For Babies In Big Cities, It’s Survival Of The Richest

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post

I will never forget the moment when I looked out the car window at a bustling, steamy intersection in the heart of Manila, and locked eyes with a young woman. She was holding a tiny baby while begging in the street.

 

I glanced down at my six-month-old son, sleeping contentedly in my arms inside our air-conditioned car. The enormous inequalities between my world and hers struck me as never before. The child in my arms was about the same age and no smarter, cuter, or better than hers. Yet due to mere circumstance of birth, I knew my son would have many more opportunities in life, while this mother and her child would struggle to survive each day to the next.

 

It’s been 20 years since that fleeting moment, but the vision of the mother and her child has stuck with me. It drove me to change careers and join Save the Children, where we work tirelessly to ensure that every mother and child has a fair chance in life.

 

These days, more and more mothers in urban areas are seeking better opportunities for their children. That’s why Save the Children’s new report, State of the World’s Mothers 2015: The Urban Disadvantage — released with support from Johnson & Johnson — focuses on the health and survival of moms and babies in cities. The findings reveal a harrowing reality: for babies in the big city, their survival comes down to their family’s wealth.

 

I have been back to Manila many times. I am happy to report that, along with other urban centers in the Philippines, it is an example of how cities can narrow survival gaps between the rich and the poor by increasing access to basic maternal, newborn and child services, and making care more affordable and accessible to the poorest urban families.

 

A child’s chance of dying before his fifth birthday has been steadily declining over the years among the poorest 20 percent of urban families in the Philippines. From when I first visited that country in the mid ‘90s until today, child mortality rates among the urban poor have been cut by more than half and the urban child survival gap has narrowed by 50 percent between wealthy and poor kids.

 

Sadly, the Philippines is one of just a few countries with such dramatic improvements for poor urban children. In too many countries, urban child survival inequality is worsening, even as those nations have been successful in reducing overall child mortality rates.

 

In my travels throughout the developing world, I’ve never had to look very far to see evidence of these differences. For example, in New Delhi, India – a city with one of the largest health care coverage gaps between rich and poor – it is not unusual to see a gleaming hospital steps away from a sprawling slum, and to have babies literally dying on the doorstep.

 

But it’s not just in the developing world where our report found stark disparities between the haves and have nots. In our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., a baby born in the lowest-income district, where half of all children live in poverty, is at least10 times as likely as a baby born in the richest part of the city to die before his first birthday. And while Washington, D.C. has cut its infant mortality rate by more than half over the past 15 years, the rate at which babies are dying in the District of Columbia is the highest among the 25 wealthiest capital cities surveyed around the world.

 

We all have a lot more work to do to ensure that every mother has the same opportunities for her baby, whether she lives in Manila, Washington, D.C. or anywhere else in the world.

 

Find out more about Save the Children’s new report atwww.savethechildren.org/mothers.

We Built a School!

Reichman

Judy Reichman, M.D.

LA Associates of Save the Children

Gosu Kora, Ethiopia

March 16, 2015

 

Having traveled for 20 hours to reach Addis Ababa in Ethiopia at 3 AM on January 17th, I did not know if I could gather up the energy to get in a jeep and travel 130 kilometers that same morning to see the school that our group of LA Associates of Save the Children had funded. But when I and the three women who went on this trip arrived, we forgot our fatigue as we were met by hundreds of children, parents, village elders and horseback riders who sang and cheered as we traversed the dirt road leading to the village and school.

School_welcome

Students Welcome LA Associates of Save the Children

Until this year, in order to get to a school for primary education the children had to walk two hours each way from their village! The little ones could not do it, and the older girls were not allowed to attend school unless they had separate latrines. These children and their parents dreamed of their chance to acquire an education; they knew it was the only way they could break their existing bonds of poverty. Save the Children has worked for decades with the government of Ethiopia to help establish schools throughout the country.

Plaque

A Plaque Dedicated to Los Angeles Associates of Save the Children

Once a school is built and supplied the government then provides the teachers and together with the community continues to run them. The local school often becomes the center for democratic participation in governance, child health, child rights and community welfare. It was with this in mind that the LA Associates of Save the Children raised the funds to establish the school in this village. The opportunity our journey afforded us to experience the joy and gratitude of the children and their community was extraordinary. Save the Children is an amazing global organization and we now have a West Coast presence here on LA. I feel honored to be a part of it.

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In Helping Baby’s First Teacher, ‘A Path Appears’

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post

 

When I first met my daughter, she was 2 and a half months old. She looked perfect in her little crib in a crowded Vietnamese orphanage, but adoption is a process, and seven more months passed before I could take her home.

 

In the meantime, the staff was caring, but with so many little ones to diaper and feed, they didn’t have much time to play with Molly. Instead, they tied a string of beads across her crib. I imagine she passed many hours fiddling with them.

 

Thanks to that improvised toy, Molly’s fine motor skills were pretty good when I could finally bring her home. What she couldn’t do was balance her own head and torso if I sat her up. She simply hadn’t had the practice. And so even with the extra attention my husband and I were able to give her — and hours of on-the-floor tutorials from my older sons — sitting, crawling and walking all came later than they might have.

 

I read Molly books every day, wanting to expose her to her new language of English. Of course, as research has since made very clear, an ongoing stream of communication with our babies is key to their development, even if they’ve been around the same language from day one.

 

I feel so lucky that I was able to give Molly the early support she built upon to become the bright, curious and outgoing seventh-grader she is today.

 

Half The Sky

But I know millions of moms right here in America are having a much tougher time than I did, and they’re not always able to give their kids the books, attention and high-quality early learning experiences that give babies and toddlers a leg up.

 

As a result, the 15 million U.S. children growing up in poverty are typically more than 18 months behind their better-off peers by the time they enter school. Many never catch up.

 

So I’m very thankful that tonight at 10 p.m. the new PBS documentary series A Path Appears is showing that these children are not a lost cause.

 

In the film’s “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty” episode, Save the Children Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner takes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof to rural West Virginia to see how an innovative home-visiting program is turning the status quo on its head.

 

They meet Save the Children’s local home visitor, Tonya Bonecutter, who brings books, developmental activities and other critical support into the homes of struggling local families. Whenever possible, Tonya starts visiting moms during pregnancy. She also helps moms and other caretakers forge early connections with the school their child will eventually attend.

 

The result are phenomenal.

 

Keep in mind that the children we serve not only live in poverty, they face an average of four additional multiple risk factors — such as teen parents, parents who didn’t finish school and substance abuse. Yet 80 percent of children in our programs score at or above the national average on pre-literacy tests at age 3 and again at age 5. These kids enter school not only ready to learn but ready to excel.

 

Can you imagine living in a country where every child got the strong start they need to reach their full potential?

 

As Kristof says in the film, “It’s so much easier to prevent problems on the front end, then to spend money to try and fix things on the back end.”

 

Check out Jennifer Garner and Kristof in a bonus video here.

Where Health and Education Meet, Children Win

The following blog first appeared on The World Bank.

 

Every mom wants a healthy baby. And in the early days of a child’s life, parents and doctors understandably focus on how the baby’s physical development—is she gaining weight? Is he developing reflexes? Are they hitting all of the milestones of a healthy and thriving child?

 

But along with careful screenings for physical development, there is an excellent opportunity to tap into those same resources and networks to promote early cognitive, socio-emotional, and language development. This helps children everywhere have a strong start in life, ensuring that they are able to learn as they grow and fulfill their potential throughout childhood.

 

Save the Children works with partners around the world to integrate early childhood development interventions into programs in innovative ways—figuring out what works in local contexts and building an evidence base with governments to effectively support children and parents in the early years.

save-blog

In El Salvador, for example, we worked jointly with the Ministry of Health and National Academy of Pediatricians to design a screening tool to measure development in children under five. This empowers doctors and health workers to screen for development alongside health check-ups. Now when parents take their children to “healthy child control’’ checkups, children receive a comprehensive developmental evaluation so that the medical staff can identify risks early and advise on age-appropriate activities. By encouraging parents to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months or mimic the babbling sounds that their two to four-month old baby makes, these health experts are putting parents and young children on the path to success.

 

Medical staff in communities throughout El Salvador have been trained on this screening tool, and among 100 health centers evaluated, Save the Children found that not only are medical staff using the screening tool, but 95% are using it properly. The program has been brought to schools nationwide, and the Ministry of Health expects to reach hundreds of thousands of children, from birth to age five, in the early years of implementation.

 

Non-state actors like Save the Children can work with governments to find innovative approaches that meet the specific needs of the local population, and government commitment can turn this approach into scalable, sustainable change for children. This type of partnership is a win-win: When all parties are willing to look at a problem from new angles, real and lasting solutions can help children in those critically important first few years of life.

 

Thanks to our early experience and success, Save the Children was invited to be part of the El Salvadoran government’s team to design the new national early childhood development curriculum. We are now, along with other organizations, supporting the national roll-out of the curriculum and providing feedback to the government on community and center-level implementation.

 

Early childhood development is not limited to health, and it begins long before a child enters the classroom. Now, thanks to the leadership of the El Salvadoran government, the partnership of NGOs like Save the Children, and the support of health workers, parents and communities, children across the country are getting a stronger start in life—and the chance to build a better future for themselves.

Notes from the UN and the Clinton Global Initiative: Speaking Out for Children in New York

This was a busy week for global development, as leaders from government, business and civil society came together in New York for the Clinton Global Initiative meetings and the UN General Assembly. As usual, Save the Children was there to take the opportunity to make children a central part of the agenda—and urge action on their behalf.

 

It’s no surprise that Ebola was a major part of the conversation, as the outbreak continues to dominate the headlines. I spoke with Reuters about how critical it is for the international community to step up our efforts to treat Ebola victims and halt the spread of the virus. We have increased our ongoing response to the outbreak in West African countries and we are moving forward with a stronger, community-based response through local Ebola Care Centers in rural areas. Easier access to local medical help and supplies, plus ongoing education about how to contain the spread of the virus, is urgently needed to save lives and protect children. As the death toll from Ebola nears 3,000 one thing is certain: the world must act quickly.  

 

Another big issue this week was the ongoing crisis in Syria—and we are working to ensure that children are not forgotten in discussions about geopolitics and conflict. Our new report, Futures under Threat: The Impact of the Education Crisis on Syria’s Children, shows the effects of conflict on millions of school-aged children. Before the conflict began, almost all Syrian children were enrolled in school but now Syria has the second-worst enrollment rate in the world. I talked about the report on Al Jazeera America and we used our influence this week to demand that Syrian children, both inside the country and those living as refugees, are protected and educated—their best chance at building a better future.

 

Of course, one of the greatest areas of focus for Save the Children is newborn and child survival as we work to accelerate progress toward achieving Millennium Development Goal #4, to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015. The world has made significant progress, but we have more to do in the 500-day sprint to the end of 2015 and in the post-2015 agenda to get to zero and finish the job. At Mashable’s Social Good Summit on Sunday, I introduced a “Simple Ways to Change Lives” panel featuring Liya Kebede, Ethiopian model and maternal health advocate, UNFPA’s Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin and our own Victoria Shaba, a midwife from Malawi, to talk about how trained and equipped health workers can save the lives of mothers and children using low-cost, proven interventions.

CGI - Logging Miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I joined with others at the Clinton Global Initiative to announce a new partnership to support literacy across the globe. Together with the Bezos Family Foundation and their Students Rebuild program, we are engaging school children everywhere in The Literacy Challenge to design and create bookmarks. The Bezos Family Foundation will give $1 for each bookmark they receive through the challenge to help power our Literacy Boost program in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

 

We take advantage of major meetings like those held this week to advocate for a better world for children—but we know that one week in New York won’t address every issue and answer every question. That’s why we match our global advocacy work with everyday efforts in communities around the world, fighting for progress in large ways and small, to give kids a chance at a better life.

Which Way to Better Health: A Roadmap to Save Mothers and Newborns

sgs-panel-captionCo-authored with Liya Kebede 

 

As children, we were fascinated when our school teachers rolled out the maps showing different parts of the world. Even today, as we’ve each traveled the world in our respective roles, maps still hold a certain fascination and urgency to go beyond where we’ve been — to move forward. So you can imagine how we feel about a roadmap that places the health and survival of newborns and mothers at the very center of the political agenda.

 

Read the full blog post in the Global Motherhood blog on HuffPost

Read my other HuffPost blogs here.

It’s Back to School– Are Your Kids Safe?

As of this month, American parents have sent 69 million children back to school and child care. But many have no idea what protections exist to keep kids safe in the very places they’re supposed to be protected.

 

According to a new Harris Poll online survey, 63 percent of U.S. parents with children in school or child care are not very familiar with emergency plans in those locations. Forty-two percent don’t even know where to meet up with their children in case of evacuation. This is disturbing, because disaster can strike anytime, anywhere — a point reinforced by the national parents’ poll included in Save the Children’s 2014 Disaster Report Card, out today. Mississippi: 2014 Tornados

 

More than half of U.S. families (54 percent) with kids in school or child care have been personally affected by hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, school shootings or other types of disaster. In the past year alone, our nation has experienced at least 20 school shootings and 50 natural disasters requiring a federal response.

 

Two thirds of the 1,012 parents in the nationally representative poll said they were concerned by risks their children face from national disaster. Seventy percent worry about school shootings. Yet, 67 percent of U.S. parents don’t know if their child’s school or day care practices emergency drills frequently, or at all. And — here’s the kicker — basic emergency plans aren’t even required in 21 states and Washington, DC. (You can check your state here.)

 

Parents don’t do much better at home. While three in five say they have an emergency plan in place, many of those parents haven’t taken basic actions to protect kids. For instance, nearly a third of these parents don’t have a family meeting place. More than a third of them don’t even have two days’ supply of food and water. A five days’ supply is recommended.

 

DSC_9649The majority of parents who say they have emergency plans also don’t know where to find shelter locally or have an agreed upon out-of-town contact, which is critical should disaster affect communications. Parents should also make sure all schools and caregivers have key contact information, and that younger children can identify themselves if they get separated.

 

There are simple actions everyone can take to better protect our children should disaster strike. Packing a “go kit” for each member of the family is a good start. It should include essential toiletries and medical and contact information and — for kids — a favorite activity and a comfort item that can help them cope if disaster upturns their young lives. If you agree that children’s safety should be a priority, please take our pledge to protect children from disaster. Then act on it. To learn more about the 2014 Disaster Report Card and find resources to better prepare your family and community, go to www.savethechildren.org/US-Disaster.

Welcome Water in a Mozambican Community

Hortencia da Conceicao, Gaza SHN Coordinator

Hortencia da Conceicao Raimundo

Mozambique

September 10, 2014

 

It has been long that water has been missing from this community in Mozambique. This was especially difficult for the children at the local primary schools. They were forced to carry their drinking water to school after traveling long distances to retrieve it, often just going without water.,/p>

Minoca, a 6th grader at the local primary school, says that the support from Save the Children in creating boreholes, or water wells bored in the ground, eased the suffering of all the children from her school, numbering about 360 students. “We did not have water to drink, wash hands, for cleaning the toilets, or to water the plants at school. We, the girls, used to be late for school as we would walk long distances looking for water for the household. Today everything has changed thanks to the uncles from Save the Children. Our parents take good care of the bore. They do fix it when it eventually gets broken, and there is a great joy in our community. Nowadays we have plenty of time to deal with our school work as well as for playing. We grow vegetables in our school garden as we have water almost the whole day.” Thank you Save the Children sponsors for your support of our school and our community!

Have you ever had to go a long period without water? Think about what ways having to walk for miles to get water would change your day, and consider how much your sponsorship has helped children like Minoca and her classmates!

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

How A Silent Girl Named Serenity Finally Found Her Words

This blog originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

 

 

An early start on learning means everything when it comes to a child’s future. Yet too many children living in poverty in America and around the world don’t have access to a quality early education. In fact, children from low-income homes hear an average of 30 million fewer words by age 3 than their peers from well-off families, putting them at a disadvantage before they even start school. These are children like Serenity from Nebraska, who at 3 years old wasn’t able to speak in sentences that consisted of more than two words. One of three siblings, Serenity lives in a remote community in a rural part of the state, where families struggle to make ends meet. Often, when parents have to worry about putting food on the table, books and reading take a back seat.

 

What’s more, quality early childhood education is not an option in many poverty-stricken communities. As a result, by the time she is 4 years old, Serenity was at risk of being 18 months behind other 4-year-olds who are lucky enough to be born with more opportunities. But like most parents, Serenity’s mom and dad want the best for their kids and they see education as the only way out of poverty. “We know we are in the situation we are in financially because we did not take education seriously when we were younger,” Serenity’s mother, Diane, told Save the Children. “We don’t want our children to have to live through the constant struggles that we are living.” That’s why her parents enrolled Serenity in Save the Children’s early childhood education program, which consists of weekly home visits by a program coordinator who brings a bagful of books for the kids. The program encourages parents to continuously interact with their children through stimulating conversation and daily reading.

 

After only three months, Serenity found her words — and scored impressively high on her development assessment test. Not only that, but her parents also discovered her hidden talent for singing! She can sing “The Wheels on the Bus” tune without missing a beat — or a word. “I know her language skills improved because of the books Save the Children gave us each week,” said Diane, amazed at her child’s transformation. “She is so excited to have me read to her and then she has to tell me a story too.”  Together we can help kids like Serenity find their words. And what better day to start than today, International Literacy Day?

 

Teaming up with our artist ambassador Jennifer Garner, we launched our 30-day #FindtheWords campaign last month to bring attention to this early learning gap affecting millions of children. Today, to mark the culmination of the campaign, other celebrities will join us in a day-long virtual word-a-thon by sharing their favorite word with their social media networks and encouraging their fans to do the same. Our goal is to start a conversation and spread the word far and wide. Leading up to the big day, 30 of the top influencers in the blogosphere have been riling up their audiences and garnering support through Save the Children’s 30 Days/30 Words blogger challenge. To raise awareness, each blogger has written a post highlighting a specific, meaningful word. The 30 posts in 30 days symbolize the 30 million words too many kids miss out on. You can read some of their inspiring posts here.

 

But you don’t have to be a celebrity or a blogger to get involved. Each and every one of us can make a difference in the lives of all those children who continue to fall behind and are at risk of never catching up. We all have a favorite word, so post yours and tag it #FindtheWords. Thanks to social media, everyone can join our campaign and give voice to the 250 million school-age kids around the world who are unable to read, write or count.

 

Save the Children provides kids from poverty-stricken communities in the United States and around the world with access to books, essential learning support and a literacy-rich environment, setting them up for success in school and a brighter future. Our early learning programs receive support from a variety of corporate funders, including Johnson & Johnson.

 

To learn more about Save the Children’s #FindtheWords campaign and how to get involved, check out this video featuring Jennifer Garner and visit www.SavetheChildren.org/FindtheWords.

Walking to School

Pilar Cabrera Sponsorship Program Facilitator Cochabamba Bolivia

Pilar Cabrera Barriga, Sponsorship Program Facilitator

Cochabamba, Bolivia

August 27, 2014

 

Sponsored child Andrés, a charismatic 9-year-old, takes a journey each morning to school with his mom. In meeting him, he said, “I wanted to share my daily walk to school with you.” While this is just a small part of his daily routine, this is an important part of his day!

My mom walks to school with me because the road to my school isn’t very safe. There are many cars that pass by and there aren’t any sidewalks. There are lots of stray dogs, garbage, and crime. My mom is a seamstress and works at home so that she can be near us. The school is about 1 km. away from my house and it takes us 20 to 30 minutes to get there.

I live on a hill and from there I can see part of the city. While I’m walking to school I see the landscape. On this walk I take advantage of talking with my mom about my studies and the support we receive at school from Save the Children. Also walking to school, I talk with my mom about the letters I get from my Save the Children’s friend. I am very happy to read letters from my sponsor who writes to me from so far away and in my replies I tell my sponsor about my school and my family.  Andres and his mom walking to school thru Phalta Orko neighborhood

I like to study all subjects. I got a best student diploma thanks to the Save the Children’s workshops that my teacher took. I think that all children must go to school to learn new things and become good professionals.

I consider myself a lucky boy because I have my parents who support me and I want to take advantage of the opportunity I have to attend a school that has Save the Children’s support. I will continue participating so that I can continue being the best student in my class.

I also want to say thanks to all the sponsors for the support they give us children in Bolivia!

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