The area of the world I have chosen to read more about and how UNICEF is helping is the Middle East and North Africa regions. This area covers countries from Morocco to Iran, including Djibouti and Sudan in sub-Saharan Africa. The reason for choosing this region, is due to the fact that I am living in the Middle East, namely in Qatar and traveling around the different countries in the Middle East, and being aware of the struggles many people face in these regions, I can help, as knowledge is power!
The region is home to nearly 418 million people, including 157 million, or 38 per cent, who are under the age of 18. Nearly 10,000 children are born across the region every year. The region is marked by significant disparities – Saudi Arabia, one of the region’s richest countries, shares borders with Yemen, one of its poorest and most conflict-ridden. Many of the difficulties in this region are income related, gender and geographical inequalities, which keep many children in a state of poverty and vulnerability.
Furthermore, the mortality rates of children are high, as very few of these countries have access to health and vaccination services. More than 415,000 children continue to die every year before their fifth birthday.
Rates of chronic malnutrition are high too, where a quarter of the children under the age of five suffer malnutrition in Djibouti, Egypt, Iran and Syria and Yemen. As a result, UNICEF is fighting malnutrition by promoting good feeding practices, when mothers are breastfeeding for the first six months and helping parents understand the use of micronutrients, and providing access to safe water.
Other difficulties the children face in this region are:
- Child labour,
- Childhood marriage,
- Recruitment to armed forces and groups,
- 9/10 children experience violent forms of discipline,
- Around 6 million children are orphaned,
- Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen are four out of five countries worldwide that continue to apply the death penalty to children,
- Female genital mutilation affects 93 per cent of women in Djibouti and 91 per cent in Egypt.
As a result of learning about the above difficulties and atrocities to children, I ask myself, how can many of children in those countries named, survive physically, never mind mentally and emotionally? It is horrific to know parts of the world are still so backward in their thinking, as the struggles the children have to go through will NOT positively effect a child’s well-being in all areas of their life.
If I were to reflect on the above and what I have learned about the struggles the children in the Middle East and North Africa region experience, I am horrified to know that countries like Qatar, Dubai, UAE and Saudi Arabia sit back more often than not and do not help their neighboring countries out of their problems, especially those problems that effect children in such a bad way! I am glad I chose this region to read more about, as it is important to know the struggles that are happening in different countries of the world, especially the country you are living in and countries you are surrounded by. It has certainly helped me identify the needs of the region and where one can help, especially as an educator. I have noticed that some children in my class, who come from very wealthy Qatari families have no idea about the struggles other children around and surrounding their country face, which has challenged me to inform them of this, as the future of the world is sitting in my classroom.