El Salvador Migration Crisis: “What I Would Tell a Coyote”

Lampedusa

Lucia Isabel Rodiguez, Save the Children El Salvador

August 19, 2015

 

What would I tell a ‘coyote?’ I would tell them to remember that they are dealing with human beings, not with merchandise.”

It’s crushing to meet children that are mistreated and neglected by the same people in their families who are responsible for caring and protecting them.

One of the cases that has affected me the most is meeting a twelve-year-old girl, let’s call her “Miriam”. By the age of 12 Miriam* had already attempted two dangerous migration trips. She was returned each time, back to El Salvador. She is the eldest of three girls all living with their mother. It was clear to me that this family was not equipped to provide a safe environment for the girls, and Miriam* showed signs of having suffered abuse. I fear that the mother will try to make this dangerous journey again with her daughters, therefore putting them at extreme risk.

Some children arriving at the centre for returned children here in El Salvador do not want to call their families and have nowhere to go. They feel utterly alone.

I have spent the last six months working at this centre for children who have been repatriated. It’s where hundreds of children return every week from their failed attempts to migrate to the US. They have travelled hundreds of miles by bus, train, truck and when I see them they are hungry and exhausted. We listen to their stories and try to give them as much psycho social support as we can during their short stay at the centre. These children know that their family spent a fortune, many times selling everything they had, to pay the “coyote” to take them to the U.S. When they are detained and deported back to El Salvador, many feel that they have failed and are back at “square one.” On top of feeling hopeless and ashamed, many children have suffered abuse by smugglers along the way and have been treated without respect by authorities at both the U.S. and Mexican borders.

In 2014, 68,000 unaccompanied children made it across the Mexican border into the US and more than 18,000 children were detained and then repatriated to their countries of origin. Most of the returning unaccompanied children we meet are boys between 15 and 17 years old, traveling alone, but we have also met young mothers with children of various ages, as well as unaccompanied children as young as 12. We received a mother with her 3-year-old son; he could hardly speak. From what we could understand, both mother and son had experienced horrific events along the way, including sexual abuse. The boy was traumatized.

Another mother with her two girls had sold everything they owned to pay the coyote – even their house. They returned to El Salvador with nothing.

I am very worried about these children and feel it is critical and urgent that we do more to help them recover from these experiences and to help them reintegrate into their communities to continue their lives.

There are two main reasons why children want to migrate to the US. The most common reason is due to the violence that exists in El Salvador. Violence creates insecurity, and children I meet tell me again and again about their fear, because in El Salvador they live in constant fear of being killed or hurt, especially by gangs. It’s lamentable that our authorities haven’t focused on stemming gang violence and its growth, and stopping the drug trade. Children need a break from this insecurity, a chance to know what it’s like to just be a child without the fear of violence hovering around them. Children here don’t know what it is like to live in peace.

When I meet these children who have tried unsuccessfully to migrate and who have gone through traumatic experiences along the way, well, I feel helpless. But I understand what they say and do not say, and why they want to leave. I feel helpless because I recognize that as a society we are not providing them with the environment they need and we can’t guarantee their safety. Children and adolescents are harassed and threatened by violent gangs and there are many cases where families have practically imprisoned their children in their own homes to protect them. They tell me that they can’t leave their homes because it’s dangerous and their lives are at risk.

The other reason is the low quality of education that exists for us in El Salvador. This leads to a lack of opportunity and motivates children to look for opportunities to leave their own country in hope for of a better life elsewhere.

I wish Save the Children could do more – I think we should work more to help returning children by following up on cases, to visit children and visit them in their homes. Such distressful experiences have a huge potential to damage children and adolescents in the long term and to damage their self esteem. It’s important to be able to speak to them and their parents about the experiences they have been through so they can move forward in a positive way. Many children who are returned are stigmatised and we need to protect them from harm. We need to work with families, as some of them put in place and develop a coping mechanism that makes things worse.

Working with families is key: For example, we need to work with parents and convince them of the need to provide children with safe and functional places where children they can learn and grow. Parents might think that there isn’t a problem if a child stays at home with them all day but children in such cases can lose out on interpersonal awareness, and the confidence that comes with playing with other children, with learning new ideas, etc.

I often feel very proud of the work that we do and that’s because of Save the Children’s vision. It’s not about temporary solutions or short-term interventions, but rather an integrated, holistic approach that begins at the start of a child’s life and continues through childhood and adolescence. I am proud of the work we do around primary education, and with mothers to make sure that children have the best possible upbringing. Save the Children is about putting in place a system that has long-term benefits for children.

Stories of Courage From Lampedusa

Lampedusa

Giovanna Di Benedetto, Save the Children Italy

Media Officer

Sicily, Italy

August 19, 2015

 

I am a media officer for Save the Children Italy working in Sicily, a region that includes the island of Lampedusa. My role is to give a voice to child migrants who come to our shores. My amazing adventure with Save the Children began last July, at about the same time that there was a surge in the number of migrants making the trip by boat to Sicily. On some days there were two or three landings a day and my team was present for all of these, on hand to give assistance and support.

Over 170,000 migrants came to Italy by sea in 2014, 26,000 of them being underage. When you hear that figure, it’s easy to forget the human dimension to this crisis. But behind the number is a story of bravery and resilience and my job is to help the public understand what drives these children to risk their lives to come alone, to our shores. All children have their own personal slice of suffering but they also have hope and so much ambition for a better future.

I remember a story about two Palestinian brothers who had been living in a refugee camp in Syria. They were 19 and 9 years old. They travelled from Turkey to Sicily with their grandfather. The brothers held each other’s hands very tightly -they were so afraid of being separated. In Syria they had lived through continuous shelling and when the younger brother had been badly hurt he hadn’t been able to see a doctor for 20 days. It was so moving to see how much these brothers loved each other and how close they were. They and their grandfather had an ambition to go to Northern Europe.

One thing that is always shocking to hear is what children have endured in Libya. Libya is a transit point for migrants coming to Italy and almost everyone who has been held here has a horrific story to tell. I met a Gambian boy who was 16 years old. He showed me the scars on his arm. He told me that the scars were all over his body. The wounds were caused by beatings and cigarette burns he had received by Libyan traffickers.

It’s our goal to give children back their childhood, for them to be able to play, be serene, to live with their families and to give them a chance to have a future. Children have an incredible energy. Sometimes I see children who have been on a boat for hours and hours get off the boat and immediately start playing and running around. These children have a right to have a childhood like everyone else. And up to now they have missed out on this.

I love to tell the story of the little Syrian girl called Hayat. She landed in Sicily, last August and is a survivor in every sense of the word! Her parents and her brother who was 10, all died during the boat trip to Sicily. A Syrian man, who was on the same shipwrecked boat, saved Hayat. He found her in the water, hanging on to a piece of debris. She was one year and eight months old. We saw them disembark, the man was a size of a giant and he held little Hayat so protectively. This man, who turned out to be a Syrian doctor had saved this little girl’s life. He absolutely adored her and she him. He wanted to adopt her but this wasn’t possible.

Hayat was placed into the care of child welfare services and Save the Children representatives were able to contact her grandfather and aunt who were living in Sudan. After a lengthy process we were able to bring over the grandfather and uncle from Sudan and reunify them with Hayat. This was a very happy moment for us, that she was able to return home to her own family. She was 1 year 8 months when she arrived and she celebrated her 2nd birthday with us, her foster family and her aunt and grandfather!

We’ve also witnessed mothers who have given birth on the rescue ships of the Italian Coast Guard, almost immediately after they had been helped off the rubber dinghy they had attempted the trip on. There was a Nigerian woman who gave birth on Christmas day, with the assistance of the Italian Red Cross. She was one of 900 migrants who arrived that day.

I’ve learned that people leave their homes because they feel that they have no other alternative. Perhaps they are fleeing the conflicts in Syria or Iraq, from violence in Nigeria or from extreme poverty. Children tell us that their families are too poor to care for them, they have no future prospects, and some do not have the chance to go to school. Now in Italy they will have the chance to get an education. These children want to be doctors or lawyers so they can defend the rights of the most vulnerable. Many also want to become football players- they know the names of all Italian and European football players! One young migrant we assisted was a promising football player in his country and he came here to pursue his dream.

I remember when we received a landing of about 800 people, migrants who came ashore on a cargo boat. An old woman had disembarked, and all of her life was in a little plastic bag. She sat on the dock and started crying inconsolably. A few days later I saw her in the first reception centre. She had been given clothes, food and a place to sleep. She gave me a hug and started to caress my hair. Little gestures like this are small tokens of humanity that keep me going.

These stories teach us so much and they give the Save the Children team and me the motivation to make a difference. These people are so courageous. The cases we see are emotionally very difficult but what keeps us going is the sense of humanity, the strength of human spirit. This might seem like rhetoric but it isn’t – I witness it every day.

August Floods in Siraha

Sam

Samjhana K.C.

Junior Sponsorship Officer

Siraha District, Nepal

June 29, 2015

 

Over 250 people live in a temporary shelter after floods moved through Siraha District in eastern Nepal. Resulting from the geographical setting and high socioeconomic vulnerabilities, this region in Nepal makes headlines every year because of the recurring floods. For me, the unpleasant truth is that this is a bitter experience that these people have come to expect.

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Flood-affected area in Siraha.

Save the Children was one of the few organizations providing humanitarian support when floods swept through 10 communities of Siraha from August 10th to 13th. The turbulence caused by flooding not only disrupts everyday routines, but could be combined with the lifelong effects of losing homes, livelihoods, and mostly tragically loved ones. The August flood in Siraha alone resulted in 3 casualties. In addition to being potentially life threatening, these floods create waterlogging which disturb basic facilities like transportation and electricity.

We supported the District Disaster Relief Committee in their emergency response efforts. Teams were mobilized first to assess the impact of the flood and then to distribute support to the affected communities. The sponsorship fund was mobilized for emergency relief activities to help children and their families. Two types of immediate relief materials were distributed, non-food relief items such as blankets, utensils, and shelter kits, and ready-to-eat food items. The rescue team facilitated stockpiles of non-food relief items for 197 households in Siraha, touching the lives of 521 children. Save the Children also provided school kits to 127 school-going children affected by the flood. To prevent and contain potential epidemics, a health camp was also organized by the District Health Office in the shelter. The active participation of locals in relief and recovery activities boosted the spirit of our team.

Boxes

Flood-displaced families being distributed basic necessities.

Save the Children had initiated its development activities in Siraha as a response to an earthquake in 1988. Since then, our projects have focused on communities in Siraha where locals struggle with very low incomes. Our main focus has been child survival intervention, as a high percentage of women and children were considered to be at risk. In a country where natural disaster induced hazards are a regular phenomenon, Save the Children and our sponsorship team in the field are prepared to support humanitarian crises so that the distressed don’t have to endure their problems alone.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Getting to Zero — and Staying at Zero

This blog was first published on The Huffington Post.

 

I was recently able to congratulate Liberia and its leaders for being declared “Ebola Free” by the World Health Organization. That was a big deal for me, because when I visited that country at the peak of the epidemic last year, I didn’t know how long it would take for us to get to this point. I knew we had to do it, not just for the 2.5 million children living in areas affected by Ebola, but for all children around the world vulnerable to epidemics and outbreaks. In our interconnected world, a highly contagious health threat to children in one section of the globe, is a threat to all children. And even though Liberia made it to this milestone, its neighbors, Guinea and Sierra Leone, are still seeing new cases.

Save the Children has been hard at work over the last year in order to help bring the world to this point. In Liberia, we’ve reached over 165,000 people, built two Ebola Treatment Centers, provided psychosocial support to more than 5000 children, reunified 65 children with their families and much, much more. But we didn’t do all of this alone.

Government leaders around the world, realizing the serious nature of this crisis, quickly pledged financial support and donated expertise, talent and time. In the U.S., an emergency appropriations measure allowed for a significant and effective emergency response by the Center for Disease Control, USAID and others.

 

The private sector was also with us. Companies increasingly have global workforces and their leaders understand better than anyone how important identifying and containing global health risks and epidemics has become. This is one of the reasons that major tech firms (like Google and Facebook) and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation stepped into this fight with us.

The people of Liberia and their leaders deserve the lion’s share of the credit. Without their determination, perseverance and willingness to partner, none of this would have been possible.

 

All of this goes to show that problems of this magnitude cannot be solved by just one group — or by multiple groups working in isolation from each other. Everyone has a role to play and partnerships will remain critical as we go forward in this fight. Important pieces of work remain for us to accomplish together including:

 

• Continuing to support response efforts. No country will be safe at zero until all countries are at zero.

• Investments in global efforts to strengthen our collective response to future health emergencies. In addition to reforming international emergency health systems, we will need bold new initiatives to help other countries strengthen their own preparedness, disease detection and response capabilities.

 

I know the world is up for this challenge and one of the things that gives me hope is the commitment and creativity we have seen, and are seeing, on so many fronts and from so many partners.

Back to School Progress in #Nepal

MichelRooijackers (1)Michel Rooijackers

Save the Children Response Team Leader in Nepal

 

 

When most people hear that it's “Back to School” time, they probably remember ever-exciting first day when children return to their studies, ready to learn and see their friends. 

But for earthquake-ravaged villages throughout Nepal, getting children back into school isn’t as simple as packing their bags and giving them a hug goodbye.

Back to school copyMore than 32,000 classrooms have been completely destroyed, and an additional 15,000 have been badly damaged and considered unsafe for students and teachers. 

Buried inside those classrooms are books, desks, chalkboards and pencils; all of the necessary materials to make a quality learning environment for children.

Being overwhelmed by the scale of the challenges isn’t an option. Providing children with an education and safe-environment is as vital as providing them with food and water.

Our teams are working with communities across Nepal to build Temporary Learning Centers, simple structures made from tarps and local materials like bamboo. Located in open-spaces on the school grounds, they are a refreshing return to normalcy for children, parents and teachers.

Given the ongoing earthquakes and aftershocks, some parents have been understandably worried about sending their children back to school. What parent wouldn’t want their child close to them during such strenuous times? 

Thankfully, the design and materials of the Temporary Learning Spaces means that even if they are damaged by another earthquake, they’re very unlikely to cause any significant harm to children or teachers who may be inside. 

Teachers are also conducting drills with the students to ensure they know how to stay safe wherever they are when the next aftershock occurs.

With the help of community volunteers, we have already established 32 Temporary Learning Centers and will build a further 670 in the coming months. We’re also providing the schools and children with kits to ensure they have all the supplies they need to have a productive year.

Looking at the lively Temporary Learning Centers, juxtaposed next to the razed schools reveals a clear symbol of the progress Nepal has already made after this disaster, and a reminder of the challenges ahead.          

#Nepal: Trying to Make Sense of it All

KyleDegraw

Kyle Degraw

Humanitarian Communications Manager, Save the Children International

London

May 13, 2015

 

This post originally appeared at the Thomas Reuters Foundation.

It’s 8am and I’ve just landed in London from an overnight flight from Kathmandu. Only minutes ago another massive earthquake has hit Nepal.

And only hours ago, as I sat in the departures lounge of the Kathmandu airport, with rainwater from a thunderstorm streaming through the ceiling and ever watchful for news of yet another closure due to cracks in the runway, I struggle to find the words to describe the effects of the first earthquake.

It’s a tangle of paradoxes. Just yesterday I was observing Tibetan monks circle the beautiful (and intact) Boudanath Stupa, turning its hundreds of prayer wheels as they pass by, and suddenly the morning silence broken by US military helicopters heading towards the mountains in Gorkha and Sindhupalchowk, the worst affected areas. WFP helicopters quickly follow suit. The few tourists left in the square seemed not to notice.

This earthquake did not strike in the usual manor. Instead of destruction rippling out from the epicentre in concentric circles, it stretched straight out in a line to some of the most remote villages in the country, from Gorkha to Sindhupalchowk. This has spared Kathmandu the worst, though the effects are nonetheless devastating. Cultural heritage destroyed, critical supply routes bottlenecked, and much loss of life and livelihoods. And yet, while some buildings are reduced to heaps of rubble and many are damaged, most others are entirely untouched. A roll of the dice; a game of chance indeed.

I listen to news about this new 7.4 earthquake striking Sindupalchok, where I visited a temporary learning centre and household kit distribution only two days ago.  604

Frenzied emailing and tweeting followed suit. At the immigration counter, I broke the news to the border agent, a man of Indian origin who was taken aback at the news. Just on Sunday, I spoke with one community elder, Bharat, who said his biggest fear 'is another earthquake, undoing the progress we’re making and hurting our community even more'. It seems that his worst fears have come true. Bharat-ji is in my thoughts today, and all those already reeling from the April 25 quake.

The scene in his and other remote villages is not nuanced, as it is in Kathmandu. Entire villages, flattened, punctuate the serenity and beauty of the Himalayan foothills.

I struggle to comprehend exactly how anyone survived this earthquake in these regions, let alone entire communities. Most families that I spoke to were thankful for the earthquake’s timing, as if it were a friendly gesture: at mid day on the weekend, most were outdoors and away from danger. And yet the physical destruction is total: entire villages razed, livestock lost, and road access blocked by landslides. Today’s earthquake provided a similar friendly gesture of timing by Mother Nature.

Accessing the hardest to reach has been and will continue to be the major challenge in this response. Last week, in dry and clear conditions, it took me no less than 8 hours by road to reach Arupokhari, in Gorkha. The final 4 hours of that journey covered maybe 20 kilometres. Add the coming monsoon rains and seasonal landslides into the mix, and we’re facing a race against time to reach the hardest to reach.

Plans are afoot to share helicopter space with other agencies and load up donkeys with essential supplies for survival in areas without road access. To date, the team has been phenomenal – over 79,000 people reached in the first two weeks, with numbers continuing to rise. Literally, we are doing whatever it takes.

Because of the challenges presented by the odd pattern of destruction, the terrain, the coming weather troubles and resulting upswing in disease, it is clear the Nepal is a different kind of earthquake from those in recent memory.

It is no Haiti, China, or Pakistan. A damaged Kathmandu grinds on, restaurants and shops are open, and a handful of curious tourists linger. The team on the ground is adapting well, and I have full confidence in Nepal building back better.

To learn more about our Nepal Earthquake Relief Efforts, click here.

Nepal Earthquake: Aid Worker’s Firsthand Account from the Field

A firsthand account of the massive earthquake and Save the Children’s plans for how to help the children of Nepal.

Our voice in the field is Brad Kerner, part of Save the Children’s team on the ground responding to the deadly earthquake in Nepal. He was in Nepal when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck and is in Kathmandu assisting with our emergency relief efforts. Here he shares his firsthand account of the massive earthquake and Save the Children’s plans for how to help the children of Nepal. 

Brad Kerner_162443Nestled in the majestic Himalayan mountains, Nepal is near the top of the world and home to Mount Everest. I’ve always been in awe of the snowy peaks and fond of the gentle Nepalese children I’ve had the honor to work with over the years.

I was hiking with friends on the rim of a pristine lake. We were enjoying our day off, celebrating a colleague’s birthday. Then suddenly in the distance, we saw buildings start to shake. Then the rumbling sounds started. People ran out of buildings, but the shaking ground knocked them off their feet like game pieces on a chessboard that had been turned over. We felt the ground shake as the shockwave came crashing toward us. We huddled together, instinctively, for stability. I’ve never been more frightened in my life – I was paralyzed with fear and clung to my friends for dear life. We watched as buildings collapsed and houses came crashing down. The sounds of destruction and dogs barking filled our ears. The quake lasted little more than a minute – but it felt like an eternity.

15-NP-5_162433At first, we didn’t know the extent of the damage. Communications were down. My wife saw the news back in the states and was frantically trying to contact me. Thankfully, she reached me within a few hours.

We slept in a tent for the night and then headed back to Save the Children headquarters in Kathmandu, where our staff was readying our response to the disaster. What’s typically a 4-hour trip took more than 7 hours, but we were grateful that the roads were relatively intact. So many homes have been damaged and destroyed. The aftershocks make it unsafe to be inside. It is still cold here in the mountains, and it rained last night, but people are fearful to return to their homes and are sleeping outside in makeshift tents.   

Our teams have been working around the clock in response to the earthquake. The first phase includes the distribution of emergency supplies like tarps and other materials children and families need to survive. The next phase will also include protecting children who have been orphaned or separated from their families during this tragic disaster. As a public health professional, I have great concerns about the potential for the spread of disease in the coming days. With little or no access to clean water and proper sanitation, conditions are ripe for diarrheal diseases, such as cholera. These diseases are already the second leading cause of death for young children around the world. 

We are doing everything we can to keep children safe from harm and help families recover in the aftermath of the earthquake. We have more than 500 highly trained staff members in Nepal, many of whom have received intensive emergency response training. We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from our donors that will enable us to give children what they need to survive this horrific disaster and recover in the days, weeks and months to come. On behalf of Nepal’s children and families, thank you.

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More about Brad: Brad lives in Connecticut with his wife and children. They have two sons, ages 7 and 5, and a 10-month-old daughter. A veteran aid worker, Brad has been with Save the Children for a decade, and this is his 10th trip to Nepal. He had been working in Pokhara, Nepal on our health education programs – about 125 miles away from the capital city of Kathmandu – not far from the epicenter of the earthquake. Brad is highly regarded by his colleagues for his expertise and adored for his good humor. He is also one tough man – literally! When he’s not working or spending time with his family, he is an avid endurance athlete. He has competed in the Tough Mudder – a hardcore, 10-mile team obstacle challenge. 

How You Can Help 

Please give generously to the Nepal Earthquake Children’s Relief Fund to support Save the Children's responses to ongoing and urgent needs as a result of the earthquake. 

There’s No Easy Way Back for Vanuatu

EvanSchuurman

Evan Schuurman

Media Officer

Melbourne, Australia

March 18, 2015

 

The following blog first appeared on Herald Sun

Loads of packages covered with “Australian aid” stickers sit in front of me as the C17 hurtles down the runway at Amberley Air Base, just outside Brisbane.

We are bound for Vanuatu, which has just been torn apart by Cyclone Pam, the strongest storm ever to hit the Pacific nation.

I’m among a group of about 40 aid workers and journalists on the flight. We’re joining others to provide immediate relief to the thousands of people — indeed, almost half the population — affected by the crisis.

Australia has committed a package of assistance to the relief effort including $5 million and medical experts and, together with the Federal Government, is playing a key role in the response.

We know the situation is bad but it is only once we are on the tarmac that the complete and utter devastation becomes clear — the airport has no power and uprooted trees with branches ripped off them litter the edge of the airfield. Vanuatuchild

Driving through Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital, we are confronted with a scene of staggering devastation: collapsed roofs, fallen power poles, smashed billboards; concrete walls have come down and bricks are strewn along the roadside.

It seems nothing has been spared. Much of the city is without power and the water system has been badly damaged, increasing the risk of disease spreading. There are more than 25 evacuation centres scattered around the city and many, by necessity, are in schools, which will put pressure on the education system.

It’s clear immediately that the devastation of the storm will be felt for many months, probably years — long after the journalists have headed home. Yet amid the chaos, it’s extraordinary how the Vanuatu people are picking up the pieces of their lives and starting to go about their business.

Already some shops are reopening — although everything is being offered for quick sale because of the lack of refrigeration — and many of our Save the Children staff are back at work, with much to do. I wondered if I’d be so quick to get back to work if my home and much of what I owned had been destroyed by a storm.

Just days after the storm, there’s an urgent need for food, water, shelter and communications.

Large swathes of farmland were ripped up by Cyclone Pam and entire crops were lost, as well as the livelihoods that went with them.

In the outer islands, people have only a couple of days of food — and that’s if they’re lucky. Right now, getting food to people as quickly as possible is the absolute priority. Then in the months ahead, there’s a huge job to be done helping people buy and plant new crops and replacing damaged machinery.

Communications is another critical need. In Port Vila my phone signal flickered between “SOS” and a local carrier. As you head just outside the city the reception is even worse — beyond that it is nonexistent.

Aid agencies are yet to make contact with staff members in other parts of the country, meaning that the exact scale of damage and destruction still isn’t fully known.

Physical access is difficult. Roads are blocked by fallen trees, power poles and other debris. As more staff and machinery are flown and shipped in, that will improve, but for now we can only hope the storm was more forgiving in other parts of the country.

Before the storm, Save the Children worked with local communities to prepare for cyclones like this as well as preparing for flooding, earthquakes and landslides.

In Penama and Shefa provinces — where 90 per cent of homes were either badly damaged or destroyed by Pam — we provided education kits on disaster preparedness with session plans and activity guides to teach children how to keep themselves and their families safe.

We also identified community leaders to push the program through local schools, reaching more than 22,000 people.

There were evacuation drills, educational songs and lessons about keeping safe. Children were also encouraged to make sure their families were prepared, developing household plans and keeping important documents like birth certificates safe.

In the days leading up to Cyclone Pam, staff went door to door in many parts of the country ensuring disaster plans were being put in place and encouraging those in low-lying areas to evacuate.

We can only hope that when we finally make contact with those communities that are so far unreachable, the news will be better. Either way, the people of Vanuatu will need help for a long time.

The pallets of aid are an important part of the recovery process, but beyond that schools will need help to reopen and children, who are most vulnerable in disasters, will need special care and psychosocial support so they can recover and roads and infrastructure will need to be rebuilt.

There’s no easy recovery from a storm like Pam. Our Pacific neighbour needs our help and we must be there until the job is done.

Donate to Save the Children’s Cyclone Pam appeal here. 

Counting Down to “Ebola-Free”

GregDuly

Greg Duly

Country Director

Liberia

March 2, 2015

 

The fight against the Ebola epidemic in Liberia appears to be moving in the right direction. It’s been 20 days since the last case of Ebola has been recorded. Indeed, the last Ebola patient was released from an Emergency Treatment Unit on Thursday of last week. The countdown to declaring Liberia Ebola-free has begun!

Having said that there is still so very much to do. The entire health system, which was weak prior to and now decimated by Ebola, needs to be rebuilt. One of the reasons for "building back better" the health system is so that Ebola cases & other high infectious diseases can be spotted quickly and mitigation protocols put in place immediately. This is a huge undertaking, but essential, and Save the Children will remain at the forefront of this collective effort. Some of the work Save the Children is engaged in is community-sensitisation designed to not only help communities understand and implement basic practices that will prevent the return of Ebola but also rebuild people’s trust in health services and the health workers themselves.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the entire school system was shut down for a 7 month period. This proved very disruptive to children’s learning. I am very proud of Save the Children’s leadership, in tandem with UNICEF, in the development of national protocols for ensuring that schools are places where children can learn and play without fear of contracting ebola. In addition, Save the Children delivered materials and training to 940 schools (more than 20% of the nation’s schools) over a three week period. However, many children are still out of school due to their inability to afford various costs because of the death of the breadwinner(s) in their families. Save the Children is helping these families so that children can get back to school. Ultimately, Save the Children will work on improving the quality of the learning experience of Liberian school children, many of whom finish school without the necessary knowledge and skills.

Many children lost one or both parents during the epidemic. Estimates are that up to 3,000 children may have been orphaned as a result. The nature of the epidemic was such that in many cases these children were abandoned by their relatives or neighbours due to fear. Save the Children has been at the forefront of training foster parents specifically for the purpose of providing them the skills needed to take care of these orphaned children. Given the stigma associated with Ebola-orphaned children, one must admire the altruism and courage of these foster parents.

Additionally, our team provides psychosocial support to children who have had to deal with the loss of family and friends, and have been through an extremely stressful time. During one single week in just one county, 126 cases of children needing psychosocial support were reported to Save the Children.

The epidemic has disrupted the livelihoods of many, many families. Due to the delay in planting the rice crop, rice yields were quite low resulting in a 20 to 30% increase of this staple crop. In response, Save the Children is developing a program which will reach 5,000 households.

So, whilst it is encouraging that Liberia is on track to get to zero, the effects of Ebola will be long lasting and affect children in many ways. There is much to do but thanks t0 the support of our donors, Save the Children is well positioned to make a huge contribution.

To learn more about our Ebola response, click here.

Ebola: Fighting While Surviving

GregDuly

Greg Duly

Country Director

Liberia

March 2, 2015

 

SavetheChildren_Ebola_Liberia_Blog_March_2015As I reflect on the three weeks of my assignment thus far in Liberia I continue to be impressed by the dedication and sacrifices made by the Liberian national staff. We’ve had tremendous support from expats who’ve come from all parts of the world but our team is nearly 90% Liberians. Demonstrative of the incredible sacrifice and effort that the country has made. 

Unlike international personnel, these staff have had to “live” the reality of the Ebola epidemic in ways the rest of the world cannot contemplate. Not only are our national staff expected to work each day – and for the first few months of the epidemic this meant working seven days a week and 14 or more hours a day – they have also had to keep their families safe or find treatment for them. Simultaneously fighting the epidemic while being victims of its brutality. 

SavetheChildren_Ebola_Liberia_Kebeh_March_2015

Locals like Kebeh, a midwife in our Community Care Center, make up 90% of our aid workers in Liberia

The entire team has done an incredible job across a number of sectors, addressing the direct causes and problems of Ebola Virus with initiatives such as Emergency Treatment Units, Community Care Centres and Active Case Finding/Contact Tracing] while also addressing the indirect issues such as getting schools in shape for children to safely learn in them and aiding those children who have been orphaned.

Ultimately it will be Liberians who rebuild the country but that doesn’t mean the international community can’t help. I am very proud of the dedication & commitment of our Save the Children colleagues who’ve courageously left their current postings and offered to serve in Liberia, but I am humbled by the wholehearted commitment by our Liberian colleagues who have really stepped up to tackle this dreaded scourge.

To learn more about our Ebola response, click here.