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(UNITED NATIONS – OCHA) According to the latest report by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), 4 million people are currently in crisis nationwide—3 million in the south of Somalia. Of these, 750,000 people risk death in the next four months if efforts

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(United Nations) With nearly 800 million people unable to read or write, the United Nations today marked International Literacy Day with a warning that illiteracy undermines efforts to eliminate a host of social ills such as poverty and sickness and threatens the very stability of nations.

“The costs are enormous,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message. “Illiteracy exacerbates cycles of poverty, ill-health and deprivation. It weakens communities and undermines democratic processes through marginalization and exclusion. These and other impacts can combine to destabilize societies.”

This year’s Day is being commemorated under the theme “Literacy and Peace.”

Ban noted that despite progress, illiteracy continues to afflict millions of people, especially women and girls. In 2009, roughly two thirds of the world’s estimated 793 million illiterate adults were female. That same year, some 67 million primary school-aged children and 72 million adolescents were denied their right to an education, he added.

“Literacy unlocks the capacity of individuals to imagine and create a more fulfilling future. It opens the way to greater justice, equality and progress. Literacy can help societies heal, advance political processes and contribute to the common good,” he declared.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) noted that more than half the adults in 11 countries are illiterate. These are Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.

“The world urgently needs increased political commitment to literacy backed by adequate resources to scale up effective programs,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a message.

“Today I urge governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector to make literacy a policy priority, so that every individual can develop their potential, and actively participate in shaping more sustainable, just and peaceful societies.”

About Salesian Missions at the United Nations

(MissionNewswire) The United Nations reports that more than 300,000 children in the Horn of Africa are severely malnourished and "at risk of dying." The region, also referred to as Northeast Africa, includes the countries of Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia – all severely affected by

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(MissionNewswire) An already difficult situation has become a desperate one in the Horn of Africa where aid agencies like Salesian Missions were already hard at work helping the poor—long before the latest drought and famine that have brought the world’s attention to the region once

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(MissionNewswire) In many of the world’s poorest countries – where hunger and hopelessness is a daily reality for so many children – providing life-saving meals and educational opportunities is hampered by threats of violence. Security is one of the top concerns for non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

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(MissionNewswire) U.S. first lady Michelle Obama’s visit to South Africa has brought the world’s attention to a country where a significant percentage of the population must struggle to survive on less than $1 a day, according to the United Nations. During her week-long goodwill tour

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(MissionNewswire) The recent announcement of Ethiopia’s goal to expand its budget by 22 percent to fight poverty in its quickly growing economy caused critics to charge that growth has not filtered down to the poor, according to news reports from Reuters on June 11.

As politicians work to introduce plans for a better Ethiopia, a unique program is already addressing issues of hunger and education on the streets of Addis Ababa. Through Donato’s Children of the Beggars program founded by the Salesians of Don Bosco in Mekanissa, Ethiopia, parents who survive by begging on the street are able to send their children to school to receive basic education and skills training support services.

According to UNICEF, approximately 72 percent of school-age children in Ethiopia have no access to formal education, and while education is free, many families do not have the economic resources to send their children to school.

“For children whose parents are already begging on the street, education seems like a dream,” says Brother Cesare Bullo, director of the Project Development Office for the Salesians of Don Bosco in Ethiopia.  “Our goal is to reach children who are living in dangerous situations. Our first step is to connect with the parents and guardians to introduce the value of education and how it can lead to a better life for their children – something every parent wants.”

The program staff includes social workers who do outreach to convince parents that an education will provide long-term benefits for the child and family, even though the family may rely on the child to work in the street to provide a portion of the family income.

Once enrolled in the program, children are tutored in basic literacy and math skills so that they may join the formal education system, while adolescents receive jobs training in marketable skills that will help provide for them and their families.

“Our program also includes meals to provide added incentive for the children to study and for parents to continue to encourage their children to attend classes,” says Br. Bullo. “We are committed to keeping the children in the program and by including meals, the program represents a daily benefit to the family.”

Currently, 513 children are enrolled in this program which began in 1998. The Salesians of Don Bosco in Ethiopia have been working with the most vulnerable children and youth since 1975 with a focus on primary and secondary educational services. Salesians also carry out development initiatives providing support in the areas of food security, access to water and illness prevention, health, emergency assistance and agriculture.

PHOTO: Adam Rudin / SALESIAN MISSIONS

(MissionNewswire) Salesian Missions has teamed up with students and professors from Fordham University to carry out a multi-country study to identify “best practices” at Salesian technical vocational training schools around the globe. The Salesians are widely regarded as the largest single provider of technical vocational training

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