Children in Crisis

children in a slum

The Needs

Children in Crisis are boys and girls affected by sexual exploitation, hazardous labour, gender inequality, extreme deprivation, disability, or lack of a primary caregiver. Facing extraordinary hardships, they are desperate for ways out of poverty. This makes them very vulnerable to dangers disguised as opportunities.

Children are more vulnerable than adults as they have less capacity for self-protection and are not fully aware of their rights. This makes them an easy target for various forms of exploitation like child labour or being recruited as child soldiers. Girls are also disadvantaged in some cultures, where traditional beliefs and discrimination result in unequal opportunities for education and subject them to child marriage and early pregnancy.

Anisa (left) lives in Afghanistan. At age 13, she is about to be married off if her family does not receive any assistance.

Her family of five moved from Badghis to Herat Province six months ago when sparse rainfall led to the failure of winter harvest, widespread loss of livestock due to fodder scarcity and the drying of drinking water wells. Like thousands of other displaced families fleeing historic drought conditions in Afghanistan, they now live in an informal site.

“At one time we had a real home and a barn full of sheep which covered our finances; but [we lost everything] to hunger and shortage of water.” Anisa’s grandmother Badro stops for a moment to reflect. “We ate some of them as there was no one to buy them, but the ones that remained got weaker and weaker and finally died.”

Coming to Herat didn’t help the family either; in fact, the situation got worse. Her only son went to Iran two months ago to find day labour, leaving Badro and her three daughters to fend for themselves in an area isolated from most economic activity. Badro has not heard from him since and the family’s reserves are getting low. 


Anisa in a makeshift kitchen making tea.

None of Badro’s granddaughters have gone to school, either in Badghis or in Herat. In their village in Badghis, the school doesn’t offer classes for girls. 

Anisa is the youngest granddaughter and is shy. When she speaks, she offers short replies and looks at the floor, tugging at the corner of her scarf.  

“If I found a good man, I would marry her off,” Badro says, caressing her granddaughter’s head. “I already promised her to one of our relatives in Badghis. If I don’t receive any assistance I will [have no choice]. That [would be better] for her and for us too.” The little girl stares at the floor in silence.


Early marriage is quickly becoming a routine coping mechanism for mitigating drought-related difficulties. Families marry off their girls for revenue in the form of bride price and also to reduce the number of mouths to feed. Based on an assessment in Badghis, over 50% of surveyed households cited child marriage as a coping strategy for food insecurity and reduced family income.

According to Jim Alexander, Country Director for World Vision Afghanistan, “Life has never been easy for these people in some of the most remote and insecure areas of Afghanistan, but they had enough to survive. Because of this drought, that is no longer the case. Normal concerns have now turned to utter desperation, even to the point where thousands of families have felt their only option is to sell their young daughters into marriage in order to feed other family members.”

“Yes, emergency response resources for those who are displaced will help, but equally and perhaps more importantly is to assist them before they are displaced, enabling them to stay on their land and in their homes – their daughters with them,” he emphasised.

Key Challenges

*Click the respective links to read the full stories

Child Labour

In the world’s poorest countries, around 1 in 4 children are engaged in child labour1

Child Violence

Globally, it is estimated that up to 1 billion children aged 2 – 17 have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect in the past year. Around 64% of them are in Asia Pacific2.

Child Marriage

Every year, at least 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 – that’s one girl every two seconds3.

Child Soldiers

250 million children – one in nine globally – are living in a conflict zone4. Many of them face violence, displacement, hunger and exploitation by armed forces and groups.

1UNICEF, 2017
2WHO, 2018
3United Nations, 2018
4UNICEF, 2016

 

“When I worked at the shrimp factory, I could not dream,” Ima, 13, says. “I felt that I should not dream."

When she was 11 years old, Ima spent her days out of school and worked at a shrimp depot instead in Bangladesh with her mother to supplement the household income. She remembers squatting for hours in the dark, desperately trying to keep her fingers warm from all the ice by wrapping them in strips of cloth, which only mildly helped. She often feared her bosses would beat her if she messed up because other girls have been beaten.

It was also common for her to accidentally cut her fingers on parts of the fish that are as sharp as a knife. She also remembers the stench and how the odour clung to her, further isolating her from friends who shunned her because of the smell of shrimp.

Despite where she was at, she longed to work in her country’s CIA equivalent. It's a dream she's had since she watched a television programme at her neighbour’s house where the agents caught the bad guys.

When World Vision opened a Child Friendly Learning and Recreation Centre as part of the child protection programme in Bangladesh, Ima's life turned around! The centre offered Ima a way forward. She and other girls began attending the centre in 2017, studying the curriculum they missed while they were working.

Now 13, Ima is back in school in Grade 5. She goes to the centre for help with her homework.

Ima’s mother was also empowered with training and was provided with fabric to start her own tailoring business. The family is now able to have at least two meals a day.

“It is possible for me to dream (now),” says Ima.

7-year-old Oyun* was raised in a household filled with domestic violence due to her alcoholic parents. She and her two brothers used to cower in fear whenever their parents fought with each other after either one drunk too much. As her parents struggled to feed the whole family with the little income they earned as tree branch sellers, the children were also malnourished and vulnerable to injuries. Oyun even broke her leg twice and her younger brother had broken his arm once during their parents’ violence.

Oyun remembers how she used to always fear going home to face the beatings.

Life was harsh until thankfully, she was involved in World Vision’s child sponsorship programme. Oyun received nutritious food, warm clothes and additional thick felt covers for their ger during the harsh Mongolian winter. She was able to go to pre-school and start her education.

Sharing her dreams, she says, “I want to study at the Medical University and become a doctor. Then I will have a good salary and help my mother.”

Her parents also participated in the home visitation programme where they were counselled and educated on how to better love and care for their children.

“Alcoholism is not a life. Before when I was dependent on alcohol, other people who are not related to us were taking care of my children on behalf of me,” shares Oyun’s mother, who is now trying her best to provide her children with a better life.

* Name changed to protect her identity

Anisa (left) lives in Afghanistan. At age 13, she is about to be married off if her family does not receive any assistance.

Her family of five moved from Badghis to Herat Province six months ago when sparse rainfall led to the failure of winter harvest, widespread loss of livestock due to fodder scarcity and the drying of drinking water wells. Like thousands of other displaced families fleeing historic drought conditions in Afghanistan, they now live in an informal site.

“At one time we had a real home and a barn full of sheep which covered our finances; but [we lost everything] to hunger and shortage of water,” says Anisa’s grandmother Badro, who stops for a moment to reflect. “We ate some of them as there was no one to buy them, but the ones that remained got weaker and weaker and finally died.”

Coming to Herat didn’t help the family either; in fact, the situation got worse. Her only son went to Iran two months ago to find day labour, leaving Badro and her three daughters to fend for themselves in an area isolated from most economic activity. Badro has not heard from him since and the family’s reserves are getting low.


Anisa in a makeshift kitchen making tea.

None of Badro’s granddaughters have gone to school, either in Badghis or in Herat. In their village in Badghis, the school doesn’t offer classes for girls.

Anisa is the youngest granddaughter and is shy. When she speaks, she offers short replies and looks at the floor, tugging at the corner of her scarf.

“If I found a good man, I would marry her off,” Badro says, caressing her granddaughter’s head. “I already promised her to one of our relatives in Badghis. If I don’t receive any assistance I will [have no choice]. That [would be better] for her and for us too.” The little girl stares at the floor in silence.

Early marriage is quickly becoming a routine coping mechanism for mitigating drought-related difficulties. Families marry off their girls for revenue in the form of bride price and also to reduce the number of mouths to feed. Based on an assessment in Badghis, over 50% of surveyed households cited child marriage as a coping strategy for food insecurity and reduced family income.

According to Jim Alexander, Country Director for World Vision Afghanistan, “Life has never been easy for these people in some of the most remote and insecure areas of Afghanistan, but they had enough to survive. Because of this drought, that is no longer the case. Normal concerns have now turned to utter desperation, even to the point where thousands of families have felt their only option is to sell their young daughters into marriage in order to feed other family members.”

“Yes, emergency response resources for those who are displaced will help, but equally and perhaps more importantly is to assist them before they are displaced, enabling them to stay on their land and in their homes – their daughters with them,” he emphasised.

14-year-old Francis* lives in Yaloke, a conflict-stricken area in Central African Republic. Both his older brother and uncle were killed by a rebel group in the conflict.

“I didn’t want the death of my brother to go unpunished. So at the age of 13, I joined a local armed group,” Francis shares.

He became a child solider and by the time he was 14, he was forced to kill 4 children using a knife. It was traumatising.

After 3 months, he could not bring himself to kill any more so he escaped the group. He now lives alone with his mother and has gone back to school. Through he is still slowly recovering from the horrors, he hopes to be able to finish his education and turn his life around.

* Name changed to protect his identity