirsty children walk straight to the school’s canteen after arriving, seeking something to drink.

Because the school’s water system doesn’t work properly, children go for artificially flavored juices or cola, which are cheaper than juice. Nabilid’s water taps were installed incorrectly, so mud gurgles from them.

Lacking funding to correct the plumbing problem, the school is forced to ration water collected in large drums, but soon this situation is set to improve.

ChildFund has a long-standing partnership with Nabilid Elementary, supporting early childhood development programs, child-friendly teaching methods, teacher training, peer mentoring among older students and stocking of learning materials and books for students. “Nabilid’s made good with ChildFund’s support, adopting ECD in their curriculum and developing their faculty,” says Marlene, a ChildFund Philippines staff member. “ChildFund recognizes, however, how water is specifically crucial to the success of our efforts here.” This is why ChildFund is installing a clean and functional water system at Nabilid.

outdoor sink

A new water system is being installed at the school.

Marlene is monitoring the progress of the water system’s construction at Nabilid and five other schools in the southern Philippines. “Though seemingly oblique, providing a safe water supply is in fact crucial to ECD services at schools,” Marlene says. Activities like hand-washing and personal hygiene education, as well as and some parent-education activities like nutritious food preparation, become difficult without water.

“Completion of the water supply systems in these five areas alone will benefit a total student population of 20,000 boys and girls,” Marlene notes. Nabilid’s new water system is expected to be fully functional by the end of March.

The school administration is appreciative of the progress and matches ChildFund’s contribution by committing labor and some construction supplies. ChildFund’s local partner agency will also help the school design common sinks just the right height for younger children. The School Governance Council has also pledged to maintain the water system once it’s in place.

ECD sessions continue while the Philippines’ older students are on summer break, which began in mid-March and continues through May. Over these months, Nabilid’s teachers expect more heat and dust. Once the water starts flowing, though, children will have a school environment that’s more conducive to learning.

Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.

Without Fresh Water, It’s Not Easy to Have Clean Hands

By Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia

World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

All over the world, children’s hands get dirty while they’re playing. But not everyone has access to soap and running water.  In Indonesia, one of the Early Childhood Development centers supported by ChildFund has tackled the problem of cleanliness without easy access to fresh water.

“Children always enjoy playing here,” says Sriyatun, a tutor who works at the Early Childhood Development center in Kulonprogo, Central Java. “They play with the blocks, crayons, water and other local materials such as corn seed and bamboo.

“Their hands, however, soon become dirty,” she adds. “Children need to wash their hands before they eat. Unfortunately, we don’t have the facility. We usually brought the children to the mosque next to our ECD center to wash their hands.”

3 women installing a clay pot

Sriyatun (in green), a tutor at an Indonesian ECD center, helps install a handwashing system.

Not wanting to prolong this situation, Sriyatun and the other tutors recently hand-built a “water facility” for the children in the front yard of the center. The system consists of clay water pots with spigots that were contributed by a parent. Teachers and parents still must bring the water from elsewhere, but the clay pots keep the water fresh and allow easy, controlled dispensing.

“It isn’t healthy to wash your hands using water from a bucket, as the water gets dirtier the more people use it,” Sriyatun says. “Also, as we should always use running water and soap when we wash our hands to prevent illnesseses such as diarrhea, we thought this idea would work.”

A growing awareness of the importance of handwashing is one result of ChildFund’s efforts to build integrated community-based health services.

“We want parents and children to be more aware of the importance of handwashing at the critical times of day, for example, before eating and after using the restroom,” Sriyatun notes. “It’s also important to wash your hands before feeding a child and after cleaning a child’s bottom and, of course, before preparing food and after touching animals.”

Today, people in the community are more aware of the importance of hygiene than they were in earlier generations, Sriyatun says. “They even practice handwashing at their home now, which they didn’t use to do.”

3-year-old boy washing his hands

Ngatini and her 3-year-old son practice handwashing at the ECD center.

According to one mother, Ngatini, whose 3-year-old son is enrolled in the ECD program, “If we ask them to wash their hands, they will do it, but it can sometimes be a challenge. If, on the other hand, the teacher asks them to wash their hands, children comply more easily and even do it at home without being asked to.”

Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.

Uganda Makes Progress on HIV and AIDS Interventions

By ChildFund Uganda staff

ChildFund and its local partners in Uganda made a concentrated effort  to increase HIV and AIDS interventions in the past year, setting three primary objectives:

  1. Make significant contributions to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
  2. Improve access to care and treatment for children living with HIV and AIDS.
  3. Strengthen the existing district health care system to ensure effective delivery of HIV and AIDS services.
women and men in classroom

Expectant mothers and their husbands attend a prenatal care training session, which includes HIV and AIDS counseling and education services, in Agago district in northern Uganda.

To effectively deliver quality HIV and AIDS programs to the target populations, ChildFund is taking an integrated approach to service delivery in Uganda. We are working within existing programs including maternal and child services, health care and immunization.

Last year, we made considerable progress toward those goals, including

  • comprehensive training for 28 health workers in four districts on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV
  •  a fully equipped maternity unit constructed in Kitgum district
  • 7,800 pregnant mothers accessing HIV counseling and testing
  • 8,100 children tested for HIV, with 72 percent of children who tested positive receiving appropriate treatment
  • more than 350 HIV-affected households supported with income-generating activities
  • 160 health volunteers trained and engaged in community mobilization and follow-up for HIV-positive patients
  • more than 100 local and religious leaders selected and trained on their roles in promoting HIV and AIDS prevention services.
building with blue roof

A newly constructed maternity ward at Akuna Labor Health Center III in Lagoro Subcounty in Kitgum district now offers HIV and AIDS interventions.

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