Are the same children's rights violated in wealthy and poor countries?
- Two examples, one local and another international, of comprehensive child integration and care programs
On November 20 of this year, the Convention on the Rights of the Child will celebrate its 25th anniversary. However, poverty and exclusion in both wealthy and developing countries are still the main reason behind the violation of these rights.
In the poorest countries, the lack of access to the most basic human needs (healthcare, food and education) and the lack of drinking water and sanitation raise the child mortality rates. More than 1 billion children in the world suffer from a lack of these basic needs. According to UNICEF, around 300 million children go to bed every day without having eaten. Of this number, around 8% are the victims of hunger or other emergency situations, and more than 90% of them suffer from long-term malnutrition.
In order to break this vicious circle, children's fundamental rights must be respected and intervention programs must be implemented to ensure food security and the sustainable development of the most vulnerable families.
The program providing access to healthcare and food safety being carried out by the center caring for vulnerable children, managed by the Association de Lutte contre la Vulnerabilité de l'Enfance Sénégalaise (ALVES), is one example. The mission of this NGO is to fight against poverty and social exclusion in Richard Toll, a city in Senegal on the border with Mauritania. Today it has 347 beneficiaries (67 children aged 3-6; 137 aged 7 to 12; and 143 adolescents) who receive comprehensive support in education, nutrition, healthcare, access to drinking water, access to IT, professional training and psychosocial support. The NGO explains that since 2010, some of the minors at the center who have had children themselves have taken literacy classes and training to manage community vegetable gardens and carry out small commercial activities that help to mitigate the extreme poverty in which they live. The project, which has the support of the Probitas Foundation, first contributes to improving the nutritional status of the beneficiaries and their access to healthcare. Secondly, it offers educational and psychosocial support and promotes the launch of activities that generate income in order to foster these families' economic autonomy.
In the more developed countries, the economic crisis has magnified the vulnerability and exclusion of minors because it has lowered the scope of action of social policies and income distribution.
For this reason, there are local models in a regional network that develop projects in a transversal, comprehensive framework to combat these shortcomings in what the government can provide. The Badalona Sud Consortium is a consolidated project in this region which makes its programs, actions and resources available to serve people in order to offer responses to the complex needs and social demands aggravated by the crisis.
Núria Sabater is a project officer and one of the social workers with the consortium. She explains that the program has fostered interaction and cooperation with the different communities present in the region in the fields of conflict resolution, the struggle against absenteeism and improvements in healthy habits. This cooperation has extended to the different institutions and organizations present in the region "to increase trust in them", says Sabater. In the case of the Healthy Habits program, "the Probitas Foundation's cooperation is essential".
In 2013, Probitas spearheaded its own project called RAI-Healthy Habits in Badalona Sud with the goal of helping minors to develop properly, both personally and socially, by practicing sports and improving their eating habits. Sabater explains that the activities include the launch of a community vegetable garden to complement the efforts at school by cultivating and maintaining the garden. The program also promotes physical activity through extracurricular activities. Sabater notes that the economic crisis is affecting children's mental health: "There are families who cannot take their children to a psychologist", she says. For this reason, the consortium has created the "Psychologists at School" project with the goal of ensuring that schools can keep constant watch over the children's development. "Probitas is also helping us with this action [through the RAI-Care for Me project] and is financing treatment at Sant Joan de Déu hospital for children who need some kind of psychiatric or psychological care", says Sabater.
All of the agents involved in the consortium work transversally so they can track the children's environment from a global perspective.
For example, the consortium's service aimed at promoting and supporting education, with which all the educational agents in the region are affiliated, has generated a shared work circuit in which all the actions aimed at treating absenteeism and school disengagement are included. "We do not only work on one specific aspect of the children; instead we also link educational actions with promoting healthy habits and social services. In this way, we minimize any effects that might arise in the child", says Sabater. "Exclusion is inherited from parents to children, so we have to break this inheritance by empowering the people who have lost their capacity so that they can have their own resources," she concludes.
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