Reporting by Tenagne Mekonnen, ChildFund Ethiopia, and Christine Ennulat, ChildFund staff writer
Each year on June 16, along with many other organizations, ChildFund recognizes the Day of the African Child. Across the continent, children and adults affiliated with our programs will perform songs, skits and other presentations to call attention to children’s rights.
Despite the festivities, the Day of the African Child marks a tragic anniversary, when at least 176 children and youth were killed during a massive protest in Soweto, South Africa in 1976. Forty years later, African children still face many trials, including hunger, illiteracy, terrorism, civil warfare and gender-based violence.
The theme of this year’s Day of the African Child is “Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting All Children’s Rights,” which focuses on child protection in regions where there is civil conflict. There are many well-known cases now, such as the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls, ongoing civil war in Sudan and the rebel insurgency in northern Mali. Other countries are still tending to wounds from previous decades.
ChildFund works in Liberia, which suffered destructive civil warfare from 1989 to 2003, with a brief respite from 1997 to 1999. The impact of war, particularly the use of child soldiers, still echoes today as its government works to rebuild schools, infrastructure and a fractured society.
Armed conflicts, we’ve seen, make children less safe and more likely to be hurt, killed or exploited. Even in peaceful nations, though, children’s basic rights can be in jeopardy. Early marriage, forced labor and other corrosive practices cause harm all over Africa.
On our website, we have a photo story of 29-year-old Zambian mother Mavis, who was married and had her first child at age 13. Zambia’s child marriage rate is one of the world’s worst: 42 percent of Zambian women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before age 18. As we well know, many girls who marry and become mothers early lose out on a lot of things that make life worth living: education, leisure, civic participation, fulfilling work and self-determination.
Their dreams for themselves often transfer to their children.
Mavis told us, “I want my children to be educated. I don’t want my children to experience what I went through. Because I don’t know many things — I don’t know how to read or write my name. I don’t want my children to earn a living by selling tomatoes like me.”
On the Day of the African Child, we need to consider Mavis and all of the girls and young women in similar positions. We owe it to them and their children.
Photos by ChildFund staff members and photographer Jake Lyell
Mothers are crucial to ChildFund’s mission, whether they’re guide mothers in the Americas spreading reliable health and nutrition information, three Indonesian mothers growing vegetables for their families, or a group of Ugandan moms who are contributing to a village savings and loan program. Or the numerous grandmothers raising their grandchildren in Mozambique after they lost their parents to AIDS. This Sunday is Mother’s Day in the United States, a time when many of us celebrate our mothers and mother-figures in our lives — women who are there to listen or laugh with us, or sometimes tell us hard truths. Above are some pictures of moms from around the world who are connected with ChildFund’s programs. We have more in common with them than you may believe possible.
Join us on our Facebook page today to share your photos and thoughts about your mother or other important women in your life. We’d love to hear from you!
Uganda has a serious malaria problem, with every single resident of the country considered at risk of contracting the mosquito-borne disease and infection rates growing in refugee camps in the north. Children under the age of 5 are particularly vulnerable to malaria, representing seven out of 10 deaths related to the disease, which causes fever, nausea and other flu-like symptoms. Last year, 438,000 people died from malaria, 80 percent of whom lived in sub-Saharan Africa.
Malaria is preventable and treatable, although many people in Africa don’t have the resources available to avoid it. In Uganda’s Kiyuni Parish, though, we’ve seen an improvement in rates of the disease because of support from ChildFund and our local partners, which have trained health workers and provided families with insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
You can read more about what’s happening in Kiyuni in a report from ChildFund Uganda, but let’s hear from Batulabudde Vincent, a laboratory assistant from Kiyuni Health Center, who has seen the difference with his own eyes: “I thank ChildFund and their malaria project for the great work they have done to reduce malaria through distributing mosquito nets and taking blood samples. Those found to have malaria parasites are given medicine. I thank them so much because since the time I came here, malaria rates have reduced, and death among children has also reduced.”
By Arthur Tokpah, ChildFund Guinea
“I should have graduated from high school like my friends,” Mariame says. But like many young Guinean women, she felt pressure to marry. Yielding to local tradition, Mariame wed an older man when she was only 13. He moved her to the capital city of Sierra Leone, where she didn’t know anyone.
“My parents obliged me to get married to a man who gave them the impression that he would allow me to continue school,” recalls Mariame, who is now 18. “After moving to his house, he said he did not marry me to go to school but to take care of the home and bear children for him.”
Mariame was able to leave her marriage and return to school, but many Guinean women don’t have the same opportunity.
According to UNICEF statistics from 2015, 21 percent of Guinean women ages 20 to 24 were married by the age of 15, and 52 percent were married by the time they were 18 years old, often to men more than a decade older in marriages arranged by their parents.
But Mariame and many other young people in Guinea are now speaking out to advocate for the rights of girls and young women — and against early marriage — with the support of ChildFund Guinea. Last month, our local partners in Kindia and Dabola held three public forums about early marriage, female genital mutilation and violence at school. More than 100 girls and boys ages 12 to 17 spoke openly about these issues, which are often kept quiet there, and recommended solutions to teachers, parents and government officials.
Public discussion is an important step in changing harmful traditions and attitudes that keep girls and women — and entire communities, by extension — trapped in poverty. We applaud the bravery and honesty of young people like Mariame who are shining a light on Guinea’s problems.
In this video shot by ChildFund videographer Jake Lyell in Emali, Kenya, we follow Isaac and his mother, Dora, on their trek to a freshwater spring more than three hours away on foot. If that weren’t tough enough, Dora explains that sometimes when they reach the spring, they find it’s gone dry that day. So, they walk three hours home with no water. This isn’t the only family living with such hardship. Check out the statistics. There are millions of people who don’t have clean running water in or near their homes.
“Without water, even if you have food in the house, you can’t cook. You can’t bathe or have something to drink,” Dora says. She hopes for a better life for Isaac, the only one of her four children who has survived.
Today is World Water Day, a great time to make a gift that will provide communities with wells, pumps and other sources of clean water. Too many people — just like Isaac and Dora — spend hours each week fetching water and carrying it home, if they’re lucky. We can help.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
ChildFund’s primary focus is helping children who live in poverty, but it doesn’t take long to figure out that women play key roles in this mission. Whether they’re mothers, grandmothers, sisters, government officials, business owners or other role models, women influence the course of children’s lives and shape communities and nations. One day is not nearly enough to celebrate the important women in our lives, but it’s a start. Below, meet some of the remarkable women connected with ChildFund around the world.
Phanny, a former sponsored child, is now a supervisor at Autoworld in Zambia. She’s the only woman who works at her branch, an accomplishment that’s even more impressive given the fact that Phanny had to miss school sometimes to work odd jobs with her sister after their parents died.
Else, another former sponsored child, just graduated from nursing school in Indonesia. She’s from a village where few people continue their studies after high school, but Else is now pursuing a master’s degree in nursing so she can work in a hospital.
“I love taking care of young children,” she says. “Soon, I will be working in a hospital, helping young children in need.”
Johanna, a ChildFund-supported trainer mother from Ecuador, is taking steps to end the cycle of parental abuse and neglect that has affected many children. She estimates that up to 20 percent of children in her small village suffer abuse at the hands of their parents. Through home visits and workshops, Johanna works with parents and other caregivers to show them how to support their children’s development.
“Children don’t feel respected by their parents,” she says. “It’s something that really scars them. It’s like an inheritance, because the child learns these things and replicates them.”
Rita, a young mother in Guatemala, is training to be a guide mother, an important role in many Central and South American communities where we work. Despite the demands placed on her time by two small children, Rita takes weekly classes on parenting skills, children’s learning styles, children’s rights, nutrition, play and more. She’ll then lead education sessions for other mothers in her community.
“I didn’t get a chance to study,” she says, “so this is also my turn to learn.”
Today (or any day at all), let’s think of the women who have made a positive impact on our lives — and thank them!
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
March 22 is World Water Day, a very important event for ChildFund and the countries where we work, so you’ll be seeing videos, pictures and stories about water during the next month. We don’t want to flood you (pun intended) with a lot of statistics all at once, but consider this:
In Africa and Asia, women and children walk an average of 3.7 miles a day just to fetch water.
This stat came from UNESCO in 2015, and the United Nations reported in 2013 that girls and women worldwide spend up to 6 hours a day collecting water because it’s one of their household responsibilities.
That’s a huge investment of time and energy, and it’s no wonder that children — girls, especially — suffer a loss of opportunity when their homes and schools don’t have clean water and sanitation.
According to UNICEF, one in four girls does not complete primary school, compared with one in seven boys. Water and sanitation are not the only reasons for this problem, but when girls do have access to clean water and private and safe toilets, they’re more likely to stay in school. Girls’ enrollment rates improved by more than 15 percent in some places after clean water and sanitation were provided.
Let’s think about these children’s needs this month and learn more about how we can help. You can start by reading the World Water Day website and watching this video about Aleyka, an Ethiopian girl who takes us on her daily journey to retrieve water. You may feel inspired to share your knowledge by the time World Water Day arrives.
Feb. 18 is the 51st anniversary of independence in The Gambia, a small nation on Africa’s west coast that mainly relies on tourism for revenue. Its borders (other than the western coast) are surrounded by the much larger nation of Senegal. ChildFund has worked here since 1984. Our current focus is on early childhood development, training teachers and improving schools, and helping youth become prepared for successful careers. Below are a few pictures of Gambian people, and you can read more about their nation at the following links:
This week on our website, we have favorite recipes from our national offices in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guinea, Honduras, India, Uganda and the United States. We hope you’ll give them a try, and we have a few more recipes below for dishes suggested by ChildFund staff members around the world. You may need to visit a specialty or international grocery store, or order an ingredient online, but don’t let that deter you. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite dish or learn something you didn’t know about your sponsored child’s home cuisine. Post a picture on our Facebook page if you decide to cook a new dish, and happy eating!
From Bolivia: Pique Macho, as seen in the picture.
From Timor-Leste: Koto, or Red Bean Soup, is akin to a familiar Portuguese soup and Brazil’s national dish, feijoada. Portuguese is spoken in Timor-Leste and Brazil, so it’s not surprising that the same recipes would pass through their populations, too, with adjustments for taste and ingredients’ availability. Because red (or kidney) beans are more common than black beans in Timor-Leste, cooks use them in their soup, and pork or beef can replace chorizo.
From Uganda: Beef and Groundnut (Peanut) Stew; Katogo. Katogo is a dish made with tripe or sweetmeats (also known as offal) and matoke, a green and savory banana similar to a plantain. Are you feeling adventurous?
Reporting by ChildFund staff
Halko, 28, is the mother of 3-month-old Fentale, who is suffering from severe acute malnutrition, a condition that can lead to brain damage and death. A two-year drought in Ethiopia has caused a serious food shortage, leaving millions without enough to eat. Halko, who is married and has three more children, eats only a diet of maize flour and is unable to produce enough milk to feed Fentale.
After a health extension officer from the government of Ethiopia identified the possibility of severe malnutrition, Halko took the baby to a health post in their village, where a health worker referred them to the health center. Halko spoke to us recently about the drought and the food shortage affecting her family.
Due to the absence of rain, the conditions here are so hot and dry. It’s difficult to live in this village. The trees give no shade. The drought is really affecting us. It started two years ago. There’s been no change. It is the same. If the rain comes, the situation will be different.
We are facing a problem. The livestock are not able to produce milk. If the livestock can’t give milk and I can’t add milk to our porridge, then we face problems. We eat only maize porridge without milk. Our livestock have no pastures to graze because there’s been no rain. They don’t have grass to eat. Because of this drought, we have a food crisis. Our children also suffer because of the drought. They don’t get any curd or milk. In the past, we’d add different things like onions or rice – and we may have gotten tomato or oil sometimes. Now we eat only maize. We can’t even get oil to cook with.
The land is dry and it produces no crops. There’s been two years of no rain, and we haven’t been able to harvest crops. We planted maize and white teff [an important food grain used to make staple food injera], but since there was no moisture, the seeds did not germinate. During normal times, we used to buy cabbage and potatoes from the market, and we cooked it together with the maize, but there’s no more now.
The distance to the water point is two hours from here, one way. If we go in the morning, we return back here by noon. My, how we travel.
Fentale is 3 months old. We took him to the health center, and they measured him. They told me yesterday he will be admitted and treated there, and I have to stay there with him. It started after he was born; now he’s 3 months old. There’s been no improvement or growth, and he cries the whole night. If he’s not able to get milk, he cries all night. He cries and kicks all night.
He started coughing after he was born. After coughing, he would cry all day. Especially in the hot weather, he’d cough and cough.
If I’m able to give him some milk, he’s better. If he gets some milk, he’ll sleep. But if he can’t get milk from my breast, he won’t sleep and will just cry. When he first started crying, we took him to the health center. They identified his problem and advised me to eat different foods, not just maize, and to drink enough pure water. They said to try to breastfeed him more often.
I fear for the future. I don’t know whether Fentale will pass through this situation. We are hoping he’ll recover his health and grow to be a man. We don’t know if this will happen, and he’s not able to speak and tell us his problem. The whole night I sit with him, and this week is somewhat better.
What we need right now is teff. Wheat is not good. Maize doesn’t really have any benefits.
A balanced diet is important for my family. For their physical well-being, they need pure water and milk too.
If God gives us rain, we will try to plant crops. If our child recovers, I will be thankful. We need food. That’s our most serious problem.
You can help families like Halko’s by making a donation to our Ethiopia emergency fund.