In our modern world of checkbox systemization and black & white choices, we are often asked to select the category of need that OHS addresses. From experience, we know that we cannot shy away from issues because it doesn’t fit into our “category”. No, these issues are mutually dependent and impact each other—children vulnerable because of an impoverished economic system, children vulnerable because of lack of access to proper health care, children vulnerable because of inadequate social protection and educational support are all children in need. Finding solutions that improve only one aspect is not sustainable, it cannot last. We need to engage and embrace the revealing complexity. Only through this heightened awareness of the complete picture can we determine an effective approach on a large scale.
Here we address the issues at hand, and the issues closely tied/related.
Orphans and Abandoned Children
By 2010, 25 million will be orphaned by AIDS globally. 9 out of 10 children living with HIV will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNAIDS 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, “National governments, international partners and communities are failing to provide adequate care and support for the 15 million children orphaned by AIDS and for millions of other children made vulnerable by the epidemic. Although most heavily affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa have national policy frameworks for children made vulnerable by AIDS, fewer than onein ten children are reached by basic supportservices. Furthermore, orphans still lag behind non-orphans in school attendance.”
(UNAIDS) Response to this crisis is not yet seen as a global priority.
- There are 2.4 Million Orphans in Tanzania, more than half are orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. (UNAIDS)
- In Tanzania there are currently 1.1 Million AIDS orphans. (UNAIDS)
- 16% of children live with neither parent
- 11% of children have lost one or both parents
Unfortunately many existing orphanages only have enough resource to cover the basic rights of shelter and sustenance. Life skills and sustainable living teaching are not often priorities in orphanages, giving grown children little opportunity to find work once they reach the age of 18 and are released from orphanage care. It is estimated that 80% of males are incarcerated within 3 years of leaving an orphanage and 60% of females turn to prostitution. These children take great risks to survive. Orphaned and abandoned children are at higher risk of missing out on schooling, suffer anxiety and depression, and are at higher risk of exposure to HIV.
The term street children refers to children for whom the street more than their family has become their real home. It includes children who might not necessarily be homeless or without families, but who live in situations where there is no protection, supervision, or direction from responsible adults. (Human Rights Watch)
- There are over 100 Million children living on the streets worldwide. (UNICEF)
In Tanzania the number of street children is growing exponentially. Increasing numbers of children are leaving their villages for urban streets for several reasons, including loss of parents, abusive caretakers, lack of basic needs, or even a desire to find a job in the city. Unfortunately as they reach the city they realize that there is no opportunity outside of begging. Without alternatives, many children resort to begging and the streets become a way of life. The roadside curbs become sleeping grounds and torn potato sacks are used as blankets. After months of horrible conditions of hunger, cold, street violence and police brutality, many kids turn to sniffing glue to obtain an artificial high to temporarily ease the pain. Drug addiction is the debilitating step in becoming trapped in a cycle of destitution and nothingness living on the street. It is no exaggeration that these kids are the most vulnerable in the world. They are forced to endure the cold every night with nothing more than the tattered clothes they wear. Even if resilience pushes them through the night, every day is a struggle to stay alive as they attempt to overcome the pain of hunger. Extreme malnutrition exposes their weakened immune systems to an unforgiving environment of malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. If the influx of children into the streets is not stopped now, we will lose an entire generation. The repercussions once unfathomable are starting to come to light.
HIV/AIDS, preventable diseases, malnutrition
One of the most disheartening facts about working in Tanzania is the extensive amount of suffering and even death due to diseases that are not only preventable but in many cases also curable. Furthermore the cost of prevention and treatment is relatively inexpensive. For example, the cost of diagnosing malaria is 1,000 TSH (= 0.87USD) and treatment is 1,500TSH (=1.3USD). Although these prices are incredibly low relative to U.S. standards, these prices are in fact equivalent to one days wage for a person in Tanzania. Many Tanzanians are still willing to pay the cost—however, in most cases there is no immediate access to treatment. The nearest hospital is more than 15 miles away from the Mateves Ward, making the journey a significant hardship for most residents with added public transportation cost.
Knowing that the barriers to treatment can be eliminated make the numbers below completely unjustifiable. Every Tanzanian Ward is in need of a medical center. This is especially the case for young children whose weakened immune systems are compromised by these diseases.
- Approximately 2.3 million children under age 15 currently live with HIV. (Global AIDS Alliance)
- Every 15 seconds, a young adult between the ages of 15 and 24 is infected with HIV.(UNICEF)
- Less than 5 percent of HIV-positive children under the age of 15 in need of anti-retroviral medicine receive it. (UNICEF)
- Eighty percent of children with HIV die by age five without treatment (Global AIDS Alliance)
- Increasing number of Tanzanian children under 5 are living with HIV (Tanzania HIV/AIDS & Malaria Survey)
- Each year, more than 10 million children in low- and middle-income countries die before reaching their fifth birthday. Seven in 10 of these deaths are due to just five preventable and treatable conditions, or often a combination of them: pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles, and malnutrition. (World Health Organization)
- More than 150 million episodes of pneumonia occur each year among children under age five in developing countries. Twenty percent of these cases are fatal. (World Health Organization)
- One in five deaths of children under age five in Africa is attributable to malaria. Malaria kills a child in Africa every 30 seconds. Many children who survive malarial episodes often struggle with learning impairments or brain damage. (Roll Back Malaria)
- Every day, more than 16,000 children–one child every five seconds-dies from hunger-related causes. (Bread for the World)
Disparate Education and Child Abuse
Issues of unequal education opportunities, forced child labor, and child abuse are closely related—they are the reactions to a breakdown of economic opportunities, political systems that do not provide adequate safety net social services, and a disempowered public sentiment to help the situation (among many things). The one unifying damage is an erosion of the strength of family, disabling the family from protecting and raising children.
True, it is important to break apart prostitution rings, stop factories from employing children, but we also have to target these issues at its very roots by limiting the number of vulnerable children. We do this through prevention—from the grassroots level through uplifting families, supporting villages and communities to look out for their own.
These children have no one to take care of them, making them a child of the world, and ultimately our children. The One Heart Source Center will ensure children’s basic rights are protected by first identifying all orphaned and vulnerable children one village at a time. This will ensure that every one of these kids will be enrolled and attending school while being a part of a family that fosters positive growth.
- Around the world, approximately 120 million primary school-aged children are out of school, and the vast majority are girls. (UNICEF)
- If all children received a complete primary education, an estimated 700,000 new cases of HIV can be prevented each year - seven million in a decade. (Global Campaign for Education)
- 73 million working children are less than 10 years old. (International Labor Organization)
- The largest number of working children age 14 and under is found in the Asia-Pacific region, with 127 million children engaged in child labor. However, sub-Saharan Africahas the highest proportion, where nearly a third of children under age 14 – 48 million - are involved in child labor. (International Labor Organization)
- An estimated 40 million children under the age of 15 suffer from abuse and neglect, and require health and social care. (World Health Organization)
- Millions more children are being trafficked, forced into debt bondage or other forms of slavery, and forced into prostitution and/or pornography.
- 0.3 million in armed conflict
- 1.2 million being trafficked
- 1.8 million forced into prostitution/pornography (International Labor Organization)
Child prostitution has become a common reality in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is due to an incredibly large population of orphans in an environment that offers little to no social wellbeing for abandoned children. The lack of resource and manpower to limit prostitution leaves this population of children in a state of complete vulnerability. With no one to watch out for them, they easily fall prey to exploitation in order to receive the most basic needs of food and shelter. In Tanzania 36,000 girls (ranging from age 9 to 17) were recently discovered to be in a child trafficking and prostitution system. In many cases single parent mothers have to choose which of their daughters they give up to prostitution in order for the other children to be able to eat.