Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Children Following an Emergency

The mental health needs of children following an emergency are immense. Stress caused as a result of lost homes and lost communities can have a widespread, deep and enduring impact on children’s mental well being. 

As reports surface on the damage caused by Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 hurricane at the time it made landfall in Florida, Save the Children is actively working to protect vulnerable children and provide immediate support for families affected by the storm by distributing critical supplies. Our long-term response efforts will focus on providing much-needed emotional support to children as well.

Despite heightened vulnerability, children’s mental health needs are historically underrepresented in preparedness efforts in both public health and medical communities.[i]

Save the Children knows this is unacceptable.

Through the generous support of our donors, we are working to provide schools and communities with structured programs designed to support the emotional development of children following an emergency.

Here’s why it’s so important:

Children have unique needs that make them the most vulnerable in a disaster. From their small bodies being at greater risk of illness or harm during an emergency to their dependency on routine to help them make sense of their surroundings and feel comforted, children have the potential to suffer the most following an emergency.

The long-term negative impact of a disaster can be mitigated. With some basic training, parents, teachers and caregivers can help protect children from further harm following an emergency. Providing reassurance and validation of emotions while working to normalize routines and returning to learning can all work to reduce the mental harm caused to children.

However, many parents may not know how to address these needs. After Hurricane Katrina, key findings documented in American Medical Association’s Journal of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness found that while one-third of children were reported to have been diagnosed with at least one mental health problem, fewer than 50% of parents were able to access needed professional services. The major barriers that parents reported included not knowing where to go for help, lack of insurance coverage for treatment, no available providers and lack of transportation or child care for other children in the family. [ii] 

Children’s well-being depends, in large part, on the stability and well-being of their parents and caregivers. Children understand and process events based on messages they receive from those responsible for them. Helping parents and caregivers to process their experiences and develop resources for coping is the first step in increasing their ability to support children. By attending first to their own emotional needs, parents and caregivers can be more fully present and attentive to the needs of children.  

Children communicate stress differently. There is no one way in which children express worries and fears. Each one may communicate upset feelings in different ways. It’s important to recognize both the physical symptoms and behavioral changes that can mask trauma. Sleep disorders, irritability and acting out area also ways in which children may communicate stress.

A donation to Save the Children’s Hurricane Michael Children’s Relief Fund will help support the urgent needs of children and families. Please donate now.

To learn more about Save the Children’s work in Florida and across the United States, please visit: savethechildren.org/USA.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

 

 

 

[i] A Child’s Health Is the Public’s Health: Progress and Gaps in Addressing Pediatric Needs in Public Health Emergencies 

[ii] Abramson, D., Park, YS., Stehling-Ariza, T., and Redlener, I. “Children as Bellwethers of Recovery: Dysfunctional Systems and the Effects of Parents, Households, and Neighborhoods on Serious Emotional Disturbance in Children After Hurricane Katrina.” Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. 4. (2010). pp. S17-S27.

A Case for Gender Equality on this Day and Every Other

Written by Carolyn Miles

Today, on International Day of the Girl, the world celebrates the many things a girl can be – a doctor, an artist, a judge. Lean in. Dream big. Those are the empowering messages we all tell the girls in our lives.

But despite remarkable progress in some quarters, gender inequality and disempowerment still persist and are a root cause of many barriers to sustainable development around the world. Discrimination against girls critically impacts children’s ability to survive, learn, and live a life free from violence.

Without a strong start in life, a girl’s future is likely to be determined for her. Gender inequality leaves entire regions behind: according to the United Nations, Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses US $95 billion per year due to gender inequality. As a universal human right and a means to overcoming poverty and discrimination, gender equality must remain at the center of our U.S. foreign policy and development assistance.

The journey of nations to meet their own development needs depends on breaking down the barriers to enhance powerful contributions of women and girls. To improve development outcomes everywhere, the U.S. government must invest in gender analysis to look at the differences between progress for girls and boys. Only then can we identify and work to transform the root causes of gender inequality, including addressing discriminatory social norms and institutions, as well as advocating for and fostering legislation and policies that promote gender equality.

Child marriage is a good example of a harmful practice that affects not only girls but whole societies.  Around 1 in 5 women and girls in the world today were married as children – 1 in 3 of those were married before the age of 15. To a policymaker seeking to put an end to this, legal interventions may seem like the answer. But while they’re a key piece of the puzzle, new analysis by Save the Children shows that a startling 51 million child marriages could be averted by achieving universal secondary education for girls.1  This is what putting gender equality at the center of all areas of foreign policy and international assistance looks like: Reducing the harmful ways in which gender inequality combines with other factors to make it so much harder for girls to reach their potential.

The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) need robust funding and staffing to continue making critical investments in peace and security, economic development, education, nutrition, healthcare, and more. But if gender equality and women’s and girl’s empowerment aren’t at the center of all of these, the results just won’t be what we all want for children.

USAID has found that when 10 percent more girls go to school, a nation’s GDP increases, on average, by 3 percent. That’s something they wouldn’t have seen without a gender equality approach. Without sex- and age-disaggregated data, they wouldn’t even know that of the 25 million children currently out of primary school around the world, 15 million are girls.

Without gender analysis, they would overlook many of the reasons: boys’ education is often prioritized, girls face an increased risk of violence between home and school and from their teachers, and girls who marry before they reach adulthood almost always abandon their formal education.

Salam, pictured here with her young son Mesfin, was able to leave the abusive marriage she was forced to enter at age 13. Save the Children’s “Keep it Real Program” supported her return to school, where she rose to the top of her class.

But what about the other 134 million girls who will be married as children between 2018 and 2030 if the world doesn’t act? They too can become teachers, journalists, and entrepreneurs, but both research and experience tell us they’re more likely to become mothers, before their bodies are ready for it, or experience domestic violence. An investment in gender equality and girls’ empowerment yields tremendous results – not only in the individual lives of women and girls, but for the future we all share.

That’s why we at Save the Children have put gender equality at the top of our agenda.  On this International Day of the Girl, tell the U.S. government to do the same.

Share this post, check out our many others on Twitter under #SheCanBe, #EndChildMarriage, and #DayOfTheGirl, or join us in taking action!

 

1. Working Together to End Child Marriage 

Day of the Girl

By Olivia Schilder, Sponsorship Retention Marketing

Every day throughout the world, girls and women face discrimination solely because of their gender. They are forced to leave school to work, exposing them to dangerous situations at a young age. Many parents believe that if girls become educated, they will no longer perform household chores and will inevitably delay marriage. Because of this, it is customary that girls leave school as early as 7th and 8th grade. With the right kind of help and guidance, girls can overcome gender discrimination and change the course of their lives.

Adolescence is a time when children begin to shape their views and behaviors on the world around them. Thanks to our child sponsors, we implemented our groundbreaking Choices, Voices and Promises program in Nepal. This innovative program helps young girls and boys discover alternative, positive views of conventional gender roles and behaviors. Empowering youth is an approach to community development based on the belief that children can be actively involved in their communities, speak out about issues, communicate openly with one another and help solve community problems. We teach children advocacy skills and encourage leaders to mobilize resources to help create a more child-friendly environment. By giving children a voice, we are building the foundation for a future generation of thoughtful leaders.  

16-year-old Sonu holds onto her school textbook inside of her home.

Sonu first heard of Choices, Voices and Promises in 2015 while she was enrolled in the adolescent program at her school and quickly filled out an application to join. Initially, Sonu’s parents were hostile and questioned her choice about wanting to have involvement in the program. After some time observing Sonu within the program, they began to participate and were given videos to watch of parents with their children within their own community. The videos portrayed instances like a father helping his daughter with her chores so she has more time to study. It was after this that their mindset began to change.

Before the Choices, Voices and Promises program came into Sonu’s life, she was afraid to ask her older brother Ganesh for help with the household chores. She would wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning to begin her day. Sonu began to find her voice through the program and felt more at ease speaking to   Ganesh about needing his help around the house. Ganesh has learned that simply helping with a few chores truly benefits Sonu’s future; he now helps his sister with the laundry and washes the dishes while she is at school during the day. “My hope for my sister’s future is that she completes her education, as I did not complete mine.” Sonu now feels comfortable speaking to her father and brother about her studies and her future. “Without the Choices, Voices and Promises program, my life would be very different. I would not be able to express myself as I do now or address my father and brother. I would also have been married by now, only completing my studies until grade 8 or 9.”

“I want to spread awareness to help girls like myself pursue their dreams.” – Sonu

Sonu currently attends 11th grade and has one more year left of school. After school, she hopes to study to become a social worker. “I wish to continue my studies to become a social worker because there are so many girls who don’t have the opportunity to pursue their education. I want to spread awareness to help girls like myself pursue their dreams. My hopes and dreams for girls in my community are that they are sent to school. I want everyone to have an education.”

A Story of Survival Following the Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami

Photography by Junaedi Uko 

At least 600,000 children have been affected after a catastrophic 7.5 magnitude earthquake and 20-foot-high tsunami struck Indonesia on September 28. 

“Many children are in shock and traumatized, alone and afraid,” said Child Protection Advisor Zubedy Koteng from Palu, the epicenter of the crisis. “Young children searching for surviving relatives will have witnessed and lived through horrific experiences which no child should ever have to see or undergo.”

Nine-year-old Puri* is one such child. Trapped under rubble for five hours, Puri was found and rescued by her brother and a group of other but suffered a serious head injury. Here is her story. 

Puri*, 9, with her brother, Dimas*, 33, await an emergency plane in Palu, Indonesia to take them to Makassar for treatment. Photo Credit: Junaedi Uko / Save the Children.

The ground beneath Puri’s house began to shake just as she was preparing her evening prayer. The pillars of the house fell on her head before Puri had a chance to realize what was happening around her. She cannot remember anything after that.

“Our house, where Puri was found,” explained Puri’s brother Dimas,* “shifted almost 50 meters from its original location. Very few houses remain intact. I didn’t expect anything to be saved at that time. Puri’s survival was a miracle.”

When Dimas found Puri she was almost unconscious, buried face downwards in the rubble. She had been using her one free hand to make noise and attract attention. 

“Some people who were also looking for their families heard her cries,” said Dimas.

Miraculously, Puri’s cries for help were heard. She was found alive but was badly hurt and suffering from a serious head injury.

When Save the Children spoke to Puri and her brother, the siblings were at Mutiara Airport in Palu, awaiting an emergency plane to take them to Makassar for treatment. 

Save the Children, working through its partner Yayasan Sayangi Tunas Cilik (YSTC), has delivered vital aid on a military plane to Palu.

“I can’t overstate how much this aid is needed by children and families impacted by the disaster,” Zubedy Koteng, Child Protection Specialist with Save the Children’s national entity in Indonesia, said.

“The earthquake and tsunami cut off many transport routes in this remote area. We sent out three teams, on different routes, with as many supplies as they could carry to ensure we could reach people as fast as we could but the journey has taken days. We are relieved that these much-needed supplies have arrived by plane and are starting to get through.

“Children urgently need shelter and essential hygiene items to prevent the spread of diseases and contamination as families are packed into evacuation centers with limited supply of clean water. We’re also sending school kits to ensure their education isn’t interrupted any further.”

Save the Children has been working in Indonesia since 1976, and has a long history responding to humanitarian disasters in the country, including the recent earthquakes in Lombok and the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

*Names changed for protection

 

To learn more about Save the Children’s work in Indonesia and how to help, please visit: savethechildren.org/Indonesia.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

 

 

help-for-indonesia-earthquake-tsunami-victims

7 Facts About the History of Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Indonesia

help-for-indonesia-earthquake-tsunami-victimsSave the Children knows from years of experience that children are often the most vulnerable when disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis hit. In 2004, we mounted one of the largest humanitarian recovery efforts in Aceh following the Boxing Day Tsunami. We have spent the two decades since investing in the region to better prepare the children of Indonesia and their families for natural disasters. 

Find out seven things you need to know about emergency response efforts in Indonesia

1. Indonesia is the world’s largest country comprised solely of islands, a fact that puts the delicate islands constantly at risk of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and tsunamis.

2. Widespread poverty, political instability and poor resource distribution contribute to the region’s fragile infrastructure, which is why Save the Children has been working in Indonesia for more than three decades.

3. On December 26, 2004, an underwater earthquake off the coast of Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people. The 100-foot-tall wall of water devastated the coastline of nine countries on the Indian Ocean and thousands of communities were left in ruins. Save the Children’s dedicated emergency responders were there, helping 276,000 survivors recover.

4. On December 7, 2014, a deadly 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra. In Pidie Jaya district, one of the two worst affected, an estimated 25% to 30% of schools sustained damage, with at least seven schools totally destroyed. Save the Children responded, setting up temporary classrooms and establishing child friendly spaces so that so children could have a place to be safe and engage in educational play while their parents began the recovery process.

5. Today, Save the Children’s teams are working around the clock to help protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families in the wake of a 7.5 earthquake and tsunami that hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi on September 28.

The magnitude quake triggered a tsunami with waves reportedly up to three meters high near the island’s capital Palu. Thousands are feared dead, with a confirmed death toll at 1,400 and rising. Widespread destruction is evident and hundreds of thousands of children remain at grave risk.

Save the Children is providing emergency supplies and hygiene kits to families affected by the quake and are planning to set up Child Friendly Spaces in shelters for those who have lost their homes, to ensure families and children are safe and have the supplies they need, like diapers and cribs.

While we still don’t know the full scale of the crisis yet, we do know it is immense and have grave fears for the families in this area.

6. 2004, 2016 and now 2018 all mark historic dates around devastating tsunamis and earthquakes in Indonesia. Many thousands of children lost their lives and many surviving children lost one or both parents. Children – especially those living in poverty – are the most vulnerable victims of a disaster and its aftermath. Their families are uprooted and their normal routines are often destroyed.

7. As Save the Children continues to respond with emergency assistance, we need your help now more than ever. Your generous gift can help protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families. 

To learn more about Save the Children’s response and how you can help, please visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

 

help-for-indonesia-earthquake-tsunami-victims

Save the Children’s Emergency Response Efforts at Work in Indonesia

Photography by Karin Beate Nosterud 

On December 26, 2004, an underwater earthquake off the coast of Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people. The 100-foot-tall wall of water devastated the coastline of nine countries on the Indian Ocean and thousands of communities were left in ruins.

Save the Children was there, providing assistance to some 276,000 survivors—the largest relief effort in our history.1 

“What could have been a follow-up catastrophe to the tsunami in terms of malaria, typhoid, cholera or pneumonia, never happened because people gave generously for medical supplies, shelters and care for children and that made all the difference. Did it really save those children? The answer is yes,” said Charles MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children at the time.

An 8-year-old boy is surrounded by debris and destruction following the 2004 tsunami that struck Indonesia on December 26.

Today, our commitment to the children of Indonesia remains as strong as ever, as we urgently work to help protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families in the wake of a 7.5 earthquake and tsunami that hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi on September 28.

The magnitude quake triggered a tsunami with waves reportedly up to three meters high near the island’s capital Palu. Thousands are feared dead, with a confirmed death toll at 1,400 and rising. Widespread destruction is evident and hundreds of thousands of children remain at grave risk. 

Power outages and landslides have blocked key roads and rendered the most impacted areas, including Dongala, out of reach for now. Other vital infrastructure including the airport in Palu have been badly damaged. Many children and families are sleeping outside because their homes were damaged and aftershocks continue.

While we still don’t know the full scale of the crisis yet, we do know it is immense and have grave fears for the families in this area.

“Our team is responding by providing emergency supplies and hygiene kits to families affected by the quake,” said Save the Children’s Program Implementation Director, Tom Howells from Jakarta. “We are also planning to set up Child Friendly Spaces in shelters for those who have lost their homes, to ensure families and children are safe and have the supplies they need, like diapers and cribs.”2 

As Save the Children continues to respond with emergency assistance, we need your help now more than ever. Your generous gift can help protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families.

To learn more about Save the Children’s response and how you can help, please visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

 

1. Results for Children in 2005 

2. Concerns for Children After Powerful Magnitude 7.5 Earthquake and Tsunami Hits Indonesia’s Sulawesi 

A Father’s Impossible Decision: Run to Safety or Seek Out Medical Care

The situation for Yemen’s children is nothing short of dire. Some 11.3 million children in Yemen are facing a triple threat of bombs, hunger and disease.

The journey for those trying to flee, however, is often no safer: families have to brave minefields and airstrikes and are forced to cross areas of active fighting, all in a bid to escape the embattled governorate. There have been 18,000 airstrikes since March 2018, killing 2,398 children and injuring countless more.1  Civilian casualties in the most impacted districts more than doubled in the start of July as the fighting moved to more populated areas, according to the UN’s Refugee Agency.

 Children’s injuries incurred as a result of airstrikes are often complex and require a specialist treatment. Families on the run need to sometimes make the impossible decision of whether to continue to flee towards safety or stop and seek out medical care, if they can afford it. 

Eight-year-old Razan* was severely wounded in one eye after a bomb exploded nearby as she and her father tried to leave. She was in agony for days and her family feared she was permanently blinded.

“When Razan was injured, the airstrike was just yards away from us. The airstrike hit an armored vehicle nearby and flying shrapnel hit Razan in the eye. I tried to get us to a safe place to have a look at her eye, and then I bandaged her up with my shawl. Then we had to carry on moving,” said Samir,* Razan’s father.

“Razan had to go five days without treatment because I didn’t have enough money. After five days I asked Razan whether she could still see through her injured eye. She lied and said yes. We went upstairs, and I asked her to count the birds outside, while I covered her good eye. She said there were two, but there were four.”

Razan eventually reached a specialist hospital, where Save the Children referred her for emergency surgery that should restore her eyesight.

Thanks to support from Save the Children’s donors, Razan received the special medical care she needed. But there are many more children like her who are not getting the care they need.

*Names changed for protection

 

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to help children in Yemen, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

 

1. OCHA 

what happens to children after a hurricane

Life After a Hurricane: How Save the Children Supports Children and Families During Disasters and their Aftermath

Before Hurricane Florence hit, save the Children deployed our emergency response team and pre-positioned essential child-focused supplies designed to help vulnerable children during disasters and their aftermath. Our teams are committed to supporting the children and families in their long-term recovery, as the emotional distress of evacuating home and being out of school can take its toll on children. 

As the roads in North Carolina re-open after Hurricane Florence, our humanitarian relief experts continue to assess the storm’s impact on children and provide assistance to those in shelters – even reaching New Bern which saw record flooding. We continue to work tirelessly to address the needs of thousands of families who were forced to evacuate their homes, fearing the worst.

In post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans in 2005, Save the Children developed Journey of Hope, a child-informed program that draws on children’s strengths to support their resilience. Journey of Hope has helped thousands of children and their caregivers affected by the 2017 hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico cope with loss, fear and stress. Here is the story of one such family. 

After Hurricane Harvey, fifty-four counties in Texas were declared a state of disaster. Rainfall was measured in feet. Two more devastating U.S. hurricanes would follow, all within a month of one another. Each of them leaving children and families reeling. Families like Alexia and her son DeAndre. 

As Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Alexia and her 10-year-old son, DeAndre, watched the water levels rise and cover the floors in their apartment. When the bathroom ceiling caved in, Alexia knew they needed to go, but she worried about her son being stuck in a shelter without the space to be a kid.

At the shelter, Alexia brought DeAndre to our child-friendly space, where he soon made friends, played games, created art and went on field trips. Alexia says this allowed him to disconnect from the stress of the storm and gave her peace of mind knowing that he was safe and happy. Our staff stood by Alexia as she made arrangements to get out of the shelter and helped her ask the right questions to ensure they weren’t forgotten.

And one year post-Harvey, DeAndre unlocks the door to their new, fully furnished apartment. He has his own room and a playground around the corner. “If it wasn’t for Save the Children, we wouldn’t be in an apartment. We would probably be either moved around to a different place from the shelter or we would be out on the street,” says Alexia.

With your support, 261,170 children and adults from the Texas coast to the greater Houston area have directly or indirectly benefited from our relief and recovery programs.1  Additionally, nearly 39,000 children and adults from the Florida Keys to Jacksonville impacted by Hurricane Irma have directly and indirectly benefited from Save the Children-supported programs made possible through the generosity of our donors.2  In Puerto Rico, more than 116,000 children and adults have benefited from our Hurricane Maria relief and recovery programs.3 

Today, more than 1 million people in coastal areas of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate their homes as Hurricane Florence pounds the coast. How many children and families will watch the water levels rise and cover the floors the way Alexia and DeAndre did when a hurricane struck their home? 

Save the Children needs your generous gift to help protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families.

DONATE NOW TO THE HURRICANE FLORENCE CHILDREN’S RELIEF FUND

 

1. Hurricane Harvey: One-Year Report 

2. Hurricane Irma: One-Year Report 

3. Hurricane Maria: One-Year Report 

The Irrevocable Harm of Indefinite Detention of Immigrant and Refugee Children  

This post originally posted by Save the Children Action Network.
Written by Megan McKenna, Senior Director of Communications and Community Engagement at KIND

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) provides legal support services to unaccompanied and separated children, working to ensure that no child appears in immigration court without high quality legal representation. Earlier this summer, Save the Children initiated a partnership with KIND to support their critical work serving children and families at the U.S.-Mexico border.  

harm of indefinite detention on immigrant refugee children

“Please don’t forget about us.”
-Unaccompanied child held in custody in California

The prolonged and indefinite detention of immigrant and refugee children in detention facilities – which the Trump Administration is proposing in new regulations – is without question an attack on the core values of the United States and will fundamentally change the way the U.S. treats vulnerable children.

The detention of children – regardless of the conditions – harms them in the short and long-term in profound ways. Studies have found that immigrant children held in detention are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, development delays, and attention deficit disorder. How deeply children are affected and the long-term impact depends on a variety of factors such as the age of the child, the trauma the child experienced previously, how long the child was held and under what conditions, and the child’s situation in relation to the child’s parent or caregiver.

In the best of circumstances, immigrant and refugee children have a difficult time understanding even the basics of the U.S. immigration system as they are new to the United States and know little to nothing about U.S. systems, law, or processes. They most likely do not speak English. They are scared of people in uniform, terrified that they will be sent back to the very harm they fled and carry a tremendous amount of uncertainty for their future.  

As a KIND beneficiary in Los Angeles said, “I was all alone. I was scared and I didn’t know what would happen to me. I didn’t understand the guards and that made them angry.”

Prolonged detention compounds any trauma immigrant and refugee children suffered in their home country that caused them to flee, or on the life-threatening journey to the United States. Most KIND clients have been traumatized in some way, many as a result of gang violence, including sexual and gender-based violence in their home country. These root causes of migration and the deeply personal emotional scarring they cause can become secondary to the damaging emotional and psychological impact of prolonged detention, thus impairing a child’s ability to make a case for U.S. protection.

Detention of children is unnecessary. Alternatives to detention have been used in the past and been very successful.

The findings of two doctors within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which has investigated DHS facilities, perhaps say it best. They wrote in a July 2018 letter to Congress, “In our professional opinion, there is no amount of programming that can ameliorate the harms created by the very act of confining children to detention centers. Detention of innocent children should never occur in a civilized society, especially if there are less restrictive options, because the risk of harm to children simply cannot be justified.”

Or, as a girl described during her time in detention, “[The officer] told me to stop crying….I tried, but I couldn’t stop.”

To learn more about how Save the Children is providing direct assistance to migrant children and their families, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

Gerald Gets Healthy

By Sam Labu

Community Sponsorship Officer

Save the Children in Uganda

September 14, 2018

Gerald is a 10-year-old boy from Kakiri sub-county in the Wakiso District of Uganda. He is in 3rd grade and is an active member of his school health club, which was set up through the sponsorship program in his community. The goal of this club is to provide an avenue for children to learn and participate in improving their personal health and hygiene.

In Uganda, school pupils face a number of challenges related to poor hygiene and sanitation. Before Save the Children started working in Gerald’s community, children did not have access to safe drinking water at school.

Drinking contaminated water from the nearby wells and harvested rainwater was the order of the day for pupils. This caused many diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, and typhoid which caused students to miss school a lot. “I used to miss school because of diarrhea and stomach aches, I didn’t know that it was because of the water we were drinking at school,” says Gerald.

Through Save the Children’s Healthy Girls and Boys program, our goal is to improve the health and education status of children to enable them to learn and develop to their full potential. School health clubs were set-up in every school reached by sponsorship to empower the pupils with the knowledge to keep themselves healthy. In Uganda, we’ve reached over 80 schools with this type of health education program, including mentoring and training for nearly 3,000 girls and boys.

The pupils and their teachers as well were educated on the dangers of drinking unsafe water. Along with that, access to safe drinking water was provided to the schools. For example, sponsorship provided SODIS devices, which stands for solar disinfection of water, and safe water tanks to store boiled drinking water in. The teachers in each of the schools were also trained on how to incorporate health education into the classroom, for example teaching children how to use and maintain the new water tanks. Gerald’s school received spouts which use a ceramic water filter – a type of filter which purifies and disinfects water using a layer of silver nitrate.

Gerald, as a member of his school health club, has also learned how to guide the other students in where to access the clean water and encourages them to drink it, to keep themselves hydrated and avoid needing to drink from the dirty water sources. “I always remind my classmates to drink the safe water from the spout because it will help them not fall sick and miss school.” says Gerald. He and his fellow club members are also responsible for keeping their school compound and classrooms clean and orderly, as well as maintaining handwashing facilities at school and assisting the younger students in washing their hands.

With access to safe drinking water in the schools, the pupils no longer miss school because of diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, and typhoid. They are healthier and more eager to learn.

“Thanks to Save the Children, I am healthy, I go to school every day and I am working hard to be a lawyer in the future.” Gerald said with a hopeful grin.

With support from Save the Children through the school health clubs, Gerald and other pupils know the dangers of drinking unsafe water and are empowered to be great advocates for better sanitation and hygiene practices in the community.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.