After #NepalQuake, Children Speak Out

 

Headshot_kjzKrista Zimmerman

Associate Director, International Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy

Washington, D.C.

On April 25, a devastating earthquake hit the country of Nepal. It damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and affected more than three million children, causing immeasurable trauma and loss. Now, three months later, communities are slowly but surely picking up the pieces and starting to build back. The children of Nepal, in particular, are thinking about the future and have important advice to share with those who want to help.

In the earliest days of the relief effort, as responders grappled with moving large volumes of food and relief supplies into Nepal, four child-focused relief agencies (Save the Children, UNICEF, World Vision and Plan International) decided it was also important for the world to hear directly from the children. So we talked to 1,838 children (920 girls/918 boys) during those hectic first months. They were between the ages of 8 and 18 years old and they were eager to share their needs, fears, hopes and dreams. We asked them how the earthquake had affected their lives and solicited their ideas about what would be needed to help them recover.

The first thing they told us is that they were scared. They felt distressed about the damage that happened and anxious about their futures. They said they urgently need psychosocial support and child-specific protection alongside the more obvious relief efforts focused on food, water and shelter.

They also talked about how important it is to them to return to school as soon as possible. And not just any school, safe schools, where the structures are sound, where they feel protected and where they can concentrate on learning.

What I found most striking from the children’s sharing, however, was the strong focus on becoming better prepared for future disasters and ensuring that homes and schools would be built back safer. Even in the midst of tremendous immediate need, the children are already taking the long view.  

Child drawing earthquake

In crises, it can become easy for adults to feel like we just can’t make the time to listen to children. But children have an important stake in the future, they know that and, consequently, often have a unique ability to cut to the chase on critical priorities. In Nepal, this is just some of what they have to say:

“I don’t feel like going to school because the buildings are completely damaged and it looks scary.” - Girl in Ramechhap 

“I want to see earthquake-resistant houses built in flat areas with trees planted. People should consult with engineers before beginning to build."  - Boy in Sindhupalchowk

“I still have hope. For now we can study under tarps and I believe that after a year the school building will be reconstructed, so I won’t stop chasing my dreams."  – Girl in Nuwakot

“We want to have permanent health camps in our village with mobile doctors and health workers. – Girl in Ramechhap

Now, Save the Children and our partners are ensuring their voices are heard not just in Nepal but also around the world. This week, we’re sharing their messages with the U.S. Congress, the President and everyone else who wants to lend a helping hand to Nepal in its hour of need.

If you agree that it’s important to listen to children of Nepal, please help spread their messages on social media starting today. #NepalQuake #ChildrenConsultation  

 

 

The Government Is Leaving Children at Risk — Are You?

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This blog was first published on The Huffington Post.

 

It’s been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina revealed how ill-prepared our nation was to protect children from disaster. New research shows that far too little has changed.

 

Most of the recommendations made by the National Commission on Children and Disasters after a deeply-flawed Katrina response remain unfulfilled, a new Save the Children report finds.

 

That’s unacceptable. It’s also extremely dangerous for our nation’s children. Their lives and futures are at stake. To this day, child survivors still carry deep emotional scars from their Katrina experience.

 

Take siblings John and Johnisha. They were 14 and 15 when Katrina barreled down on New Orleans. Their struggling family had no car to leave the city, so the pair joined an aunt taking refuge in the Superdome.

 

For five days, they witnessed death, heard accounts of rape and feared going into blood-streaked bathrooms. They were hungry and could find no milk, diapers or medical care for their ill baby cousin. They feared their parents had drowned and had to talk their desperate aunt out of committing suicide. John stood guard all night to make sure a leering man didn’t attack his sister.

 

When they finally evacuated, the siblings could not find their parents for weeks.

 

“I was lost for years, especially after losing my grandparents,” Johnisha says now. “It was a lot that I had to deal with mentally as a kid.”

 

The good news is, thanks to the work of the commission, the United States now has sheltering standards designed to protect children. Those simply didn’t exist before. But our experience from Hurricane Sandy and other recent disasters shows that much work remains to make sure those standards are applied consistently.

 

Unfortunately, the nation is much farther from ensuring many other protections children need in disasters. Our nation’s emergency pediatric transport and care capacity, access to mental health services for traumatized children, and federal preparedness and recovery support for schools and child care centers all remain inadequate.

 

Nearly four-fifths of the commission’s 81 final recommendations remain unfulfilled. Congress and the President need to finish the job before the next massive disaster strikes.

 

In the meantime, families must do everything they can to protect their children. That starts with ensuring they can stay connected if disaster strikes.

 

Hurricane Katrina separated families, leading to 5,000 missing children reports. John, Johnisha and many younger, extremely vulnerable children were not reunited with their parents for weeks.

 

Yet, a recent survey of American parents shows that most families don’t have agreed-upon meeting places or out-of-town emergency contacts.

 

If an emergency separated your family today, would you be able to quickly reach your children? What if local communications were down?

 

Take a minute to create emergency contact cards for your children. Keep one copy and put the other in your child’s bag or wallet. It can give you piece of mind and serve as a lifeline to your child during emergencies.

 

As we remember the devastating toll of Hurricane Katrina this summer, we all have a role to play in keeping children safe. Disasters can strike anywhere at any time, and — unlike with Hurricane Katrina — we may not always get advanced notice.

 

Download the report and take action to Stay Connected at www.SavetheChildren.org/Katrina10, and watch real stories here:

 

Kariwang: Favorite Dish of West Sumba

Modjo

Modjo Kale Jami

Program Assistant

Jakarta, Indonesia

July 7, 2015

 

The familiar smell of kariwang, or mashed cassava leaves, permeates the air. The appealing smell combines the cassava leaves with a blend and marination of coconut, basil, and lime. I have been accustomed to this smell all my life. It is my family’s favorite dish. I can hardly resist the smell and temptation while preparing it. 

Food

The favorite dish of West Sumba, Kariwang

Mashed cassava leaves, or kariwang in the Wanukaka dialect of West Sumba, Indonesia, is a favorite dish of most Sumbanese families. Eating kariwang is at the same time a moment of togetherness. Sumbanese people eat kariwang during family events while trading stories. As a native Sumbanese, I have been eating kariwang all my life and have always taken pleasure in the joy the food and the moment brings. If I was away and felt homesick, I cooked kariwang to bring in a warm feeling that could refresh and heal.

The cooking of kariwang is easy. Most women in Sumbanese families know how to cook this favorite dish. The main ingredient, cassava leaves, can be found in the backyard of most family houses. Spices can also either be obtained from one’s backyard or bought from a nearby traditional market. Onion, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, curcuma, lime, coconut milk, and basil are among the spices used to produce the irresistable smell. 

Cooking

Preparing the favorite dish of West Sumba.

The first step is smashing the cassava leaves. They are pounded with a wooden mortar and pestle together with onion, garlic, salt, and a handful of rice, until all the ingredients are evenly mixed and become juicy.

The next step is to prepare for two types of coconut milk. The first is thicker, having more oil content, and the second is more dilluted, having more water content. Light the fire and get your cooking pot ready, then pour in the dilluted coconut milk and wait for a few minutes until it becomes warm. Next, add the raw mixture of kariwang into the cooking pot and wait until it boils.

When it starts to boil, stir and lower the fire. At the same time, add basil, curcuma, galangal, lemongrass, and lime to the mixture. Thin slices of dried fish can also be used. Then, pour in the thicker coconut milk. Let the ingredients marinate for a while and then keep stiring. When the color of the coconut milk turns grayish, the mixture blends into one and the rich smell permeates the air. The kariwang is then ready to be served.

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Still There Are Many Miles I Have to Go!

Desa

Desalegn Mulugeta

West Showa Impact Area Manager

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

July 2, 2015

 

As a West Showa Impact Area Manager, I have the privilege of visiting different program sites and sharing in the lives of the disadvantaged children there. As part of my routine visits, I traveled to West Welega, Mendi. This visit opened up an opportunity for me to see the school where I myself had completed grades 1 through 8. Since I had not seen the school for 28 years, I decided not to miss the opportunity. 

Tables

Desalegn in his classroom in West Welega, Mendi.

It was with mixed feelings that I entered the compound. Inside one of the classrooms, I was taken back to an event that happened when I was in grade 3. I used to travel 3 hours on foot to reach school every day. One day, I was so tried and was taking a nap while my English teacher was teaching. My teacher noticed and threw a piece of chalk at me and hit my eye. Even though my eye continued tearing for two days, I didn’t tell the situation to my family.

The trees in the compound were planted when I was in grade 3 also. I participated in planting these trees. They have grown tall and are giving their shade to people and animals, in the same way a child today may change his or her nation tomorrow. I always remember the encouraging words of my grandfather, who raised me. He would say, “You shouldn’t be illiterate like me. You have to finish your school and be someone tomorrow.” I recall the ups and downs of my everyday experiences in primary education. Looking after cattle, fetching water from the river, collecting firewood, travelling long distances- these were all challenges during my primary school years. The challenges are still there for children in rural communities. Some even face greater challenges than mine, like the risk of rape and abduction while traveling to school. 

Building

Desalegn in his school building in West Welega, Mendi.

I noticed that classrooms had not been added and no Early Childhood Care and Development centers (ECCDs) had been created. As a result, young children will have to stay at home until they can be enrolled in grade 1 at age 7. I also saw that the children are still using unprotected water sources, like the river. I imagined how many children are staying home feeling sick from the unprotected water.

I feel down, for the children from my school are still drinking unsafe water and transportation to school still remains a great challenge. But I also feel pride and happiness with Save the Children’s intervention in Mendi. I have a long journey and large commitment ahead of me. I have to help children go to school, create conducive learning environments for them to stay in school, and improve the quality of education here.

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