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.
The situation for Yemen’s children is nothing short of dire. Some 11.3 million children in Yemen are facing a triple threat of bombs, hunger and disease.
The journey for those trying to flee, however, is often no safer: families have to brave minefields and airstrikes and are forced to cross areas of active fighting, all in a bid to escape the embattled governorate. There have been 18,000 airstrikes since March 2018, killing 2,398 children and injuring countless more.1 Civilian casualties in the most impacted districts more than doubled in the start of July as the fighting moved to more populated areas, according to the UN’s Refugee Agency.
Children’s injuries incurred as a result of airstrikes are often complex and require a specialist treatment. Families on the run need to sometimes make the impossible decision of whether to continue to flee towards safety or stop and seek out medical care, if they can afford it.
Eight-year-old Razan* was severely wounded in one eye after a bomb exploded nearby as she and her father tried to leave. She was in agony for days and her family feared she was permanently blinded.
“When Razan was injured, the airstrike was just yards away from us. The airstrike hit an armored vehicle nearby and flying shrapnel hit Razan in the eye. I tried to get us to a safe place to have a look at her eye, and then I bandaged her up with my shawl. Then we had to carry on moving,” said Samir,* Razan’s father.
“Razan had to go five days without treatment because I didn’t have enough money. After five days I asked Razan whether she could still see through her injured eye. She lied and said yes. We went upstairs, and I asked her to count the birds outside, while I covered her good eye. She said there were two, but there were four.”
Razan eventually reached a specialist hospital, where Save the Children referred her for emergency surgery that should restore her eyesight.
Thanks to support from Save the Children’s donors, Razan received the special medical care she needed. But there are many more children like her who are not getting the care they need.
*Names changed for protection
To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to help children in Yemen, visit our website.
Before Hurricane Florence hit, save the Children deployed our emergency response team and pre-positioned essential child-focused supplies designed to help vulnerable children during disasters and their aftermath. Our teams are committed to supporting the children and families in their long-term recovery, as the emotional distress of evacuating home and being out of school can take its toll on children.
As the roads in North Carolina re-open after Hurricane Florence, our humanitarian relief experts continue to assess the storm’s impact on children and provide assistance to those in shelters – even reaching New Bern which saw record flooding. We continue to work tirelessly to address the needs of thousands of families who were forced to evacuate their homes, fearing the worst.
In post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans in 2005, Save the Children developed Journey of Hope, a child-informed program that draws on children’s strengths to support their resilience. Journey of Hope has helped thousands of children and their caregivers affected by the 2017 hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico cope with loss, fear and stress. Here is the story of one such family.
After Hurricane Harvey, fifty-four counties in Texas were declared a state of disaster. Rainfall was measured in feet. Two more devastating U.S. hurricanes would follow, all within a month of one another. Each of them leaving children and families reeling. Families like Alexia and her son DeAndre.
As Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Alexia and her 10-year-old son, DeAndre, watched the water levels rise and cover the floors in their apartment. When the bathroom ceiling caved in, Alexia knew they needed to go, but she worried about her son being stuck in a shelter without the space to be a kid.
At the shelter, Alexia brought DeAndre to our child-friendly space, where he soon made friends, played games, created art and went on field trips. Alexia says this allowed him to disconnect from the stress of the storm and gave her peace of mind knowing that he was safe and happy. Our staff stood by Alexia as she made arrangements to get out of the shelter and helped her ask the right questions to ensure they weren’t forgotten.
And one year post-Harvey, DeAndre unlocks the door to their new, fully furnished apartment. He has his own room and a playground around the corner. “If it wasn’t for Save the Children, we wouldn’t be in an apartment. We would probably be either moved around to a different place from the shelter or we would be out on the street,” says Alexia.
With your support, 261,170 children and adults from the Texas coast to the greater Houston area have directly or indirectly benefited from our relief and recovery programs.1 Additionally, nearly 39,000 children and adults from the Florida Keys to Jacksonville impacted by Hurricane Irma have directly and indirectly benefited from Save the Children-supported programs made possible through the generosity of our donors.2 In Puerto Rico, more than 116,000 children and adults have benefited from our Hurricane Maria relief and recovery programs.3
Today, 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 pounds the coast. How many children and families will watch the water levels rise and cover the floors the way Alexia and DeAndre did when a hurricane struck their home?
Save the Children needs your generous gift to help protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families.
The detention of children – regardless of the conditions – harms them in the short and long-term in profound ways. Studies have found that immigrant children held in detention are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, development delays, and attention deficit disorder. How deeply children are affected and the long-term impact depends on a variety of factors such as the age of the child, the trauma the child experienced previously, how long the child was held and under what conditions, and the child’s situation in relation to the child’s parent or caregiver.
In the best of circumstances, immigrant and refugee children have a difficult time understanding even the basics of the U.S. immigration system as they are new to the United States and know little to nothing about U.S. systems, law, or processes. They most likely do not speak English. They are scared of people in uniform, terrified that they will be sent back to the very harm they fled and carry a tremendous amount of uncertainty for their future.
As a KIND beneficiary in Los Angeles said, “I was all alone. I was scared and I didn’t know what would happen to me. I didn’t understand the guards and that made them angry.”
Prolonged detention compounds any trauma immigrant and refugee children suffered in their home country that caused them to flee, or on the life-threatening journey to the United States. Most KIND clients have been traumatized in some way, many as a result of gang violence, including sexual and gender-based violence in their home country. These root causes of migration and the deeply personal emotional scarring they cause can become secondary to the damaging emotional and psychological impact of prolonged detention, thus impairing a child’s ability to make a case for U.S. protection.
Detention of children is unnecessary. Alternatives to detention have been used in the past and been very successful.
The findings of two doctors within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which has investigated DHS facilities, perhaps say it best. They wrote in a July 2018 letter to Congress, “In our professional opinion, there is no amount of programming that can ameliorate the harms created by the very act of confining children to detention centers. Detention of innocent children should never occur in a civilized society, especially if there are less restrictive options, because the risk of harm to children simply cannot be justified.”
Or, as a girl described during her time in detention, “[The officer] told me to stop crying….I tried, but I couldn’t stop.”
To learn more about how Save the Children is providing direct assistance to migrant children and their families, visit our website.
The Philippines is prone to deadly natural disasters
Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines on November 8, 2013. It was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, killing 6,000 people and leaving millions homeless.1
With vivid memories of the havoc wreaked just over a year ago, Typhoon Hagupit struck the Philippines in 2014. While Hagupit roared in from the Pacific as a Category 3 typhoon, it did not prove as deadly as Haiyan.
The two years after Typhoon Hagupit brought with them additional storms. Typhoon Koppu in 2015 and Typhoon Haima in 2016.
Super Typhoon Mangkhut could be a category 4 storm
While the slow moving typhoon strengthened to category 5 status on Wednesday, with sustained winds of up to about 180 miles per hour, current modelling has the storm making landfall as a category 4 typhoon on Saturday morning. Super Typhoon Mangkhut looks set to pummel coastal communities in the Filipino island of Luzon, the country’s most populous island and home nation’s capitol of Manila.
In 2016, Typhoon Haima weakened from a category 5 storm to category 4 just before making landfall, tens of thousands of homes and displacing more than 90,000 people in Luzon.
Millions of children are at risk
Heavy rains, flooding and landslides could put million of already vulnerable children at risk.
Save the Children has emergency team deployed to Santiago, Luzon with pre-position relief items positioned across the country, including thousands of household, hygiene and back-to-school kits.
“We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, Save the Children Philippines CEO Alberto Muyot said. “Once the storm passes, our team will work with local authorities and other aid agencies to assess the scale of devastation caused by the typhoon and determine what the needs are of those affected.”
Written by Angelica Cadavid | Photograph by Gary Shaye
When I arrived in Puerto Rico, I didn’t know what to expect. Almost a year after Hurricane Maria, I wondered what I would see. Would my mother’s beloved island still show the scars of the devastation that roared upon its shores on September 20, 2017? What about the children?
What I saw was heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. The physical signs of Hurricane Maria were everywhere. I kept telling my non-Puerto Rico based colleagues that the island didn’t look like this before the storm. Everywhere were the markers of what were once family homes and local businesses, now in ruins. One girl I spoke with told me the hurricane blew the roof off her home. What was equally traumatic for her family was finding the remnants of other people’s lives that the storm had blown into their house, things like shoes and other personal items.
While many of the children and families that I spoke with painted a picture of loss, our conversations also turned hopeful. Communities like Fronton and Mulitas were coming together to support one another, especially the children. An abandoned basketball court is now a beautiful community center. It’s a place where children can play in a safe, protected environment, make up for lost school days, and heal from the trauma of loss and fear caused by the storm. One young boy told me he was afraid and angry after the hurricane but now he feels protected after participating in our Journey of Hope program.
Families told me how much the programs meant to them, but until I saw our community activities in action, I had no idea. I wish every Save the Children supporter could see the joy on the children’s faces. Even those kids that had started the day a bit sullen were soon laughing and playing.
Almost one year after Hurricane Maria, there is still so much need on the island. It took 10 months for the community of Mariana to get electricity. But Puerto Ricans are resilient and with help and the continued dedication of Save the Children staff, local leaders, parents and supporters – Puerto Rico si se levanta (Puerto Rico will rise up).
To learn more about Save the Children’s emergency responses and ongoing recovery work in Puerto Rico, visit our website.
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.