Kenya: Poverty reduction - supporting orphans and vulnerable children
We are working with KUSARD in Kenya to help support orphans and vulnerable children and to strengthen other community initiatives to reduce poverty. KUSARD’s projects are mainly based in the districts of Kilungu and Mukaa in the southeastern part of Kenya, covering a population of about 2 million people. This region is semi-arid with poor soil fertility and low rainfall, making it a marginal agricultural area prone to food shortages and famine. KUSARD has been working since XXXX to improve the lives of the poor and vulnerable. The main areas of intervention are (i) School Feeding Program; (ii) HIV/AIDS Program; (iii) Kituiuni Health Center Program; (iv) Kyale Computer Training Center Program; (v) Educational Fund for Needy Children; (vi) Kituiuni Youth Polytechnic; and (vii) Water Project.
The present drought in Kenya, which began in 1999, has been the worst in the last 60 years, placing Kenya second only to Ethiopia on the list of worst affected countries in the region. Three successive seasons of poor rainfall in parts of Kenya have resulted in between 2 and 3 million people being at risk of starvation after 20 million cattle died and more than 70 percent of crops were lost.
The districts targeted by KUSARD have no electricity. Because refrigeration is not available, perishable food is consumed as soon as possible and leftover food is stored in pots to be consumed later. Basic amenities such as radios are rare and information still travels by word of mouth in these rural parts. Newspapers are non-existent, they are mainly found in major towns. Resources are scarce and used for essential things such as food, medicine or education.
Most families depend on spring and river water. But with prolonged periods of drought, the water sheds have become almost depleted and the springs are in danger of drying up. Frequently, animals share the same water resource resulting in added health risks for humans.
School Feeding Program
Malnutrition is high among children. School meals help meet short and long-term education, nutrition, and food security objectives in an area like this where food shortage is a norm. KUSARD and its partners promote and support a feeding program in Kilungu and Kyale Parishes, benefiting seventeen schools. The school feeding program encourages children to enroll in school and attend regularly because they are assured of a meal at school each day. It is also an incentive for parents to send their children to school because they know their children will eat well at school, particularly for those who are extremely poor.
HIV and AIDS disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable and limited resources often prevent poor communities from supporting the millions who suffer.
Recognizing this need, KUSARD started a program that involves youth. Their role is to spread messages about HIV/AIDS to their peers and discourage risky behavior. KUSARD also helps individuals, families and communities as they struggle through the physical, economic, social and emotional ravages of the disease. By working with local and international partners KUSARD empowers people and communities to stem the tide of the pandemic.
Kituiuni Health Center
The people of Kituiuni have for many years lacked access to health services in this remote rural area. The nearest health was miles away and no transportation is available. People had to walk long distances to obtain medical services, their condition often worsening by the time they are seen by health personnel. Recognizing the severity of the problem, especially for children, the elderly, pregnant women and the sick, the founder of KUSARD, in partnership with donors in the US build a clinic in Kituiuni.
Kyale Computer Training Center
Computers have been installed in the Kyale Small Home of the Handicapped. These will be used in the Rural Computer Education Program. The Center in Kyale provides free computer education to those who cannot afford it.
Educational Fund for Needy Children
Funds have been established to help needy children. Students are sponsored through university level studies. Graduates have been able to find jobs, contributing to their families’ livelihoods.
Kituiuni Youth Polytechnic
The Youth Polytechnic provides training to young people who have completed primary school or high school and are unable to continue with education or find work. Unemployment among youth is high and the aim of the Polytechnic is to provide training in marketable skills. Here, courses focus on construction and dress making. Courses in business management will be added in order to help those who become self employed.
The Kituiuni community Water Project aims to provide clean water for domestic use, irrigation and livestock. Beneficiaries include about 1000 households, two primary schools and one dispensary within a cross section of 15 km (approximately 9 miles). The local community has made available land, labor, sand, quarries and local timber in order to cover the setting of the water at the catchment point, putting up of three reservoir tanks, constructing water kiosks and piping. The second phase will include piping of water to designated areas, and kiosks and storage tanks will be constructed later as funds become available.
Lead by Kituiuni youth, a community sensitization program was initiated to conserve the environment. Self help groups were formed to establish tree nurseries and plant trees on farms, by government agencies, and along rivers. Ten self help groups are operating with the objectives to educate and empower communities to rehabilitate damaged areas, support agro forestry, and protect natural resources.
India: preventing inhalant abuse among children and adolescents
We are working with partners in Kolkata to combat inhalant abuse among street children. Of the 200,000 children in Kolkata who are homeless, one percent are HIV-positive but are not aware of the fact that they are carrying the deadly virus. This is likely to result in a significant increase in HIV levels. Inhalant abuse among children and adolescents is becoming a serious global public health problem, particularly in developing countries, and often leads to use of injecting drugs. In India, widespread poverty, unemployment and increasing urban migration contribute to the growing number of children living on the streets and falling victim to malnutrition, disease, harassment and sexual abuse. A disproportionate number of these children use drugs and engage in survival sex as coping mechanisms.
Project components include (i) prevalence study of inhalant abuse, patterns and trends, and awareness levels; (ii) socio-economic profile of inhalant abusers; (iii) group dynamics; (iv) health status; (v) financing solvent and drug abuse; (vi) knowledge of HIV/AIDS and associated risks; and (vii) access to treatment and rehabilitation.
Inhalants include a broad range of drugs – gases, aerosols, or solvents that are breathed in and absorbed through the lungs. Most are ingredients in household or industrial chemical products: these include organic solvents found in cleaning products, fast-drying glues, and nail polish removers; fuels such as gasoline and kerosene; and propellant gases such as freon and compressed hydrofluorocarbons that are used in aerosol cans. A small number of recreational inhalant drugs are pharmaceutical products that are used illicitly, such as anesthetics including ether and nitrous oxide as well as alkyl nitrites, a volatile anti-angina drug. Inhalants are easily addictive and can be purchased at low cost from local shopkeepers and shoemakers without suspicion.
Sniffing, huffing and bagging
The most common methods for inhaling solvents are sniffing, huffing and bagging. Sniffing occurs directly from containers, sometimes heating the containers to produce fumes at a more rapid rate. This places users at high risk because many inhalants are highly flammable. Huffing involves soaking fabric into a solvent which is then placed on the user’s nose and mouth where chemical fumes are inhaled. Bagging occurs where the substance is placed in a bag which is then placed over the nose and mouth for the user to inhale the fumes. A state of hallucination is produced, not unlike an inebriated condition marked by incoherent speech, inability to maintain balance and discern things clearly. A feeling of euphoria and exhilaration is common. Also common are dizziness, loss of coordination, muscular movement, slurring of speech, mental deterioration, hallucinations and finally drowsiness which can lead on to coma and respiratory failure.
Neurological, respiratory, and digestive system damage are common effects of inhalant abuse among children and adolescents. Some solvents can cause hearing loss, limb spasms, and damage to the central nervous system and brain. Serious effects also include liver and kidney damage and blood oxygen depletion. Death from inhalants is generally caused by a very high concentration of fumes. Brain damage is typically seen with chronic long term use. Where data is available, precise statistics on deaths caused by inhalant abuse are difficult to determine, as it is considered a dramatically under-reported cause of death. This is due to a cause-of-death determination being attributed to the side-effects of inhalant abuse, such as a blood vessel rupture in the brain, a heart attack, or accidental injury rather than to the abuse itself.
The lack of awareness about inhalant abuse is a serious concern. In India, this issue has a low profile and data on the extent of the problem is virtually non-existent. As a result, addicted children can inhale substances openly. No preventive measures are in place and no long term drug rehabilitation facilities exist for children.
A comprehensive approach is needed to prevent addiction among children and adolescents, and in particular among street children. Key elements in a preventive strategy include health services, long term rehabilitation centers, public awareness, and strong government policies combating inhalant abuse.