Funding to Provide Healthcare to Senegalese Women and Children

Women dancingSenegal’s Health and Nutrition Financing Project will provide health and nutrition services to women and children. This project will benefit six regions and 3.5 million people, with the greatest focus being upon impoverished families. Specifically, Senegal hopes this program will be able to significantly improve rates of both low birth weight and iron deficiency anemia.

To improve maternal and neonatal health, this project will provide pregnant women with at least four prenatal exams. To encourage poor women to seek appropriate medical care, the project will also distribute maternal health vouchers. Under this initiative, medical staff will receive additional training so that Senegal can increase the number of skilled medical personnel available to assist in births.

“Senegal has already made great strides in reducing child mortality by tackling childhood malnutrition and malaria, but there has been virtually no change in the maternal mortality rate. The new project will both encourage pregnant women to seek antenatal care and give birth in health facilities, as well as ensure that they receive high-quality services”  explained Vera Songwe, Senegal’s Country Director for the World Bank.

The project is funded by the World Bank with $22 million being provided by the Health Results Innovation Trust Fund and another $20 million from the International Development Agency.

This development will build upon other healthcare improvements taking place in Senegal over recent years. Most recently, in September of 2013, the government voted to introduce universal health coverage to all citizens by 2017. Free healthcare for all will improve access to medical care for the most impoverished and vulnerable populations. In the meantime, the government has agreed to provide medical services free to all children under the age of five in an effort to decrease morbidity and mortality in very young children sooner rather than later.

The government has proven its commitment to improving health outcomes through its recent success in reducing the incidence and impact of malnutrition. In response to a high level of food insecurity and malnutrition in young children, Senegal cooperated with several international organizations, including WHO, UNICEF and UNESCO, to develop the Joint Programme in 2009. This program reduced malnutrition levels by improving monitoring,  promoting healthier feeding through local food sources, and providing children with antiparasitics and micronutrients. The Health and Nutrition Financing Project seeks to continue this trend towards a healthier population.

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India’s Street Children Tell Their Stories Through Youth-Run Newspaper

From the street of India 12A pocket of India’s street children are becoming empowered to tell their stories through Delhi-based youth-run newspaper, Balaknama (Children’s Voice). The Hindi newspaper records harrowingly honest case studies of police brutality, child marriage and illegal child labor, with all staff members, writers and editors alike, ranging from 8 to 18 years of age.

The broadcast, sponsored by Delhi-based NGO Childhood Enhancement Through Training and Action (CHETNA), was founded in 2003 and gives a voice to the country’s overwhelming number of underprivileged and marginalized children. The federation of street and working children who contribute to the journal spans across four northern Indian states.

According to Save the Children India, about 50,000 children live on the streets of the country’s capital, with an estimate of 20 million total children and only 40% of these children registered at birth, making India the home of the largest amount of street children in the world. The children struggle to survive though whatever means necessary – street performances, joining gangs, begging, selling items. Over 50% of these children are said to have suffered verbal, physical or sexual abuse, and are sometimes victims of police brutality.

14 year old Govind of Delhi wandered the streets of the city before he was introduced to the newspaper’s journalistic arts at 9 years old. “When I joined Balaknama, my friends used to make fun of me. But now when they read my articles and see me grow in my life – they wish they too had done so,“ he said. Today his articles discuss the daily lives of the city’s most impoverished people with issues ranging from domestic abuse to healthcare.

Sanjay Gupta, director of CHETNA, explains that the newspaper has become a form of empowerment for many children, saying “children associated with Balaknama are much more aware about their rights than the average school-going child. They’re also shown how to deal with some of the emergencies that may come their way.”

Chief reporter of Balaknama, Vijay Kumar, considers himself to be a street child and explains that “street children are like ghosts… no-one notices and no-one cares. Our newspaper, Balaknama, means Children’s Voice… that’s what it gives us. People need to listen.”

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Vietnam’s Lower Income Children Will Receive Free Heart Surgery

Children from highland of NhatrangVietnam’s lower income children with innate heart diseases will now be given life-saving surgeries thanks to a recently decided government decision. Children living in sponsored service centers will be given free-of-charge heart surgery while children listed for heart surgery will be given food and travel costs during their surgical time. The resolution was signed by Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan and will take effect on November 20th of this year.

According to a Vietnamese news resource, the financing of heart surgery for Vietnam’s needy children is entirely contingent upon contributions given by organizations or private individuals. As a result, only a small portion of Vietnam’s low income heart defective children are given free heart surgery.

A Vietnamese charitable organization also partnered with the Vietnam Youth Federation last month to implement a program titled: “Connect millions of hearts for Vietnamese poor children.” The program aims to gather financial resources for free heart surgery and other charitable causes for Vietnam’s lower income children. About 2,000 children are anticipated to receive free heart surgery between the 2013 and 2015 period, while offering 1 million additional medical examinations and heart disease screenings for children. The project will also provide nutrition support to 3,000 poor children, 50 charitable houses and 10 day boarding houses for needy children and adults. 

International charity organization Global Giving, one contributor to the country’s needy children, contends that heart disease is the most common birth defect around the world with 90% of children in developing countries having little access to necessary health care services.

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Cultural Diversity Playgroup in Hong Kong Benefits Refugee Children

Through the tunnelThe Hong Kong refugee organization Vision First holds a weekly Cultural Diversity Playgroup for children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years old. The concept behind this group is to provide children and parents with a setting where Hong Kong locals can interact with refugees and children of other nationalities. This program helps to build community ties and teach the values of tolerance and diversity for different cultural backgrounds.

These groups bring together children from up to 14 different national backgrounds that include: Hong Kong locals, British, Germans, Australians, Americans, Rwandese, South Koreans, Sri Lankans, Ugandese, Togolese and Congolese. During these playgroups, children engage in various play activities. They have free time to play, sing together, learn new words in different languages, and engage in other fun learning activities.

Also, Vision First sometimes invites guest performers to come and share their culture and music. In the past they have had a drummer from the West African country of Togo, a singer from Rwanda, and a guitarist from the Democratic Republic of Congo perform.

A British mother of one of the attendees, Amanda Lote said “I thought it would be great for my son Cassius – and myself – to have exposure to different kids and mums and dads in different circumstances, and that it would be culturally enriching for him, which it was.” Similarly, German father Christian Dickgreber stated, “it’s great that our child is getting exposure to all these different cultures but, on top of that, it’s equally satisfying knowing the money we give is going to a good cause.”

All of the proceeds from the weekly playgroups go to support refugee assistance programs provided by Vision First. This organization works to provide social support to the refugee population which struggles with the challenges of poverty, discrimination, racism and a lack of government support and recognition. Specifically they assist with basic needs that include healthcare, food, clothing, shelter and child care.

As a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong retains some degree of autonomy over determining laws and policies that apply to refugees. Although the People’s Republic of China signed onto the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention, Hong Kong has not and therefore does not grant refugees with either legal status or protection.This means that refugees often live for years without access to services such as education, employment, healthcare or other social services. Without government support, refugees can only rely upon the limited services local NGOs provide.

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South Africa’s Rural Schools Improve Education Standards with Tablet Use

The future of booksSouth Africa has initiated a pilot program to test the benefits of providing tablets to students in rural areas. Rural area schools do not have the same access to quality education as schools in urban areas. Authorities hope technology will bridge this gap by providing access to new educational materials and resources previously unavailable in these areas.

Through the Information and Communication Technology Initiative for Rural Education Development, the Department of Science and Technology provided tablets and training to  144 teachers at secondary schools in the Eastern Cape district.

“What better way to fight poverty than through education? It is even more impressive that these children are improving in maths and science, subjects that are needed for our economy to grow,” said Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Mike Masutha.

The pilot project demonstrated that tablets as a teaching aid have the potential to increase student enthusiasm and dedication towards education. These improvements showed up in passing rates for senior students which drastically increased in just one year. Prior to the introduction of the pilot program, senior students had a 41% passing rate, then with the introduction of tablets those rates increased to 71%. With dramatic results like these, the South African government wants to extend the tablet program to other rural schools throughout the country.

The tablets given to these students contain lessons on subject like math and science, along with additional tutorials from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. They also allow students to review their  old exams and papers, and to record lessons they attend in school to revisit at a later time.

Student Ayanda Ngxambane explained, “since I was given this tablet my enthusiasm for education has grown…this tablet feels like walking around with the teacher in our pocket, because we can access teaching material anytime. We are sure that with these tablets we will improve our Grade 12 results and pave the way towards a better future.”

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African Girls Speak Out for their Rights

West African girl daily pounds grain for her family's daily meal According to a survey released on October 11th, International Day of the Girl Child, adolescent girls informed researchers that they want and need better education, access to health care and less impoverished and threatening living situations to be able to contribute to their society and also survive.

For many girls in various developing countries across the world, what happens during the ages of 13-15 is crucial in determining their future.

“They’ll often drop out of school when they’re forced to become sexually active or forced to marry.  It’s an abrupt change from being seen as a child to being seen more as a woman without having any of the experience, education, access to information or resources that would actually prepare them for healthy adulthood,” said Ann Warner, lead author of the report and senior gender and youth specialist at the International Center for Research on Women.

Of all the girls interviewed as part of a study conducted by researchers working with local partners and NGOs in places such as Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Indonesia, and Rwanda, education was the topic most discussed.   Often girls expressed a similar view, regardless of their country, that education was a tool they could use against getting married.

At the primary school level, there has been significant progress made over the past years, especially for girls.  However, for many families the financial burden of education becomes an issue that often must be critically examined.

One student, Filipina expressed, “My problem is the tuition fee.  We have to choose between school and a bag of rice.”

Another issue still prevalent within education sectors of the developing world relates to vast corruption.  A Nigerian girl confessed, “I have to hawk (sell goods) to earn money to pay the corrupt fees that teachers charge.”

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New Documentary Emphasizes Importance of Education for Girls

Little Girl - Nagarkot, Nepal “Girl Rising,” is a new documentary entailing the stories of nine young girls from the developing world are told, highlighting the fundamental significance of educating young girls for their own self progression and as a potential means of eradicating their current state of poverty.

Director of “Girl Rising,” Richard Robbins says the crew set out to create a traditional documentary, but once they began filming, the girls were so inspiring that they didn’t want to focus on their grim circumstances. “What we really wanted to capture in the film was their strength and their power. So, trying to make a film that’s really about character and not about the circumstances … was the big challenge,” he said.

Each girl was teamed up with their own native writer, and over time the writers attempted to inhabit their world so they could write something realistic that was based off of their personal experiences. “We call the film a documentary, but it really is a mix of genres–something that’s pretty familiar in the literary world, but unfamiliar still, in the film world. What we have is real girls playing themselves in scripted stories from their own lives,” he said.

Executive director of 10×10, a global campaign to educate and empower girls, says sharing the girls’ stories creates an opportunity to discuss the importance of education for young girls. “This is an opportunity for all of us to look at the lives of these girls and look the opportunity they represent and change the systems within which they live and give them the support they need to realize their full potential,” she said.

“What’s amazing about the girls we met,” Robbins says,” is their ambitions aren’t just for themselves, but for their families and communities, which makes educating young girls a powerful intervention. These girls aren’t after personal fame and fortune, they want to make the world they grew up in better.”

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Rwandan Children Recruited as Child Soldiers in Congo

Sorrow beyond his yearsControversial information released by the United Nations accuses the Rwandan government of providing child soldiers to neighboring country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the explicit accounts, Rwandan officials vehemently deny the allegations.

Dee Brillenburg Wurth, chief of child protection at the UN’s Rwanda peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, said child soldiers who received training from the Rwandan Defense Force were mislead to believe they were joining the Rwandan army. Instead, they were handed to the M23 Congolese rebel group. Children from Rwanda are also enticed away from their country by M23, following promises of education, jobs, or cash rewards.

We know from children – and this is corroborated by other children and by adults – that children are being recruited, we had an example of a football coach and a police officer. At the beginning they told us they had this system in place, like a pyramid scheme; $5 for every child that was recruited,” explained Wurth.

MONUSCO interviewed 122 boys enlisted by M23; 37 were found to be Rwandan, and four of these boys allegedly received military training at Rwanda camps. According to Wurth, a few hundred children are still directly involved in the Congolese rebel group. Ages of the child soldiers range from 11 to 17, with most 15, 16, or 17 years old.

Brillenburg Wurth described the violent situations the children are involved in and said “within the group there is an extremely tough hierarchy and discipline. People who didn’t obey orders were just killed. One child told how he had to kill two adults who had done some infraction.”

Wurth also explained, “many of them were abducted…. this is very, very common with any armed group… You go and loot or you need to carry your arms from A to B, you just take kids from the villages and they don’t let them go back. Most of the children, in fact nearly all of them, started their life as a M23 child carrying stuff from the Rwandan border.”

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo denied these allegations, explaining “our track record in terms of military is very clear: Rwanda does not tolerate children being enrolled in any way near armed groups, not in our army” and described the claims as “ludicrous.”

In reponse, international communities have frozen aid into the country while the United States recently blocked military support.

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China’s Premier Advocates Equal Education for Rural Areas

Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang speaks on urbanisation at a high-level conference co-organised by Friends of EuropeChina’s Premier Li Keqiang urges educational equality for China’s rural areas and declares education reforms as a top priority for the country’s development. The statement followed Li’s visit to high school students from Xinjiang Uyger, a remote western China autonomous region, who study in Dalian, Liaoning province, an eastern developed city.

Li visited Dalian No 20 Senior High School, a school that was the first to accept students from the Xinjiang autonomous region. During Li’s visit, teachers shared their arrangement reports and teaching experiences while students shared achievements and personal stories.

After learning that many Xinjiang students were born into poor families, Li said “we should strive to realize education equality and ensure all children receive an education.” Li also encouraged eastern regions rich with educational resources to provide additional support to underdeveloped central and western regions of China.

Li suggested that financial allocations should subsidize the country’s underdeveloped rural regions, well-trained teachers should be encouraged to teach in the underdeveloped areas, and teachers from the remote regions should receive further training from institutions in more developed areas.

According to Lin, educational equality is fundamental in narrowing gaps between urban and rural areas. The recommended efforts will advance China’s educational equality and will improve poverty stricken areas.

Li encouraged the Dalian students saying “Xinjiang is a good place, and its future will be brighter. Knowledge is a kind of super-energy. You should be confident to learn well and lift your hometown out of poverty with your knowledge.”

According to China Daily, the total number of Xinjiang students studying in Dalian No 20 Senior High School has reached 1,663 since Xinjiang and Dalian began their arrangement in 2000. Dalian No 20 supplements students’ educational needs by providing Mandarin and English lessons and exchange activities to support adjustment. 

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Malawi’s “Happy Classrooms” Project Paint Educational Classrooms

Mkunda VillageMalawi based NGO confirmed success of the The Happy Classrooms project; a group that paints child-friendly and curriculum related paintings on classroom walls. Happy Classrooms is supported by boNGO Worldwide (based on Need-driven Grassroots Ownership), a non-profit organization aimed at supporting Malawi education and community development efforts.

The project was originally created to improve learning conditions and provide powerful teaching tools to public primary education classrooms. Tereza Mirovicova, Managing Director for Happy Classrooms, said the project brought great success for both teachers and students; a wider variety of teaching methods began to be used, student concentration improved, students were able to remember and understand the material, and schools became a more inspiring learning environment.

A teacher from the Masuku primary school in Madziabango said “it is encouraging to see the children learning by themselves, just by spending time in the classroom. We have observed that they start writing and reading easier, being in the environment that inspires them.”

Unicef census reports that out of 6.8 million Malawi children, over 10 percent of school aged children do not attend school while only 26 percent complete the entire primary school cycle. Primary school classrooms are bare and dark with over 150 students taught by a single teacher and limited materials, ultimately contributing to low student retention.

Since the projects’ beginning in 2011, boNGO has painting over 800 Happy Classrooms with an average of 150 pupils per classroom, totaling to over one million children benefitting from the program. 40 Malawi-based companies, private donators, and Concern Universal have agreed to support funding for the project. boNGO is currently seeking additional benefactors to multiply the number of painters and boost the program’s progression. 

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