Helping children and families as inflation rises in Africa
The war in Ukraine is yet another pressure for millions of people in Africa. Famine is looming and, as always, the most vulnerable children are paying the highest price. SOS Children's Villages is concerned and working to support children and families.
In large parts of Africa, the poorest people are becoming more and more vulnerable. The effects of climate change have been leaving deep scars for years and the coronavirus further placed a strain on the population. Now their resilience is being tested again by the effects of the war in Ukraine. Basic needs such as food, fertilizer, and fuel are scarce and unaffordable due to rising prices. Famine is looming.
It is precisely the most vulnerable children who already live in poverty who are paying the price of this crisis. Many parents and caregivers can no longer afford the cost of education, even though it is crucial for their children’s future. And when they get sick, there is hardly any money for medical care. Children are not getting everything they need for a healthy and happy life. We see it happening in the countries we work in, such as Ghana.
Prices rise by the hour
The effects of price increases are evident in the city of Tema in Ghana. SOS mother Comfort has been working in the SOS Children's Village in Tema for five years and currently cares for eight children. Day and night she is there for these children, each of them vulnerable due to their past. Comfort gives them the safety, structure, and attention they need to recover and develop.
Comfort worries about rising prices. "When the kids are at school, I go to the market to buy groceries for dinner. That's not so easy these days. The economic crisis has made everything more expensive. The prices keep going up. The other day I bought a box of eggs for 20 Ghanaian cedi [approximately $2.63]. When I returned an hour later, the same eggs already cost 25 Ghanaian cedi [$3.29].’’
To make sure there still is food on the table every night, Comfort buys vegetables in bulk. "When the price of onion or tomato, for example, is acceptable, I buy a good amount right away. I also try to buy fish and high-protein foods when the prices are good, so we at least have a supply. Unfortunately, that doesn't allow me to cook as much variety as I used to," Comfort says.
SOS Children's Villages supports the SOS mothers in Tema in various ways. For example, SOS staff explain to the children about the economic crisis so that they understand the situation better. They also teach SOS mothers how to properly manage the food that is available and prevent food waste. Extra money is provided for food for all children. SOS Children's Villages supports SOS caregivers in different ways, more recently by increasing money given to SOS mothers for purchasing food and providing food supplies directly to SOS families.
Assistance and counselling in uncertain times
SOS Children's Villages is closely monitoring the unstable economic situation in Ghana. The household money used by SOS mothers for basic needs, such as food and clothing for the children, has been increased. We are also providing additional psychosocial support to families and children in the Family Strengthening Program in this uncertain economic situation.
Portfolio coordinator, Marjon says: "Vulnerable families are closely monitored by our colleagues in the country. If a family is included in the Family Strengthening Program, they are intensively supported until they are one hundred percent self-sufficient again. We work with a customized developmental family plan for each family. If this plan proves unfeasible due to, for example, inflation or other external factors, SOS Children's Villages intervenes. Together with the family, we make adjustments by making extra money available or offering training. Or by revising their business plan to increase their resilience. We also did this during the coronavirus pandemic and very nice results were achieved."
The effects of inflation are also evident in the SOS Family Strengthening Program in Tema. Single mother Eunice, for example, is worried about the situation. Thanks to support from SOS Children's Villages, she has her life back on track. "Through my children's school, I heard about the Family Strengthening Program from SOS Children’s Villages several years ago. Because I was struggling financially, I was able to participate in the SOS Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA)," she says. Within this mini-bank system, a group of 10 to 15 people save together for investments or major expenses. Eunice says: "Thanks to our savings group, I was able to open my own local mini-market where I sell food. SOS Children's Villages built the store for me with cement blocks. This stands out in our community, as most stores have wooden construction. I am extremely proud of my store!"
With her mini-market, Eunice earns a livable income. "Thanks to SOS, my children go to school and to the doctor when needed," she says. Unfortunately, inflation is now putting Eunice's financial security at risk once again. "Due to rising prices, my business is at a standstill. I keep explaining to my customers that the situation is not the same as it was a year ago," the entrepreneur says. "Fast sales are in the past, everything is now moving at a slow pace. My income is more uncertain and has dropped tremendously. Not only do I earn less, food has become much more expensive."