Mother and Daughter Beat the Odds Together

Every mother dreams of giving her child the best future possible. Valentina’s mother, Claudia, is no exception. But raising her only child in Sonsonate, El Salvador, where 75 percent of children do not complete basic education, means the odds are stacked against her.

“As a mother, … I was nervous about responsibility and providing my child with quality learning/education,” said Claudia. Which is why, when Valentina was only three months old, her mom enrolled her in our child sponsorship program and joined a parenting circle, where Valentina engaged with adults and other babies her age.

“I [have] noticed a difference in Valentina’s attitude … She used to cry around others and didn’t like to play with other kids,” said Claudia. “Her exposure to what was taught in the parenting circles changed that.”

Four-year-old Valentina loves reading about animals.

This past year, Valentina’s teacher asked for Claudia’s support in her daughter’s kindergarten class. Through Save the Children’s parenting circle and volunteer training, Claudia knows about the physical, cognitive, socio-emotional and language skills of children and how to engage them, making her an invaluable resource in the classroom.

Her daughter couldn’t agree more. “I’m happy my mom is at school,” said Valentina, who is part of a reading club that Claudia helps run. After listening to storybooks, the children participate in engaging activities such as drawing pictures based on the story. Because of these educational opportunities, Valentina loves doing her homework, especially when it involves letters. Soon she’ll be able to write her name all by herself!

During reading club, Valentina and her classmates draw pictures based on the story Claudia read.

School isn’t the only place where reading is encouraged. At home, mother and daughter bond over books about animals — Valentina’s favorite — space and the planets. Said Claudia, “I want Valentina to know, when she gets old, that I was there for her, reading to her.”

Today and every day, we celebrate moms like Claudia, who inspired the Ministry of Education to adopt Save the Children child sponsorship’s strategies, which are being implemented in all kindergartens, first grades and special education classes nationwide, giving children like Valentina the best chance to succeed.

Valentina sneaks a smooch while her mom, Claudia, volunteers in her daughter’s kindergarten classroom.
Photo credit: Sacha Myers/Save the Children, April 2019.

Child Protection and Emotional Support for Cyclone Idai Survivors

Written and Photographed by Sacha Myers, Emergency Health Unit, Save the Children

“Tell me about your average day when you get a chance.” The message, from a friend thousands of miles away in Australia, popped up on my screen. I leaned against the car and looked up from my phone at the tents surrounding me.

There was a hum of activity as people started their evening routine. Women milled around the
water points waiting to fill their buckets. Children ducked and weaved between the tents playing their last game of tag. Smoke from small wood fires created a haze across the darkening sky.

I looked back down at my phone. My average day?

Before and after
I’d spent that morning with children who had lost their homes when Cyclone Idai tore through central Mozambique a month ago.

They were doing an exercise in one of our child-friendly spaces – drawing their home before and after the cyclone.

The children took such pride in their “before” drawings. They used rulers to carefully draw the
outline of their house with their bed inside and food in the kitchen. Later they added pictures of their family members holding hands with love hearts between them.

In stark contrast, the pictures they drew of their community post-cyclone depicted an entirely
different reality: mothers crying as they clung to their babies; trees stripped bare and uprooted; great torrents of brown water; pieces of metal flying through the air; homes in ruins.

Photo credit: Sacha Myers/Save the Children, April 2019.
When Cyclone Idai struck Mozambique, 13-year-old Suraya recalls running out of a house carrying her brother after a tree crashed through the roof.

How did they survive?
Once the children had finished the activity, they took turns in presenting what they had drawn. As I listened to them, I couldn’t help but wonder how they had survived.

They described scenes of chaos. The walls of their bedrooms collapsing on them. Falling into
floodwaters as they ran for safety. Spending a week in waist-deep water waiting to be rescued.
Thirteen-year-old Suraya told me: “While we were sleeping, a tree fell down on top of the house. My mum told us to get out. We ran out of the house. The wind was increasing. We were running and I was holding my brother. On the day of the cyclone, I thought I was going to die.”

“My family is all over”
When 14-year-old Beatriz* sat down to present, her story silenced us.

She explained in a quiet voice how she was an orphan before the cyclone. She lived with her
grandmother. When the cyclone stuck, their house collapsed, and Beatriz’s grandmother was hit by a tree as they were running for safety. She later died in hospital.

Beatriz is now entirely alone. She lives in a tent with eight other people she doesn’t know. I alerted Save the Children’s child protection team immediately about Beatriz. They support separated and unaccompanied children and work with the government to try and reunite them with their family or caregivers.

Tragically, Beatriz’s story is not uncommon. Many people lost loved ones in the flood waters or became separated from their family in the rush to find safety.

Fatima, a mother of three, told me: “My family is all over. I don’t even know where [my husband] is. Even my two sons are not with me. We separated when we took the boat. I don’t know where they are. The way I’m living is hard. It’s painful.”

Rebuilding children’s lives
This was just one day in post-cyclone Mozambique. An average day.

While I felt emotionally wrecked afterwards, I also had hope. Because children are extremely
resilient, and with the right support and a safe environment, they can recover from the stressful events they’ve experienced. And that’s why mental health must be included in the recovery plans for Mozambique.

Mental health is a core part of Save the Children’s work. We’re rolling out a comprehensive child protection and emotional support program in some of the worst-hit areas in Mozambique. As part of this, we have set up six child-friendly spaces in and around Beira and will open up to 50 more spaces in the coming weeks.

*Name changed to protect identity

To learn more about the work Save the Children is doing to support emergency response following Cyclone Idai, visit our website.

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

Illnesses Don’t Discriminate: Vaccines Work

Co-authored by Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children and William Moss, MD, MPH, Interim Executive Director, International Vaccine Access Center, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Parents work hard to help their children stay healthy. Try as we might, hand washing, good nutrition, and flu shots are sometimes no match for “what’s going around.” A cough. A fever. A stomach bug. If you feel like these illnesses are everywhere – you’re right.

And families around the world are battling the same illnesses. But in some places it’s far from a fair fight. Illnesses that are easily preventable and treatable in the United States can take the life of a child in Africa. More than 1.3 million children die each year from pneumonia and diarrhea, two of the leading killers of children in poor countries.

It surprises many people to learn that pneumonia and diarrhea, not HIV, tuberculosis or malaria, are the leading cause of death in young children around the world. While diseases like HIV and malaria take a toll, pneumonia and diarrhea take more lives of children under age five than all these diseases combined.

In the U.S., routine immunization helps protect against these common sicknesses. Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines protect against pneumonia, and the rotavirus vaccine protects against one of the most common and serious stomach bugs. These vaccines have drastically reduced the number of children who suffer from these illnesses. A 2017 study found the rotavirus vaccine cut nearly in half the number of young children hospitalized for diarrhea, saving more than $1 billion in health care costs over five years. Similar benefits have been documented with the vaccines that prevent pneumonia.

Though germs are everywhere, health care sadly is not. Parents around the world share a common goal of protecting their children, yet too many families still lack access to, or even awareness of, vaccines and medicine that could save their children’s lives. As a result, the stomach bug that means a few days off school and a trip to the pediatrician for a child in Maryland can mean severe dehydration and even death for a child in Kenya. The respiratory infection that goes around at a preschool in Atlanta causes life-threatening pneumonia for young children in Ethiopia. What separates parents around the world is not the illnesses their children face, but how the health care systems they have access to are equipped to battle them.

While some may dismiss the challenges parents in poor countries face as inevitable and unfortunate consequences of poverty, this is simply not the case. This is not only a battle worth fighting, it’s also one we can win. We know how to prevent these deaths, and in many places, we are already succeeding. India, Nicaragua, Tanzania and many other countries have increased immunization rates and have saved lives as a direct result. Since 2000 the number of children’s lives lost to pneumonia and diarrhea has been more than cut in half – from 2.9 to 1.3 million deaths annually.

Every year, fewer children lose their lives to preventable diseases. We should be encouraged—but not satisfied—with the progress we’re making. We can do better. We can increase resources to equip families and health care systems around the world with the tools they need to battle our shared infectious foes. We can find new ways to deliver lifesaving vaccines and antibiotics to make sure no child dies from a cough, the stomach bug, or a mosquito bite. And we can muster our political courage and give voice to the needs, worries, and love of parents who, like germs, are the same everywhere.

Ethiopia’s Children Deserve to Have a Childhood

Written by Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

As we drove into the camp area for those displaced from home, the sea of people, goats and cows on the dusty, potholed road parted and flowed around our vehicles, each intent on going somewhere fast. The entrance to the children’s area of the camp was a piece of tin in a fence of sticks and tarps and when it swung open, we could see hundreds of children running and playing and a circle of girls dancing.  This is Gedeb, Ethiopia, a few hours south of Hawassa, where more than 13,000 people have come to escape violence.  

In this rather sad place, we visited the happiest corner, full of children playing and learning in a Save the Children supported area. Small children learned their letters in a huge tent, with local teachers and volunteers coaxing them to the front of the room to practice at posters tacked to the canvas walls. There were few books, and even fewer toys, but the children were intent on learning and squealed in delight when one of us came to the front of the room to “help” with the lesson.

Outside, girls danced and sang in a tight circle and in the large field dozens of older kids were engaged in a lively game of soccer. Even in the worst of circumstances, children just wanted to play, have fun and learn like any child anywhere. 

As we walked through the camp, through crowded rows of tiny huts made of tarp, sticks and dried banana leaves, the delight of the children nearby seemed even more amazing. Inside one of the shelters, I stopped to talk with a mom named Biritu, a mom of five who is pregnant with her sixth child. This was her second time coming to the camp from her home further north, where violence and looting had caused her to flee with her children. The space they were living in was about the size of a basic bathroom here at home, with tarps on the floor of mud and two tiny spaces for sleeping and living. Even on a cool day, it was steamy inside. When I asked when she thought she might go back home, she just shook her head sadly and held up her hands – a universal sign of “who knows.”

We visited the health post in the camp, which is also run by Save the Children. Here there were doctors from a nearby hospital who work 15 day rotating shifts. Mothers lined up on wooden benches waiting to get babies checked for malnutrition and for their children to receive vaccinations or treatment for illnesses. Adults were receiving services too, but the biggest focus was on pregnant women and children, trying to keep them healthy. 

The plight of the internally displaced people (IDPs) in Ethiopia is largely unknown. Yet there are more than one million people in just these two southern regions of Ethiopia and 3.2M country-wide who have been displaced. Many of them live in camps like the one we visited and even more live in the surrounding communities, sometimes with relatives until the resources and goodwill run out and they find themselves in the streets or back at a camp.

The conditions, despite the services offered by Save the Children and other aid agencies, are harsh. There is worry that as the rainy season approaches, this camp will be flooded. The latrines and water points may not hold out and these people could be moved yet again from this place to another. For many this might be the third or fourth move in just the past year. The children can’t go to formal school and the cases of scabies, malnutrition, pneumonia, and diarrhea are growing every day. Save the Children has reached more than 470,000 of the IDPs in this region with distributions and services, but there are still hundreds of thousands of displaced around the country unreached by any aid. With a world full of crisis and disasters, the suffering of these children and their families is largely ignored. 

Ethiopia is a country of great progress – one of the only countries in the world to meet the Millennium Development Goal for two-thirds reduction in child mortality from 2000 to 2015 and a country with strong GDP growth. But that progress and the opportunities it affords children is at risk of being set back for millions of children who can’t get regular access to services, especially to health services and school.

As part of our Return to Learning initiative, Save the Children has been working for the past three years to get refugee children access to school within a few months of being displaced. We’re working to ensure the world pays more attention to the importance of education for refugee children. I came away from this trip to Ethiopia convinced that we need to do the same for IDP children here in Ethiopia and around the world. We can’t afford to let millions of children lose out on the opportunity to go to school for years on end due to displacement. Whether they are refugees in another country or displaced within their own, they deserve the chance to grow up healthy and to get an education.  

 

 

Newborn babies and their mothers receive care in a health center located in Malawi where Save the Children supports proven programs, such as Kangaroo Mother Care. Photo credit: REDD BARNA / JONAS GRATZER

Customizable Hospital Furniture for the Smallest Babies in Malawi: A Potential Disruptive Innovation

Written by Bina Valsangkar, MD, MPH, FAAP

© 2015 | Kristina Sherk Photography 

Bina Valsangkar, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a pediatrician, adviser at Save the Children and a changemaker for children. She leads a team of health experts, industrial engineers and industrial designers under a Save the Children innovation grant to re-design newborn hospital units in Malawi to deliver family-centered care. In previous roles at Save the Children, she drafted policy, conducted research and developed newborn health programs in Africa and Asia. 

While many aid agencies, academic institutions and traditional and non-profit companies work to ensure access to essential medical equipment in low-income countries, less attention has been paid to the importance of suitable medical furniture. In the newborn units of Malawi, where Save the Children has been working to improve quality of care for the last several years, a well-designed chair, neonatal crib and staff workspaces have the potential to make care more family-centered, comfortable and safer. Well-designed furniture can improve patient, family and health worker comfort, but can also improve health outcomes. A well-designed chair for the newborn unit, for example, can facilitate greater amounts of skin-to-skin time between a mother and her newborn infant—which can be life-saving for infants born prematurely in Malawi. Well-designed workspaces and neonatal cribs can improve patient flow and visibility and reduce infection risk.

Malawi currently buys and imports the majority of its hospital furniture from India and China. While these pieces offer a relatively affordable option for hospital furniture with basic function, the furniture does not fully suit the needs of patients, families and health care workers in Malawi. Hospitals there face a different patient profile, medical demands, space limitations and set of cultural beliefs and practices.

Customizable hospital furniture offers a potential solution to the problem of functional fit. Headway in this market, however, has been largely made in high-income, high-end markets, with little or no market share in low-income countries.

With seed funding from the Save the Children Innovations Council as well as Purdue University’s I2D Lab, our team of experts in health, industrial engineering and design led by Professors Yuehwern Yih and Steve Visser, is working to create a set of space-saving furniture with accompanying layout design to allow for greater family-centered care and meet the needs of patients, families, and healthcare workers at Ntcheu district hospital in Malawi. The set includes a stacked neonatal crib, lounge chair for mothers and babies to be in skin-to-skin contact together and a mobile nurse’s station. Our project was born out of research and experience from the Saving Newborn Lives (SNL) program, a now 19-year old newborn health project at Save the Children.

While getting the individual furniture pieces and layout just right and within budget for the hospital is of utmost importance, it is the process of customization in the low-income setting, and creating and using customizable blueprints to make locally-sourced pieces with learnings from prior users that we hope will be a new market foothold in Malawi, with the potential to move across markets and upmarket to other countries and regions.

To learn more about Save the Children’s changemakers, visit our website.

Conflict in Yemen: Four Years, Four Facts

Yemen is a perfect storm of humanitarian, protection and economic crises, with each fueling the other. March 26 marks four years since the conflict in the country escalated. In that time, Yemeni families have witnessed the horror of more than 19,000 airstrikes and continuous ground fighting.

Over the last year, 37 Yemeni children have been killed or injured by foreign bombs each month. Twenty four million people, including 12.3 million children, need humanitarian assistance – without this, their prospects of survival dwindle every day.

On the four-year mark of the escalation of the conflict, here are four facts you need to know.

  1. 85,000 children under the age of five may have died from extreme hunger or disease since the war started in 2015. Children who die from Severe Acute Malnutrition suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop. Their immune systems are so weak they are more prone to infections with some too frail to even cry.  

 

  1. 2 million children are currently missing out on an education, and 1,800 schools are unfit for use. Save the Children is working hard to keep children in school or giving them access to safe places to play and escape the trauma they are experiencing. 

 

  1. An estimated 2 million children do not have access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. In some parts of the country, the water supply is only turned on for an hour a day and 46% of the population lacks access to safe drinking water.

 

  1. 2 million children are without adequate access to healthcare. More than half of all health facilities have closed or are only partially functional. There are no doctors available in 18% t of the districts in Yemen.

Save the Children calls on all parties to Yemen’s conflict to support the ongoing peace process, to take urgent steps to protect civilians, to work toward stabilizing the economy and to allow complete and unconditional access for humanitarian and commercial goods into Yemen. 

To learn more about Save the Children’s work in Yemen and how you can help, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY TO OUR YEMEN CHILDREN’S RELIEF FUND TODAY!

 

James, age 6, and Heshima, age 8, carry water from a dried up riverbed in Turkana County, Kenya. Photo credit: Peter Caton \ Save the Children, July 2018

When Kenya’s Rivers Ran Dry

Written by Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

Kenya’s people had known droughts, even severe droughts, but they’d never experienced anything like this before.

This World Water Day, I’ve been reflecting on a trip I made to northern Kenya in 2017, when the whole Horn of Africa was experiencing a devastating drought. The rivers had all run dry, crops had failed and livestock had perished. When it finally did rain, flash floods swept away anything left. Children were hungry, malnourished, sick and dying.

I met desperate mothers and little children forced to dig into dried-up riverbeds just to find some muddy water. It was a grueling process that took children many hours, twice every day. First, they walked to the dry riverbed, then dug deep holes into the dirt, sometimes 10ft down, until enough water appeared to fill their water jugs. Then they would haul themselves up and out of the hole to carry the heavy jugs back home to their families. No child should have to spend precious time away from school and their families like this, only to have water unfit to drink.

Children in Turkana County, Kenya dig for water in a dried up riverbed. Photo credit: Peter Caton | Save the Children, July 2017.

The good news is that through Save the Children’s partnership with the P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, we were able to help purify that muddy water, using P&G’s water purification technology. We met with local mothers, distributed much-needed supplies and taught them how to benefit from this easy-to-use technology. This amazing process, invented by a P&G laundry scientist, transforms dirty water into clean, drinkable water in only 30 minutes, preventing deadly, water-borne diseases – and saving lives. It also helps improve health, enable education and increase economic opportunities for entire communities.

Thanks to supporters like P&G, we were on the frontlines in Kenya, saving as many young lives as possible throughout the unprecedented drought. And we’re still there to this day, working to ensure children and families have what they need to not only survive, but grow up healthy, educated and safe. Together, we’re creating ripples of change in children’s lives, their families and communities – ultimately transforming the future for all of us.

A special thank you to P&G, in partnership with National Geographic, for the honor of being named a Water Champion – and spreading the word about our humanitarian work.

Happy World Water Day!

Civil Society Surges as a Channel for DRM Assistance Among Addis Tax Initiative Members

Photo credit: Hadil Saleh /Save the Children, Aug 2018Written by Andrew Wainer, Director Policy Research and Nada Adibah, Intern, Policy Research

The percentage of DRM assistance disbursed through civil society and NGO channels surged among Addis Tax Initiative (ATI) members in recent years. In 2015, 4% (6 million) of ATI DRM assistance was channeled through civil society, but in 2017 that increased to 10% (21 million). Furthermore, the amount of DRM disbursed through NGOs and civil society, grew 252%, the most among all channels (see Table 1).  

While seven of the 20 ATI donors contributed to this increase, it was primarily driven by three donors: Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States which had large increases in the amount of DRM assistance channeled through civil society between 2015 and 2017.

 

 Table 1: Percent Change DRM Disbursements Channel, 2015 to 2017

Channel Change (%)
Public Sector -20
NGOs & Civil Society 252
Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) 186
Multilateral Organizations 42
Teaching Institutions, Research Institutions, Think-Tanks 61
Private Sector Institutions 77*
Other -86

 * OECD CRS values reported only for years 2016 and 2017. Percent change calculated from these two years.

 

This assistance channeled through civil society ranged from grants from the United Kingdom to research institutions to study tax policy in Ghana and Ethiopia to assistance from Norway to support media oversight of the petroleum industry in Tanzania and Uganda.

But even as ATI members increasingly use civil society to disburse DRM assistance, a review of the 2017 OECD Creditor Reporting System data reveals an increase in overall DRM assistance from ATI donors of only 14% from 2015 to 2017 (the latest year available). The total amount of DRM assistance from ATI donors increased from $168 million in 2015 to $192 million in 2017.

The increase in the use of civil society as a channel for DRM assistance is welcome, but as donors, civil society, and developing nation revenue authorities prepare to gather in Berlin in July to review progress on the ATI, the latest OECD data reveal that, while ATI DRM assistance is growing, it is not on pace to reach ATI commitment #1: A collective doubling of donor DRM assistance. Increasing donor support to civil society for engagement in tax policy can foster enhanced governance while also contributing to ATI donors’ goal of doubling DRM assistance by 2020.

US DRM Assistance
The latest OECD data also reveals that US DRM foreign assistance is increasing at a faster rate than the overall rate for ATI members. In 2017, the United States disbursed $48 million for DRM support. This is a 26% increase since 2015, when the US provided $38 million.

Also aligned with the overall ATI trend of increasing percentages of DRM aid being channeled through NGOs and civil society, US DRM foreign assistance was increasingly channeled in this way – at a rate similar to ATI donors overall. Of the $48 million in DRM disbursed by the United States in 2017, 10% (4.8 million) was funneled to civil society, larger than the overall donor rate of disbursing 7% through this channel. This amount is a major increase in using civil society and NGOs for US DRM assistance when compared with 2016 when the US recorded channeling $192,000 – a tiny percentage of its total DRM assistance – through civil society.

DRM Assistance from the Perspective of Recipient Countries
Of the $192 million in DRM assistance ATI donors provided to the developing world in 2017, Africa received the most among any region with $91 million going to DRM – 47% of all ATI DRM assistance. Asia received second largest amount of DRM assistance with $37 million – 19% of all DRM assistance in 2017. Latin America, Europe, and Oceania received much small percentages of DRM assistance (see Table 2).

Table 2: DRM Assistance Provided to the Developing World in 2017

Region Amount Received (in millions USD) Percent of Total DRM Assistance
Europe 9 5%
Africa 91 47%
America 16 8%
Asia 37 19%
Oceania 5 2%
Developing country, unspecified 35 18%

 Save the Children has supported civil society engagement in DRM in Wajir and Bungoma counties, Kenya since early 2017. In recent years Kenya has experienced a surge in DRM funding. In 2017 Kenya received $8.8 million in DRM assistance, an increase of more than 105% compared to 2015 when it received $4.3 million. The large majority of DRM assistance to Kenya is also being channeled through civil society and NGOs. In 2017 $6.5 million of DRM assistance to Kenya – 74% – was provide through this channel.

Solidifying Progress
ATI is moving slowly toward its collective goal of doubling DRM assistance by 2020, but we are encouraged by the increasing role that civil society is playing in DRM– enabling citizens to engage on tax policy and, ideally, hold policymakers accountable for good fiscal governance. Ensuring that developing country ministries of finance and revenue authorities are also meeting their commitments and opening up to citizen input on tax policy will be key to the ATI’s long term success. We also welcome the creation of the ATI database, currently under construction, which will allow for new ways of analyzing and measuring DRM foreign assistance.

In future posts, we will delve into the details and nuances of DRM assistance going through civil society channels in order to better understand where this surge of funding is going, who it’s coming from, and the reason for its rapid increase. 

 

A Bold Vision for Gender Equality

Written by Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children | Photograph by Mauricio Santana/Getty Images

In the time it will take you to read this, at least 45 girls will marry before they turn 18. These are girls that will likely never finish school, will have babies too young and will struggle to break out of poverty.

Statistics like this are still all too common around the world. Gender inequality, discrimination, and gender-based violence persist globally, starting at birth and worsening throughout adulthood. Today, on International Women’s Day, Save the Children is calling attention to what we’re doing to address the gender barriers that children around the world face.

One hundred years ago Eglantyne Jebb, child rights defender, suffragist and visionary, catalyzed a global movement for children when she founded Save the Children. In the spirit of our founder and her resolve to uphold the dignity and rights of every child, we are proud to launch Save the Children US’ first Gender Equality Strategy.

This strategy articulates how we plan to achieve progress toward a more equal world by focusing on gender equality and social inclusion in all our programs, advocacy and organizational policies and practices.

Over the next three years we will work to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence and harmful practices, including child marriage. We will work to empower women and girls and promote positive and diverse expressions of masculinity. We will continue to keep gender equality at the heart of our advocacy work and integrate gender equality into how we think, plan, and operate as a global organization.

As Save the Children enters its second century of change, we are doing whatever it takes to ensure all children grow up the way they deserve — healthy, educated and safe. As we work to create positive, lasting change for children, we need an ambitious plan for promoting gender equality. Our vision is a world where girls, boys and youth of diverse gender identities are heard, valued and have access to equal opportunities. We believe that all children should be empowered to live their lives, speak their minds and determine their own futures. Placing gender equality at the center of our work will have a resounding impact on the lives of children and families that we serve, creating positive and sustainable change in their communities across the globe.

As our founder Eglantyne Jebb once said, “Humanity owes the child the best it has to give.” It’s time to ensure a more equal world for all. We owe it to children around the world.

Providing for an Entire Extended Family in Yemen – A Mother’s Story

Drawing to illustrate the blog post provided by Sukaina Sharafuddin, Save the Children’s Communications Officer based in Yemen. Photo credit: Takayo Akiyama | Save the Children, Feb 2019

Illustration by Takayo Akiyama, Save the Children

This is the third of a three-part blog series written by a mother named Sukaina who is living and raising her young son in Yemen. Sukaina works for Save the Children in her home country, which has been at war since 2015. 

The war has changed everything for me, my family and families across Yemen. So many have left.

My husband used to have a good job, but he lost it when the economy crashed. He has a degree. He speaks English well, but right now he goes out every day trying to find a job that pays. It has been more than two years since public servants, public school teachers and doctors have been paid. 

My brother is a dentist, but now he teaches Biology at a high school. We are just glad he found a job at a private school that gives salaries to teachers. My cousin used to have an excellent job as a Finance Officer. The company had to shut down when the war started. Now it has been four years and he is desperate to find any kind of job to look after his wife and two daughters. I worry about him – his face has gone pale and he is just exhausted, worrying every day about how to feed his girls.

People like me, who are lucky enough to still have a job, support their whole extended family. I support my parents, my brother’s family, my grandmother, and my cousin’s family. Although the support I provide them is very basic and is barely enough, it is better than nothing. Everything in the shops is so expensive. I used to buy diapers without thinking about it. Not now. They are a luxury item. Many families use plastic bags or cloths in children’s underwear for their newborn babies, because they cannot afford the price of diapers.

Transport, hospital, schools, nurseries – everything is breaking down.

Over past six months, I’ve taken my son to seven different nurseries. Often, it is overcrowded. He comes home dirty, because there is only one carer for every 10 children. I’m looking for a new nursery, but I want it to be close to my work, because when the airstrikes start, I need to be able to run there to get him to a safe place.

A few months ago, we had the chance to leave Yemen. My husband traveled to Malaysia and found a great job. I was planning on joining him. But in the end, I asked him to come back. I’m sure you’re wondering, ‘Why?’

Everyone keeps abandoning Yemen. I can’t. I am the provider for my entire family. I can’t abandon them. I can’t abandon my country. I figured that it will be mentally exhausting for me and I will find no joy living elsewhere, knowing that my country and my family and friends are struggling to survive.

That is why I am still here.

What hurts the most is the feeling that we have been neglected by the outside world. I am grateful to Save the Children and their supporters for not forgetting us. Seeing the work we do in Yemen is a great relief for me.

 

To learn more about the work Save the Children is doing in Yemen, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN YEMEN. PLEASE DONATE TO THE YEMEN CHILD’S RELIEF FUND TODAY!