News and Views

Issues affecting children around the world
News and Views

By: Willow Welter

Issues affecting children around the world
Child survival improves worldwide
Child survival improves worldwide

The number of children who live to see their fifth birthdays has increased steadily worldwide since 1990, UNICEF found in its latest report on child survival. Deaths of children under 5 dropped about 40 percent across the globe from 1990 to 2011.

The death toll in that age group fell worldwide from an estimated 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011, the report says. Improved child survival was seen in regions of varied economic status. Poor countries including Bangladesh and Rwanda, middle-income countries such as Brazil, and high-income countries including Portugal made what UNICEF calls dramatic progress in lowering their child mortality rates.

The decline was cause for celebration, says Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s executive director. But he emphasizes that more needs to be done: “Millions of children under 5 are still dying each year from largely preventable causes for which there are proven, affordable interventions. … These lives could be saved with vaccines, adequate nutrition and basic medical and maternal care.”

The report was released during the same month as the Pan American Sanitary Conference in Washington, D.C., during which health leaders in the Americas adopted a plan of action to prevent and reduce the burden of disease in children under 5.

The new strategy calls for establishing a regional alliance to strengthen partnerships and collaboration among international organizations.

Read the full report.

Report: Brazil’s wealth gap narrows
Report: Brazil’s wealth gap narrows

A neighborhood in Brazil. Photo by Chuck Bigger

The gap between the rich and poor in Brazil narrowed over the last decade to the smallest difference on record, Brazilian government researchers found.

The poorest 10 percent of Brazilians saw a 91 percent increase in per-capita income from 2001 to 2011, according to the Institute of Applied Economic Research. Meanwhile, the income of the richest 10 percent increased less than 17 percent.

Institute President Marcelo Neri says, “Statistically, in 2011 Brazil reached the lowest level of inequality in its history.”

Nearly 22 million Brazilians rose out of poverty during the decade, according to the report. That leaves 10 percent of the country’s 192 million people living in poverty.

Neri credits the country’s steady economic growth, social programs, establishment of a minimum wage, and other policies with the improvement in lower-class income. Still, he stresses that Brazil’s income gap remains the world’s 12st widest.

Gang violence claims sponsored university student
Gang violence claims sponsored university student

Rose-Amos Blanc, a 23-year-old student in Compassion’s Leadership Development Program, died in an Oct. 21 shooting in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Local authorities blamed gangs for the violence.

Rose-Amos was a senior in the nursing program at the University of Notre Dame in Port-au-Prince. She had recently returned to Haiti after a three-week internship at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. Rose-Amos was caught in gang crossfire on her way to a store to buy a thermometer, say Compassion staff members in Port-au-Prince.

A sponsor in the United Kingdom was helping Rose-Amos\ complete university through the Leadership Development Program. Each year, Compassion selects a promising group of Child Sponsorship Program graduates who demonstrate extraordinary potential in both academics and leadership.

High levels of violence have persisted for decades in Haiti, one of the most impoverished countries in the Western hemisphere. But the Caribbean island nation’s problems grew after 2010’s devastating earthquake. The United Nations reports that violent crimes have increased since the disaster. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians left homeless by the deadly quake live in squalid tent camps. Civil unrest has contributed to the increase in violence, according to the 2012 World Report by Human Rights Watch, a research and advocacy organization.

Feeding program helps moms in Peru
Feeding program helps moms in Peru

Babies and toddlers northeast of Lima, Peru, often enter Compassion’s Child Survival Program struggling with malnutrition, anemia or parasites. So a new therapeutic feeding program has been established at Compassion’s Bezaleel Child Survival Program center there to teach mothers better ways to nourish their families.

“When the therapeutic feeding program was initiated, 80 percent of our children had undernourishment and anemia,” says the center’s director, Elisa Villalobos.

These problems aren’t always caused by a lack of food, but a lack of nutritious food. Getting mothers to stop feeding their toddlers fried foods and soft drinks can be challenging, Elisa says. But eventually, mothers begin to practice better feeding habits, and children in the program have grown healthier.

Every child and mother in the program is tested for anemia. Anemic children receive a daily vitamin, and mothers receive a grocery bag full of iron-rich foods to serve as an example. Mothers attend regular meetings and classes on how to prepare inexpensive, nutritious meals. They practice cooking one day a week in the center’s kitchen and learn how to disinfect vegetables and fruits to avoid parasites.