Kids in Crisis FAQs

When crops fail due to drought or other disaster, or work opportunities dry up, children and their parents often face a stark choice: move… or starve.

Driven by the worlwide COVID pandemic, the number of young kids in crisis around the world suffering acute malnutrition (a polite term for starvation) was expected to skyrocket by more than 20 percent in 2020, according to a report by the U.N.1 That’s an additional 10 million starving children worldwide. “Children living on the streets are particularly at risk,” the report says.

Haitian children walk by ‘mud cakes’ drying in the sun. The cakes, made of dirt, salt and oil, make a cheap food to stave off hunger. At 2 cents each, they’re the only affordable food option for thousands of Cite Soleil kids at risk and other impoverished residents. Photo by Crossroads Foundation, Flickr

In Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, I’ve watched children eat “mud cakes,” sun-dried food made from dirt mixed with salt, water and a little margarine.2 Mud cakes are a symbol of the despair children face in this Caribbean island nation—a sense of hopelessness that continues into adulthood.

“Ask a Haitian, ‘what do you think you’ll be doing in five years?’ and he will laugh,” a Haitian doctor told me. “Our people do not think about tomorrow; we do not plan for the future. We live from day to day. We are a people in survival mode.”

Around the world, humanitarian agencies such as GFA World have increased their efforts to feed the most vulnerable children in crisis and their families as millions of day laborers have been laid off from jobs or unable to work because of economic lockdowns.

The Texas-based agency has distributed food to tens of thousands of families on the edge of starvation in Asia and Africa, filling a critical gap for parents facing the near-impossible task of feeding their children amid total loss of income and with no safety net to fall back on. “The situation in our village is terrible,” one parent told GFA World. “We don’t have any work and we’re unable to provide food for our children.”

Addressing starvation is just one critical step in dealing with concerns surrounding kids in crisis. Other pressing issues involve child labor, child slavery, child marriage and child exploitation, which you can read more about below.

Countries with Child Labor

Child labor is a critical problem around the world, but there are certain countries with more child labor than others. It is important to remember that statistics concerning child labor are difficult to gauge.

Child Marriage

Child marriage is a substantial issue in many parts of the world. In 2018, a UNICEF report estimated there were 650 million child brides worldwide. That statistic includes girls under the age of 18 who were already married and adult women who married in childhood.

Child Slavery

Child slavery today is the worst form of child labor. Child labor does not include household chores or tasks to help the child’s family; it is work that interferes with their school attendance and performance and their physical and emotional development.

Causes of Child Labor

The causes of child labor can vary, and views on the matter can contrast significantly based on one’s perspective: a family needing money, compelled to have their children contribute to the family income, will be vastly different than that of the industry using child labor.

Child Labor Examples

The Child Labor Coalition estimates 218 million children, some as young as 5 years old, are in child labor with at least 152 million of those in forced child labor. There are many child labor examples in various workforces, including the fishing, fashion and mining industries.

Child Labor in the Fashion Industry

Child labor in the fashion industry is hidden from the consumer, because it’s buried in the textile and garment supply chain well before someone pulls out a credit card for that new pair of jeans, but that doesn’t negate its harmful effects.

Child Exploitation

Every industry needs workers in various positions to turn the economic wheel of supply and demand. But what if this economic wheel is made up of millions of tiny hands that should be holding a pencil in a schoolroom instead of a shovel in a mine? This is child exploitation at its essence, and it is insidiously interwoven into our economies.

Girls’ Education

Education builds confidence in girls and offers them opportunities to learn, grow and hope. If girls can graduate from secondary school, that increases their chances of working jobs with better pay than their parents and even looking for greater opportunities. Girls’ education increases their future income, prevents child marriage and decreases their mortality rate.

1 Bachelet, Michelle. “Annual general meeting of the consortium for street children.” United Nations Human Rights. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26480&LangID=E. November 3, 2020.
2 Channi-Tiwary, Harnoor. “Mud Cake – A Delicacy Made With Mud in Poverty-Stricken Haiti.” NDTV Food. https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/mud-cake-a-delicacy-made-with-mud-in-poverty-stricken-haiti-1437242. July 30, 2016.