On our journey, World Vision has encountered many people who quietly stand firm in their beliefs. They may be ‘ordinary’, but they can exert an extraordinary power in their own surroundings and even around the world, helping communities in need to see hope again. Hong Kong artiste and child sponsor Priscilla Wong is one of these ‘ordinary people’. During the pandemic, she visited local families with World Vision Hong Kong. She also sponsors children through World Vision, giving children new opportunities and helping them achieve extraordinary things.
The COVID-19 pandemic in recent months has made Priscilla reflect on the issues caused by poverty. During the pandemic, she hurried to the supermarket in her pyjamas to buy rice, only to find herself standing in front of empty shelves. “What we used to take for granted can be gone all of a sudden, yet for many around the world, this is something that they have accepted since birth. For us, poverty is no longer an imagination or something that we perceive as a third person…” said Priscilla.
The COVID-19 pandemic threatens everyone's health. It also has many secondary impacts that affect the well-being of children in vulnerable communities. World Vision’s assessment in 24 countries shows that the pandemic has affected many families who were already facing poverty, making their lives even more difficult and exposing more children to risks.
The implementation of lockdown and movement controls in many countries has caused families that rely on daily wages to lose their financial resources. These families rely on temporary jobs to earn daily wages; losing their financial resources means they do not have enough money to store up food.
Children from households facing loss of jobs or reduced income are now more at risk of begging, child labour, child trafficking and early marriage. For example, in Cambodia, 28% of households facing loss of jobs and income were sending children out to work, and in Bangladesh, 34% were sending children to beg. Sample sizes and patterns of response may vary widely between countries, but these alarming results could be just the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
World Vision’s report about the effects of COVID-19 and migration in countries in Latin America shows that refugees are severely affected by loss of income. Families are unable to provide decent food or shelter for their children, and as many as one third of children are going to bed hungry. In Chile, 82% of interviewees report having serious problems obtaining food, and in Venezuela, 70% have no access to food, which means that children under age five are at high risk of being malnourished. The report also shows that 28% of the children surveyed are at risk of eviction from their homes, with 7% already having been evicted.
Over 300 million children live in city slums and informal settlements, known as ‘urban hotspots’. World Vision conducted interviews with sponsored children in India from Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Hyderabad and Bangalore, which exposes the heartbreaking realities they face.
Travel and social distancing restrictions in the urban slums of India curtail income-earning opportunities and also reduce or prevent access to government food rations for those who are hungry. With no income, parents and caregivers must choose between letting their families go hungry or risking contagion or sanctions to earn income and to access food.
Children of working age, or those already experiencing exploitation as under-aged labourers working on the streets, may also lose the income they were contributing to their household, leading their families to perceive them as an additional financial burden or to subject them to compounded abuse. Our survey in urban slums in India shows that 40% of respondents reported a spike in domestic violence since travel restrictions and reduction in family income. Some children even said that if someone was willing to hire them, then the abuse would stop.
Through the Child Sponsorship Programme, World Vision can empower children and communities on the need to overcome the challenges of the pandemic. Let’s work together and unleash the extraordinary potential within each of us to help them overcome poverty and hardship!
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