Summer 2021 will look wildly different, depending on where you live. While the United States is hitting vaccination milestones, watching COVID-19 infections drop and relaxing restrictions, most developing countries are still struggling with the pandemic — with no clear end in sight. Vulnerable communities (like the ones Children International serves) are bearing the brunt of COVID-19’s long-term burden:
Beyond the obvious risks of COVID-19 itself, the pandemic has created new roadblocks to all four of the key outcomes Children International programs address: Healthy, educated, empowered and employed.
The pandemic is creating complex problems for children and youth — but sponsorship provides solutions. Sponsorship makes a difference now and later. Sponsorship provides immediate, direct aid to children, youth and their families. Child sponsorship also provides health care, educational and empowerment opportunities, and employment assistance — the things we know help children break free from poverty over time.
The pandemic disrupted all parts of the food supply chain and crashed local economies. The result was disastrous for families already living on the edge of hunger. The UN’s World Food Programme estimates that in 2021, 271.8 million people in the countries they serve will be “acutely food insecure” because of the multilayered impacts of COVID-19.
million people (projected)
PROBLEM: FOOD INSECURITY
SPONSORSHIP SOLUTION: DIRECT ASSISTANCE
In 2020, Children International agencies saw shutdowns create financial emergencies for families. They sprung into action. All sponsored families received a minimum of two direct assistance packages in 2020. Families spent this money on their most urgent needs, including groceries. In the fourth quarter of 2020 alone, Children International and its sponsors delivered more than $4 million of assistance — cash transfers, store vouchers, food baskets and health kits — directly to families in need. Sponsorship will help deliver two more packages to each family this year.
Even before the pandemic, communities living in poverty didn’t have many available (or affordable!) services: Globally, 50% of people lack access to essential health care. When pandemic shutdowns started in 2020, in-person medical and dental care was even harder to find. As governments and clinics poured resources into the COVID-19 emergency, preventive, poverty-busting care often went by the wayside.
PROBLEM: LIMITED HEALTH CARE
SPONSORSHIP SOLUTION: TELEHEALTH & REFERRALS
In 2020, Children International medical and dental teams shifted from in-person care to connecting sponsored families to telehealth visits (more than 34,000 this past year) and referring — and paying for — treatments at local clinics that remained open. Child sponsorship will help families continue to access both remote and in-person care this year.
When the pandemic shutdowns closed schools and slowed economies worldwide, vulnerable families struggled to pay school fees on reduced incomes. Students had to figure out how to attend online classes with limited technology and stay in school despite mounting stress and responsibilities at home. Because of these challenges, The World Bank’s Learning Poverty rate — the percentage of students who can’t read by age 10 — is expected to jump from 53% to 63% post-pandemic in low- and middle-income countries.
SPONSORSHIP SOLUTION: SCHOLARSHIPS,
TECH HELP & REMOTE PROGRAMMING
In 2020, Children International’s education program teams quickly shifted to supporting students’ transition to online classes. Scholarships and grants (for elementary, high school, college and vocational school) kept students in school. Despite limited technology infrastructure and lack of access to reliable internet connections and mobile devices, local staff found creative ways to help families secure data plans and phones and tablets. Tutoring, technology, English and other education programs continued online, helping thousands of students keep learning during the shutdowns. Some families used their direct assistance packages to pay for school fees, data plans and devices needed for online classes. Sponsorship helps continue to fight the pandemic learning gap with these financial, technological and programming interventions.
The Lancet Psychiatry reports COVID-19 has increased levels of mental health distress in low- to middle-income countries, which also lack wide access to mental health services. Globally, 80% of people with mental health conditions don’t get the care they need, and the pandemic has interrupted what services did exist. Even without a global pandemic, living in poverty causes stress and emotional strain. In past research, Children International found 60% of the 6-year-olds we serve had under-developed coping skills when it came to negative emotions and stress.
PProblem: LIMITED MENTAL
SPONSORSHIP SOLUTION: EMOTIONAL
Children International has been piloting a program that teaches resilience skills to children and youth in Mexico and India. After seeing how much students needed this mental health support during the pandemic, Children International is bringing the program to all of its children and youth in 2021. Sponsorship will help thousands of children and youth learn how to identify emotions, self-care and self-calm this year.
A reliable job with a fair wage is one of the last hurdles to leaving poverty behind, but 2020 found jobs disappearing in the wake of the pandemic. The global labor market lost 114 million jobs, and women, young people and low-wage and/or low-skilled workers were hardest hit. In fact, the International Labour Organization reported that many young people in low- and middle-income countries who were ready to get jobs in 2020 just stopped trying: Many countries saw rising numbers of youth who were not employed, getting educated or in any kind of job training.
Children International’s employment programs transitioned to online programming in 2020 when shutdowns began and responded to quickly changing local job markets. Despite all the challenges — closed businesses, hiring freezes, recessions — Children International helped thousands of young people start their careers during a global pandemic. Sponsorship will help young people continue to build their employment skills, find jobs and start small businesses in 2021.
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