Addressing the Lack of Child Human Rights Written by: Matt Nathaniel, Regional NightCare Director When we feel sorry for children who are ignored, uncared for, and abused, we are moved with compassion. This is a natural human response. Over the decades, individuals and social justice organizations have taken a compassion-based ... Read More»
Addressing the Lack of Child Human Rights
Written by: Matt Nathaniel, Regional NightCare Director
When we feel sorry for children who are ignored, uncared for, and abused, we are moved with compassion. This is a natural human response. Over the decades, individuals and social justice organizations have taken a compassion-based approach when working with children. Is it time to take a rights-based approach in addressing the injustices the children face?
This article will challenge you to go beyond taking a compassion-based approach to a rights-based approach.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, or UNCRC, is the most complete statement of children’s rights ever produced. It is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history.
The UNCRC defines the child as a person under 18 years of age. It acknowledges the primary role of parents and the family in the care and protection of children and the obligation of the State to help them carry out these duties.
The UN Convention consists of 41 articles, each of which details a different type of right. These rights are grouped under the following themes:
- Survival rights: include the child’s right to life and the needs that are most basic to its existence, such as nutrition, shelter, an adequate living standard, and access to medical services.
- Development rights: include the right to education, play, leisure, cultural activities, access to information, and freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
- Protection rights: ensure children are safeguarded against all forms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including specialized care for refugee children; safeguards for children in the criminal justice system.
- Participation rights: encompass children’s freedom to express opinions, to have a say in matters affecting their own lives, to join associations, and to assemble peacefully.
Saving Moses works for children under five, who live in brothels and red-light districts. Following a recent focused group discussion conducted among its grassroots staff in three different countries, the following were some of the key findings:
- Mothers do not provide enough psychosocial support to their children.
- Children are exposed to theft, drugs, and violence – they are drugged in most cases.
- Children do not always experience genuine love and care.
- Children do not get proper nutrition, but often are malnourished.
- Children face a high risk of being stolen or sold, especially with very low, or no income for the mothers.
- Children are forced to sell condoms on the streets.
- Children are often physically abused.
Please note the above findings were from one context: the sex industry in the three countries Saving Moses works. When looking closely at the findings above, it is evident that children living in these places need rights to survive, develop, protect, and participate. We must acknowledge that mothers alone cannot ensure that their children’s rights are not violated. Many people are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of children living in these places. The mothers of the children, personnel from Saving Moses, community people the children often come across, clients who come to the red-light districts and brothels, professionals from government and other agencies who visit these places, and many others. It takes collective responsibility to ensure children enjoy their rights.
Parents have sufficient powers to fulfill their duties to the child. Parents uniquely affect the lives of children. Issues in the child-parent relationship include child neglect, child abuse, freedom of choice, corporal punishment, and child custody. Parents need to know they have a huge responsibility to fulfill their duties so that their children enjoy their rights.
We are the eyes and voice for children
The most powerless members of society are children. In most cases, they will not even realize that they are subjected to human rights violations. We must be their eyes.
Unlike adults, children cannot speak for themselves. It is the responsibility of adults to be vigilant about any possible child rights violations and be proactive in addressing them most appropriately. We must be their voice.
A call to collective response to address child rights violation
An African proverb goes like this, “It takes a village to raise a child.” That means an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. In a society that is becoming more and more individualistic, we must care for our neighbors and ensure we play a part in making sure children are safe. It is a collective responsibility of a whole community to ensure children exercise their rights to survival, development, protection, and participation.
When a child is subjected to a violation of child rights, we should both be moved with compassion and fight for the rights of the child. It must be a collective response of a whole community. Let us address the child rights violations today so that we create a safer and healthier tomorrow for our children.
Work with Children, End Poverty
Written by Regional NightCare Director, Matt Nathaniel
Note: Reference to children includes babies and toddlers too.
The world, in general, is not in the way it ought to be. Our greatest concern is poverty. The genuinely poor are those robbed of the ability to make choices for themselves – the choice for safe and clean water, the choice of education, the choice of protection from abuse, the choice of medical care, the choice of participation, the choice of development and more.
Children are Almost Half of the World’s Extreme Poor
1 in 7 people live in extreme poverty, or over 900 million people live in extreme poverty. Of these, a shockingly high number are children. Specifically, 47% of all people living in extreme poverty across the world are 18 years old or younger. These poor children will grow up to be poor adults. It indicates the need for child rights intervention.
Children are the Most Excluded Social Group
Research says children are the most oppressed and excluded social groups. The exclusion of children is not only subjected to children who suffer from various physical, mental, and social disadvantages, but it’s an issue common among most children. The problem is with our understanding of who children are and how we see and treat them.
The Most Powerless Members of Society are Children
We often see children being punished or ill-treated or abused just because they cannot retaliate due to their limitations. Harming a child is not an act of power. It conveys the fact that we are powerless. The bitter truth is, when the child experiences abuse, it grows in fear and misplaced trust. The babies Saving Moses works with are often subjected to mistreatment, abuse, and torture, either by their mother or the clients. They are always at risk.
Finding the Poor
A decade ago, I visited a government-run orphanage home in the south of India. On my very first visit, I noticed something strange. Throughout the two hours I spent with the babies in that center, the babies remained quiet. It simply did not add up. Being a father of a five-year-old, I know how much sound (crying in particular), part of a child’s communication mechanism is – whether to acknowledge or revolt or negotiate or attract the attention. Those babies probably cried at one time. They once tried to acknowledge, revolt, negotiate, or attract the attention of others. But help probably never came. And they probably decided to accept their reality and remain silent. We must go in search of the poor. It must be us who should take those first steps. We have to find those in need. We must become intentional in the way we defend the rights of children.
Seeing the Potential in Each Child
Each child deserves the right to protection, but they also deserve the opportunity to unleash their potential as they grow. Can you imagine the opportunity we as adults have for creating an impact in the lives of the little ones? When we invest our resources in them, we invest not only in their future but also in the future of society. Investing in children’s life is a gesture for the common good. Children have the potential to become agents of change.
Children Transform Us
As much as we must commit to impact the lives of the young ones, we can experience transformation through them. When we begin to see the world through the eyes of a child, we can only become pure in our hearts and minds. Children have the untainted inner faculties for creative imagination, conscience, connectedness, and intuition. Every time we spend time with children and babies, we experience change, change for better.
Working with children is urgent in terms of their vulnerability; at the same time, it is an excellent opportunity for change because they are the future. Below are three principles we all should remember.
a. Care for children because they are the most vulnerable.
b. Invest in children because they are the future, and we can break the cycle of poverty.
c. Spend time with children because they change us for the better.
Work with Children, End Poverty Written by Regional NightCare Director, Matt Nathaniel Note: Reference to children includes babies and toddlers too. The world, in general, is not in the way it ought to be. Our greatest concern is poverty. The genuinely poor are those robbed of the ability to make choices for themselves – the... Read More»
After visiting our website or scrolling through our social media, you probably have a solid idea of who Saving Moses is, but many people send in questions as to what exactly we do. Those questions may include: Why do we only care for babies ages zero to five? What happens to the babies after they turn six? Do we help the mothers as well? All of these are great questions, so we want to address them here over the next few months. Starting with “Why do we care for babies only ages zero to five?”
From the Beginning
Our founder’s name is Sarah Bowling. She is an international speaker and author, the co-host of Today with Marilyn and Sarah, and Co-Lead Pastor of Encounter Church. After meeting orphaned babies who had been abandoned and could not find an orphanage home in 2009, Sarah learned that many child-focused organizations do not offer aid to the zero to five population because of their specialized needs. As a result, she created an organization that would exist specifically to address the needs of the world’s most vulnerable population – babies.
Saving Moses is a global humanitarian organization saving babies (5 & under) every day by meeting the most urgent and intense survival needs where help is least available.
Our name, Saving Moses, derives from the story of Moses who was abandoned in the Nile river when he was an infant, then rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. Without his rescue, Moses never would have grown up to become the leader he was. We believe these babies deserve the chance to grow up healthy and become someone great.
The Most Vulnerable, The Most Urgent
While many wonderful organizations fight for children and adults in the developing world, often the zero to five age range is ignored due to a lack of knowledge and resources. Babies require so much more time, attention, food, diapers, etc. that many organizations actually cannot afford to care for them in addition to older children. When you really think about all of the people in the world in desperate need of help, it’s easy to picture the children and adults working tirelessly to find/provide food, clean water, education, healthcare, or jobs, but we try to picture the babies who literally cannot protect or provide for themselves and whose lives rely on the actions of others.
As a result, they are often the victims in wars, natural disasters and cycles of poverty or abuse and this is something we see a lot in our line of work. So, we fill the gap.
We do this by implementing our three programs, NightCare, Malnutrition Feeding, and Birth and Infant Aid, to the areas where help is most urgent but least available. These areas include Central Asia, South and South East Asia, The Middle East, and Africa.
There are many organizations who exist to end the sex industry, but no one has addressed how to care for the thousands of babies and toddlers who are born as a result of it. Therefore, most of the babies who attend our NightCare clinics are the babies of sex workers. Some of these mothers choose this work, and some do not. However, we direct our focus to those babies born as a result of their work because babies out of NightCare are often tied to the beds their moms work in, locked in a dark closet alone, left with an abusive family member, or forced to work in a brothel, selling additional products to clients.
At NightCare, we partner with the mothers and caregivers of the babies to change this reality and help provide a safe place for the babies to stay at night while their mothers work. The nannies working at the centers provide the little ones with a bath, clean clothes, and a warm, nutritious meal, every single night.
Malnutrition contributes to 50% of childhood deaths in the developing world and it is a disease that is 100% preventable. It is an urgent need in an area where help doesn’t exist. That’s why you will see us continue to say “…by meeting the most urgent needs where help is least available.” Through this program, we administer life-saving therapeutic milk to babies suffering from severe acute malnutrition. These babies cannot work to provide food for themselves, they must rely on others. This is another reason why it is important for us to focus on this age group. However, there is an exception within this program, as we will also administer therapeutic milk to the mothers attending with their babies. We do this because after traveling several miles to bring their babies to our clinic and staying for their baby’s treatment, the mothers themselves were getting hungry because they had no food. This resulted in them pulling their babies from the program, so we began feeding them as well so their babies could continue getting the treatment they needed.
Lastly, with our BirthAid program, we address the highest infant mortality rates in the world by teaching life-saving birth skills including training local community leaders to help their own community understand pregnancy, birth, and neonatal care. We also fund pregnancy and neonatal vaccinations, to protect vital populations from preventable diseases, as well as provide midwives for pregnant mothers. Many babies in the developing world die after birth because of a lack of knowledge and resources when it comes to neonatal care.
All our programs specifically target those who are marginalized by poverty, illness, and exploitation. There is a significant need for babies ages zero to five and we address that throughout our programs. We care about the mothers, we care about what happens to the babies after they’re past the age of five, but there are organizations already existing to tackle those issues.
Saving Moses addresses the need where the help is most urgent, but least available.
After visiting our website or scrolling through our social media, you probably have a solid idea of who Saving Moses is, but many people send in questions as to what exactly we do. Those questions may include: Why do we only care for babies ages zero to five? What happens to the babies after they... Read More»
By Lindy Hickman Copeland
People often ask me how I came to be a photographer. I didn’t go to school knowing that was my passion. I didn’t dream of it as a little kid. I simply took a camera on a year-long trip around the world and found that that little Sony was an extension of me—like finding a limb you didn’t know was lost. Since discovering this passion, there have been many images that stood out—those special instances where technology and reality collide to preserve a magical moment. And, of all the stories my camera has told, the one that truly unravels me is a photo I simply couldn’t take.
I traveled with Saving Moses to Angola in May. The mission was clear: Sarah (Saving Moses’ Founder) and I would visit malnutrition clinics and document the sweet babies receiving therapeutic milk, along with their mothers. What wasn’t clear, was how deeply this experience would challenge, move and shape me.
We spent the morning at our first clinic—holding, feeding and capturing images of those tiny little babies. I remember thinking how remarkable it was that these frail bodies held such mighty warriors. Their beautiful mothers—exhausted and overcome by worry—managed to greet us with such warmth and kindness. Some of them smiled and hugged us, even allowing us to coo at their babies and soak in the rare moments of giggles.
Sarah approached, worry etched on her face and weighing on her shoulders, “There’s a new baby who just arrived. It’s not good.”
I nodded, completely unaware of the weight of those words in this place. “Not good,” could mean so many things. As a person bent towards hoping against hope, I said a silent prayer for the best—sure that everything would work out in the end.
It didn’t, as sometimes it doesn’t—when there are no words to explain and no rhyme or reason to take refuge.
I remember seeing his hands first—a tiny fist wrapped in the loving palm of his mother. She laid across the bed with him, burying her face in the sheets and allowing her tears to soak into the white fabric. “Not good,” as it turns out, was altogether very bad.
I raised my camera to my eye, thinking that the scene would be different through that tiny window—that hope would live somewhere within that frame. My finger pressed gently against the shutter button to focus, but there was no click—no freezing time. This moment—where a fragile life hung in the balance and fought the final battles of a war it would lose—I simply couldn’t capture that. I’ve always thought that my job is to immortalize moments people don’t want to forget. So, what about the moments we all dread? What about the moments we live to forget?
After several seconds, I dropped the camera to my side. The only picture of this scene is one that resides in my mind. Perhaps some moments shouldn’t live forever.
I left the clinic that day heavy with the weight of defeat. Not only was this precious boy fighting his final battle, but I had failed to tell his story. I had failed him.
Before returning to the hotel, we made a quick stop to visit Belito, a young boy who received therapeutic milk from Saving Moses years earlier. “He’s grumpy,” Sarah told me. “He was even a grumpy baby. You’ll see.”
As we pulled up, a small, wiry boy appeared from inside the hut. He sat with Sarah, maintaining a stoic persona and, I suspect, concealing a wry smile, as we handed him a soccer ball and asked him how he’d been since their last visit. He was grumpy, but in a way that secretly sweet, old men are.
It was there, on that dusty, dusk evening, that we sat in the afterglow of victory. Belito is alive. He is well. He is free to grow into the best (albeit grumpy) version of himself and it all began with some therapeutic milk 7 years ago. The realization struck me in a way that only hope can. And, my heart lifted just a little, knowing that for every story of a mother returning home with an empty blanket, there are dozens and hundreds more like Belito.
I sometimes imagine going back to Angola–years from now–lifting my camera to my eye and seeing a scene filled with the babies we met there. They aren’t sick. They aren’t fighting for life. They are just living. Like Belito, they are kicking up dust on a glowing Summer’s day, laughing with friends as they play soccer. I think about my finger hovering over that shutter button, focusing in and filling the frame with the precious moments of their lives that we’d rather not forget. Click.
Lindy Hickman Copeland is a photographer, videographer, and world traveler. You can learn more about her at www.lindyhickmanphoto.com
By Lindy Hickman Copeland People often ask me how I came to be a photographer. I didn’t go to school knowing that was my passion. I didn’t dream of it as a little kid. I simply took a camera on a year-long trip around the world and found that that little Sony was an extension... Read More»
Why is the infant mortality rate so high in Afghanistan?
Note to the reader: Names and images have been changed to protect identities.
According to the CIA website, Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. In fact, 110.6 out of every 1,000 babies born in Afghanistan do not live to see their first birthday. Compare that to the US, where the number drops to 5.8 out of every 1,000. Get out of the big cities into rural Afghanistan, and the infant mortality rate goes up. Where we currently have clinics, 40% of babies born will not live to see their first birthday.
These statistics are staggering. Why is there such disparity?
There are several factors at play, so we don’t want to oversimplify this. But through our years working with the beautiful people of Afghanistan, it has become clear that most infant deaths in the country with the highest infant mortality rate are preventable. Here are three of the top reasons why the infant mortality rate is so high there, and what you can do to help:
Naseema is 24 years old. She has given birth seven times, but only has four living children. She has experienced the greatest loss of a child three times because of diseases such as diarrhea and dehydration, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections—all diseases that are treatable except that Naseema has not had access to a health clinic or medication for herself or her children for years.
When the Saving Moses clinic was founded in Naseema’s province, it was only a half-hour walk from her home. She brings all four of her babies to be vaccinated and cared for when sick. Because of access to healthcare, Naseema’s four babies have a chance to survive.
Much of the inhabited land of Afghanistan is rural and recovering from years of conflict. Communities are spread out with most people traveling by foot from place to place. As a result, people who live far from hospitals and clinics don’t get access to any form of healthcare, especially pregnant women and babies who cannot make the trip.
Hamad is a father, but he doesn’t know the love of a child. Hamad has had to bury all three of his babies because they were born not breathing. By the time Hamad reached a Saving Moses clinic, he was having a nervous breakdown from the grief. In America, if a baby is not breathing when they are born, the doctor or nurse gives them a hard slap on the back to clear mucus out of their airways. Most of the time, this works and the baby lives. No one in Hamad’s family knew.
Partly due to socioeconomic issues and partly due to culture, there is a significant lack of health education in Afghanistan, especially among women. When a woman has complications in her pregnancy or if a baby is sick, families are simply left guessing.
Haleema is a baby girl in rural Afghanistan and she is sick—very sick. Her parents brought her to Saving Moses worried because her stomach has rashes, she can’t keep food down, and her fever is very high. After looking at her, doctors immediately figured out the problem: an infection. When Haleema was born, per tradition, her father cut the umbilical cord with an old boot and packed it with mud from the wall of the family home. Once doctors were able to clean the cord out, Haleema started to show signs of recovery.
Communities in Afghanistan have rooted cultural traditions that trace back hundreds of years. Many women still see themselves as the sole caretaker in the home and will stay awake late into the night, cleaning, cooking, and caring for her household, even when pregnant. While culture is often beautiful and distinguishing, sometimes the old-world ideology contributes to poor health practices. This is where modern medicine and training community leaders helps save lives.
What You Can Do
Our hearts are broken by the maternal and infant mortality rates in Afghanistan. This is why we work in three rural clinics throughout Afghanistan to train midwives, fund postnatal vaccinations, and teach birth life-saving skills in communities. We would love to invite you to join in our journey to save babies every day by meeting the most urgent and intense survival needs where help is least available.
You can become a hero or donate to Afghanistan here.
Why is the infant mortality rate so high in Afghanistan? Note to the reader: Names and images have been changed to protect identities. According to the CIA website, Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. In fact, 110.6 out of every 1,000 babies born in Afghanistan do not live to see their first... Read More»