Left-Behind Children in China

China is experiencing a massive labour migration from rural areas to cities. In 2009, 11% of the population, around 145 million people, moved from the countryside to large cities to find employment (Hu, 2012). But those migrating for work are not always without family ties; many of them are also parents who have had to make a choice between their family life and economic opportunities elsewhere. Many hope that the money they will earn in the city will allow them to support their children’s future.

As a result of this migration, there are around 61 million children left behind in Chinese rural areas, either living with one parent or with other relatives – most often grandparents (Pedroletti, 2016). Two million of these children are left on their own (The Economist, 2015). These children are commonly called liushou ertong (left-behind children).

“If there were no legal barriers, we would bring him with us.” Liu Ting, mother of 12 y.o. Tang Yuwen(1)

The Hukou system is to a large extent responsible for this situation. Hukou is a residency permit which allows its holder to access social services such as education or healthcare for free in the area where the person lives. Under this system, if a child moves from a village to a city with their parents, that child will not be able to go to school or the doctor for free. Thus, taking children with them becomes too much of a financial burden for many workers (Al Jazeera, 101 East, 2016).

In addition, long working hours and long commutes do not leave much time for parents to take care of their children once in the city. Additionally, some parents live in factory dormitories where they cannot bring children to live with them (The Economist, 2015).

“I’m so worried, because I’m not with him […] I worry about his safety.” Liu Ting

Left-behind children are vulnerable to abuse because they do not have parents to protect them or stand up for them. They may be victims of bullying at school or of abuse by adults (either by their guardians or others). In 2015, “a teacher got life in prison for raping 12 of his pupils, 11 of whom had been left behind” (The Economist, 2015). The same year, a disabled 15-year-old girl and her brother, both left behind, were murdered by distant relatives who had raped the girl and were afraid it would be discovered (Ibid.). Another safety concern is that left-behind children may turn to criminality, as they do not have adult supervision and are left to survive on their own.

“I know it is hard for mum and dad to earn money […] but I miss them so much, it is very painful.” Tang Yuwen

The Chinese NGO “On the Road to School” (Shangxuelushang) reports that 9 million left-behind children only see their parents once per year (Pedroletti, 2016) and over 2 million have not even received a phone call for a year (China Development Brief, 2015). The absence of parents has an impact on the mental health of children, and left-behind children are prone to anxiety and depression, a lack of self-esteem, and a sense of abandonment. This sometimes leads to tragic events: in 2015, in Bije, a 13-year-old boy poisoned his little sisters before committing suicide, leaving a note that read: “death has been my dream for years” (The Economist, 2015). In addition, research reveals that the parents’ absence also impacts children’s school performance, emotional and social functioning, and development when compared to other children living with their parents (The Economist, 2015).

“Mum and Dad live a hard life, I don’t want them to worry about me.” Tao Lan, 14 y.o.

To resolve this problem, the Chinese government has started a program to train social workers that help the left-behind children. But the program is not wide-reaching, and only 0.5% of left-behind children currently benefit from it (The Economist, 2015). Another solution would be to reform the Hukou system to make it easier for parents to bring their children with them when migrating. Finally, creating jobs in the countryside could also allow families to stay together (Ibid.).

(1) All quotes from parents and children used as subtitles are from the BBC article ‘Counting the cost of China’s left-behind children’: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35994481

written by : Salomé Guibreteau
Proofread by : Katie Krakow




Al Jazeera, 101 East. (2016, December 1). China’s Left-Behind Generation. Retrieved April 20, 2017, from Al Jazeera: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101east/2016/11/china-left-generation-161130065311382.html

China Development Brief. (2015, June 24). Road to School releases white paper on mental issues facing China’s left-behind children. Retrieved from China Development Brief: http://chinadevelopmentbrief.cn/news/road-to-school-releases-white-paper-on-chinese-left-behind-childrens-mental-condition/

Hu, X. (2012, January 4). China’s Young Rural-to-Urban Migrants: In Search of Fortune, Happiness, and Independence. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from Migration Policy Institute: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/chinas-young-rural-urban-migrants-search-fortune-happiness-and-independence

Pedroletti, B. (2016, Mars 29). En Chine, au pays des enfants délaissés. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from Le Monde: http://www.lemonde.fr/international/visuel/2016/03/29/en-chine-au-pays-des-enfants-delaisses_4891826_3210.html

Sudworth, J. (2016, April 12). Counting the cost of China’s left-behind children. Retrieved April 20, 2017, from BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35994481l

The Economist. (2015, October 17). China’s left-behind little match children. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from The Economist: http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21674712-children-bear-disproportionate-share-hidden-cost-chinas-growth-little-match-children

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FAMINE: Africa and Yemen in a Critical Situation

The first quarter of 2017 was marked by a food crisis affecting approximately fifteen countries, of which four of these regions are suffering from severe famine.
The United Nations has sounded the alarm.

What is famine?

We all have a more or less concrete idea of what it is, but it is not as obvious to answer this question because its definition must be accepted by all of the organizations that come to aid those who are victims of famine.

Since 2004, a number of tools and processes have been established, allowing “to analyze and classify the severity of food insecurity following international, scientific standards.” The IPC (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) is a standardized scale that classifies acute food insecurity according to five phases (IPC info, n.d.).

According to the IPC, famine is declared when the following conditions are met:

• more than 30% of children are suffering from acute malnutrition;
• 2 deaths per 10,000 residents are recorded every day;
• a pandemic disease has been declared;
• residents have access to less than 4 liters of water per day;
• their food intake provides less than 2100 calories per day;
• and civil conflicts and large-scale population displacements are observed (Knowles-Coursin, 2017).

Which countries are affected?

Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Somalia are currently threatened with a “humanitarian catastrophe.” And children are the first victims. The numbers are dramatically significant. According to the United Nations, famine threatens more than 20 million people in these four regions, 1.4 million of which are children who are at risk of dying of malnourishment.

In South Sudan, there are 280,000 children suffering from the most severe form of acute malnutrition. In Nigeria, in the states affected by the conflict, 450,000 children are affected. In Yemen, 2.2 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition, with 462,000 of them severely affected. In Somalia, 185,000 children have been affected and the numbers are dangerously increasing (Gonzales, 2017).

Famine is spreading and threatening the sub-regions. Families who are fleeing from violence and the lack of food are seeking refuge in already vulnerable bordering countries. Since the beginning of 2017, more than 60,000 South Sudanese people have fled to neighboring Sudan (Blavignat, 2017). In addition, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Lake Chad Basin, and Uganda are showing alarming levels of food insecurity.

A situation caused by climatic conditions and exacerbated by armed conflicts

South Sudan has been going through a civil war since December 2013, which has caused tens of thousands of deaths and displaced more than three million people. Thousands of women and children cross the Ugandan border every day. “Persistent conflicts ravage the lives of millions of children and families. The belligerents force people to leave their homes, destroy crops and other means of subsistence as well as impede the efforts of humanitarian organizations […]” (Modola, 2017).

Before the war, Yemen purchased 90% of its food abroad. The importation route is completely blocked by the conflict. The problem is mainly political. In Nigeria, millions of people have abandoned their homes and fields to flee the atrocities of Boko Haram or the retaliations of the Nigerian army.

Somalia is experiencing drought for the fourth consecutive year and it is linked to the armed conflicts that have ravaged the country for more than twenty years. The situation is alarming. “At the end of February, the Somalian government declared a state of national disaster.” (Macé, 2017). Generally, “if drought is an aggravating factor, famine is always caused by people and major political crises” (Pierre Mendiharat, Director of Operations for Doctors Without Borders) (Longuet, 2017).

In addition to this, there is the crucial problem of accessing drinking water. At the end of March, UNICEF warned about the lack of access to clean water. More than 5 million people are deprived of clean water in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen. “Shortages of safe water, the lack of adequate sanitation facilities and poor hygienic conditions pose additional risks to children suffering from malnutrition and are likely to trigger fatal diarrhea. (Manuel Fontaine, Director of Emergency Programs at UNICEF) (Blavignat 2017).

A Difficult Battle

In the face of this urgent and extreme situation, UNICEF’s Sébastien Lyon confirms that the main obstacle is access to the population. “For example, in northern Nigeria, Boko Haram is preventing our teams from getting to the population; our trucks are blocked. As a result, all efforts to respond to these crises are reduced to nothing.” (Gouëset, 2017).

An amount of 864 million dollars has been deemed necessary to stop this crisis, but the UN states that only 31% of this sum has been raised (Le Monde, 2017). In the field, UNICEF provides children with emergency care, treatment for malnutrition, vaccines, drinking water, and sanitation facilities as well as mobile health and nutrition services to help the affected families. To prevent children from becoming the first victims of famine, it is necessary and urgent to end human rights violations and harmful policies.

written by : Enaëlle Deschamps
translated by : Tyanna Williams
Proofread by : Priyanka Lindgren




IPC info (n.d) Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. Disponible sur : http://www.ipcinfo.org/fileadmin/templates/ipcinfo/Docs/IPC_Facsheet_FR.pdf

Knowles-Coursin. (31/03/2017) Qu’est-ce que la famine? [article d’information en ligne] récupéré sur Unicef : https://www.unicef.fr/dossier/famine

Gonzales, F. (03/04/2017) Alerte famine : plus de 1,4 million d’enfants en danger de mort [article d’information en ligne], récupéré sur Unicef : https://www.unicef.fr/article/alerte-famine-plus-d-14-million-d-enfants-en-danger-de-mort

Blavignat, Y. (29/03/2017) Confronté à la famine, le Soudan du Sud fait face à un exode massif [article de journal en ligne] récupéré sur Le Figaro : http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2017/03/29/01003-20170329ARTFIG00238-confronte-a-la-famine-le-soudan-du-sud-fait-face-a-un-exode-massif.php

Modola, (03/04/2017) 5 choses à savoir sur la famine et les enfants [article d’information en ligne] récupéré sur Unicef : https://www.unicef.fr/article/5-choses-savoir-sur-la-famine-et-les-enfants

Macé, C. Big Infographie, (20/03/2017) Crise alimentaire : Soudan du Sud, Somalie, Nigeria et Yémen au bord du gouffre [article de journal en ligne] récupéré sur Libération : http://www.liberation.fr/planete/2017/03/20/crise-alimentaire-soudan-du-sud-somalie-nigeria-et-yemen-au-bord-du-gouffre_1556119

Longuet, M. (23/03/2017) Famine en Afrique : comment en est-on arrivé là? [article de journal en ligne] récupéré sur Le Parisien : http://www.leparisien.fr/international/famine-en-afrique-comment-en-est-on-arrive-la-22-03-2017-6785892.php

Blavignat, Y. (29/03/2017) Confronté à la famine, le Soudan du Sud fait face à un exode massif [article de journal en ligne] récupéré sur Le Figaro : http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2017/03/29/01003-20170329ARTFIG00238-confronte-a-la-famine-le-soudan-du-sud-fait-face-a-un-exode-massif.php

Gouëset, C. (02/04/2017) Pourquoi la famine n’a pas disparu en Afrique et au Yémen [article de journal en ligne] récupéré sur L’Express : http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/monde/afrique/pourquoi-la-famine-n-a-pas-disparu-en-afrique-et-au-yemen_1894338.html

Le Monde (23/03/2017) L’ONU peine à recueillir des fonds pour lutter contre la famine en Somalie [compte-rendu de journal en ligne] récupéré sur Le Monde : http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2017/03/23/l-onu-peine-a-recueillir-des-fonds-pour-lutter-contre-la-famine-en-somalie_5099184_3212.html

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Integration of refugee children into education systems in Europe

In 2015, the EU received 1,321,600 asylum applicants and almost 30% of these applicants were children (European Union Committee, 2016). These refugees have to face many problems; not only do they have to abandon their homes and their families, but they also have to assimilate into a completely new country where the youngest of them are faced with numerous challenges.

A new future for the young refugees

The situation is real. “More than one million new arrivals have come to Germany, the preferred destination, in 2015 alone” (Harris, n.d). Many of them are parents, seeking only one thing – a better future for their children. Now, they and their children have to learn how to integrate into completely new surroundings. This is sometimes a difficult task for children.

Education is the key but also a challenge

The global community has a responsibility to help with providing housing, clothing and food for refugee children, but there is also a moral responsibility to use education to help them build a better future. Many see education as the only effective way for integration, and they are right because integration works best in educating young refugee populations. However, although in some countries refugee children can attend school as any other non-refugee child, in other European countries they are not completely included in the national education system. The sad fact is that their education occurs in exile and they only get one shot. “They need access to a complete education, preferably to be fully included in the national education system of the country of refuge” (Dryden-Peterson, n.d.).
The process of integrating refugees into national education systems is a political, economic, and social challenge which is why the global community should support the teachers and Ministries of Education who will eventually be responsible for executing this integration.
Integrating immigrants into national education systems means stability for the children. If they want to have a stable future, they, as any other child in that system, need to have trained teachers, a well-developed curriculum that will build their skills and knowledge, and the possibility of certifying their learning. They cannot achieve that outside of the system (Dryden-Peterson, n.d.).
Director of the German Philologist Association Heinz-Peter Meidinger, whose members are teachers at the country’s high schools, emphasizes, “If we want integration to succeed, then we mustn’t have classrooms that are 100 percent refugee children” (Bleiker, 2015).

Social inclusion of refugee children

Being included physically in national schools is very important, but it is merely an initial step. The following step and yet another challenge is that refugee children also be socially included. For refugee children, schools are “the most important place of contact with members of local host communities, playing an important role in establishing relationships supportive of integration” (Ager & Strang, 2008).
Still, there are a number of barriers hindering their successful integration into the education system. Many refugee children suffer both physical and emotional bullying in schools, racism, difficulties in making friends etc., when in fact they should be experiencing belonging and connection in order to learn.
The German Philologist Association points out that if more than 30 percent of children in a classroom don’t speak good German, the quality of education will suffer (Bleiker, 2015). This has a negative impact on non-refugee children in the same class who might achieve more because their tempo of learning, unlike refugee children, is quicker, but it also has a negative impact on refugee children because they will struggle very much to integrate.
This is where teachers play an important part. Any teacher of refugee students has a clear priority to perform training “to meet refugee students’ social, emotional, and learning needs and to help refugee and national students understand each other and get along” (Dryden-Peterson, n.d.).

Lack of political support

Integrating refugee children into national education systems is a good thing, but it becomes a political challenge once faced with the limitation of resources in reality. Countries that have a large number of refugees also have education systems that lack resources. Once we realize that education in general receives less than two percent of humanitarian aid, an explanation for such reality become much clearer. This is why the integration of refugees into education systems and the training of teachers must receive both political and financial support.
For now, the situation is not ideal. There are many political and social factors making the integration more difficult but the struggle to integrate is real. The situation in both refugee countries and classes clearly needs improvement. The classes are full, sometimes there are more than 30 students in one class, but the only alternative would be that the children from refugee families don’t go to school. This should not be accepted as an alternative at all.


Written by: Ivana Kaćunko
Internally proofread by: Lucy Autin
Externally proofread by: Thelma Obiakor




Ager, A., & Strang, A. (2008, April). Understanding Integration: A Conceptual Framework. Journal of Refugee Studies, 21(2). Retrieved March 18, 2017, from: http://www.cpcnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/19.-Ager-Strang-Understanding-Integration-2008.pdf
Bleiker, C. (2015, 10 15). How to integrate refugee kids in German schools. Retrieved March 18, 2017, from Deutsche Welle: http://www.dw.com/en/how-to-integrate-refugee-kids-in-german-schools/a-18785567
Dryden-Peterson, S. (n.d.). A Future for Syrian Children: Integration in National Education Systems. Retrieved March 18, 2017, from The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-drydenpeterson/a-future-for-syrian-child_b_8631316.html
European Union Committee. (2016, July 26). Children in crisis: unaccompanied migrant children in the EU. Retrieved March 18, 2017, from: http://www.scepnetwork.org/images/21/295.pdf
Harris, D. (n.d). Europe and Migration: Five Challenges. Retrieved March 18, 2017 from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-harris/europe-and-migration-five_b_8798548.html

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