The atmosphere at one of our local primary schools was special this day, as it was hosting an important day in the lives of many children. With the Zambian flag flying high, teachers struggled to keep children together as there was so much to see. Younger students could be seen peeping through the classroom windows, trying to catch a glimpse of the older boys moving around outside the school, carrying drums over their shoulders while the girls set-up decorations in the school hall. They just couldn’t wait to dance to the rhythm of those big drums.
International Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16th every year since 1991, after it was initiated by the OAU, the Organization of African Unity. It honors those who participated in the Soweto Uprising on that day in 1976. In the Soweto Uprising, black South African students led protests against the discriminatory policies of the Apartheid government. The event is historically significant for the extreme police brutality the students faced, and its role in bringing international attention to the cruel realities faced by black South Africans. The Day of the African Child brings with it an important aspect in the lives of African children and those of different nationalities across the world alike.
Charity, the headteacher at the school, together with other members of her school staff, took their places as everyone joined them for the national anthem. Afterwards, Charity and Save the Children staff spoke to the crowd on the day’s activities. The atmosphere was filled with pride, as Zambia has enjoyed 52 years of peace. Looking around the crowd, one could also see the pride that came along with being an African child, as children eagerly listened in.
Standing beside her mother, 8-year-old Sara struggled to sing the anthem to perfection but still understood the meaning of the song and the words to it. Probably one day when she’s a bit older, its words will mean even more to her.
“She’s so anxious to learn new things and never stops asking me questions. Being a Caregiver myself, I have no problem as I teach younger children so I understand her,” says Sara’s mother, Phales, who is in her mid-twenties. As a Save the Children Caregiver, Phales teaches in the Early Learners center in their community, working with children ages 3 – 8 in developing their learning skills in sponsorship supported programs. She also assists sponsorship operations, for example, helping children reply to sponsor letters.
A spectacular show filled with drumming, dancing, and educational poems had even the children in the back rows of the hall on their feet, as they struggled to see what was happening ahead. Poems were also shared by children on topics related to child protection, equal opportunities, and child empowerment. Luckily for Sara and her mother, together with some of the other younger children, they were given seats right in the front row.
With organizations like Save the Children giving a second chance to the lives of many children through bigger and brighter education opportunities, every last African child can shine and contribute positively to their society.
By Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children
When I met him, Isaac was hungrily drinking the milk his mother gently brought to his lips in a little plastic cup. At thirteen months old, he was stick thin but already so much better than when he arrived a week ago. The doctor told me he was so weak from pneumonia on top of severe malnutrition that he had to be fed by an intravenous tube in his tiny arm – now he was sitting up to eat. In about a week, he’ll go home with a two-week supply of peanut-based food and come back to the out-patient facility to ensure he’s putting on weight. Once the health workers are assured of his progress, he’ll hopefully transition to a regular diet of breast milk and porridge – the perfect meal for a growing baby boy.
There were about 40 other children at the Save the Children stabilization center in Baidoa, Somalia when I visited – some so malnourished they couldn’t hold their heads up or eat on their own and others on the way to recovery. The children in the stabilization center are not only suffering from severe malnutrition but other complications like diarrhea, pneumonia, or malaria – illnesses that prey on immune systems weakened by hunger. Conflict in Somalia between the government and Al Shabab has displaced millions of families, and the center’s two doctors and their staff are busy every day taking care of children whose families are struggling to provide food in the middle of the conflict. The conflict keeps families from their farms and pastures and makes the country one of the most food insecure in the world – more than one million of Somalia’s children are acutely malnourished. While the stabilization center is making a big difference, the staff is worried about new funding and when it might come to keep the center operating.
During my recent trip to Baidoa, I also visited a camp for internally displaced persons – people who have had no choice but to leave their homes. I met with Issa, who arrived at the camp six months earlier with her four children when the fighting reached her village 60 km away. As a divorced woman, she was left with no resources after her small livestock herd died and she was concerned about getting her infant daughter, Laila, the medicine she needs to combat an upper respiratory infection that makes her wheeze. The conditions inside the camp are grim, and mothers and children pick their way around the huts covered in plastic, clothes and cardboard to keep out the rain that turns the ground to mud.
But my visit also showed me there is hope here. My Save the Children colleagues, the under-resourced but remarkably determined Baidoa government, and the many partners working together are making a difference for these children and so many others. There’s no denying that life here is extremely hard, but progress can be seen little by little as children recover and heal and mothers find the strength to keep going and look to the future.
My first fieldwork with Save the Children took me to the area of Central Tigray, where I was also able to visit Axum, a town I always wanted to see. In Axum, I wanted to make a connection with our great past through the city’s remnants of ancient civilizations and rich heritage.
Standing in the background of the great obelisks, I felt like my world was dwarfed by the wisdom and tall spirits of my ancestors. Touching the stones that have long fended the ancient St. Mary’s Church left me with a great sense of perseverance and vigilance. A little weary of the deafening urban noise and congestion in Addis Ababa, I thought it was also refreshing to experience people’s sense of calm and the town’s modest vibe. From the shuttle driver who took me to my hotel, to the young jewelry vendors who left me smiling when I told them I was not a buyer, to the waiters who took my orders for dinner – the local people looked politely proud or proudly polite. I could not for sure tell which.
I was part of the Save the Children team attending a launching event for the sponsorship program in Central Tigray. I learned this program is designed to last ten years, in order to reach some 200,000 early learning and primary school students in about 200 schools across Central Tigray. These efforts would reach students ages 4 to 14, working to improve quality of classrooms and learning materials, teaching skills of teachers, involvement of parents in children’s educations, and much more.
In the first three years alone, we plan to reach 52,000 students in 63 schools.
From what I saw during my visit, there was a long way to go. Class was held in semi-permanent structures, with little protection from the elements save a shade above the children’s heads to keep them out of the sun. Children sat on stones or logs, which caused discomfort as the day went on and made it difficult for them to concentrate. The walls were practically empty, with no colorful, engaging or print rich materials to see. There were no books or toys, and almost no learning materials to be seen either, except a small blackboard – overall it was not a child-friendly space.
Although I’ve only been a part of the sponsorship team for a few months, I’ve already been able to witness the high level of determination the communities have to work with Save the Children. Local families feel ownership in these interventions because we involve them every step of the way, in all decisions. Their trust in Save the Children is clear. With organizational support from sponsorship staff, the community members had raised their own money, despite meagre resources, in order to help support construction of the new classrooms.
Now, the community at large and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) are working together with Save the Children to monitor the construction of the new classrooms. The classrooms are nearly complete and the school benches and other learning materials are being purchased. The timing cannot be more perfect as the Ethiopian academic year is starting soon. When school opens, these classrooms will mean the world to the children here.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.↩
“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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
Hola! My name is Mario, I am 30 years old and I am a Community Developer in Yucatan – a state in the southern part of Mexico. We are close to an archaeological area that highlights the cultural wealth and indigenous history of this area of the country. At the moment, I live with my parents and brothers, who always have supported me in the different projects and goals I’ve aspired to.
Since I started to work at Save the Children in June of 2017, when sponsorship first came to Yucatan, knowing my work benefits children from Mayan communities has been my greatest satisfaction. They live in situations of exclusion and poverty and do not always have the tools to succeed.
At Save the Children we carry out different actions in schools and communities, not only working with children, but also with the parents, teachers and people in their community. As Community Developer, I promote activities and participation of children through games and art, and work closely with community members and schools to help create a plan for improving the quality of education offered here. The main problems we face are gender inequity and the lack of parent participation in their children’s education, which makes the children feel indifferent towards working hard at school.
One of the most rewarding experiences has been to help design and implement summer activities in the community of Temozón. There, children learned how to express themselves through art and painting, group reading activities, theater and games.
It was very exciting to be a part of something new, since it was the first time that a development or non-governmental organization had worked with children from that community. During the summer, children were mainly staying at home and did not have many activities, so being able to spend part of their day playing while learning was an amazing and wonderful thing.
The summer camp had a very positive impact on children, from the first to the last day they were very excited to be there. It was so rewarding to see kids come to the summer sessions, riding their bikes with large smiles on their faces. Using different types of games, we led the children through themes like gender equality, children’s rights and the different professional options that exist in the country, which was a very interesting discovery for them, since they did not know most of them. Most adults here work in local trade, as farmers or fishermen. Despite the heat, the boys and girls did not stop singing and dancing with us. They certainly seemed to enjoy every moment!
Every day with Save the Children is an adventure. My contact with the community keeps me very enthusiastic to continue strengthening my commitment to social responsibility. I think of myself as an education endorser to foster children’s human rights, and improve their everyday life and conditions.
From me and the children here in Yucatan – we send our greatest thanks!