Africa

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Peace: The Cornerstone of Stable, Healthy Societies

Senegal children

Senegalese children march in a parade on the Day of the African Child in 2014.

Sept. 21 is the United Nations-designated International Day of Peace, celebrated throughout the world.

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

When I first moved to Senegal, I learned a local language. For official business we spoke French, but in the field we spoke Wolof, the language of teranga, kalante and jamm — hospitality, joking kinship and peace.

When greeting someone in Wolof, the answer is always “peace, only peace.” How are you, how’s your household, and your work, your farm, your herds, your day (or night), how’s the family (just double-checking) and, ending the ceremony, are you all in peace? Jamm’ rekk.

Life in Senegal was peaceful. Senegal’s first president, a famous poet and war hero, was Catholic and part of the Serère population in a predominantly Muslim, Wolof land. Léopold Sédar Senghor, who served as president from 1960 to 1980, transformed his nation into an exceptionally tolerant and democratic society. A visionary in human and economic development, Senghor led Senegal to independence.

Years later, I lived in neighboring Guinea, where joking kinship also reigns. Studying Pular there, I immediately recognized the ritual response: jam tun, only peace. Guinea’s recent history has been much more turbulent than Senegal’s, and the U.N. designated the country in its Human Development Index as one of the world’s 10 least developed.

Lacking peace, a country struggles to educate its children. It can’t provide health care, employment opportunities for youth, infrastructure or public services, safety and security, or a stable economy. Since a country and its peoples have no future without peace, peace is a human right.

Each summer, the Fund for Peace publishes a Fragile States Index (FSI), scoring countries on 12 socioeconomic and political indicators. Overall scores fall into four categories: Sustainable, Stable, Warning and Alert. A county’s FSI level often tracks closely to its HDI tier: Very High, High, Medium or Low.

The HDI measures health, education and income (adjusted for inequality) at a moment in time, while the FSI predicts future conflict. Factors such as the number of refugees, uneven economic development, the flight of educated citizens to other countries, economic decline and poverty, human rights and external influences are all taken into account to determine a country’s status in the Fragile States Index.

Over the past decade, Belarus and Indonesia — countries where ChildFund works — experienced the most notable improvements in the world. Senegal, on the other hand, shows the worst long-term performance. In 2007, Senegal was on par with Brazil. Then the country tumbled 55 places and, in the 2014 report, is now at the Very High Warning level. Why? Refugees from the conflicts in Guinea and Mali, emigration of Senegal’s educated populace, political competition and demographic pressures, such as drought, flooding, food and water scarcity and chronic malnutrition. Guinea, trapped at High Alert, is unlikely to improve. Ebola has devastated the nation’s precarious health system and damaged its economy.

Please consider sharing your peace with a child in Guinea or Senegal.

Ebola Update for West Africa

Liberia Ebola supplies

Supplies to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus enroute to Voinjama, Liberia.

 

ChildFund’s emergency management unit provided a status report late last week on the spread of the Ebola virus in our program areas in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal, which has reported only one case so far. Read more here about Guinea, too. To help, you can make a gift to our Ebola Response Fund, which will help ChildFund support local efforts to control the virus’ spread and provide information and resources to communities.

Ebola, Guinea and ChildFund

Guinea Ebola prevention

A woman talks to her community in Guinea about preventing the spread of the Ebola virus.

Reporting by Arthur Tokpah, ChildFund Guinea

Ebola has sickened an estimated 4,200 people in Africa, and as of Sept. 9, 2,288 people have died from the virus, according to the World Health Organization. The spread of Ebola remains most serious in Liberia, where there have been the most deaths. Also affected are Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Senegal reported its first Ebola case last week, and officials in The Gambia are keeping close watch for cases, although none had been reported as of Sept. 9.

In Guinea, the situation appears to be stabilizing. As part of its strategy to fight the deadly Ebola virus, ChildFund Guinea identified and engaged community leaders to convey information to the public in three of Guinea’s affected communities.

Guinea healers and hunters

Traditional healers and hunters, who are helping the awareness-raising effort.

These 108 leaders include imams, priests, a pastor, traditional healers and hunters — all of whom are respected and have influence within their communities. In March, as the outbreak began, ChildFund Guinea’s office held training workshops on conducting outreach campaigns, as well as identifying and referring people with suspected cases of Ebola to health facilities.

As a result, community members have received important information about good hygiene and preventive measures from people they know and trust. The training has concluded, but information sharing continues through local groups and one-on-one discussions at Guineans’ homes and houses of worship.

To date, 35 traditional healers (10 in Kindia and 25 in Dabola) and 28 hunters involved in the project are actively continuing the efforts to contain the spread of Ebola in Guinea. These men are part of indigenous peoples, who trust them as caregivers of the land and of people. Because of their roles and influence, healers and hunters are critical to public awareness efforts.

This community-centered approach has created widespread trust and increased public support for the use of preventive measures.

The outreach campaign has yielded concrete results, as three people suspected of having the virus were referred to the Regional Hospital of Dabola. Unfortunately, these three patients died a few days later, but this intervention helped prevent further spread of the virus.

Since the end of March, no new cases have been reported in any of the communities where ChildFund works in Guinea. Nevertheless, community members continue to be vigilant and prepared to take action if they see anyone who has a suspected case of Ebola.

Read more about ChildFund’s efforts to prevent and contain Ebola in Guinea and other western African countries.

Guinea outreach on Ebola

Outreach efforts take many forms in Guinea.

A Fresh Start

School is starting this week for many children in the United States. Children and youth in many of the 30 countries where ChildFund works have limited access to school, whether it’s because their families can’t afford to pay fees for uniforms, or the children are relied upon to fetch water or work to contribute to a family’s livelihood. Sponsorship helps many children attend school longer and have a better chance to break the generational cycle of poverty. Here are some pictures of students from communities where we work:

 

Kenya classroom

A classroom in Kenya.

 

girls going to school in Mexico

Girls going to school in Mexico.

 

Indian schoolgirls

On the way to school in rural Pimpalgaon, Pune, India.

 

mozambique

Parents help build a school for their children in Zavala, Mozambique. Photo by Jake Lyell.

 

Ecuador girl

A girl from Ecuador participates in after-school activities.

 

Vietnam school

Children at a Vietnamese primary school.

Helping Families Build a Future Beyond HIV

By Christine Ennulat, with reporting by Joan Ng’ang’a, ChildFund Kenya

Halima greets Nadzua

Halima shakes the hand of Nadzua, one of the mothers she works with.

On any given day, Halima has her work cut out for her. As a community health volunteer in a rural area outside of Mombasa, she makes one or two home visits per day, checking in on families participating in ChildFund’s program to help children and families affected by HIV and AIDS in Kenya’s Coast and Nairobi provinces. Halima has 50 children on her list.

Launched in 2011 and run by ChildFund and several other partner organizations, the USAID-funded program takes a comprehensive approach to ensuring that these children and their caregivers have a safety net so they can build toward a more hopeful future. The program works to ensure that basic needs are met, including:

  • Health: Families have improved access to health care. Trained community health volunteers provide prevention education during home visits. Increased access to safe drinking water and improved hygiene and sanitation help protect children’s and families’ health.
  • Protection: When a caregiver dies, the children left behind are often vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and other risks. ChildFund works to protect children and help families stay together.
  • Psychosocial support: Through home visits, trained volunteers monitor families and educate them about stress management. Support groups for both children and caregivers help them cope with the stigma of HIV and AIDS and learn how to stay healthy.
  • Food and nutrition: Families receive nutritious food to supplement their diets and sustain their fragile health.
  • Education: Families receive help with school expenses, and schools are supported to become more child-friendly, with training for teachers. Schools also offer support groups, child rights clubs, financial literacy education and hygiene training.
  • Economic empowerment: Hundreds of savings and loan groups help thousands of adults grow their small businesses so they can support their families and overcome financial barriers that keep many HIV and AIDS patients from receiving care. Training and support for income-generating enterprises help families improve the circumstances.

Today, Halima’s first visit is with Nadzua, age 35, mother of 11; she is a second wife, married into a family who lost their mother to HIV. In her packed-dirt front yard, she greets Halima warmly, a sleepy toddler balanced on her hip. Her 2-year-old son, Mbega, is the only one of Nadzua’s children home this morning — the others are at school, and her husband is in town.

The women sit outside, facing each other, and begin. Before moving on to today’s subject — how Nadzua can gain skills to improve her family’s income — there’s a lot to talk about: the children’s health and immunizations, how things are going at school, how their improved hygiene practices are working out, whether the family is getting the nutrition they need, how Nadzua is doing in the literacy classes Halima encouraged her to take.

How You Can Help

These programs are possible thanks to a $3.5 million matching grant. To meet its terms, ChildFund must raise $321,000. Because of this arrangement, every dollar you donate will be matched by $4.35. Help now.

It’s all hard with 11 children to care for, but life has improved since Halima’s visits began. “I have gained a lot from Halima,” Nadzua says. “I am more educated, more informed on how to take care of my children and my household.”

And she’s especially proud of herself on this day: She just harvested and sold 10 bags of green lentils, which meant she could cover her oldest son’s high school fees.

Nadzua and son

Nadzua and her 2-year-old son, Mbega.

As Halima leaves a little later, she breathes a happy sigh: She loves her work. She loves seeing families thrive despite the devastation of HIV and AIDS. Because she knows exactly how hard it is.

Halima, a single mother of four, has taken in the three children left behind by her two sisters, whom she lost to AIDS. All three children are HIV-positive.

And, thanks to Halima and all she’s learned, all seven children are thriving.

On her way to her next appointment, Halima passes a school she visits nearly every week, educating parents about children’s needs, sanitation and more. “I’m proud to see that the parents in the village understand the importance of growth monitoring, and that they’re interested in their children’s school performance and attendance,” she says.

She’s also had a hand in one important improvement to the facility itself: Until recently, the toilets were dirty, spilling human waste outside — a biohazard. Halima contacted the local public health officer, who ordered the school administrator to either fix the latrines or close the school.

Halima’s next client, Mwau, is a widowed father of four, and he’s waiting. His wife died four years ago. “When one parent dies, it gets even more difficult to take care of the family,” he says. His children are a girl, 16, and three boys, 8, 12 and 14.

Mwau has participated in several of ChildFund’s workshops — on child rights, nutrition, health and economic empowerment. With other farmers, he’s a member of one of ChildFund’s village savings-and-loan groups. The men are also working together to find better markets for their wares. Thanks to what he’s learned and earned through the overall program, Mwau has been able to move his family from a rickety mud hut into a stone house.

Still, he worries about his children — especially his daughter.

Mwau of Kenya

Mwau points out his old home as he stands next to his sturdy, new stone house.

“My daughter was most affected when her mother died,” he says. When the 16-year-old began coming home late after school, he wanted to yell at her, but he didn’t — in the workshops and from his talks with Halima, he knew there were better ways to handle teenagers. But this was really a job for a mother … and his children’s mother was gone. So, at his request, Halima stepped in.

“I explained that while she may want to enjoy the company of friends, some will not have good intentions toward her,” Halima remembers. “There are risks such as rape, and the consequences can be unwanted pregnancies and dropping out of school.”

And HIV.

Halima also encouraged the girl to help out at home — her family needs her. They all need each other.

It’s moments like this that keep her moving forward. “My drive is that people in the community listen to me,” she says. “I have a deep desire to see them grow and lead better lives.”

 

In Senegal, Mobilizing Communities to Fight Violence Against Girls and Women

In 2012, ChildFund launched a program called Shine a Light in four countries, thanks in large part to a major gift from a concerned donor. The project’s goal is to raise awareness of gender-based violence, assist child survivors of sexual abuse and help communities develop child-protective systems and responses. In four blog posts, we have learned about the progress made in the countries; today, we focus on Senegal. To read the rest of the series, click here. If you want to help women and girls gain greater independence and empowerment, we have some ideas.

By Danielle Roth, Technical Coordinator for Youth Programs

Senegalese children experience gender-based violence at home and school and in their communities, which amount to an overall environment of pervasive fear and persecution, particularly for girls. A recent study found that in Senegal, 74 percent of schoolgirls have been sexually harassed, 22 percent have experienced an attempted rape, and 8 percent have been raped. Other studies have shown that the people likely to perpetrate this violence are often known to the victim — a classmate, a boyfriend, a neighbor or a teacher.

Senegalese girl

Most Senegalese girls are personally affected by gender-based violence.

Gender-based violence, or GBV, is a problem of substantial proportions. It is also an issue with deep roots embedded in socio-cultural norms and community dynamics such as expectations around masculinity and femininity, power dynamics within the household and rigid gender roles. ChildFund is working with Senegalese communities to help them respond to and prevent GBV.

So, what exactly are we doing?

ChildFund works in the Tattaguine and Kolouckmbada areas of the Mbour district to address GBV against children and youth 6 years and older, through a community-led and action-oriented approach known as the community action cycle. This method of community mobilization includes four steps: 1) forming groups, (2) self-diagnosing challenges in the community, (3) developing action plans and (4) carrying out action plans.

From January through June 2014, six child protection groups, composed of community members themselves who are vulnerable to GBV and including both young people and adults, met to discuss some of the most pervasive GBV issues in their communities. These groups then developed their action plans, which outlined key steps they wanted to take in partnership with their communities to address these issues.

The groups chose to focus on community mobilization and advocacy with authorities around rape, early and forced marriage and early pregnancy. An example of the successful work of one group involves a case of forced marriage. A young woman, aged 14 — we will call her Mawa — was forced to leave school when her mother received a pre-dowry gift.

Mawa says, “One day, around 8 p.m., while I was learning my lessons in my mother’s room, she called me to introduce me to two young men. She told me with a very low voice that I should be very kind with one of the men because he had come to ask me for marriage. When I told her that I did not want to get married — I am a student and I want to stay at school — she told me that if I did not love the guy and if I refuse this marriage, she will no longer support me.”

Mawa was left with no choice. To prepare her for marriage, Mawa’s mother withdrew her from school and sent her to the capital, Dakar, to work as a housemaid.

When the youth group in her village learned of Mawa’s situation, they brought the case to the newly formed child protection group. The group then met with Mawa’s mother to negotiate for her return under circumstances that the mother would find amenable but that also recognized Mawa’s human rights.

Mawa had no idea that all this was going on. “One Sunday, my mother called and asked me to come back to my town to resume my studies,” she says. “It is then that I learned that it was thanks to my village child protection committee that I was able to return home.

Cases like Mawa’s are not uncommon in Senegal, and that is why child protection groups like the one in her community are so important. To deepen this vital work, ChildFund will continue to support the child protection groups through another community action cycle.

 

Reflections of Life in Kenya

Reporting by ChildFund Kenya

Children enrolled in ChildFund’s programs near Nairobi participated in an art exhibition featuring photos and paintings they made, often depicting their surroundings.

 

Weslyne

Weslyne and his photo.

Weslyne, who is 13, shows a photo he took of the Dandora dump near his home. Covering an area of 30 acres, the dump accepts about 850 tons of solid waste generated daily by the 3.5 million inhabitants of the city of Nairobi, Kenya. The dump, which is the largest in Africa,was once a quarry that the City Council of Nairobi sought to use temporarily. But it still exists, 40 years later, despite having been declared full.

Residents have to live with the stench, trash and dirt. Waste pickers pounce on trash once it is offloaded by incoming trucks. Birds, pigs and people scavenge heaps of rubbish for food, scrap metal, polythene bottles and bags, which are often sold. Weslyne explains that the dump also attracts children and youth who would rather scavenge than go to school. His photo shows a boy drinking water from a bottle that was probably scavenged from the trash.

Dennis and his painting.

Dennis and his painting.

Dennis, 14, also lives in Dandora. He explains that many children in his school smoke. Because of lack of parental guidance and peer pressure, boys will begin to start smoking to “fit in, be cool and be adultlike.”

 

Regina and her photograph.

Regina and her photograph.

Regina, 14, comes from Mukuru’s fuata nyayo (the Swahili term for outskirts). Mukuru is a slum on the eastern side of Nairobi. It is one of the largest slums in the city, with a population of around 700,000. Mukuru is sub-divided into eight villages and is located in the middle of the main industrial area of the city, bordering the Nairobi River. It is characterized by congestion, narrow alleys, poor drainage, lack of sanitary facilities and open sewers. Regina explains that her photo shows children walking alone and dangerously close to the edge of the river.

Cooperative Enterprises Help Bring Prosperity to Families

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

When colleagues visit me in Northern California from overseas, we often have lunch at Arizmendi Bakery. Sitting at a small, round table, my friends eat the bakery’s signature sourdough pizza topped with the day’s combination — perhaps fresh corn, poblano chiles, sundried tomatoes, homemade mozzarella cheese, lime juice, olive oil and cilantro parmesan. It’s sweet, spicy, salty, tart, creamy, chewy and crisp.

Arizmendi is more than just a good place for lunch; it is actually a collective of six cooperative bakeries in the San Francisco Bay area. The workers are part owners, and this is a good place to bring my international colleagues, who are interested in how cooperatives play an important role in developing countries.

Zambia cooperative

These youth in Zambia grow fruits and vegetables, which they then sell in markets.

Today is the International Day of Cooperatives, and this year’s theme is achieving sustainable development through cooperative enterprises.

Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda, understood their value. From the start, he encouraged groups of 10 people to register as cooperatives, moving them from unemployment to employment, often in agriculture. Today, the Ministry of Agriculture still oversees Zambia’s cooperatives. Lusaka’s Cooperative College is one of the nation’s 11 agricultural training institutions, and more than half of the country’s population is engaged in agriculture.

In 2002, ChildFund Zambia began developing coops in rural communities; we now support 13 in the Chibombo, Chongwe, Mumbwa and Kafue districts. We link these producer-owners to government agencies for seeds, training and motivational events, as well as to the Zambia National Farmers Union for mobile phone-based market information. More than 100 of ChildFund’s parents benefit directly as cooperative members, while other families participate in seed distribution, crop marketing and field demonstrations.

Training in value chain analysis helps the coop members increase profits by selling grain to Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency. Members also reduce soil degradation by replacing chemical fertilizers with organic manure, as well as compost from food scraps or fertilizer prepared from goat droppings, known as manure tea. Coops professionalize small family farms, beginning with the establishment of cooperative governing boards. Members gain financial security through bank accounts with NATSAVE, Zambia’s National Savings and Credit Bank.

Juliet Mundia is secretary of a coop in Nachibila Village, Mumbwa District. In just five years, its 20 men and 15 women have constructed a grain shed to store their rain-fed maize (corn) and groundnut (peanut) harvests. They re-invest their profits each season into farming tools — shovels, pitchforks, watering cans, vegetable drying racks and knapsack sprayers. Trained in small livestock rearing and vegetable production, they now have a herd of goats and chickens. Their gardens, newly planted with greens, tomatoes, green pepper and cabbage, produce vegetables for sale locally and in Lusaka. With the proceeds, these families educate their children and provide them with proper nutrition and health care.

Each month Juliet and her husband sell 20 chickens, five goats and about $25 worth of vegetables. This season they expect to produce 35,000 kilograms of maize and 1,500 kilos of groundnuts. A vibrant woman, Juliet tells of how she quadrupled her income, bringing her family hope for the future. You can help too by purchasing garden tools through our gift catalog.

Shining a Light on Gender-Based Violence

By Emmanuel Ford, ChildFund Liberia

In 2012, ChildFund launched a program called Shine a Light in four countries — Dominica, Indonesia, Liberia and Senegal — thanks in large part to a major gift from a concerned donor. The project’s goal is to raise awareness of gender-based violence, assist child survivors of sexual abuse and help communities develop child-protective systems and responses. In four blog posts, we’ll learn about the progress made in these countries; today, we focus on Liberia.

In Liberia, Shine a Light was launched in Klay Town, Klay District, Bomi County. The project targets 200 children in two schools — 100 boys and 100 girls aged 10 to 17.

students in Liberia

Girls and boys in Liberia are participating in groups to learn more about preventing sexual violence.

Schools in Liberia are rife with sexual exploitation and abuse. Sexual exploitation and abuse, a form of gender-based violence, is an abuse of a position of authority for sexual purposes. In 2012, research among 800 girls in four of Liberia’s counties found that 88.7 percent had experienced a sexual violation, 40.2 percent had engaged in transactional sex, and 47 percent had endured sexual coercion — citing classmates, teachers, and school personnel as the main perpetrators.

To respond to this enormous challenge with the aim of preventing sexual exploitation and abuse before it happens, the project has formed two clubs for girls. These clubs provide a safe space in the school setting where girls may interact with each other and community mentors. Community mentors are individuals who live and work in the same communities as the girls and who demonstrate interest in empowering both girls and boys to stop sexual exploitation and abuse at school.

Utilizing a dynamic and interactive curriculum, club members and community mentors together address important issues such as sexual harassment, HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, prevention of unintended pregnancy, and reproductive myths. Girls also receive financial education where they spend time learning about options for income generation, how to control spending, learning the differences between needs and wants, and how to save. Girls will be exploring options to open savings accounts and form savings groups.

However, because boys and teachers are also important partners to end sexual exploitation and abuse, the project engages these critical groups. For example, boys are learning about the causes and consequences of sexual exploitation and abuse and are receiving financial education. The project works with teachers and school administrators to reinvigorate and apply a school code of conduct for all personnel.

Gender-based violence has long been an issue of critical importance in Liberia. The national government started a national effort to fight gender-based violence in 2012, focusing on a community-based observation network to identify problems and address them quickly. In 2007, the World Health Organization worked with Liberia’s Ministry of Gender and Development to interview 2,828 women about violence in their relationships.

According to the study, 93 percent had been subjected to at least one abusive act. Of those who survived violence, 48.5 percent said they were forced to work as sex workers; 13.6 percent of survivors were younger than 15. Rape cases are the most frequently reported serious crime in Liberia, and in 2007, 46 percent of reported rapes involved children under age 18; sexual assaults frequently occurred during Liberia’s political strife as a tool to control civilians, according to a 2012 Liberian government report.

Despite the response by Liberia’s government, sexual violence remains a serious problem, with a total of 2,493 sexual and gender-based violent crimes being reported across the country in 2012 and 2013, according to the Ministry of Gender and Development.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has taken on gender equality and gender-based violence as key causes in her administration, said in a November speech: “In Liberia, through the pain and anguish experienced by each of these victims, we have found the strength and the courage to start to build a new, transformed society — where women enjoy equal rights and fair treatment, and where their productive role in society and the economy is acknowledged. In my country, women occupy high-ranking government positions; rape, though continuing, has been criminalized; and women have greater property and custodial rights.”

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