Humanitarians Are #NotATarget

By Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

Today is World Humanitarian Day 2018 and far too many children and families, from Syria to Bangladesh, El Salvador to East Africa, are trying their best to survive dire conflicts and crises.  Right at this moment, Save the Children is responding to more than 65 humanitarian emergencies. Today, like every day, I am immensely grateful to my colleagues who are responding to these crises. They refuse to believe that the health, protection and education of children are impossible goals.

Just yesterday I returned from South Sudan and Somalia where I was witnessing the work Save the Children’s humanitarians are doing to save children’s lives.

The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is severe—armed conflict, economic hardship and food insecurity are feeding into each other, affecting millions.  An estimated 5.3 million people are lacking enough food and water this year—a full 40 percent more than last year.

And every day, the aid workers combating this crisis go to work in the world’s most dangerous place to deliver humanitarian assistance. The need for humanitarian assistance in South Sudan is only growing, but attacks on aid workers are increasing, too.

I learned that violent attacks on aid workers and their supplies is such a problem that they are preventing humanitarian services from reaching the people who need it. Recent attacks have forced us to curtail service and stop programs until we can ensure safety.  When we say that humanitarians are #NotATarget, we speak up for them and the millions more who rely on their work.

Many families rely on the nutrition stabilization center Save the Children supports in Kapoeta, where I meta brave male nurse named Bosco. When a child is admitted to the center, Bosco measures her arm, checking for indicators of life-threatening malnutrition. While he records the child’s height, weight and medical history, he tells her parents that he will do everything he can to stop her diarrhea and add weight to her small frame. Bosco works seven days a week at the small center and brings healthcare to hundreds of families in the area who have no other services.

Bosco will use medications, therapeutic foods and other resources in an attempt to stop the vicious cycle of malnutrition and illness. He smiled telling me about why he does this work – because he knew he could “save the children!” And when a child leaves the center, his Save the Children colleagues will continue to monitor the child’s health weekly through our Outpatient Therapeutic Program.

In Somalia I saw similar Save the Children programs. There the combination of conflict and a stubborn drought adds even more misery for families, especially those who earn their livelihoods through herding animals.  When the rain stops, the animals run out of food and families are forced to live in camps for the displaced and are dependent on food rations and trucked water.  It is a difficult way to live for anyone, but especially for the youngest children. Child mortality rates among these displaced people are high and children are dying from diarrhea and pneumonia in far too large numbers. We know that children are among the most vulnerable in any crisis, which is why our aid workers are active in these communities, addressing their unique needs.

Children in South Sudan and Somalia  – and in too many places – are facing many threats, but humanitarians are committed to changing that reality. They will continue making sacrifices to make that change possible and I am so proud to work with these selfless individuals.