In times of crisis, when children are at their most vulnerable, Save the Children is there. We are always at the ready — and always among the first agencies that help during natural disasters. Delivering lifesaving emergency relief. And staying as long as it takes to ensure children and families can recover from the losses, restore their lives and build their resilience for years to come. Wherever and whenever children need us most, we are there.
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, anticipated to be a Category 5 storm by the time it makes landfall, continues towards shore.
All along the coast, concerned residents are taking necessary emergency preparedness precautions and springing into action – boarding up their homes, filling their fuel tanks with gas and heading towards safety. However, families with young children need take additional steps around hurricane preparedness, including providing children with understanding and control around the emergency. As the national leader for children in emergencies, Save the Children is here to help.
Talk about Hurricane Florence
Preparing young children for a hurricane emergency can start with letting them know that it’s alright to be afraid in disaster situations. Explain to your child what may happen once Hurricane Florence makes landfall using simple, age-appropriate words. Reassure your children that during Hurricane Florence, many caring adults — including parents, teachers and first responders — will be working to keep them safe.
Identify Evacuation Routes If you are among the 1 million people ordered to evacuate the coastal areas in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, reassure your children that you have identified the best evacuation routes and review the route together.
Pack an Emergency Go-To Bag
The process of putting together an emergency go-to bag will help children understand what could happen during and after Hurricane Florence. For example, a flash light and non-perishable food are essential emergency go-to bag items that will come in handy should the power go out. A few favorite toys, medicine and personal hygiene items are also important to have in an emergency go-to bag should your family be away from home for a few days or more.
Make Emergency Contact Cards
Every child in your family should have an emergency contact card that includes three emergency contacts any first responder or caregiver can reach out to, in case your family is separated during the Hurricane Florence. Save the Children has an easy tool that allows families to create an Emergency Contact Card together.
Save the Children is closely monitoring Hurricane Florence and is assembling a team in North Carolina to help children and families bracing for the powerful storm. With your support, our caring professionals are prepared to help vulnerable children during and after the storm.
To learn more about Save the Children’s emergency responses and ongoing recovery work, 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.”
Undernourished children in Yemen’s district of Hodeidah are far more likely to contract cholera should the disease spread quickly in the hot summer months. A new alert from Save the Children reports conditions are ideal for cholera to spread rapidly, with almost 3,000 suspected cases reported in the first week of July across the country – the highest number seen since the start of the year.
In Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, an estimated 2.9 million children and pregnant and lactating woman are acutely malnourished.1 Undernourished children are far more likely to contract cholera, as the disease causes violent vomiting and diarrhea. The disease is especially deadly for children under five years and those whose immune systems have been badly compromised by malnutrition.
Families in Yemen have already been through so much as war wages on for a fourth year. Children like Lina* are especially susceptible to the deadly effects of cholera.
At 8-months old, Lina* is already receiving treatment for malnutrition. Her parents brought Lina* to a Save the Children-supported health facility in Amran so a health worker could administer emergency treatment, including therapeutic food and medicine. “We are from a remote village,” Lina’s* mother explained. “We barely have anything. Lina* is in a weak state. We buy food as much as we can afford. I give them bread to manage their hunger. What can I do?”
Lina’s* family has been displaced for at least six years. Her parents have already lost two children to illness.
Save the Children is on the ground, working to provide children caught in the crossfire with access to food, health care, education and protection. We need your generous gift to support our efforts. Our relief in Hodeidah now includes treating children for life threatening conditions such as malaria and diarrhea. We’ve rehabilitated health centers and hospitals and provided equipment, medicines, and support to help keep the health system functioning.
Save the Children has a strong presence and longstanding child- and youth-focused programs in the countries of origin for the majority of migrating children, adolescents and families, and in Mexico, which is both a source and transit country. We have used our presence and expertise to launch humanitarian programs to protect children, address the needs of children returning from the U.S. and reduce violence.
We also strengthen national protection systems to care for children and adolescents in their home communities, as well as during transit and return, including family reunification, so that they can access their rights to dignity, protection and security.
Recent examples of our work include:
Pilot projects to interrupt the cycle of gang violence in El Salvador and to create “Schools of Peace” at 70 schools in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
A collaboration among Save the Children, the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation, the Secretary of Social Development and the German Cooperation Development group to prevent the migration of unaccompanied children from targeted communities by enhancing their livelihoods and life skills opportunities.
Advocating for violence reduction at the community and government levels in Honduras and Guatemala.
Preventing trafficking and smuggling of women and youth at risk or victims of human trafficking in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Improving protection systems for children who have been displaced and/or returned to El Salvador and Honduras after migration.
Providing sexual and reproductive health services to returning adolescents in El Salvador and Guatemala.
Working to ensure that children in border shelters in Mexico are being protected from harm and have access to psychological and emotional support activities.
We are also one of the few organizations in Central America with longstanding programs primarily focused on children and adolescents in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. Each year, we reach 2.8 million children in these countries with protection, health and education programs.
In response to this crisis, Save the Children is announcing new and expanded efforts to support vulnerable children, including supporting programs here in the United States, strengthening family reunification efforts, programming to address root causes in Latin America and continuing to speak out against policies that are harmful to children.
“Children and their families are fleeing unspeakable violence in their home countries and face a long and dangerous journey to the U.S. border, with the hope of a better life. Last year, I met a 13-year-old boy in El Salvador who recounted the story of how his best friend, beaten by a gang because he refused to join, died in his arms. After sharing that heart-wrenching story, he told me his fear: ‘I don’t think I’ll ever grow to be an adult in my country.’ No child should live with this kind of fear, with so little hope for the future,” said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children. “Simply put, our children deserve better.”
Save the Children is calling on all people who care about kids to use your voice and take a stand with Save the Children.
Below are 5 harmful long-term effects of family detention on children:
Harms family relationships and stability – Family separation can permanently damage familial relationships, even after reunification. Many children don’t understand why the separation is happening, and feel that their parent has abandoned them. The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that “detention itself undermines parental authority and capacity to respond to their children’s needs,” and results in fraught parent-child relationships.
Damages psycho-social development and well-being – Detention involves experiencing a loss of control, isolation from the outside world and detachment from community and culture. These experiences are harmful for people of all ages, but have a higher impact on children because their brains are still developing. The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that detention affects children’s brain chemistry in a way that is comparable to child abuse. Research has shown much higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal thoughts in children who have been detained.
Worsened school performance – Detained children often experience impaired or delayed cognitive development, which affects concentration and other abilities that are crucial to academic success. This makes keeping up with the age-appropriate reading and math level especially difficult for detained children. Even once their period of detention is over, their learning capabilities are already behind those of their peers.
Poor sleep quality – The lack of bedding for children sleeping on concrete floors, coupled with the mental stress they are under, often results in sleeping problems such as insomnia, sleepwalking, bedwetting and night terrors. Poor sleep quality, in turn, can have detrimental effects on physical and mental health.
Risk of exploitation and abuse – Children are at higher risk of being exploited or abused while in detention centers. There have been reports of privately run detention centers paying extremely low wages to detainees for their labor, as well as experiences of physical and sexual abuse from guards and other officers. Some detention centers have been reported to use severe disciplinary measures to control children’s behavior, including drugging children without consent.
In order to help children address these consequences and prevent more children from having to experience them, we must contact our members of Congress and urge them to put the best interests of children first.
On Sunday, June 24, CEO and Save the Children President & CEO Carolyn Miles and International Rescue Committee President David Miliband were guests on ABC News “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” On the heels of World Refugee Day, their discussion focused on the treatment of immigrant families at the southern border and the worldwide refugee crisis.
Carolyn Miles spoke to the trauma that separating a child from his or her family inflicts. Her words supported the grave concern Save the Children has for the treatment and well-being of children from Mexico and Central American nations who are in the custody of the United States government after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Top of mind is also the Presidential Executive Order which Save the Children believes simply replaces family separation with indefinite family detention. ‘The trauma that happens to children is very real,” Carolyn Miles explained. “It’s psychological. It’s physical. It’s lasting. You see that what happens to kids when they’re separating from their families in these kind of crisis is something that stays with them.”
Carolyn Miles also shared a personal story of a boy she met while travelling in El Salvador. Working closely with local communities and organizations in El Salvador, Save the Children designs Sponsorship programs to help vulnerable children from early childhood to early adulthood — giving them a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm along the way.
In response to the Presidential Executive Order regarding family separation, Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children, issued a statement outlining how the Executive Order is harmful to children. The statement continues to urge the President to do the right thing for children and for Congress to include the policies and recommendations outlined in the Keep Families Together Act in any legislation that is voted on in the House or Senate on this topic.
Separating a child from his or her family unnecessarily is inhumane, traumatic and simply put, unacceptable,” read the statement Carolyn Miles issued on June 19, one day prior to the White House executive order was signed. “The cruel act of separation can cause severe negative social and emotional consequences for the children and their families in the days, months and years ahead. Our global evidence shows that children living in institutions away from their families are highly vulnerable to emotional, physical and psychological abuse, which can lead to lasting developmental problems, injuries and trauma.
Save the Children believes the Presidential Executive Order addressing family separation achieves one thing: further harming already vulnerable children. As announced, the Executive Order simply replaces family separation with indefinite family detention – this unconscionable order does not once mention the best interests of children. Save the Children has zero tolerance for policies that do not put children’s interests first.
We know from our nearly 100 years of service that family detention has significant adverse effects on a child’s development and psychosocial well-being, which ultimately results in the loss of childhood.
To read the full statement and to learn how you can take action to tell congress that families belong together, visit Save the Children.