The food crisis in Africa is increasing violence against children in the poorest countries

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Nambasi/Pixabay Plan International is a non-governmental organization founded in 1937 that defends children’s rights in more than 78 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The documentary entitled Beyond Hunger: Gender Impacts of the Food Crisis was based on surveys of 7,158 people in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Haiti, i.e. in the countries most at risk of famine, whose situation was aggravated by the war in Ukraine and the related difficulties in exporting grain from this country to the rest of the world. Conflict in the heart of Europe is just one of the variables explaining the global food crisis. According to the organization, the effects of climate change, macroeconomic crises caused by the pandemic and other armed conflicts in the world have been a devastating mix causing millions of people to starve to death. And the blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Putin regime threatens the greatest humanitarian disaster since World War II. The food crisis is already affecting 345 million people in 82 countries and has brought 50 million to the brink of starvation. While the causes of food shortages vary from region to region, studies by Plan International show that in all cases, food crises result in children and young people – especially girls – experiencing an alarming increase in various forms of violence, such as rape, intimate partner violence parents, early and forced marriages, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment and exploitation. Plan International calls on the international community to urgently increase international aid so that “countless numbers of girls are not at risk of becoming invisible victims of a devastating hunger crisis.” “Hunger is a problem that has a solution, but urgent action is needed to prevent the food crisis from turning into a full-blown famine that primarily affects children and especially girls. Donors need to step up funding,” says Concha López, CEO of Plan International, Somalia. The report finds that in the eight countries under review, discriminatory social norms cause girls and women to eat less than boys and men from the same household. Moreover, meals intended for girls are less nutritious than those eaten by men and boys. In Ethiopia, which along with Kenya and Somalia is suffering from the worst drought the Horn of Africa has experienced in 40 years, the number of child marriages has increased by 51% over the past year, according to available data. Giving underage daughters in marriage is aimed at easing the financial pressure of the family (fewer people to feed), and the received dowry will secure the existence of the rest of the family. Girls and teens also experience sexual and physical violence when looking for drinking water, for example, which is scarce, and often travel up to 25 km – even at night to avoid crowds at supply points. In Kenya and Somalia, girls and women participating in focus groups explained that in order to obtain water and firewood, they moved in groups to reduce the risk of sexual assault, and often refrained from such trips. According to the report, famine also affects children’s education, as school enrollment and attendance – especially for girls and teens – decline as food security declines. Families indicate that children attending school have difficulty continuing their education due to hunger. Plan International has called on world leaders to donate €20,563 million to prevent hunger for more than 50 million people. The children’s rights and humanitarian organization is also calling for part of the funding to be earmarked for programs to protect children from gender-based violence, implement nutrition programs in school canteens, and develop sexual and reproductive rights education. The victims of Putin’s war are not only the inhabitants of Ukraine, but also millions of people in Africa. The more civilized world should make every effort to end the armed conflict in Europe as soon as possible. Instead of “schooling”, let’s focus on constructive actions.

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