20 Jul Think Hope, Think Tomorrow by Anderson Ezie
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” — Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa.
Clearly thought out, Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest leaders of our time understood the importance of children, and compared their value to the soul of a society. As we grow older, we become wiser, but there is hardly enough time ahead to use those experiences. Unlike the first day of one’s life, when there was a whole future ahead to look into, there is a longer trail behind us when we are old. Children become our own future, because if we are honest to ourselves we would be kind enough to teach them the lessons we have learned from these experiences. If they follow our truthful instructions, which is likely, they will be better for it and like our souls, this immortal wisdom will live forever through them. Better children means a better future, and the possibility of better things is the essence of hope.
The future does not tarry in yesterday, so every child, more than the little boy or girl we see, belongs to a generation built on what we met and what we have done. Sadly, there are still millions of children who are suffering all over the world today. Many of these little ones are victims of fate and sudden circumstances, but most have been by the making of parents who are so poor that they cannot find their way out of poverty. On the state of world children, the United Nations says that 25% of children worldwide live in extreme poverty, with less than $1.90 daily. The impact of this is startling as families unable to meet health and nutritional needs of their children accounted for 149 million stunted children under the age of five in 2019.
Every child deserves to be protected. Children should be physically, and mentally free from all forms of discrimination. Every child has a right to health, a decent standard of living, and education. These are all human rights but it is hard for many people in the world to know or understand this let alone act in the most appropriate way to salvage the future. The aftermath of this is a generation of poverty, the type that grows from little problems in the family to larger social and economic problems in society and the world. The 175 million children who are not enrolled in pre primary education, and the 60% of children across the globe who leave primary schools without the basic reading and math skills represent a dent in the soul of humanity. The situation poses more danger to the future than we may imagine. As we exist and move towards a time when communication rather than confrontation are the ways of resolving human troubles, there will be fewer people who will understand us if the number of street and out of school children continues to increase. Unspeakable violence will ensue when these dissatisfied children decide blindly to take up revenge on an unfair society and it would always be harder to resolve such a full blown crisis.
Street children have lost their lives multiple times to stray and intentional bullets. Some of them are sent by their disabled parents to beg for alms, while others have simply been thrown out of homes with little or no understanding of children’s rights. Of the millions of children on the street, none has a fair chance of having a better future, and each of these shattered destinies is a reduction in our collective hope for a better world and brighter future. Male street children easily become gang members, spending the rest of their lives shoplifting, pilfering, and worse of all becoming terrorists or kidnappers. These idle minds are easily lured because they feel they have nothing to lose since they have received nothing from society. Female street children are often the victims of abuse by their male counterparts, and multiple strangers who promise them food in exchange for sex. Many of these innocent girls slide into depression or lose their lives. It is terrible enough to imagine, but there is still something we can do to save children. We can give out a helping hand to those forlorn little fellows even if we may never have the chance to meet them.
A report published by the United Nations notes with dismay that children remain the most affected by the crisis in Somalia. To put this in figures, 5,200 children were violated in some ways during the crisis, which represents a fraction of the exact number. Terrorists groups recruit Somalian children, and many get terribly injured or lose their lives in the process. Millions are out of school and thousands of kids suffer from extreme food insecurity. Hunger Reduction International has been a voice for Somalian children. In a recent field interview we received testimonies from a child whose life has now changed dramatically.
When he was just 12, Asad was unfortunate to be affected by a severe drought due to low rainfall in Somalia, which left hundreds of families and children like himself, deserted.
Left with little option or ability to protect himself, Asad took to glue sniffing, smoking and roaming on the streets. We often saw him on Hargeisa streets laying bare bodied sometimes on the pedestrian walk of the main roads in the freezing cold and sweltering hot weather condition.
The Hunger Reduction International team met Asad in 2019 while conducting a survey. Moved by his condition, we facilitated his placement in a diaspora managed rehabilitation centre where he received proper feeding, rehabilitation and non-formal educational opportunities. He also learned basic literacy and numeracy skills. There were gaps in the rehabilitation process due to low funding which limited the capacity of the rehabilitation centre but we were thankful we did something to save the situation. He grinned with joy as he spoke to us.
“I still can’t stop myself from thinking about what would have become of me if I never met the HRI team that linked me to this centre. Perhaps I would have been dead on the streets or ended up as a delinquent.”
Hunger Reduction International is committed to giving better lives to children, and we hope to do more with your support. In the words of Khalil Gibran, children are indeed the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. We are the bow from which these little ones, as living arrows are set forth. Support this great course today by being a part of this movement to change the world for the better.
Dr. Faisal Abdi led the Hunger Reduction International Team during the field interview carried out to collect information for this article. Names in this article have been changed for confidentiality.