Eliminating harmful practices affecting children.
Day of the African Child (DAC) on June 16 is a day dedicated to raising awareness about children’s rights and welfare issues.
At The Hunger Project we are dedicated to building a world where every woman, man and child leads a healthy, fulfilling life of self-reliance and dignity. To achieve this, we need to eliminate harmful practices affecting children that perpetuate social oppressions – oppressions that impede development, good governance and human rights. When a child is given an opportunity to be educated and healthy, it benefits the whole society, it breaks cycles of malnourishment, hunger and poverty.
Children’s rights continue to be violated by harmful cultural practices worldwide. Not only do these practices immediately affect children physically and emotionally but they also rob them of their childhood and future, creating a negative impact on their dignity, psychosocial development, long term health, educational progress and economic and social status. This has been heightened by the lack of clear and precise legal frameworks to protect children, which hinders measures to prevent and rectify harmful behaviors to ensure the protection and restitution of vulnerable children.
This year’s theme of the Day of the African Child (DAC) calls for introspection and commitment to addressing issues that children face across the continent as a result of harmful practices. The theme is not only focusing on the elimination of harmful practices but it is also highlighting the prevalence of these practices and calling on all stakeholders to ensure that every child is protected from them. These harmful practices can be based on gender, age, sex and any other discriminations that can cause physical and/or psychological harm. They include child marriage, forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), breast flattening, hate crimes and child abuse linked to beliefs among others.
Featured photo: Lidia, Malawi, 2022; Photo for The Hunger Project
COVID-19 and Child Protection
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed serious flaws in many countries’ child protection systems, most notably manifesting in inadequate and inequitable healthcare and social protection. The pandemic also increased children’s vulnerability to food insecurity, violence at home, sexual exploitation and inability to access education. These practices combined with these inequalities have become a perpetuating factor in widening both gender inequality and, specific to our work, cycles of malnourishment and poverty. For example, almost half of the world’s school children, about 310 million, in low- to medium-income countries rely on their school for a daily meal. When children are intentionally kept out of school systems, both their educational development and nutritional well-being are stunted — often permanently. Many African countries’ constitutions do not have laws for the abolition of harmful practices, only eight countries have such a provision, namely Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland and Uganda; and only seven countries have statutory provisions against harmful practices, such as Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.*
* Per the African Committee Of Experts On The Rights And Welfare Of The Child (ACERWC), 2022
Photo above: Ethiopia, 2019; Photo for The Hunger Project by Johannes Odé
Without action, the world faces a lost generation in children, leaving the Sustainable Development Goals an unattainable dream. Here at The Hunger Project, we work in nine African countries to catalyze youth-focused policies and programs at local and national levels. In Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia communities partnered with The Hunger Project to create systems and programs that sustainably protect and uplift children, with the intention of forever breaking the cycles of hunger and poverty.
Key Facts and Figures
*All statistics are credited to the United Nations, UNICEF, World Health Organization, World Food Programme, World Bank or International Labour Organization unless otherwise listed.
Child Labour, Child Marriage and Education
- Nearly 152 million children around the world were engaged in child labor before the COVID-19 pandemic, with 73 million working in hazardous environments.
- Every year, 12 million girls across the world are married before their 18th birthday (Girls Not Brides).
- Girls are twice as likely as boys to never attend school.
- In Sub-Saharan Africa, less than half of the primary and lower secondary schools have access to drinking water, electricity, computers and the Internet
Reproductive Health and Sexual Exploitation
- About 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide have been victims of sexual violence in their lifetime and only one percent have sort out professional help.
- Boys are also victims of sexual exploitation, 1 in 13 boys becomes a victim of sexual violence however, such cases are under reported.
- At least 200 million girls and women in 31 countries have been subjected to FGM in Africa, Western, Eastern, and North-Eastern regions of Africa, and some countries in the Middle East and Asia and every year, more than 3 million girls are thought to be at danger of FGM.
- FGM is most commonly performed on young girls between the ages of five and fifteen and seen as an important part of a girl’s upbringing as preparation for maturity and marriage.
- FGM is frequently motivated by preconceived notions about what constitutes acceptable sexual behavior. Its goal is to ensure marital fidelity and premarital virginity.
Poverty and Nutrition
- 1 billion children around the world are impoverished resulting in the lack of necessities such as basic nutrition or clean water.
- 100 million more children have fallen into poverty, a 10 percent increase since 2019 during the pandemic
- Undernutrition is responsible for about half of deaths in children under the age of five.
- In 2020, 20% of children under the age of five were stunted.