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Not in Isolation: A Stronger Safety Net for Children

925 million around the world are hungry- that is one in seven. One in four people are undernourished, not receiving the amount of nutrients they need for energy, to work, learn or develop. Every 12 seconds, a child dies from lack of food. These statistics are heartbreaking, but in no way are they the final word. Join us this week on the Women of Vision blog for a special “Women and Hunger” week as we learn more about hunger, how it affects women and what is being done to make positive change.

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Today we bring a guest post from Jessica Bousquette. Jessica is the Child Protection Research Assistant with the Advocacy and Government Relations team of World Vision in Washington DC. Her role is to research and provide information for Child Protection and TVPRA for World Vision and she was excited to be at our WOV National Conference in March.

From my childhood, I have distinct memories of hot lunch (our school lunch program). In particular, it was a treat to be able to get hot lunch on special days. On St. Patrick’s Day, we had green-colored applesauce and chicken nuggets! Most days I appreciated the nutritious meals my Mom lovingly packed, but other days I would glance longingly from my peanut butter and jelly sandwich (my fourth of the week) to the line of students getting hot lunch. While reflecting on my visit to a World Vision program in the capital ofRomania, I was reminded of this long-forgotten and simple memory of green-colored applesauce.

In the poorest area of Bucharest (called Sector 5), World Vision is working with the local government to provide hot meals and after school programming, like tutoring and psychosocial support, to children. The program started because of growing concern about the school drop out rate and the increased vulnerability of children due to poverty and lack of access to social services.

Romaniahas experienced deep social service cuts in the past few years and the unemployment rate has increased because of the global economic crisis. In Sector 5, provision of basic needs, like food and medicine, are difficult for many families.

For example, George is 5 years old but is not able to attend kindergarten because his family cannot afford the meals. Inability to afford the rising prices of food amidst unemployment is not only a concern for malnutrition, it can also affect a child’s ability to attend school and develop socially. These factors can exacerbate marginalization and increase vulnerability to the worst forms of child labor and trafficking.

InRomania, social workers are few and the social safety net that protects a child from abuse, exploitation, and violence can be, at times, weak. School and programs like the After School program can be an opportunity to ensure the well-being of a child and connect them and their family to other services. George’s older sister, Andreea, is enrolled in the After School program, which is open to students ages 6 to 11. Next year, George will be able to join Andreea after school.

Exploitation of children, like child labor or trafficking, does not occur in isolation and can be addressed by strengthening the safety net that protects a child. When a child is able to participate fully in their community because they are healthy, when they are able to attend school and learn, and when they are able to access basic services, they are better protected.

One of the most comprehensive tools theU.S.has to work towards a stronger safety net for every child is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). The TVPA is the cornerstone of allU.S.law addressing human trafficking and modern-day slavery. It ensures that theU.S.is able to prosecute traffickers, protect survivors, and prevent modern-day slavery.

The TVPRA expired last October, almost 8 months ago and we are still without renewed legislation. The U.S. Congress failed to pass a reauthorization by September of last year and theU.S.fight against human trafficking is still on hold. The current Senate version of the legislation (S.1301) includes important tools such as the Child Protection Compact Act, which would allow theU.S.to partner with countries to strengthen the safety net around children and increase the partner country’s technical capacity to respond to human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

This legislation is too important to be sidelined by inaction. Our leaders need to know this is too important for them not to act. Use our call form to determine if you senator’s have already cosponsored, look up their numbers and log your call. We also provide the call script in this tool. The message is short and simple: Pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

This post is adapted from its original posting on the World Vision blog as part of the HungerFree campaign. To see the original post, please visit: http://blog.worldvision.org/causes/hungerfree-not-in-isolation-a-stronger-safety-net-for-children/. To learn more about HungerFree, please visit: Hungerfree.org.

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