SEATTLE — The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) defines childhood as a time period for “children to be in school and at play, to grow strong and confident with the love and encouragement of their family and an extended community of caring adults”. Unfortunately, due to a variety of factors, including war, famine and disease, children in impoverished communities are often robbed of this opportunity for growth. An estimated one-fifth of all children in developing countries are living in a state of extreme poverty, meaning that their households live on $1.90 or less per day.
Ghana, much like a majority of developing nations, is wrestling with the aforementioned issues of child welfare. A 2016 study published by the U.S. Department of Labor found that 24 percent of children aged 5 through 14 were laborers. A small portion of these child laborers are a component of human trafficking operations that exist throughout Ghana.
Child labor presents a significant barrier to educational access and in turn child welfare in Ghana. While some children effectively juggle labor and schoolwork, others are barred from participating in primary school or high school. This, alongside a variety of factors, contributes to low proficiency in core subjects such as math and English among Ghanaian school children.
Ghana has experienced a steadily declining child mortality rate over the past decade due to political stability and economic growth. Even still, one in 12 children in Ghana dies from preventable causes. Forty percent of these deaths are attributed to malnutrition. The challenge of child welfare in Ghana is only compounded by endemic familial issues such as corporal punishment and sexual violence.
Addressing these issues of child welfare in Ghana is critical to the success of the nation’s goal of achieving middle-income status. Today, an assortment of initiatives exist that seek to address the ever-shifting nexus of child welfare.
Ghana’s 2014 Child Welfare Policy
In 2014, the Ghanaian government issued a 32-page child welfare policy report. Inside are a variety of policy orders that target the mistreatment of children in the home. In 1998, Ghana passed the Children’s Act, a law aimed at providing child-focused legal frameworks for social services and jurisdictions. Unfortunately, as stated in the 2014 Child Welfare Policy report, this law has been hamstrung by a lack of resources and coordination. The policy report prescribes increased funding and support to ensure the success of the act. A long road lies ahead for Ghana, as child abuse still exists throughout the nation, but the 2014 Child Welfare Policy provides a dedicated legal and governmental framework to address this endemic issue.
World Bank’s Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Project
Maternal health and children’s nutrition are a key component of child welfare in Ghana. A World Bank initiative called the Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Project provides support in both these realms. The project began in 2014, with a dedicated budget of $73 million. Approaching both maternal health and child nutrition as means of reducing child mortality rates is a complex process that requires a multilateral approach. With this in mind, the Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Project operates on two distinct levels.
The first level is direct nutritional intervention within communities. The World Bank defines this section as being dedicated to “strengthening supply, creating demand and increasing ownership and accountability of district level stakeholders, outreach workers, community leaders and household members”. Alongside the economic aspect of this level, the World Bank aims to teach better reproductive practices, nutritional learning and disease recognition in infants.
The second level operates at the institutional and project management level. By providing support to the Ministry of Health and other such agencies, the World Bank hopes to offer improved stewardship to children and mothers in need, and in turn, improve child welfare in Ghana.
Ghana Health and Education Initiative Addresses Issues of Child Welfare in Ghana
The Ghana Health and Education Initiative (GHEI) is a multi-approach organization that targets both health and education access in Ghana. Its education-focused programs are designed to provide support to both over and underachieving students. GHEI’s Early Childhood Literacy program provides an additional six hours of learning time for struggling students. After a year of participating in this program, students could recall twice as many letters as their peers.
In addition to its programs for underachievers, GHEI has provided 99 senior high school scholarships to particularly successful and driven students. While all of these initiatives vary in size and scope, the sum of their parts is steadily improving child welfare in Ghana.
– Ian Greenwood