Written by Dr. Unni Krishnan, Director, Emergency Health Unit
Everyone has dreams. Some dreams are fabulous, some ambitious. When I met Tom last November, his dreams seemed almost impossible.
Tom was trying to build a health clinic in three days in the middle of nowhere. To be precise, Tom was in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh; home to the largest and perhaps the most overcrowded refugee camp in the world. He was working with Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit, deployed to Bangladesh to provide life-saving support for Rohingya refugees who had fled Myanmar.
Families were arriving at the camp sick, malnourished, dehydrated and often traumatized. Disease outbreaks threatened further human suffering. This was the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world.
Humanitarian workers like Tom were working against the clock.
“Are you serious,” I challenged Tom. “How do you build a health clinic in three days?”
Tom is not a structural engineer and not a soldier in a military platoon with unlimited resources. He is, as he calls himself, “an ordinary water and sanitation engineer.”
But as a humanitarian worker he is equipped with three things – a clear mission, infectious optimism and deep compassion. These are powerful ingredients to make things happen on the frontlines of sheer devastation.
Why Be a Humanitarian Worker?
Humanitarian work is about extending the spirit of humanity to people. If you look at the suffering in the world, is there an option not to be a humanitarian worker?
Today we are witnessing the highest levels of human displacement on record. More than 68 million people have been uprooted from their homes. Twenty-five million are refugees who have fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution – in actual numbers, this is more than the population of Australia.
In 2016, more than 560 million people’s lives were critically impacted by natural disasters. And approximately 815 million people will go hungry tonight. If you put all the hungry people in the world in one country, it would be the third most populous nation in the world after China and India.
It’s in these settings – in oceans of human suffering – that the efforts of Tom and his fellow humanitarian workers make the difference between life and death.
Besides the need for food, water, health care, emotional assistance and shelter in these circumstances, there is also a need to contend with fear. The fear of houses and hospitals being bombed, schools being burnt, children being orphaned, storms, floods, disease – it’s a long list, but frighteningly real in an increasing number of places.
Despite the odds, Tom and his team from the Emergency Health Unit went on to build the clinic, as well as eight other clinics and a primary health center that works around the clock in Cox’s Bazar. The big idea behind their work is to ensure that no child is left behind in the process of delivering life-saving health care and medical assistance within the turmoil of an emergency.
World Humanitarian Day
On August 19, 2003, the then Special Representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General to Iraq, Sérgio Vieira de Mello, and 21 of his colleagues were killed in the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad.
World Humanitarian Day is marked each year on 19 August. It’s a day we pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service, and to celebrate the selfless service of humanitarian workers.
Humanitarian workers are agents of compassion when the world turns upside down. Most of the real humanitarian heroes are often invisible; ordinary local volunteers who do extraordinary work to pull people from bombed war zones or from earthquake rubble long before international aid arrives on the scene.
They can’t stop the storms, the wars or the outbreaks of diseases. But they can provide healing. They can’t stop the next disaster. But they can reduce the severity of human suffering.
Their work reminds us of a simple truth – compassion is an index of humanity. Imagine the state of the world without it.
Collaboration – A Catalyst
What we do today depends a lot on what we do with others. Challenging a storm’s fury or the ruthless perpetrators of a genocide is not something humanitarian workers can do alone. It requires the combined efforts of various players – governments, media, civil society and UN systems.
World Humanitarian Day reminds us that collaboration and compassion are two powerful forces that can make the world less brutal and a more beautiful place where we all can live and where children can thrive.
To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to deliver lifesaving emergency response, visit our website.
Written by Michael Klosson, Vice President Policy & Humanitarian Response
There are days when visiting my Save the Children colleagues on the front lines of our humanitarian response work in Rakhine State in Myanmar, refugee communities in Jordan, drought stricken communities in Kenya or insecure villages in South Sudan I believe that every day should be World Humanitarian Day.
Such recognition 365 days a year would provide us all fitting opportunities to stand in solidarity with the massive number of people whose lives have been turned upside down whether by conflict or disaster. We are seeing, for example, an unprecedented number of people, climbing past 68 million this year, who have been forced out of their homes. It is estimated that 134 million people in 40 countries need assistance and only one third of the necessary funds to meet such needs have been provided half way through the year. Such year-long recognition would also pay tribute to extraordinary efforts of local, national and international aid workers who themselves face hardship, sometimes even death, to help others at their most vulnerable stage.
These thoughts ran through my mind when I visited recently with mothers and village elders in a community in Wajir County, Kenya. We sat in the shade of a spreading banyan tree and discussed Save the Children’s work last year to help them overcome malnutrition stemming from the severe drought in East Africa.
One mother, wrapped in green with a blue head scarf, pointed to her child cradled in her arms. She told us that her child was alive today only because of the cash transfer program we initiated last year enabling families to support themselves when their livestock had all perished.
The community said that things had been better last year than in the big drought of 2011 because the county had built a dispensary nearby, and we had supported it with provision of water. But the village elder and mothers had no clear answer to the question of how they would rebuild and be better able to face the next drought. They “would just do what they always do” was the response.
We all can take satisfaction in the fact that world and national leaders, together with many others, rallied in 2017 and helped stave off the specter of widespread famine in East Africa. Thanks to our collective efforts, one hears stories such as this one across the entire region. But I came away from my visit troubled: parents and children in Wajir County were getting back on their feet, but their legs were no stronger to withstand the next challenge. Should we not use this period of respite to help such communities take actions that will better prepare them to face such hardship?
Clearly the answer is a strong “yes.”
That leads me back to World Humanitarian Day, but with a new reflection. This day is a moment to acknowledge the importance of helping others in dire need and to recognize the great lengths that humanitarian workers go to provide such help. In today’s world, however, it should also be a moment to recognize that humanitarian work writ large is not just for humanitarians. It’s a moment to reaffirm that helping the more than hundred million people around the world deal in a sustainable fashion with the dire need they face must be a shared responsibility.
At a moment when crises are large-scale and protracted, this work has to involve a team effort of humanitarian aid workers, development workers as well as those involved in conflict resolution and diplomacy. It has to involve a blend of financing and approaches.
We all have a role to play in helping communities persevere, get back on their feet and face the next challenge with greater resilience. World Humanitarian Day is a day to recognize the role we must all play with humanitarians in this team effort.
To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to deliver lifesaving emergency response, visit our website.
In times of crisis, when children are at their most vulnerable, Save the Children is there. Our humanitarian aid workers are willing to stay as long as it takes to ensure children and families can recover, restore their lives and build their resilience for years to come.
Today, some of the biggest challenges for children and families are those caught in the crossfire of conflict. The children of Yemen face unrelenting hunger and suffering. Every day, our dedicated humanitarian aid workers are there to help them survive, and thrive, despite the dire situation. Jeremy Stoner, Regional Operations and Humanitarian Response Director at Save the Children Middle East and Eastern Europe Regional Office is one such humanitarian. Here is his story.
Written by Jeremy Stoner
Sana’a to Haddjah…
I left Sana’a, Yemen’s largest city, on Wednesday morning accompanied by the Director of Safety and Security. Together, we headed
for Haddjah Governorate in the north of Yemen which shares a border with Saudi Arabia. Having stopped by in Arum, where Save the Children also has a field office, to briefly the meet the staff, we climbed, seemingly incessantly, through breathtaking scenery and arrived at Haddjah City. The beauty of the area is marked by cascading terraced agriculture recently planted to catch the first of the rains rendering the mountains with a fresh green hue.
A Country at War
It is easy to be seduced by so much natural beauty but there are always reminders that Yemen is a country at war – a war which has been so devastating to 22 million people – the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. There are regular reminders of the war in Yemen at different points in the journey. While our minds are focused very much on Hodeida, where a fresh wave of violence has seen bombing escalate and deadly clashes erupt, they are also with the millions of children directly and indirectly affected by the volatile civil war, now in its fourth year.
Even a simple journey requires elaborate planning to ensure it is as safe as possible. Somewhere in Yemen and on a daily basis, we can’t actually access some of the neediest children simply because we aren’t granted permission. There are so many complications to delivering for children in Yemen but, despite that, we continue to be on the ground, working to help the most vulnerable survive and stay safe.
Arriving In Haddjah and Meeting the Team
The town of Haddjah is dispersed over a number of mountains and hillsides and has incredible views over the dramatic countryside. Save the Children opened an office here in January 2017 but had been supporting the area from other offices prior to that. The Field Manager for our Haddjah office showed good leadership during our visit and clearly manages strong relationships internally with the team and externally with local authorities. His enthusiasm and passion for the work is clear. The other members of the team also demonstrated similar levels of commitment and enthusiasm which was a great foundation for our visit to see our water, sanitation and health work in Baniqais District.
Before departing, we shared breakfast with the Director General of the National Authority for Management Work. He oversees the humanitarian efforts in Haddjah and he is clear about the issues and the needs in both Haddjah and its surrounding districts. He spoke very highly, not just of the work that we are doing on the ground, but also of the excellent relationship that the authorities and Save the Children have built.
We left the city on Thursday morning and headed down through the mountains to Baniqais District, an area considered to be the poorest within Haddjah. From the relative cool of the mountains the contrast in the valleys way below couldn’t be stronger. A searing heat greeted us as we stepped out of the vehicle to have a look at the central water tank that Save the Children has put in to serve the Health Centre and nearby houses in the local community (funded by UN OCHA). It is a serious-looking tank fed by a network of eleven wells, also supported by Save the Children. The quality of construction of these wells and the central tank itself looks good with each having a solar pump attached to feed water to the central tank near the Health Centre.
Later we visited the Health Centre itself to see more of the rehabilitation work that we have been supporting there (also UN OCHA funded). We have added a small laboratory and clinic on site for malaria which might be unusual for a Health Centre. However, the plans are to convert this Health Centre into a District Hospital to serve this desperately poor and under-resourced district. We will be able to achieve this dream with a second round of funding from OCHA which we expect shortly. Under this phase of funding, we also intend to extend our water, sanitation and health (WASH) work to cover more of the District’s water needs. This will hugely relieve the burden on women and especially girls who can be seen carrying water for 5 or 6 KMs from the nearest well to their homes. Water carrying can be the single most important contributing factor to girls dropping out of school early which is barely thinkable.
The water system was working perfectly during my visit with plenty of fresh water available throughout the clinic! We visited on a Thursday, which is the weekend in Yemen, and so the Health Centre was technically closed. However, they do operate a 24-hour service for health emergencies.
Thank goodness for this, as I saw a boy who must have been about 4 years old brought to the clinic with severe diarrhea by his brother who himself was only 10 or 11 years old. The staff examined the boy for acute diarrhea as well as cholera. They would have to send a sample to Sana’a to confirm the boy’s condition, as they don’t currently have the equipment to diagnose cholera. They do, however, have the basic equipment to test for malaria.
One of the doctors showed me the log of cases that he keeps explaining that the peak months for malaria in this region are January thru March. In March of this year alone, 1,200 malaria cases were dealt with by the Health Centre. Now, the number of cases is down to around 150 or so.
I met the pharmacist of the Health Centre who, for the time being, had a good supply of basic drugs including antibiotics and ant-malarial drugs. Just these two types of drugs save children’s lives and it feels good to know that Save the Children is supporting health centers like this across Yemen. The Centre also has a dedicated nutrition section where mothers get advice on the best food for their children, based on what is available locally, and malnourished children can get support. In this district alone, food baskets are given to 1,200 families every month with special food for children to build them back to their ideal weight.
The Health Centre management team were present and provided us with a thorough tour of the facilities. Again, people were delighted with the support that the team have been providing and enthusiastic that the Centre can become a District Hospital to serve the most deprived people in the Governorate.
Haddjahh Hospital and Pediatric Unit
We returned from the district to Haddjah City where our first stop was the hospital. It is the Authority of Al-Gamhori Hospital or the main hospital in Haddjahh. Here, Save the Children has installed an impressive solar power system on the hospital’s roof. A truly huge array of panels that provide electricity to the hospital – light and fans so that they can deliver essential tertiary services to the Governorate population (about 2.2 million). Close by to the hospital, we have renovated a large building which will become the pediatric unit for children at Governorate level. This will provide children’s health care at the Governorate level from nutrition, to curing childhood killer diseases and nutrition support to mothers and their children – can’t wait to hear about its progress once it is up and running!
Delivering in Conflict
Reflecting on Save the Children’s amazing 614 staff and numerous volunteers in the Yemen Program, it is clear that they are working under incredibly difficult circumstances but able to serve some of the neediest children in the world. Many staff remain in Haddjah during the week, only returning to their families on the weekends.
As the situation in and around Hodeidah remains tense, it is worth remembering that some of our staff and their families have come to the relative safety of Sana’a and are working from the country office as their temporary base. Our expatriate staff also do an incredible job with severe restrictions on their movement every day but still maintaining the drive and commitment to make a success of Save the Children’s Yemen Humanitarian Program.
As the Program gears up to our highest level of humanitarian response, I was left with a strong sense of hope. This is built on the excellent staff that I met both national and international combined with some really powerful work on the ground for vulnerable children and communities – excellent! The incredible thing is that, despite the war and the suffering in such a massive and complex crisis, we are absolutely delivering what is needed and are looking to do even more!
It’s been nearly a year since Hurricane Harvey tore through Texas. Hurricane Harvey’s destructive winds and historic floods displaced more than 1 million people and damaged over 200,000 homes. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in over 50 years.1
Soon after Harvey hit, a pair of Category 4 hurricanes emerged from the Atlantic. After tearing its way across a string of Caribbean islands and up through Florida, Hurricane Irma left behind a trail of devastation – with more than 4 million children at risk.2 Families were left without power and without access to clean water. Many were coping with the loss of homes while damage to schools and child care programs left children out of school.
Days later, Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico and quickly became the largest disaster to affect the island since 1928. Children and families were left without electricity, drinking water, food and fuel. Nearly 15,000 people were living in shelters and all 1,113 public schools were closed.3
Save the Children has been on the ground in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico since early days of the response and is committed to helping children and families recover through restoration of early education services, social emotional support and emergency preparedness programming. We are committed to preparing and protecting the most vulnerable among us during disaster – children – through effective preparedness, response and recovery.
Learning from Disasters
In an era when disasters are growing in frequency and impact4, we must be at the ready to meet the specific needs of children and families when the next disaster strikes. Save the Children knows that children are most vulnerable in disasters, with unique needs that require specific and purposeful planning to keep them from harm.5 But how do you prepare for a hurricane?
Being aware of where evacuation routes are and staying informed about weather conditions can save lives. Additionally, it’s important to develop a family plan that details where emergency shelters are located, how to get to your meet-up location if your family is separated and who to designate as your family contact person can help you stay all safe. More tips, including how to develop a family communication strategy are outlined in Save the Children’s Disaster Checklist for Parents.
Living with Hardships
Disasters like Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria don’t simply destroy homes, they can devastate entire communities. Flood-damaged schools are rendered unsafe for children, businesses face foreclosures, and healthcare services may disappear. Contaminated water and air pollution lay the foundation for chronic disease.
In the earliest days of the crisis, we deployed our child-friendly spaces program to provide safe and protective play areas for children at seven evacuation shelters throughout Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. In coordination with partners, we distributed tens of thousands of infant, toddler, and child-centric materials, including portable cribs, hygiene kits, strollers, diapers, infant wash basins, and more.
We’re continuing to provide emotional support to children dealing with stress and uncertainty. Plus, our education teams are working with local partners to restore programs and help ensure that children have access to learning.
Investing in the Future
2017 was an unprecedented year for hurricanes in America. Save the Children is committed to the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria and our Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico teams will continue to support recovery efforts in all three areas through 2019 at a minimum.
In addition to building back better and increasing educational opportunities for children, Save the Children continues to offer our Journey of Hope resilience program for children, parents and caregivers as well as leading preparedness programs to help children, schools and communities better prepare for the next disaster.
To learn more about Save the Children’s emergency responses and ongoing recovery work, visit our website.
YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. MAKE A DONATION TODAY TO SUPPORT OUR CHILDREN’S EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND.
Leaning, J., and Guha-Sapir, D. “Natural Disasters, Armed Conflict, and Public Health.” New England Journal of Medicine. 369:19. (2013). pp. 1936-1842. See also: Cumming-Bruce, N. “U.N. Disaster Chief Warns of More Natural Catastrophes to Come.” The New York Times. 23 Dec. 2014, 23 November 2015.↩
Emergency Preparedness: Why It Matters To You↩
“Kids love to learn,” says Save the Children’s Sarah Thompson, Director of U.S. Emergencies. “They love to bring home what they learn.” That can make children great safety and preparedness advocates if they are introduced to emergency preparedness exercises and information. “Part of what makes kids unique is actually what makes them the most powerful.
As the start of hurricane season surrounds us, Thompson’s words, as captured in a recent FEMA PrepTalk, “Youth: The Key to Building a Culture of Preparedness,” highlight how children are great mobilizers, actors, and connectors within their communities for building a culture of preparedness.
Currently, less than half of American families have an emergency plan, leaving children vulnerable when disaster strikes. Through youth preparedness education programs, children learn about how to develop an emergency plan, including how to ensemble an emergency go-to bag, and what their school’s evacuation plan is in an emergency. These exercises can help reduce the perceived fear surrounding emergencies because it gives them more understanding and control.
Often, educators and parents think discussing risks and hazards with children may be too scary for them. The truth is – teaching children basic preparedness skills and letting them know that it’s alright to be afraid in disaster situations makes them better prepared to handle those disasters. 1
“Kids like to be part of the plan,” says Thompson. “They want to help. They want to be useful. That means they can be good emergency actors and safety advocates. When their safety is at risk, they want to do something about it. When we teach kids emergency preparedness skills, they are better equipped to respond to a disaster and they are better equipped to cope with a disaster.”
Save the Children’s Prep Rally provide a fun ways for kids to participate in disaster preparedness.
Save the Children also launched a partnership with the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute to raise the visibility and inclusion of child-serving institutions like summer camps, public, private and charter schools, foster care agencies and, of course, early childhood programs, in community-wide emergency planning. This work has culminated in the launch of the Resilient Children Resilient Communities (RCRC) Toolbox, a set of resources designed to help communities plan for and better protect their youngest residents.
Children’s books provide a valuable resource as well, as kids can learn about and prepare for disasters through reading. For example, Clifford and the Big Storm by Norman Bridwell is a children’s book that puts everyone’s favorite big, red dog in the path of a hurricane and at the ready to assist when disaster strikes.
Save the Children’s Pep Rally Guide contains a list of additional children’s book titles about disasters that may can help build children’s resilience and ability to cope with crisis.
“Children are a great community link,” says Thompson. “Children are the bellwethers of resilience. After a disaster, how quickly children can cope and recover is a very good indication of how the overall community recovers.”
Save the Children’s Prep Rally curriculum was awarded the 2017 FEMA Community Preparedness Award.
For more information about Save the Children’s Emergency Response programs, visit our website.
No one understands how breastfeeding can increase a child’s chance of survival the way a mother of a malnourished child does.
Did you know that undernutrition is estimated to be associated with 2.7 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths.1 However, research estimates that breastfeeding saves the lives of over 820,000 children under 5 years old each year.
In fact, around one in eight of the young lives lost each year could be saved through breastfeeding,3 making it the most effective of all ways to prevent the diseases and malnutrition that can cause child deaths.4 Here’s why.
Breast Milk Is a Superfood
In the first hours and days of her baby’s life the mother produces milk called colostrum, the most potent natural immune system booster known to science.5 A baby who is breastfed colostrum receives significant protection against pneumonia and diarrhea, which are two major causes of deaths of children in poor countries. A child who is not breastfed is 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die from diarrhea. 2
If we can ensure that every infant is given breast milk immediately after birth, is fed only breast milk for the first six months and continues being breastfed through two years of age and beyond, we can greatly increase the chance that they will survive and go on to fulfill their potential.
Mothers Face Barriers to Breastfeeding
Additionally, because of the chronic shortage of health workers, many women in developing countries give birth at home without skilled help, or in a health facility where the health workers are over-stretched and under-trained. One third of babies are born without a skilled birth attendant present. As a result the opportunity for new mothers to be supported to breastfeed in the first few hours is lost.7
The Importance of Breastfeeding Support
A mother’s access to skilled breastfeeding support can have direct impacts on her ability and confidence to breastfeed. Breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone, particularly in emergencies. In these times of difficulty, mothers need access to support. Skilled support as well as basic interventions that support mothers and their youngest children have a direct impact on her child’s survival. Here is the story of one such mother.
Sakariye*’s mum, Amran*, remembers the first time her son was seriously ill. “He was 15 days old. First, he had problems breathing, then he got measles,” she explained. Amran* did her best to care for Sakariye*. She tried to get him medicine. She tried to breastfeed him, but he continued to struggle.
A baby’s health is closely linked to its mother’s and so it was for Sakariye* and Amran*. When drought caused food shortages in Somalia where the family lives, Amran* did what any parent would do. She put her young children first.
“I wasn’t able to breastfeed Sakariye* because I was sick and malnourished,” says Amran*. She faced real challenges in feeding her child and lost her confidence in being able to feed Sakariye*. Amran* didn’t have access to skilled breastfeeding support that could have immediately referred her for health services and supported her with information and counselling on breastfeeding.
With limited available options, Amran* began introducing water and food to supplement her breastmilk. At six-months old, Sakariye* fell ill, getting frequent diarrhea. He started vomiting and having fevers. He grew so weak he couldn’t turn over any more. Amran* knew her baby was in danger. She brought him to Save the Children’s treatment center, where he was diagnosed with malnutrition and admitted.
Today, Amran* is sitting by her son’s cot on the ward. She’s smiling because she has seen big changes in him during the last few days.
“It is good we are here,” she says. “Sakariye* has started recovering. He takes injections and other medicines. They give him some nice therapeutic milk.” Sakariye* is getting stronger and so is his mum.
Amran* is able to breastfeed again and she is looking forward to taking her son home.
All across East Africa, babies and young children are at risk of malnutrition. Every day, more than 15,000 children around the world die before reaching their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable or treatable causes.9 A large, and growing, share of them are newborn babies in the first month of life.
Save the Children works with partners at global, national, regional, and community levels to prevent malnutrition by bringing a wide-range of multi-sectoral interventions and programs to disadvantaged families.
While our main target population is mothers and children, Save the Children’s strategies also include support for fathers and other caregivers.
Save the Children’s Emergency Health and Nutrition programs focus on lifesaving maternal, newborn and child healthcare, including breastfeeding promotion, protection and skilled support.
To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to celebrate breastfeeding awareness, visit our website.
YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!
1. Nourishing the Youngest ↩
2.Edmond, K M, Zandoh, C, Quigley, M A, Amenga-Etego, S, Owusu-Agyei, S and Kirkwood, B R, ‘Delayed breastfeeding initiation increases risk of neonatal mortality’, Pediatrics, March 2006, 117(3):e380-6↩
3. Mullany, L, Katz, J, Yue M Li, Subarna, K, Khatry, S, LeClerq, C, Darmstadt, G L,and Tielsch, J M, ‘Breast-feeding patterns, time to initiation, and mortality riskamong newborns in southern Nepal’, Journal of Nutrition, March 2008, 138(3):599–603↩
4.Source: UNICEF, World Breastfeeding Conference, December 2012↩
5. Uruakpa, F, ‘Colostrum and its benefits: a review’, Nutrition Research, 2002, 22, 755–767, Department of Food Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2, Canada.↩
8. Nourishing the Youngest ↩
Community Development Assistant
Save the Children in Mali
August 6, 2018
Natene is an 11-year-old girl living with her parents in the community of Finkolo, in the southeastern part of Mali. She is the youngest amongst her two siblings, and she now happily attends the 6th grade. She enjoys reading and participating in outdoor activities and sports, like racing her bicycle. Natene and her family have been participating in sponsorship programs since 2008.
Before Save the Children came to Finkolo, very young children, usually around ages 3 – 6, whose parents were busy doing daily activities in the fields were often left to fend for themselves during the day. They would take care of themselves, occupying their time, feeding themselves and generally keeping themselves safe. A lucky few were able to stay with the grandparents nearby.
In order to help these very young children, and their parents, Save the Children implements its Early Learners program. Knowing that the emotional, social and physical development of young children has a direct impact on their development as adults, Save Children has found it necessary to invest in the very young to maximize the future well-being of themselves, their families and their community. Natene enrolled in Early Learners when she was just 3 years old.
Through these programs, children can learn basic skills to help prepare them for primary school, for example, how to hold a piece of chalk, identify numbers, letters and colors, how to play well with others in groups and how to stay focused in class. Through activities like interactive games, songs, storytelling, social interaction and outdoor play, trained teachers help make sure children grow and thrive.
In these local early learning and development centers, children are supervised and monitored by trained instructors. The goal is to allow children to grow-up while learning in a child-friendly environment. At the early learning centers children can learn how to interact with each other in the classroom setting, and to learn through educational games organized by their instructors. Children also learn good behaviors, for example how to have good personal hygiene and when and how to wash ones hands properly.
Thanks to the education she received at the Early Learners center, by the time Natene enrolled in primary school 3 years later she could easily read and write, and overall seemed brighter. Children like Natene’s brothers and sisters, who did not have the chance to benefit from the Early Learners program, encounter great difficulties in doing the same exercise Natene now enjoys and completes with ease.
Likewise, parents are able to focus on their daily tasks without fear, knowing their children are somewhere safe.
Issa and Michata, Natene’s parents, shared, “We understand the importance of education because of our daughter, Natene, who has benefited from Save the Children’s Early Learners program. Thanks to this program, she has been well protected and monitored. She was learning while playing with her peers. In the center, Natene learned the importance of handwashing and personal hygiene. She washes her hands before and after meals and after using latrine.”
Siaka, another student’s father, commented “In our community, education plays an important role. Parents are increasingly aware of the importance of education in general and of girls in particular nowadays. We noticed a lower school drop-out rate in school. Thanks to Save the Children, schools receive hygiene kits and school supplies to help children to get a quality education and remain healthy.”
Natene is happy to share her health and hygiene lessons with her family members too, further widening the impact sponsors have made in Finkolo. Simple lessons like how to wash one’s hands help reduce disease and school drop-out rates and likewise increase class attendance and learning abilities as children can learn more when they are in good health.
Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.
Undernourished children in Yemen’s district of Hodeidah are far more likely to contract cholera should the disease spread quickly in the hot summer months. A new alert from Save the Children reports conditions are ideal for cholera to spread rapidly, with almost 3,000 suspected cases reported in the first week of July across the country – the highest number seen since the start of the year.
“There is no time to waste,” Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children said in a recent statement. “Aid agencies need unimpeded humanitarian access to save lives. The international community must also step up its support so that we can prevent another outbreak of cholera.”
In Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, an estimated 2.9 million children and pregnant and lactating woman are acutely malnourished.1 Undernourished children are far more likely to contract cholera, as the disease causes violent vomiting and diarrhea. The disease is especially deadly for children under five years and those whose immune systems have been badly compromised by malnutrition.
Families in Yemen have already been through so much as war wages on for a fourth year. Children like Lina* are especially susceptible to the deadly effects of cholera.
At 8-months old, Lina* is already receiving treatment for malnutrition. Her parents brought Lina* to a Save the Children-supported health facility in Amran so a health worker could administer emergency treatment, including therapeutic food and medicine. “We are from a remote village,” Lina’s* mother explained. “We barely have anything. Lina* is in a weak state. We buy food as much as we can afford. I give them bread to manage their hunger. What can I do?”
Lina’s* family has been displaced for at least six years. Her parents have already lost two children to illness.
Since early May, the frontline of Yemen’s civil war has edged closer to Hodeidah, the main port city on Yemen’s west coast and the country’s primary entry point for goods and humanitarian aid. Save the Children is increasingly concerned that Hodeidah city could be besieged as the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition makes advances in northern Yemen and continues to consolidate gains around the south of the city. This could potentially cut off Hodeidah city, its port and its people from the rest of the country. 2
Save the Children is on the ground, working to provide children caught in the crossfire with access to food, health care, education and protection. We need your generous gift to support our efforts. Our relief in Hodeidah now includes treating children for life threatening conditions such as malaria and diarrhea. We’ve rehabilitated health centers and hospitals and provided equipment, medicines, and support to help keep the health system functioning.
To learn more about the work Save the Children has done in Yemen, visit our website.
YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. MAKE A DONATION TODAY TO SUPPORT OUR YEMEN CHILDREN’S RELIEF FUND.
Rosmery Mendoza Villca
Sponsorship Operations Assistant
Save the Children in Bolivia
July 25, 2018
“I never thought my dream would come true,” says 11-year-old Jennifer, after sharing with us the amazing experience of getting to know her sponsor in person. Over the past year and a half, she and her sponsor had grown a friendship with each letter they wrote to each other. However, Jennifer never expected they would be able to meet face-to-face.
Jennifer received news from sponsorship staff that her sponsor, Yu, would be coming to visit her – all the way from China! She eagerly waited to be able to finally hug her and let her know how grateful she is for all of her support.
Jennifer also wanted to tell Yu that her school improved a lot since Save the Children started working there, it became a place where teachers implement new teaching styles that make school fun and exciting. In this part of Bolivia, teachers used to carry out more traditional teaching methods, such as rote memorization, that weren’t appealing to students and made school feel boring and uninteresting. However since sponsorship began showing teachers a new way, classes at Jennifer’s school started to be more centered around children, incorporating games, stories, and theater to keep students engaged.
The awaited day finally arrived! And as soon as Jennifer was able to see Yu, the emotion and excitement was so great for both of them that neither were able to hold back their tears.
Yu was received at Jennifer´s school with great fanfare. Children, teachers, and parents numbering over 150 people gave her an emotional welcome. Children carried flags, welcome signs and threw flower petals to Yu while the school band played. Jennifer placed a flower garland on Yu’s neck and then took her hand and led her into the school, where they talked, played games and learned more about each other for the rest of the afternoon.
As a reminder of that wonderful day, Jennifer created a photo album of her time with Yu. “This will be my greatest treasure” she says, while she proudly shows us her photos. She loves remembering every moment of this visit, her sponsor’s embrace and all the time she spent with Yu, and fondly flips through the photo album when she wants to recall those feelings of excitement and joy.
This is a memorable experience that not many can experience. The joy and emotion a child experiences by having a faraway friend travel thousands of miles to see them leaves traces that will never be erased in their hearts. Did you know you can visit your sponsored child? Contact our team in Fairfield, CT at ChildVisits@SaveChildren.org to learn more!
Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.
Written by Victoria Zegler, Sponsorship Storyteller
It’s been almost two years now that I have been working with Save the Children – traveling to eleven different countries and a multitude of communities to document firsthand, through photo and video, the positive impact being made by sponsors. During my recent trip to Mali, I had the opportunity to visit a very special village, one that is just beginning to see the impact being made by Save the Children. Why was it so special, you ask? Because, in my opinion, the beauty of a community lies within the people.
My first impression upon entering the small village was of a young boy standing across from me. He was wearing an oversized bright orange sweatshirt, and he was smiling at me.
I smiled back, and he giggled.
Naturally, I took an immediate liking to him because, as an outsider visiting remote locations, a child’s initial reaction to my presence is usually to shy away. After exchanging pleasantries with the school headmaster and teachers, which is a common courtesy in Mali, I had time to meet with some of the sponsored children and ask them to share their stories with me.
As I began writing down interview questions in my notebook, I heard voices entering the classroom. As I looked up, there he was! The boy in the orange sweatshirt. I learned his name was Arouna and he was with his mother, Matou. After introducing myself to both, I began the interview with introductory questions, to get to know Arouna and the small village he calls home.
At one point, I asked Arouna, “What is your favorite thing about sponsorship?”
He replied, “Getting my photo taken, because it means I have a chance at making a new friend.”
It was at that moment I knew I wanted to be one of Arouna’s new friends. There was something about him – he seemed so very special.
During our interview, I learned that Arouna is 13 years old and in sixth grade. His father passed away last year leaving the family with very little to survive. Arouna’s sisters went to stay with other family members and his older brother Mamarou, who is only one year older than Arouna, dropped out of school to work in the cotton fields, to provide food for their family.
Now, Arouna is the only child in his family who is attending school.
Following the interview, I was able to capture moments of Arouna learning in the classroom, playing with friends and spending time with his family. Over the course of the two days I spent in his small village, Arouna and I created our own handshake, learned some English words together like ‘book,’ and he even helped me operate my camera! Although we weren’t able to verbally communicate without a translator, we formed a bond. I was so deeply touched by Arouna’s story and his family’s hardship. I felt a strong desire to tell him that I believed in him. I was afraid that if Arouna’s family continued to struggle, that his fate would end up the same as his brothers.
Before I left Arouna’s community, I gave him a red leather-bound notebook to take to school. On the inside cover of the book I wrote him a note in his local language, Bambara.
Never give up on your dreams.
You can achieve anything you put your mind to.
Best of luck to you in your future.
As a sponsor, it is important for me to let children know that they have someone on the other end of the world who believes in them. As sponsors, we provide hope and inspiration to so many children like Arouna. These words are something they will cherish for a lifetime, allowing them to believe in themselves and succeed.