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Save the Children team in Yemen recognized for family planning program achievements in a Humanitarian Setting

Written by Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

Yemen is currently experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. More than two-thirds of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, with one-third in acute need. Of the 22.2 million people in need, more than five million are women of reproductive age, including an estimated half a million pregnant women. Before the current crisis escalated in March 2015, the average fertility rate was four children per woman and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in sixty. In only 30 other countries do women face a greater chance of dying due to complications of pregnancy or during childbirth. Access to family planning is limited with only 20 percent of women using a modern contraceptive method and a high unmet need for contraception of 33 percent.

In the dire context in Yemen, Save the Children staff work tirelessly to support children and their families, and we are so pleased that our family planning team that includes was recognized for the work they do in the face of tremendous adversity. At the International Conference on Family Planning, our Yemen team was awarded an Excellence in Leadership for Family Planning Award for their “significant contributions to the family planning field.”

Since the beginning of 2013, and through the escalation of the crisis, our reproductive health program has reached nearly 60,000 new family planning users through support to 16 health facilities in Hodeida and Lahj Governorates through funding from private foundation. The program has also expanded access to long-acting reversible contraceptives (intrauterine devices and implants) that are more effective than other methods and are often a good choice in humanitarian settings where supply chains may be disrupted. This high quality work was leveraged to secure a new two-year award for Save the Children from the U.S. Agency for International Development to strengthen family planning services in Yemen.

In addition to the recognition of our Yemen team, other Save the Children teams from Egypt humanitarian response for Urban Refugees in Cairo and Mali were recognized for their excellent work by winning “best poster” awards during the conference. Our submission was one of the twelve (out of 325 applications) named a finalist of the Quality Innovation Challenge sponsored by the Packard Foundation for a concept to pilot a digital, interactive contraceptive decision-making tool for young people in acute humanitarian emergencies in Somalia and Yemen. Through 41 posters and presentations, our staff demonstrated the positive impact our family planning programs have on the lives of children, adolescent girls, women and their families around the globe.

To learn more about how family planning saves lives and our presence at the International Conference on Family Planning, click here.

Delivering Quality Family Planning for the Hardest to Reach

Written by Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

Furah is a mother of four children who lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The eastern part of the country where she lives is marked by chronic poverty and decades of violence. With four children and living in a crisis-prone area, Furah wanted to avoid another pregnancy. At a Save the Children-support health facility, she was able to get an intrauterine contraceptive device to provide her with long-acting contraception. She, and others in her community, have noticed the positive benefits that family planning have brought to their community: “Children don’t get malnutrition or get sick as much as they did before the family planning program started.”

Satisfying demand for family planning services has the potential to drastically reduce maternal and child deaths. Nearly 1 in 3 maternal deaths and 1 in 5 child deaths could be averted if the 214 million women with a need for family planning were able to use modern contraceptive methods. There are also benefits to children’s education and girls’ ability to stay in school.

Save the Children delivers high impact reproductive health and family planning interventions for women and girls around the world. We do this by:

  1. Prioritizing the hardest to reach, including adolescents
  2. Improving clinical capacity and supply chains, particularly at the lowest level of service delivery
  3. Engaging men, women and communities to create an enabling environment for family planning use, including address inequitable gender norms
  4. Delivering family planning in humanitarian responses
  5. Advocating for supportive policies for family planning in partnership with local leaders and organizations
Furah and her four children outside the Health Facility in DRC. She has noticed the positive benefits that family planning have brought to the community.

Our family planning programs focus on postpartum women by capitalizing on the opportunity of service integration through maternal, newborn or child care services. Using our multisector approaches and expansive reach through newborn and child health, we reach postpartum mothers through vaccinations campaigns and other touch points at the community and facility level.

In humanitarian settings, we support reproductive health services by training and mentoring frontline health providers, providing commodities and supplies, strengthening supply chains and supporting communities to increase awareness and use of reproductive health services. We deploy quickly and stay long term to deliver family planning in any setting.

Our adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights programs fill critical information and service gaps, foster the development of positive social and gender norms, build linkages to health systems and equip adolescents with the skills, information and supportive social environment needed to navigate the challenges and opportunities during this critical life stage. Our programs address barriers through facility- and community-based strategies to increase access to health services that respond to the needs of adolescents and offer a full range of contraceptive methods.

More than 50 Save the Children staff members from 16 countries will be in Kigali, Rwanda this month for the International Conference on Family Planning – where we will share our expertise and thought leadership with the international community.  Together, we can all ensure mothers like Furah have the future they deserve.

To read more about how family planning saves lives, click here. 

Moms Saying No to Child Marriage

“How many of you were married before the age of 18?” This was the first question I asked the mothers I met in the Duhok refugee camp in Iraq, near the Syrian border. Of the 10 or so moms gathered in the Save the Children center, only one raised her hand. However, the reality for Syrian girls in refugee camps now is very different.

Save the Children research in 2014 showed that the rate of marriage for Syrian refugee girls rose to 25%. This is a relatively new phenomena for Syrian families, as the rate of early marriage prior to the start of the bitter civil war that has raged for more than seven years was only 13%. We want these moms who had gathered that morning in the Save the Children facility to continue to help us stop what was happening in the camp.

Early marriage is something Save the Children is working on in places like Nepal, Bangladesh, and Niger. It is an ender of many things for young girls – an ender to their education, an ender to many of their dreams, and, sadly, an ender to their lives in some cases. A girl married before the age of 18 is three times more likely to drop out of school. Girls married at an early age are more likely to have children at an early age. Sadly as a result, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death among girls 15–19 years old. Their children are also more likely to be under weight and have complications during birth. A child having a child is rarely a healthy way to start a family.

A mom named Fatima explained that sometimes families are living in such poverty that the chance to have another family take on the responsibility of food and shelter for a young girl is too much of an opportunity to pass on. Girls are still seen as a “cost” to families with little recognition that girls can go on to become wage earners for the family if they get a basic education and are allowed to seek work outside the home. Sometimes, families are worried that their teenage girls will become pregnant before they are married and see an arranged early marriage as a way to avoid such a shameful event. And in some cases dowries will be paid and there is an economic incentive to marry off daughters to benefit the rest of the family.

All these factors point to an underlying reality in many parts of the world – that girls are just not valued as people in the same way that boys are. The mothers I met are trying to change that outlook, one family at a time. They celebrated International Day of the Girl in the Duhok camp in mid-October by speaking to their neighbors about the harmful practice of early marriage, meeting face-to-face with other mothers and working to convince them that early marriage is not the best path for their girls. Instead, they should stay in school and get an education. For these women, they had so many more opportunities before choosing to marry and have children. One mother named Adima who was sitting next to me admitted this was hard work, but that they were dedicated to making it happen.

Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children, visits mothers in a refugee camp in Duhok, Iraq.

As we talked, my admiration for these mothers grew – even in the midst of a refugee camp, with very basic shelter, with food still rationed out to families, where many had been living for years, these women had a passion for their children that shone through. They recognized that girls did have the right to choose their own path and that the new tradition of early marriage was not in the best interest of their daughters. And they were willing to stand up and say so to girls, to other mothers, and perhaps most importantly, to men and boys too.

Through these kinds of programs in many parts of the world where child marriage is the norm – or has become so because of conflict and displacement – Save the Children works to empower girls and mothers to reduce the numbers of girls marrying before 18. Our latest analysis shows that 51 million girls will marry before 18 by 2030 given current trends. But we can change that story by engaging everyone in standing up and saying no to early marriage.  Click here to learn more about how you can support our work for girls around the world and help moms like Adima and Fatima be heard.

 

 

A Case for Gender Equality on this Day and Every Other

Written by Carolyn Miles

Today, on International Day of the Girl, the world celebrates the many things a girl can be – a doctor, an artist, a judge. Lean in. Dream big. Those are the empowering messages we all tell the girls in our lives.

But despite remarkable progress in some quarters, gender inequality and disempowerment still persist and are a root cause of many barriers to sustainable development around the world. Discrimination against girls critically impacts children’s ability to survive, learn, and live a life free from violence.

Without a strong start in life, a girl’s future is likely to be determined for her. Gender inequality leaves entire regions behind: according to the United Nations, Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses US $95 billion per year due to gender inequality. As a universal human right and a means to overcoming poverty and discrimination, gender equality must remain at the center of our U.S. foreign policy and development assistance.

The journey of nations to meet their own development needs depends on breaking down the barriers to enhance powerful contributions of women and girls. To improve development outcomes everywhere, the U.S. government must invest in gender analysis to look at the differences between progress for girls and boys. Only then can we identify and work to transform the root causes of gender inequality, including addressing discriminatory social norms and institutions, as well as advocating for and fostering legislation and policies that promote gender equality.

Child marriage is a good example of a harmful practice that affects not only girls but whole societies.  Around 1 in 5 women and girls in the world today were married as children – 1 in 3 of those were married before the age of 15. To a policymaker seeking to put an end to this, legal interventions may seem like the answer. But while they’re a key piece of the puzzle, new analysis by Save the Children shows that a startling 51 million child marriages could be averted by achieving universal secondary education for girls.1  This is what putting gender equality at the center of all areas of foreign policy and international assistance looks like: Reducing the harmful ways in which gender inequality combines with other factors to make it so much harder for girls to reach their potential.

The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) need robust funding and staffing to continue making critical investments in peace and security, economic development, education, nutrition, healthcare, and more. But if gender equality and women’s and girl’s empowerment aren’t at the center of all of these, the results just won’t be what we all want for children.

USAID has found that when 10 percent more girls go to school, a nation’s GDP increases, on average, by 3 percent. That’s something they wouldn’t have seen without a gender equality approach. Without sex- and age-disaggregated data, they wouldn’t even know that of the 25 million children currently out of primary school around the world, 15 million are girls.

Without gender analysis, they would overlook many of the reasons: boys’ education is often prioritized, girls face an increased risk of violence between home and school and from their teachers, and girls who marry before they reach adulthood almost always abandon their formal education.

Salam, pictured here with her young son Mesfin, was able to leave the abusive marriage she was forced to enter at age 13. Save the Children’s “Keep it Real Program” supported her return to school, where she rose to the top of her class.

But what about the other 134 million girls who will be married as children between 2018 and 2030 if the world doesn’t act? They too can become teachers, journalists, and entrepreneurs, but both research and experience tell us they’re more likely to become mothers, before their bodies are ready for it, or experience domestic violence. An investment in gender equality and girls’ empowerment yields tremendous results – not only in the individual lives of women and girls, but for the future we all share.

That’s why we at Save the Children have put gender equality at the top of our agenda.  On this International Day of the Girl, tell the U.S. government to do the same.

Share this post, check out our many others on Twitter under #SheCanBe, #EndChildMarriage, and #DayOfTheGirl, or join us in taking action!

 

1. Working Together to End Child Marriage 

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.

U.S. Government Investments That Give Everyone a Fair Chance

By Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

Tax season is over this year in the United States, but efforts on taxes are only gaining speed and attention in many developing nations.

USAID Administrator Mark Green has highlighted this as key to helping countries on their “Journey to Self-Reliance.” USAID aims to invest more aid to help developing countries reform their tax policy and administration – referred to as domestic resource mobilization (DRM) – as a way to finance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to gradually transition countries so that they no longer need our development assistance, and they remain strong partners to our country.

But the success of US investments in DRM ultimately depend upon trust – specifically, the trust that people in a country have in their government. Will governments fairly collect taxes and will they spend tax revenues in ways that are equitable and help reduce poverty? In this regard, paying taxes is at the heart of the citizen-state compact. When citizens pay taxes they expect to receive quality health and education services, security, and basic infrastructure from their government in return. Citizens want their governments to be accountable for how their tax money is spent.

To guide USAID in assisting partner governments to foster this citizen-state compact and mobilize domestic public revenues for equitable and sustainable development, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) created “Principles of Public Sector Domestic Resource Mobilization in Developing Countries.” The principles are as follows:

• Ensure DRM investments are pro-poor, sensitive to gender, and support inclusive economic growth. More tax funding will not magically reduce poverty;

• Align with country priorities. Support an overall country plan to strengthen its DRM systems, and to invest funds in the development priorities of partner countries. For all international assistance – country ownership is key;

• Take a holistic approach to DRM, including by building a transparent and inclusive process for setting national DRM policies, strengthening judicial and audit institutions, and reducing tax evasion and avoidance;

• Engage citizens and other development stakeholders in DRM activities. DRM programs should be highly participatory and democratic by helping to finance broader engagement of citizens and other development stakeholders in DRM activities; and

• Transparently assess progress. The US government should support accountability of tax systems to their own citizens working with partner governments to develop benchmarks for monitoring and evaluating equitable DRM and sharing them publically in their countries.

Save the Children knows firsthand from our work in communities in places like Kenya how difficult it can be for civil society and citizens to engage in dialogue with their governments around tax policy. Such discussions are often technical and not transparent; civil society organizations often lack the resources and capacity to engage. But tax reform will not lead to more accountable governance without civil society and citizens at the table; so it’s vital that aid for DRM support not only the government’s activities, but also support civil society’s ability to engage in the process.

MFAN has created these principles not only to ensure that the US government’s DRM strategy is a catalyst for inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction, but to ensure that it also includes the voices of vulnerable and marginalized populations so that reform reduces inequality and improves governance.

As experts have noted, DRM that produces meaningful improvements for marginalized and vulnerable populations is unlikely to occur without their voices being included. Donor nations like the United States can play an important role to ensure that these voices are integrated into national DRM dialogue and that equity and fairness become the centerpiece of tax policy and administration reforms.

Seven Years since the Syrian Dream

The Conflict in Syria is not “Normal”

After seven years of war in Syria, we hear more and more that the general public is becoming desensitized to the conflict. As horrible as the news reports are, the stories are no longer shocking. But we must never accept suffering and human rights violations as “the new normal.” The crisis in Syria is unacceptable—and it’s getting worse.

In the U.S., people work hard to achieve the American dream. Before the conflict, families throughout Syria were pursuing their Syrian dream—sending their children to school, buying what they wanted, working and running businesses. That was their normal.

When you listen to displaced Syrians describe life before the conflict, it sounds a lot like the lives my friends, family and neighbors live:

Just as we strive to raise our children in peaceful communities surrounded by neighbors, friends and relatives, a mom named Haya* reflected to us that: “Ours was a simple quiet village.” Seven-year-old Amer* recollected that: “My grandfather used to lift me and pick me up, play with me. My memories of Syria are we went for a walk at night, with my father and my mother. We bought something sweet.”

Sadly, seven years on, we know that many places in Syria are anything but quiet. Escalation in fighting forced more than a million people across Syria from their homes in the last three months of 2017.

Just as we dream of owning homes and giving our children more than we ever had, 7-year-old Lubna* told us: “I had a big, big home. My grandmother got me a toy, I remember that. I had a white room and it had a closet. The closet had a lot of clothes in it. I had a lot of toys in Syria.”

Today, homes in communities like Eastern Ghouta are being decimated by bombings. Satellite images show neighborhoods with the majority of their buildings destroyed. Basic services like sewage, electricity and water are gone.

Just as we are ambitious and work hard to provide for our families, one young boy we met named Mushen* told us: “We used to have chickens and sheep in Syria. My dad had a small shop. We also had two cars.”

Now, in besieged communities in Syria, 80 to 90 percent of people  are now unemployed and even staple foods are unaffordable for many families.

Just as we send our children to school and want them to be safe, 13-year-old Rasha* remembered that: “My school was really nice, it had two playgrounds. I really liked the school and had many friends.”

But in Syria, attacks often target schools and hospitals. In Eastern Ghouta alone, more than 60 schools have been hit by bombing in the first two months of 2018. Many schools operate in basements because of bombings. Children are years behind in basic reading and math skills.

We must actively resist the feeling that what we are seeing out of Syria is normal. It would not be for us and it is not for Syrian families who are desperate for peace. Seven years of conflict must end now. Millions of Syrians are dreaming of rebuilding their lives.

Since 2012, Save the Children has been supporting children and families both inside and outside of Syria. Our programs address physical and psychosocial health, return children to education, give them safe spaces to play, provide food and more. Save the Children will continue to raise its voice for those affected by the Syrian conflict. On March 15, join us by sharing your message of hope for Syrians on social media with the hashtag #7WordsForSyria.

Championing Children Begins With Championing Women

One of the privileges of my role at Save the Children is that I have the honor of working closely with the specialists who run our programs to improve the wellbeing of children and their families. It is their expertise—in education, health, protection, emergency response and more—that enables Save the Children to be a leader on children’s issues and deliver on our promise to reach every last child.

Nearly 100 years ago, our founder Eglantyne Jebb started that promise. Standing up and raising her voice—literally, on the streets of London—Eglantyne advocated for the unique needs of children affected by World War I. There are many Eglantynes around me in our organization today: staff who listen to the unique needs of people in the U.S. and around the world and put all of themselves into making a change. Today, on International Women’s Day, I’m recognizing a couple of the experts who use their knowledge to be champions for women. Because to be a leader on children’s issues, we must be champions of women’s issues.

When emergencies strike, Sarah Butler thinks of the moms. A specialist in emergency nutrition, Sarah is a leader on breastfeeding in emergencies. One of the ways Save the Children protects babies is by supporting their mothers—providing information, resources, safe spaces and more to encourage women in emergencies to breastfeed their babies. In the chaos of a disaster or a refugee camp, food, water and hygiene are unreliable. Breastfeeding their babies is the best thing mothers can do to provide them with fluids, nutrition and immunity support. Not only does breastfeeding ease stress in babies, it avoids the need for formula mixed with contaminated water, which could spread potentially fatal diseases and diarrhea to babies. Sarah loves her job because by helping women in emergencies breastfeed, she is showing them how incredible and resilient their own bodies are.

Brad Kerner had a bright idea about opportunities for girls: As a reproductive health advisor, he had worked in many countries, including those where women’s and girls’ rights were restricted. Along with Save the Children colleagues, Brad developed a program called Choices, which involved kids in the conversation on gender equity.  The curriculum brings 10- to 14-year old boys and girls together to talk about things like their dreams for the future. Brad knows that in order to empower girls to become the women they want to be, the boys and men in their lives need to understand girls’ experiences and ambitions—it  all begins with empathy.

These are just two of the people who make our work possible, and I’m proud that Save the Children is filled with people helping kids by empowering women. Eglantyne Jebb set that example from the start. To celebrate International Women’s Day, I ask you: who are the Eglantynes you see in your work?

Ending the War on Children

Basma* was in her elementary school classroom near Damascus, Syria when the building was hit. This curious 8-year-old is eager to learn, but violence has displaced her family multiple times. This has meant different schools, none as good as the one back home. When another school she attended was hit, 20 students died.

Basma*, 8, is from southern Syria but fled from her home when her school was attacked in an airstrike that injured many of her friends. Photo:  Khalil Ashawi/Save the Children
Basma*, 8, is from southern Syria but fled from her home when her school was attacked in an airstrike that injured many of her friends. Photo: Khalil Ashawi/Save the Children

Sadly Basma’s experiences and fear do not make her unique. In a new report just released by Save the Children and the Peace Research Institute Oslo, we found that 357 million children around the world live within conflict zones. That’s more children than the entire US population living within 31 miles of conflict. Many of these kids have never lived in peace.

In Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp last year, I met boys and girls who, like Basma, don’t get to attend the schools back home their parents dreamed of sending them to. Save the Children is running early education programs in the camp so that these children, forced from their schools, are able to build the crucial foundations of their educations.

If a kid’s childhood is impacted by conflict, what will her future be? Trends show that conflicts are lasting longer. For example, Afghanistan has had at least 17 years of conflict and conflict has afflicted Iraq for the better part of 15 years. In the most dangerous countries for children in conflict, fighting can take away entire childhoods.

All aspects of a child’s life can be impacted when she lives in a conflict zone. More mothers are dying in labor at home because they cannot access health facilities, or are afraid to because hospitals are commonly targeted in modern fighting. Children who do survive birth in conflict zones may not have access to healthcare as they grow up for the same reasons. Diseases prevented by vaccinations in peace-time, like polio and diphtheria, take hold, compounding the threats children face. A child’s mental health can be impacted into adulthood due to the trauma of violence.

Conflict is more dangerous for children now than at any time in the last 20 years, and attacks on schools are the “new normal.” Today, 27 million kids worldwide are out of school due to conflict. Some have never been inside a classroom. The interruption of education has a long-term impact on children’s futures and the socio-economic recovery of a country.

All children deserve a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm, but conflict can rob all of this from a child. It is the responsibility of the international community to protect children from the horrors of war. We must commit to preventing children being put at risk, upholding international laws and standards, holding violators to account and rebuilding shattered lives.

Protecting children affected by conflict is Save the Children’s founding mission, and nearly 100 years later, it remains our top priority. Our founder Eglantyne Jebb said, “Humanity owes the child the best it has to give.” It is difficult to dream about the future when, like Basma, all you’ve known is war. We owe children childhoods free of conflict.