In Kenya, millions of people are suffering the effects of the country's worst drought in 40 years, due to which more than 2.5 million cattle have been lost. Childhood alarm: the map of children's extreme hardship
Many children in Kenya depend on the food they receive in educational centres to survive. Ligia Giron, a missionary of Ecuadorian origin, belongs to the congregation of the Social Missionary Sisters of the Church (HMSI). The HMSI congregation, founded in 1965 in Ecuador by the Spanish missionary Julian Lorente, works to promote the Gospel’s proclamation, the human promotion and social support for the poorest. Sister Ligia has been living in Turkana - the Turkana are a nomadic herding tribe - in the poorest northern region of Kenya for three years. Many Turkana have migrated to the fertile areas of southern Ethiopia and South Sudan. "This causes conflicts between the tribes because each defends the survival of its animals,” she says. “In addition, many steal goats and camels. And they return to Turkana to sell them.”
"Students from public primary schools come to our kindergartens for food. Because we don't close. We have interrupted lessons for two months, but not the distribution of food,” the nun told the Vatican agency Fides. “Currently, an incalculable number of children between the ages of 2 and 7 come to us." The missionary coordinates 12 kindergartens. The situation is no different on the side of the fishing population. There is not enough to survive, the water level of Lake Turkana has dropped by 1.5 metres, the wells have dried up. "The inhabitants all reach the only wells that still have water to supply themselves for their homes, and this generates conflicts among them," the nun points out.
"Many elderly people, the most vulnerable segment of the population, are dying. Meanwhile children's malnutrition is getting worse by the day. Because they no longer even have milk, which used to be provided by the goats,” says Sister Ligia Giron. Because of the two-year drought, the Turkana have lost almost all their livestock, their primary source of livelihood. Some families seem to accept with less pain “that a child dies rather than a goat, which gives them food,” explains Sr Ligia. Among children under five, the malnutrition rate has increased by 40 per cent. The Kenyan government's closure of schools for two months had worsen the situation.
The Turkana practise ancestral customs. The semi-desert harshness of the territory in which they reside, makes it difficult for them to access food, education, health care or stable employment. The Turkana region has an area of 68,680 square kilometres with a population that reaches one million people. Currently, life expectancy for women is 42 years. Polygamy is still practised among them. At the onset of puberty, girls are betrothed to adult males and given away as labour.
In Kenya, millions of people are suffering the effects of the worst drought the country has experienced in 40 years. Due to which more than 2.5 million cattle have been lost. Five consecutive seasons without rain have led to a dramatic food crisis for the population throughout the Horn of Africa. According to data provided by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), more than 20 million children are at risk of hunger, thirst and serious diseases as a result of the drought in Somalia, Kenya and southern Ethiopia, the most severe in more than two generations.
SOS Children in Cambodia
The map of child malnutrition includes many countries in Africa and Asia. In Cambodia, where it has been present since 2006, the Italian NGO Helpcode has activated study support and sanitation programmes in 32 schools. A total of 6,000 minors have been reached. Interventions aim to combat the effects of global crises, such as climate change. Students often walk to school and also cross rivers and streams, which is why Helpcode's activities include swimming courses for even very young children. In the country, 19% of minors are forced to drop out of school due to the distance to school and the pandemic. This is why a 'Pink Bicycle' project was set up to ensure that girls and young women can continue their studies. Over the past year, 600 bicycles have been distributed. And in the coming year, the project will embrace all children. Without distinction of gender.
In Nepal, where this aid organisation has been present since 2003, a situation of serious inequality persists. 32.8% of girls between the ages of 20 and 24 were given in marriage before the age of 18. And 21.7% of children between 5 and 17 are forced to work. Only 50% of schools are equipped with adequate toilets. Access to schooling remains grossly unequal between urban and rural areas. This is why in the country the organisation has provided, among other things, the distribution of school uniforms to 1,342 children (14 rural and 5 urban schools), and teaching materials. The creation of an emergency fund for the most in need and the promotion of activities to raise awareness among parents and support teachers at the primary schools in Chepang, Makawanpur are also in place.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Helpcode has been working since 2016, there are still thousands of child soldiers. And more than 7.5 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 do not attend school. In 2022, school kits, uniforms, hot meals (for an average of 35 children per day) were distributed, after-school activities organised for around 6,000 children to prevent school drop-out. 100 people were trained in the topics of protection, education and reception and sports and recreational activities to organize formation for 35 children each, who are also given hygiene kits, specifically girls.