Oscar buzz often has less to do with film awards than with the pageantry of the event -- especially what the stars wear on the red carpet.
In honor of the Academy Awards this past weekend, World Vision celebrates our stars -- children -- and their cultural pageantry and expressive styles of dress.
This past August, I had the honor, for the first time, of visiting World Vision's field programs in Guatemala. This Latin American country is a gorgeous place -- a lush, beautiful landscape, and equally beautiful people.
In stark contrast to such beauty, however, is the presence of poverty across much of the country. Malnutrition is a major problem here -- 45 percent of Guatemala's population is stunted. Particularly in rural areas, families struggle with limited access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.
But poverty does not define the people of Guatemala. Nor, as I discovered, does it undermine their ability to find joy and hope. And World Vision is working to help families and communities overcome it -- for good.
A new World Vision report indicates that nearly half of the children surveyed in drought-devastated northern Kenya had eaten no food for a full day. Those separated from their parents have fared even worse. Children are now begging by the roadside as they fight for survival, putting themselves at risk of violence and sexual abuse. Students are failing to attend class as they work on construction sites or walk with livestock to find pasture. Young girls are being married off to raise money.
Jon Warren, World Vision's award-winning photo director, is traveling in East Africa to document the emergency hunger situation and highlight World Vision’s work in the region. The photos below are from Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world, situated outside of Nairobi, Kenya. More than 400,000 Somalis -- roughly the population of Miami, Florida -- are amassed in Dabaab, escaping decades of conflict and a drought that has taken their crops and their livestock.
[caption id="attachment_7370" align="aligncenter" width="625" caption="Drought refugees continue to flood into Dadaab camp in Kenya. Circumstances remain difficult, even when they reach the relative safety of the camp. Blowing sand adds to the misery at Dadaab."][/caption]
Consider what you've heard in the news over the past several weeks regarding the ongoing impasse over the nation's debt ceiling.
You've probably heard a great deal about spending cuts, versus tax increases, versus any combination thereof. You've likely heard about the August 2 deadline for raising the limit, lest the United States default on its debts and risk an economic meltdown. In the midst of this, you've almost certainly observed a soap opera of political posturing and bickering among members of both parties.
But what you probably haven't heard much about in the context of this debate is the group that stands to lose the most: the world's poorest, who literally depend on U.S. foreign aid for their survival. Their direct involvement in this issue may not be recognized as part of the dialogue, but that does not mean that they should be forgotten.
The number of people affected by devastating drought and hunger in East Africa, also known as the Horn of Africa, has catapulted from 7 million in March to nearly 13 million now. Vulnerable children and families are subject to extreme and potentially deadly malnutrition as livestock perish, vital crops are destroyed, and diseases increase.
Informed by these disturbing statistics -- as well as reports from our field offices, international media, partner agencies, and the World Vision international partnership emergency response team -- we've compiled the following information, which answers the who, what, when, where, and why of the drought and food crisis in East Africa. Expect more posts to come concerning this crisis.
WHO is affected?
An estimated 13 million people in East Africa -- 2.7 million of whom live in World Vision's areas of operation.
Earlier this month, Collins Kaumba, a World Vision communicator in Zambia, shared his experience visiting a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sudan. His words were jarring: "Indelible memories of the suffering I saw in Darfur have followed me since the day I left Sudan...I have seen suffering and poverty in Zambia and other places in Africa -- but not of the magnitude I saw when I visited Darfur’s camps..."
A reader in Israel commented on the post and made note of the thousands of Sudanese refugees there who are watching the situation in their homeland as the South prepares for its independence in just a few weeks.
Years of conflict in this African country have caused millions to flee for their safety -- not just to other places within Sudan, but internationally as well. This is one global hotspot recognized as an origin of refugees. But the problem is much larger.
When I was 15 years old, I got my first job as a lifeguard. Before I started, I had to obtain a work permit with my parents' consent and the consultation of my school. There were strict rules governing the hours between which I was allowed to work, as well as how many hours I was allowed to work per week while school was in session. All of these regulations were in place because I was a minor.
I resented them at the time. As an adolescent who longed to be treated as an adult -- and who wanted to earn my own money -- I thought the state had no business telling me when, where, or for how long I could work. It seemed deeply patronizing.
I didn't realize that labor laws in the United States are enforced to prevent workers, especially children, from being exploited. And I certainly didn't understand that in other parts of the world, where such laws either don't exist or are inadequately enforced, the effects of labor trafficking are devastating. I was a middle-class suburban kid. The notion of children, my age or younger, toiling in dirty, dangerous conditions, unable to go to school while earning little or no compensation, was foreign to me.
But it happens -- to hundreds of millions of children and adults around the world. It can tear apart families and ruin children's futures. That's why World Vision is committed to fighting it.
In recognition of World Day Against Child Labor, June 12, World Vision has released a new report, "10 Things You Need to Know About Labor Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region." Though focused particularly on Southeast Asia, the report highlights truths about exploitative labor that are relevant worldwide. How much do you know about it? Read these facts. Then, take action.
1. Men are trafficked onto fishing boats and held as prisoners. Though trafficking has historically been associated with women and children, men are equally vulnerable in Southeast Asia's fishing industry. Hard, dangerous conditions on the job create a labor shortage that leaves men at risk of being held captive at sea for months or years at a time.
Some humanitarian disasters occupy a few days worth of headlines -- if that -- and then quickly become a distant memory, if they're remembered at all.
The Japan quake and tsunami, in my opinion, has been the opposite. On March 11, we were instantly exposed to a flood of media coverage on the devastation in northeast Japan and the gravity of the nuclear crisis created by the crippled power plant. That coverage didn't subside much in the weeks to follow. On some level, the headlines and news clips about this historic natural disaster seem to have rendered the crisis more of an ongoing suspense film than a real-life story about human suffering.
One month after the disaster, I must remember to view the events in Japan in the latter context. Some 31 days since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami, there are still thousands homeless, still thousands missing, and still thousands who must rebuild their lives from the rubble that this tremor has left behind. This isn't a movie or television program that I can turn on or off based upon my level of interest. The people of Japan certainly can't.
To that end, World Vision is still there -- and we will be, for the days, weeks, and months to come, helping children and families recover a sense of normalcy, stability, and independence. Japan's tragedy may eventually fade from the 24-hour news cycle, but our commitment will not. Check out the updates below on what we've done so far, and what we have planned over the long term.