Every Last Child Deserves the Opportunity to Learn to Read

Across the world, millions of children leave school without learning to properly read and write. Angelita, age 9, was at risk of becoming one such child. Although she was enrolled in a primary school in her rural Indonesian village, Angelita was a struggling student. 

If a young child gap struggles with reading, they risk falling behind and may never catch up. In fact, if children don’t get the help they need to learn to read, then the gaps between struggling and strong readers widens and worsen as they grow. 

As a young girl growing up in a place that grapples with widespread poverty and political instability, Angelita is one of 575 million girls who live in countries characterized by discrimination against girls.1  As reported in Save the Children’s 2018 End of Childhood Report, girls are more likely than boys to never set foot in a classroom. At last estimate, some 15 million girls of primary school age would never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school. And for those girls who are enrolled in school, the opportunity to develop as a reader is not guaranteed. In fact, only 94% of girls 15 and older are literate.

Save the Children supports child literacy around the world.
Angelita attends a Save the Children ‘reading camp’, a program that aims to boost literacy rates, at a Save the Children-funded model primary school in West Sumba, Indonesia.

Save the Children has worked in Indonesia for more than three decades.  Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, enrollment for girls in sponsorship schools rose by nearly 5% over 2015. 

With your support, we are working to give children in Indonesia and around the world early learning opportunities at home and in school. 

For just over a year now, 9-year-old Angelita has been taking part in a Save the Children ‘reading camp’ – a vital afterschool program that boosts the literacy of 7 through 9-year-olds and gives them the skills to succeed, even when learning in overburdened school systems.

“Personally, I think children here lacked many things before Save the Children came,” says Angelita’s mother Maria. “Now, we can see our children have had significant improvements in their education. They’re more keen on going to school.” 

To learn more about Save the Children’s work to support child literacy around the world, visit our website.

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

 
 

1. 2018 End of Childhood Report 

child literacy facts for parents

Child Literacy Facts for Parents

Literacy opens the door to a brighter future. A child’s early years are critical in shaping their development and lifelong learning potential. However, if a young child struggles with reading, they risk falling behind and may never catch up. In fact, if children don’t get the help they need to learn to read, then the gaps between struggling and strong readers widen and worsen as they grow.

Poet and author Emilie Buchwald wrote, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” But for children living in poverty, and those with few books or no one to read to them at home, the chance to become a lifelong reader may seem out of reach. In fact, children in poverty are less likely to attend preschool and often live in households where early learning activities are few and far between.

That’s why Save the Children’s education experts support children, parents, caregivers and schools to develop literacy skills from birth. There are many things you can do to support child literacy as well, and ways you can get the children in your life reading and succeeding, as a result.

child literacy facts for parents

Statistics about Reading and Success

According to the Department of Education, the more students read or are read to for fun on their own time and at home, the higher their reading scores, generally.1  However, in the United States, more than 60% of low-income families have no children’s books in their home.2 

In many rural communities where Save the Children works, the school library is the only place where children can access books. When children don’t have access to books or have family members regularly read aloud to them, their reading scores dive far below the national average. By the time they’re 3 years old, children from low-income families have been exposed to 30 million fewer words than their more affluent counterparts.3  Reading and being read aloud to has an impact that extends beyond just hearing stories.

When children are read to at home, they are able to count to 20 or higher, write their own names, and over 1 out of 4 of those children are able to recognize all members of the alphabet.4  Children who read at home also score higher in math.

What is the best way to teach a child to read?

The first step on the path to literacy is teaching children letters and the sounds they make. You can read along with a child to help them identify and sound-out the different noises in a word. As children take these precious first steps towards literacy, parents should gradually expand their selection of reading material to help children learn new words.

Children need to learn to read accurately and with understanding. The best way to teach a child to do that is to ask them questions and encourage them to think carefully about the words. As anyone who has learned a second language can tell you, learning these skills once is not enough. Children need to develop fluency, which only comes from practice.

child literacy facts for parents

How can I improve my child’s reading skills?

Nearly every parent has asked themselves, “How do I help my child read at home?” Let’s reframe that question. Instead, think of how you can make reading more enjoyable for your child.

It can be a big mistake to turn reading into a power struggle, or to unintentionally train children to see reading as something done just for a reward instead of for enjoyment. Kids like to read when it’s fun and when it’s relevant to their interests.

Parents will notice their children are full of questions. If your child shows curiosity about a specific topic, visit the library or bookstore and get them a book on the subject. If they have a favorite TV or movie character, see if there are a line of books that continue that character’s adventures on the printed page. In addition to wanting to read more, your child will also expand his or her imagination.

At what age should a child be able to read?

Although every child is different, most children are able to read between the ages of 4 and 7. Some children start learning to read and write their letters, or recognize signs and symbols as early as 3 years old. Gradually, their reading proficiency grows and they start to ask questions about words they can’t sound out or do not understand. While some children are slower to develop reading skills, most should be able to read with fluency by the time they’re 7 years old.

However, children who do not develop literacy skills early-on can face serious disadvantages in the classroom. When a child’s reading skills are not in-step with the timetable for their school, those children fall behind. Poor reading skills may not only affect their grades, but also take a toll on their confidence or create educational problems in other areas.

How can I help my Dyslexic child learn to read?

Dyslexia is a disorder that affects children of all ages and learning levels — even children with above average intelligence. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects the way the brain processes information. For children with dyslexia, certain parts of their brains process words on a page differently than most people, which makes reading much harder for them. Dyslexia is typically diagnosed during pre-school or elementary school years.

Dyslexia can be overcome. Kids with dyslexia can work with a teacher, tutor, specialist, or their parents to improve their reading. In particular, dyslexic children need extra help memorizing sight words. Parents can help by trying to engage all of their child’s senses when learning something new. For example, if a child is struggling to remember a letter, encourage them to use their finger to trace-out the shape of the letter.

Repetition is also important to helping dyslexic children overcome their challenges. Similarly, talking about what they read and/or heard can help them better understand what they’ve read and increase comprehension skills.

Helping Children in Need

“Here’s the good news,” stated Save the Children Trustee Jennifer Garner when testifying on Capitol Hill about the importance of early childhood education in March 2017. “It takes so little – a ball, a book, a parent who is given the encouragement to read or talk or sing to a child – to make a life-changing difference.”

Supporting Save the Children’s literacy programs ensures that children in the U.S. and around the world will be introduced to reading and writing at a young age, and that they will be given the opportunity to reach their full potential.

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to support child literacy and help set children up for success, visit our website.

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

 

1. Facts About Children’s Literacy 

2. Beyond School Walls: A Boost for Readers 

3. Hart, Betty and Todd R. Risley. “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.” American Educator, Spring 2003. 6 Isaacs, Julia B. and Katherine Magnuson.  

4. Facts About Children’s Literacy 

The Children of Baidoa

By Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

When I met him, Isaac was hungrily drinking the milk his mother gently brought to his lips in a little plastic cup. At thirteen months old, he was stick thin but already so much better than when he arrived a week ago. The doctor told me he was so weak from pneumonia on top of severe malnutrition that he had to be fed by an intravenous tube in his tiny arm – now he was sitting up to eat. In about a week, he’ll go home with a two-week supply of peanut-based food and come back to the out-patient facility to ensure he’s putting on weight. Once the health workers are assured of his progress, he’ll hopefully transition to a regular diet of breast milk and porridge – the perfect meal for a growing baby boy.

There were about 40 other children at the Save the Children stabilization center in Baidoa, Somalia when I visited – some so malnourished they couldn’t hold their heads up or eat on their own and others on the way to recovery.  The children in the stabilization center are not only suffering from severe malnutrition but other complications like diarrhea, pneumonia, or malaria – illnesses that prey on immune systems weakened by hunger. Conflict in Somalia between the government and Al Shabab has displaced millions of families, and the center’s two doctors and their staff are busy every day taking care of children whose families are struggling to provide food in the middle of the conflict. The conflict keeps families from their farms and pastures and makes the country one of the most food insecure in the world – more than one million of Somalia’s children are acutely malnourished. While the stabilization center is making a big difference, the staff is worried about new funding and when it might come to keep the center operating.

Isaac at Save the Children’s stabilization center in Baidoa, Somalia.

During my recent trip to Baidoa, I also visited a camp for internally displaced persons – people who have had no choice but to leave their homes. I met with Issa, who arrived at the camp six months earlier with her four children when the fighting reached her village 60 km away. As a divorced woman, she was left with no resources after her small livestock herd died and she was concerned about getting her infant daughter, Laila, the medicine she needs to combat an upper respiratory infection that makes her wheeze. The conditions inside the camp are grim, and mothers and children pick their way around the huts covered in plastic, clothes and cardboard to keep out the rain that turns the ground to mud.

Issa’s own challenges are made more difficult by the many layers of problems most people in Somalia face. In addition to the threat from Al Shabab and the persistent drought that jeopardizes the livelihoods of millions of people like Issa who depend on livestock and grazing land to survive, 60% of the population lives in persistent poverty with less than $1 a day. All of these factors conspire to make Somalia one of the most difficult places on earth to be Isaac, Laila, or any child – as shown in this year’s End of Childhood report.

But my visit also showed me there is hope here. My Save the Children colleagues, the under-resourced but remarkably determined Baidoa government, and the many partners working together are making a difference for these children and so many others. There’s no denying that life here is extremely hard, but progress can be seen little by little as children recover and heal and mothers find the strength to keep going and look to the future.

Humanitarians Are #NotATarget

By Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

Today is World Humanitarian Day 2018 and far too many children and families, from Syria to Bangladesh, El Salvador to East Africa, are trying their best to survive dire conflicts and crises.  Right at this moment, Save the Children is responding to more than 65 humanitarian emergencies. Today, like every day, I am immensely grateful to my colleagues who are responding to these crises. They refuse to believe that the health, protection and education of children are impossible goals.

Just yesterday I returned from South Sudan and Somalia where I was witnessing the work Save the Children’s humanitarians are doing to save children’s lives.

The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is severe—armed conflict, economic hardship and food insecurity are feeding into each other, affecting millions.  An estimated 5.3 million people are lacking enough food and water this year—a full 40 percent more than last year.

And every day, the aid workers combating this crisis go to work in the world’s most dangerous place to deliver humanitarian assistance. The need for humanitarian assistance in South Sudan is only growing, but attacks on aid workers are increasing, too.

I learned that violent attacks on aid workers and their supplies is such a problem that they are preventing humanitarian services from reaching the people who need it. Recent attacks have forced us to curtail service and stop programs until we can ensure safety.  When we say that humanitarians are #NotATarget, we speak up for them and the millions more who rely on their work.

Many families rely on the nutrition stabilization center Save the Children supports in Kapoeta, where I meta brave male nurse named Bosco. When a child is admitted to the center, Bosco measures her arm, checking for indicators of life-threatening malnutrition. While he records the child’s height, weight and medical history, he tells her parents that he will do everything he can to stop her diarrhea and add weight to her small frame. Bosco works seven days a week at the small center and brings healthcare to hundreds of families in the area who have no other services.

Bosco will use medications, therapeutic foods and other resources in an attempt to stop the vicious cycle of malnutrition and illness. He smiled telling me about why he does this work – because he knew he could “save the children!” And when a child leaves the center, his Save the Children colleagues will continue to monitor the child’s health weekly through our Outpatient Therapeutic Program.

In Somalia I saw similar Save the Children programs. There the combination of conflict and a stubborn drought adds even more misery for families, especially those who earn their livelihoods through herding animals.  When the rain stops, the animals run out of food and families are forced to live in camps for the displaced and are dependent on food rations and trucked water.  It is a difficult way to live for anyone, but especially for the youngest children. Child mortality rates among these displaced people are high and children are dying from diarrhea and pneumonia in far too large numbers. We know that children are among the most vulnerable in any crisis, which is why our aid workers are active in these communities, addressing their unique needs.

Children in South Sudan and Somalia  – and in too many places – are facing many threats, but humanitarians are committed to changing that reality. They will continue making sacrifices to make that change possible and I am so proud to work with these selfless individuals.

Compassion and Collaboration – Ideas to Advance Humanity

Written by Dr. Unni Krishnan, Director, Emergency Health Unit

Everyone has dreams. Some dreams are fabulous, some ambitious. When I met Tom last November, his dreams seemed almost impossible.

Tom was trying to build a health clinic in three days in the middle of nowhere. To be precise, Tom was in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh; home to the largest and perhaps the most overcrowded refugee camp in the world. He was working with Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit, deployed to Bangladesh to provide life-saving support for Rohingya refugees who had fled Myanmar.

Families were arriving at the camp sick, malnourished, dehydrated and often traumatized. Disease outbreaks threatened further human suffering. This was the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world.

Humanitarian workers like Tom were working against the clock.

“Are you serious,” I challenged Tom. “How do you build a health clinic in three days?”

Tom is not a structural engineer and not a soldier in a military platoon with unlimited resources. He is, as he calls himself, “an ordinary water and sanitation engineer.”

But as a humanitarian worker he is equipped with three things – a clear mission, infectious optimism and deep compassion. These are powerful ingredients to make things happen on the frontlines of sheer devastation.

Tom, wash manager for Save the Children, removes ice blocks from a freezer in Kinshasa.

Why Be a Humanitarian Worker?
Humanitarian work is about extending the spirit of humanity to people. If you look at the suffering in the world, is there an option not to be a humanitarian worker?

Today we are witnessing the highest levels of human displacement on record. More than 68 million people have been uprooted from their homes. Twenty-five million are refugees who have fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution – in actual numbers, this is more than the population of Australia.

In 2016, more than 560 million people’s lives were critically impacted by natural disasters. And approximately 815 million people will go hungry tonight. If you put all the hungry people in the world in one country, it would be the third most populous nation in the world after China and India.

It’s in these settings – in oceans of human suffering – that the efforts of Tom and his fellow humanitarian workers make the difference between life and death.

Besides the need for food, water, health care, emotional assistance and shelter in these circumstances, there is also a need to contend with fear. The fear of houses and hospitals being bombed, schools being burnt, children being orphaned, storms, floods, disease – it’s a long list, but frighteningly real in an increasing number of places.

Despite the odds, Tom and his team from the Emergency Health Unit went on to build the clinic, as well as eight other clinics and a primary health center that works around the clock in Cox’s Bazar. The big idea behind their work is to ensure that no child is left behind in the process of delivering life-saving health care and medical assistance within the turmoil of an emergency.

World Humanitarian Day
On August 19, 2003, the then Special Representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General to Iraq, Sérgio Vieira de Mello, and 21 of his colleagues were killed in the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad.

World Humanitarian Day is marked each year on 19 August. It’s a day we pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service, and to celebrate the selfless service of humanitarian workers.

Humanitarian workers are agents of compassion when the world turns upside down. Most of the real humanitarian heroes are often invisible; ordinary local volunteers who do extraordinary work to pull people from bombed war zones or from earthquake rubble long before international aid arrives on the scene.

They can’t stop the storms, the wars or the outbreaks of diseases. But they can provide healing. They can’t stop the next disaster. But they can reduce the severity of human suffering.

Their work reminds us of a simple truth – compassion is an index of humanity. Imagine the state of the world without it.

Collaboration – A Catalyst
What we do today depends a lot on what we do with others. Challenging a storm’s fury or the ruthless perpetrators of a genocide is not something humanitarian workers can do alone. It requires the combined efforts of various players – governments, media, civil society and UN systems.

World Humanitarian Day reminds us that collaboration and compassion are two powerful forces that can make the world less brutal and a more beautiful place where we all can live and where children can thrive.

 

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to deliver lifesaving emergency response, visit our website.

Recognizing World Humanitarian Day as a Team Sport

Written by Michael Klosson, Vice President Policy & Humanitarian Response 

There are days when visiting my Save the Children colleagues on the front lines of our humanitarian response work in Rakhine State in Myanmar, refugee communities in Jordan, drought stricken communities in Kenya or insecure villages in South Sudan I believe that every day should be World Humanitarian Day.

Such recognition 365 days a year would provide us all fitting opportunities to stand in solidarity with the massive number of people whose lives have been turned upside down whether by conflict or disaster. We are seeing, for example, an unprecedented number of people, climbing past 68 million this year, who have been forced out of their homes. It is estimated that 134 million people in 40 countries need assistance and only one third of the necessary funds to meet such needs have been provided half way through the year. Such year-long recognition would also pay tribute to extraordinary efforts of local, national and international aid workers who themselves face hardship, sometimes even death, to help others at their most vulnerable stage.

These thoughts ran through my mind when I visited recently with mothers and village elders in a community in Wajir County, Kenya. We sat in the shade of a spreading banyan tree and discussed Save the Children’s work last year to help them overcome malnutrition stemming from the severe drought in East Africa.

One mother, wrapped in green with a blue head scarf, pointed to her child cradled in her arms. She told us that her child was alive today only because of the cash transfer program we initiated last year enabling families to support themselves when their livestock had all perished.

The community said that things had been better last year than in the big drought of 2011 because the county had built a dispensary nearby, and we had supported it with provision of water. But the village elder and mothers had no clear answer to the question of how they would rebuild and be better able to face the next drought. They “would just do what they always do” was the response.

A Save the Children Community Health Worker visit with nine-month-old Amoni at her home in Kenya.

We all can take satisfaction in the fact that world and national leaders, together with many others, rallied in 2017 and helped stave off the specter of widespread famine in East Africa. Thanks to our collective efforts, one hears stories such as this one across the entire region. But I came away from my visit troubled: parents and children in Wajir County were getting back on their feet, but their legs were no stronger to withstand the next challenge. Should we not use this period of respite to help such communities take actions that will better prepare them to face such hardship?

Clearly the answer is a strong “yes.”

That leads me back to World Humanitarian Day, but with a new reflection. This day is a moment to acknowledge the importance of helping others in dire need and to recognize the great lengths that humanitarian workers go to provide such help. In today’s world, however, it should also be a moment to recognize that humanitarian work writ large is not just for humanitarians. It’s a moment to reaffirm that helping the more than hundred million people around the world deal in a sustainable fashion with the dire need they face must be a shared responsibility.

At a moment when crises are large-scale and protracted, this work has to involve a team effort of humanitarian aid workers, development workers as well as those involved in conflict resolution and diplomacy. It has to involve a blend of financing and approaches.

We all have a role to play in helping communities persevere, get back on their feet and face the next challenge with greater resilience. World Humanitarian Day is a day to recognize the role we must all play with humanitarians in this team effort.

 

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to deliver lifesaving emergency response, visit our website.

Working to Help the Most Vulnerable Survive and Stay Safe

Ali* (right), 14, with his sister Noura* (left), 6, outside the house their family rents in Sana’a, Yemen.

In times of crisis, when children are at their most vulnerable, Save the Children is there. Our humanitarian aid workers are willing to stay as long as it takes to ensure children and families can recover, restore their lives and build their resilience for years to come.

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.

Visiting Baniqais
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.

Children’s Health
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.

Samir* suffers from Severe Acute Malnutrition and was brought to a Save the Children-support health center for care.

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 situation in and around Hodeidah remains tense, it is worth remembering that some of our staff and their families have come to the relative safety of Sana’a and are working from the country office as their temporary base. Our expatriate staff also do an incredible job with severe restrictions on their movement every day but still maintaining the drive and commitment to make a success of Save the Children’s Yemen Humanitarian Program.

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! 

 

Improved breastfeeding practices have the potential to save the lives of 823,000 children, like Sakariye

No one understands how breastfeeding can increase a child’s chance of survival the way a mother of a malnourished child does.

Did you know that undernutrition is estimated to be associated with 2.7 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths.1 However, research estimates that breastfeeding saves the lives of over 820,000 children under 5 years old each year.

In fact, around one in eight of the young lives lost each year could be saved through breastfeeding,3 making it the most effective of all ways to prevent the diseases and malnutrition that can cause child deaths.4 Here’s why.

Breast Milk Is a Superfood
In the first hours and days of her baby’s life the mother produces milk called colostrum, the most potent natural immune system booster known to science.5 A baby who is breastfed colostrum receives significant protection against pneumonia and diarrhea, which are two major causes of deaths of children in poor countries. A child who is not breastfed is 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die from diarrhea. 2

If we can ensure that every infant is given breast milk immediately after birth, is fed only breast milk for the first six months and continues being breastfed through two years of age and beyond, we can greatly increase the chance that they will survive and go on to fulfill their potential.

Mothers Face Barriers to Breastfeeding
Additionally, because of the chronic shortage of health workers, many women in developing countries give birth at home without skilled help, or in a health facility where the health workers are over-stretched and under-trained. One third of babies are born without a skilled birth attendant present. As a result the opportunity for new mothers to be supported to breastfeed in the first few hours is lost.7

The Importance of Breastfeeding Support
A mother’s access to skilled breastfeeding support can have direct impacts on her ability and confidence to breastfeed.  Breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone, particularly in emergencies.  In these times of difficulty, mothers need access to support.  Skilled support as well as basic interventions that support mothers and their youngest children have a direct impact on her child’s survival. Here is the story of one such mother.

Amran* holds her six month-old son Sakariye*, the youngest of her 3 children.

Sakariye*’s mum, Amran*, remembers the first time her son was seriously ill. “He was 15 days old. First, he had problems breathing, then he got measles,” she explained. Amran* did her best to care for Sakariye*. She tried to get him medicine. She tried to breastfeed him, but he continued to struggle.

A baby’s health is closely linked to its mother’s and so it was for Sakariye* and Amran*. When drought caused food shortages in Somalia where the family lives, Amran* did what any parent would do. She put her young children first.

“I wasn’t able to breastfeed Sakariye* because I was sick and malnourished,” says Amran*. She faced real challenges in feeding her child and lost her confidence in being able to feed Sakariye*.  Amran* didn’t have access to skilled breastfeeding support that could have immediately referred her for health services and supported her with information and counselling on breastfeeding.

With limited available options, Amran* began introducing water and food to supplement her breastmilk. At six-months old, Sakariye* fell ill, getting frequent diarrhea. He started vomiting and having fevers. He grew so weak he couldn’t turn over any more. Amran* knew her baby was in danger. She brought him to Save the Children’s treatment center, where he was diagnosed with malnutrition and admitted.

Today, Amran* is sitting by her son’s cot on the ward. She’s smiling because she has seen big changes in him during the last few days.

“It is good we are here,” she says. “Sakariye* has started recovering. He takes injections and other medicines. They give him some nice therapeutic milk.” Sakariye* is getting stronger and so is his mum.

Amran* is able to breastfeed again and she is looking forward to taking her son home.

Mabior*, who has pneumonia, is breastfed by his mother Ayen* at a hospital in South Sudan.

All across East Africa, babies and young children are at risk of malnutrition. Every day, more than 15,000 children around the world die before reaching their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable or treatable causes.9 A large, and growing, share of them are newborn babies in the first month of life.

Save the Children works with partners at global, national, regional, and community levels to prevent malnutrition by bringing a wide-range of multi-sectoral interventions and programs to disadvantaged families.

While our main target population is mothers and children, Save the Children’s strategies also include support for fathers and other caregivers.

Save the Children’s Emergency Health and Nutrition programs focus on  lifesaving maternal, newborn and child healthcare, including breastfeeding promotion, protection and skilled support.

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to celebrate breastfeeding awareness, visit our website.

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

 

1. Nourishing the Youngest

2.Edmond, K M, Zandoh, C, Quigley, M A, Amenga-Etego, S, Owusu-Agyei, S and Kirkwood, B R, ‘Delayed breastfeeding initiation increases risk of neonatal mortality’, Pediatrics, March 2006, 117(3):e380-6

3. Mullany, L, Katz, J, Yue M Li, Subarna, K, Khatry, S, LeClerq, C, Darmstadt, G L,and Tielsch, J M, ‘Breast-feeding patterns, time to initiation, and mortality riskamong newborns in southern Nepal’, Journal of Nutrition, March 2008, 138(3):599–603

4.Source: UNICEF, World Breastfeeding Conference, December 2012

5. Uruakpa, F, ‘Colostrum and its benefits: a review’, Nutrition Research, 2002, 22, 755–767, Department of Food Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2, Canada.

6. State of the World’s Mothers Report 2015

7. Superfood for Babies: How Overcoming Barriers to Breastfeeding Will Save Children’s Lives

8. Nourishing the Youngest

8.WHO

9.End og Childhood Report 2017

Cholera Epidemic in Yemen Threatens Puts Children at Risk

Children at Risk in Yemen Need Urgent Support as Cholera Outbreak Threatens Hodeidah

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.

“There is no time to waste,” Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children said in a recent statement. “Aid agencies need unimpeded humanitarian access to save lives. The international community must also step up its support so that we can prevent another outbreak of cholera.”

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.

Cholera Epidemic in Yemen Threatens Puts Children at Risk
Lina* (8 months) visits a Save the Children supported health facility in Amran to receive treatment for malnutrition. Two of her siblings have already died due to illness.

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.

Cholera Epidemic in Yemen Puts Children at Risk
Families like Lina’s* are struggling to withstand continued conflict, food reduction and danger in Yemen.

Since early May, the frontline of Yemen’s civil war has edged closer to Hodeidah, the main port city on Yemen’s west coast and the country’s primary entry point for goods and humanitarian aid. Save the Children is increasingly concerned that Hodeidah city could be besieged as the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition makes advances in northern Yemen and continues to consolidate gains around the south of the city. This could potentially cut off Hodeidah city, its port and its people from the rest of the country. 2

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.

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done in Yemen, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. MAKE A DONATION TODAY TO SUPPORT OUR YEMEN CHILDREN’S RELIEF FUND.

 

1. Conflict in Yemen Fact Sheet 

2. A Siege of Hodeidah Could Have Devastating Consequences, Warns Save the Children 

Redefining Gender Roles Through Kangaroo Care in Africa

A Kenyan Father Participates in Kangaroo Mother Care…and Likes It

Written by Nicolle Keogh  | Photography by Peter Caton

Fathers play an important role by assisting mothers with Kangaroo Mother Care, a technique where skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding offer newborn babies warmth and nutrition during the most critical stage – the first 24 hours. However, in many cultures, fathers are reluctant to participate in perceived maternal techniques. Here is the story of one such father and how he is working to redefine gender roles for Kenyan fathers.

In Nairobi, Kenya, William works as an assistant tutor to provide for his young family. Every morning, he prioritizes spending time with his twin babies in their one-room home before beginning his day.

“I always wake up around 5 a.m. so I can hold each of them before I start preparing myself for work,” he says of 7- month-old Audrey and Amber. He proudly adds that now that his girls are healthy 7-month olds, they squeeze in some playtime before he leaves home.

Holding both girls in his lap, he recalls his first weeks as a father, when he spent hours of each day praying for their health after they were born three months premature. Weighing about 3.5 pounds each at birth, Audrey and Amber spent over two months in the hospital while their health and weight improved. William visited every day after work, anxiously wondering during each taxi ride whether his newborns had lived to see another day.

redefine gender roles for Kenyan fathers
Save the Children is strengthening the skills and capacity of health providers in seven hospitals located in the Langata area of Nairobi, Kenya, so that they can deliver higher quality care to preterm and low-birth-weight babies. The project is targeting to reach 2,200 new born babies each year, including William’s twins Amber and Audrey.

In Nairobi, most hospitals face the challenge of not having enough incubators to meet demand, so it’s not uncommon to see four tiny newborns sharing one machine. When William arrived to visit his family at the hospital, he’d often learn of newborns in the same unit who hadn’t survived.

“I never held them when they were in the hospital because I was afraid and thinking, ‘What if I hold this baby, then the next moment she’s not there?”

But with help from a Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) program supported by Save the Children and Red Nose Day, both girls grew to become healthy babies.

KMC is the practice of providing skin-to-skin contact between a caregiver and newborn. The technique decreases mortality by regulating the baby’s temperature, breathing and heartrate; promotes breastfeeding and provides an opportunity for parent-baby bonding.

Audrey and Amber responded immediately to KMC and began gaining weight at a rate of about 4 ounces per week. William was impressed by the progress but a common social stigma regarding traditional gender roles kept him from expressing his interest in KMC. “In the African culture, there is this thing that kids are supposed to be taken care of by the mom,” he explained.

After two and a half months of practicing KMC in the facility, Audrey and Amber were finally healthy enough to be discharged.

Once at home, William began assisting his wife with KMC. They’d spend their nights sitting side-by-side, each with a baby on their chest in Kangaroo position.

When they returned to the hospital for their first follow-up a week later, the twins’ weight had
increased by over a pound. William was convinced that he should continue as a key player in the twins’ KMC journey.

“One important thing that I’ve learned from practicing KMC is that even me, as a dad, I have a very big role to play with my kids,” William says. “Other than providing for them, I can also be part of bringing them up.”

William recognizes that his family is fortunate to live in Nairobi where KMC is practiced, and able to afford the public transportation fare to attend follow-up visits at the hospital. “If this program could reach people in the rural areas, it will make life a bit easier [for those people] and it will even make the world happy,” William said. “Because the joy of each and every family is to see the child come home from the hospital healthy.”

“Thank you very much for bringing this program to us,” William said. “It has taught us a lot, it has brought joy to my family. KMC is the reason why I can hold my babies, I can play with them, I can laugh with them. So all I can say is thank you very much.”

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. MAKE A DONATION TO SUPPORT OUR WORK IN KENYA AND AROUND THE WORLD.

Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives program is a project that aims to reduce newborn deaths and improve newborn survival in high-mortality countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Health workers present when the baby is born can help the mother establish exclusive breastfeeding, and can support the mother to keep the baby warm through skin-to-skin contact – a technique known as Kangaroo Mother Care. Fathers play an important role by assisting mothers with KMC.