Associate Director, International Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy
On April 25, a devastating earthquake hit the country of Nepal. It damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and affected more than three million children, causing immeasurable trauma and loss. Now, three months later, communities are slowly but surely picking up the pieces and starting to build back. The children of Nepal, in particular, are thinking about the future and have important advice to share with those who want to help.
In the earliest days of the relief effort, as responders grappled with moving large volumes of food and relief supplies into Nepal, four child-focused relief agencies (Save the Children, UNICEF, World Vision and Plan International) decided it was also important for the world to hear directly from the children. So we talked to 1,838 children (920 girls/918 boys) during those hectic first months. They were between the ages of 8 and 18 years old and they were eager to share their needs, fears, hopes and dreams. We asked them how the earthquake had affected their lives and solicited their ideas about what would be needed to help them recover.
The first thing they told us is that they were scared. They felt distressed about the damage that happened and anxious about their futures. They said they urgently need psychosocial support and child-specific protection alongside the more obvious relief efforts focused on food, water and shelter.
They also talked about how important it is to them to return to school as soon as possible. And not just any school, safe schools, where the structures are sound, where they feel protected and where they can concentrate on learning.
What I found most striking from the children’s sharing, however, was the strong focus on becoming better prepared for future disasters and ensuring that homes and schools would be built back safer. Even in the midst of tremendous immediate need, the children are already taking the long view.
In crises, it can become easy for adults to feel like we just can’t make the time to listen to children. But children have an important stake in the future, they know that and, consequently, often have a unique ability to cut to the chase on critical priorities. In Nepal, this is just some of what they have to say:
“I don’t feel like going to school because the buildings are completely damaged and it looks scary.” - Girl in Ramechhap
“I want to see earthquake-resistant houses built in flat areas with trees planted. People should consult with engineers before beginning to build." - Boy in Sindhupalchowk
“I still have hope. For now we can study under tarps and I believe that after a year the school building will be reconstructed, so I won’t stop chasing my dreams." – Girl in Nuwakot
“We want to have permanent health camps in our village with mobile doctors and health workers. – Girl in Ramechhap
Now, Save the Children and our partners are ensuring their voices are heard not just in Nepal but also around the world. This week, we’re sharing their messages with the U.S. Congress, the President and everyone else who wants to lend a helping hand to Nepal in its hour of need.
If you agree that it’s important to listen to children of Nepal, please help spread their messages on social media starting today. #NepalQuake #ChildrenConsultation
This blog was first published on The Huffington Post.
It’s been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina revealed how ill-prepared our nation was to protect children from disaster. New research shows that far too little has changed.
Most of the recommendations made by the National Commission on Children and Disasters after a deeply-flawed Katrina response remain unfulfilled, a new Save the Children report finds.
That’s unacceptable. It’s also extremely dangerous for our nation’s children. Their lives and futures are at stake. To this day, child survivors still carry deep emotional scars from their Katrina experience.
Take siblings John and Johnisha. They were 14 and 15 when Katrina barreled down on New Orleans. Their struggling family had no car to leave the city, so the pair joined an aunt taking refuge in the Superdome.
For five days, they witnessed death, heard accounts of rape and feared going into blood-streaked bathrooms. They were hungry and could find no milk, diapers or medical care for their ill baby cousin. They feared their parents had drowned and had to talk their desperate aunt out of committing suicide. John stood guard all night to make sure a leering man didn’t attack his sister.
When they finally evacuated, the siblings could not find their parents for weeks.
“I was lost for years, especially after losing my grandparents,” Johnisha says now. “It was a lot that I had to deal with mentally as a kid.”
The good news is, thanks to the work of the commission, the United States now has sheltering standards designed to protect children. Those simply didn’t exist before. But our experience from Hurricane Sandy and other recent disasters shows that much work remains to make sure those standards are applied consistently.
Unfortunately, the nation is much farther from ensuring many other protections children need in disasters. Our nation’s emergency pediatric transport and care capacity, access to mental health services for traumatized children, and federal preparedness and recovery support for schools and child care centers all remain inadequate.
Nearly four-fifths of the commission’s 81 final recommendations remain unfulfilled. Congress and the President need to finish the job before the next massive disaster strikes.
In the meantime, families must do everything they can to protect their children. That starts with ensuring they can stay connected if disaster strikes.
Hurricane Katrina separated families, leading to 5,000 missing children reports. John, Johnisha and many younger, extremely vulnerable children were not reunited with their parents for weeks.
Yet, a recent survey of American parents shows that most families don’t have agreed-upon meeting places or out-of-town emergency contacts.
If an emergency separated your family today, would you be able to quickly reach your children? What if local communications were down?
Take a minute to create emergency contact cards for your children. Keep one copy and put the other in your child’s bag or wallet. It can give you piece of mind and serve as a lifeline to your child during emergencies.
As we remember the devastating toll of Hurricane Katrina this summer, we all have a role to play in keeping children safe. Disasters can strike anywhere at any time, and — unlike with Hurricane Katrina — we may not always get advanced notice.
Download the report and take action to Stay Connected at www.SavetheChildren.org/Katrina10, and watch real stories here:
This blog was first published on the InterAction website. Carolyn will be speaking at the InterAction Forum on June 24 on the panel: ‘Meh’ to ‘Yes!’-Simple Moves to Win Support for Our Sector.
My 22 year-old son is a member of the Millennial Generation and is, at first glance, a completely different creature than I was at his age: I wore shoulder pads; he wears ear buds. I tuned the radio; he streams songs online. I searched for a phone booth to call a friend; he reaches into his pocket and sends a text.
But as it turns out, we’re not so different. I am – basically – a Millennial myself. Bill Gates told me so.
Well, sort of. Through new research from The Narrative Project, an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we’ve learned that communications tailored to members of the public who are engaged in global aid (like those of us attending the InterAction Forum June 22-24) also resonates with the Millennial Generation. Millennials grew up in a world where people are increasingly connected through technology – and they share common interests with people from different societies and backgrounds. These young people are comfortable talking about global issues, and are compelled to take action when something is important to them.
This latest research shows that we respond to the same kinds of messaging…which makes me more like a Millennial than I ever thought possible.
5 Ways I Think Like A Millennial:
- I don’t believe birthplace = destiny
Millennials know that people don’t choose where they’re born, but in too many cases the simple fact of geography determines much of their future including their economic prospects, educational opportunity, and access to healthcare. This imbalance of opportunity simply isn’t fair – and it’s why equality is a major focus of Save the Children’s future strategy.
- I care about individuality
Statistics showing progress year-over-year, or even decade-over-decade, are great…but Millennials know that’s not the whole story. In fact, narratives that focus on progress score below those that stress partnership, morality, and autonomy among most Millennials and members of the engaged public. I agree: I want to meet the people behind these statistics and hear their stories so that I can relate to them on a more personal level. So I travel as much as possible, hearing directly from the children and families we’re working to serve.
- I think globally and act locally
I don’t think the only people who need help are “over there.” I know it’s important to make a difference in my own backyard – for example, though Save the Children’s programs reaching kids in the United States – while still taking action for others around the world.
- I know we can change the world
Like most Millennials, I think my own actions can make meaningful change – and that I can have a personal impact on reducing poverty. But we also believe that our government can make “a great deal of difference” (in the US, 59% of Millennials and 50% of the Engaged Public), so partnerships like those highlighted at the InterAction Forum are crucial.
- I think Taylor Swift is awesome
Okay, this one’s a little off topic, but it’s just one more way I’m an honorary Millennial…her songs are catchy!
This new research from The Narrative Project will help those of us working in global aid better understand how the Millennial Generation is becoming the next generation of engaged, active and inspired leaders. I look forward to talking more about this new narrative with you all at the Forum!
Communications Assistant, Save the Children International
Mahama Refugee Camp, Rwanda
June 20, 2015
*Ndayizeye smiles shyly and looks away when asked what he hopes to be when he grows up. He seems unsure of how to tackle an often-asked question. Could it be that he is yet undecided on what he would like to do with his life? Or maybe it is due to the fact that he is now a refugee, and despite his tender age, is well aware of the limitations that status imposes on him and his prospects for the future.
Ndayizeye is one of thousands of children who currently calls the scorching-hot Mahama Refugee Camp in Kirehe District…home. He, and many like him, fled from Burundi’s volatile Kirundo Province as reports of violence against civilians intensified.
Kirundo residents have borne the brunt of attacks from a government-controlled youth militia known as “Imbonerakure” (which ominously means those who see from afar). Kirundo residents were among the most vocal against the current President’s plans to run for re-election, often taking to the streets in protest and having running battles with the police day after day.
After waffling ,Ndayizeye says he wants to be a medical doctor, as he enjoys learning languages and human sciences. His uncertainty mirrors the situation he now finds himself in, as it remains unclear how he can pursue his studies and become a doctor when his schooling has been interrupted, with no clear timeframe for when he will resume studies.
Ndayizeye left his home abruptly one morning when he was actually due to be in a human sciences class. As rumors spread like wildfire about impending raids, he and his younger brother took the bold decision to leave, a decision thrust into their hands prematurely by the untimely death of their parents years before. He and his brother were both staying with relatives, who didn’t care much for their whereabouts. Joining a group of young men who said they were Rwanda-bound, Ndayizeye left without a single penny in his pocket, then trekked across the country.
Travelling mostly via back-roads and cutting through the bush to avoid the marauding Imbonerakure, the group made good progress on foot until they encountered a river which they had to cross; the alternative of going around it would have been unsafe.
If not for the mercy of a native of the area, who warned them that Imbonerakure now controlled the ferry that transported travelers across the river, they would not have made it. He advised them to wait until dark and construct a make-shift raft on which to cross. Even then, they had to be extremely careful to avoid the ferry the Imbonerakure were using to smuggle people across after-hours, extorting fees from the fleeing population.
Their terrifying journey continued until they reached the Rwanda-Burundi border, where they hid all day and crossed to Rwanda via back-paths usually used by traders to illegally import goods. After crossing into Rwandan territory their journey became easier as they found buses chartered by the Rwandan government to transport all Burundian asylum-seekers (as they were known at the time) to a transit camp in Bugesera free of charge.
Once there, life became a bit easier as they were received warmly, given a tent to rest in and given food. After a brief stay at Gashora Transit Center, Ndayizeye and his little brother were again on the move, headed to Mahama Refugee Camp.
There, his plight resumed as he told us of how he was removed from the list of unaccompanied minors due to receive special assistance, since the authorities found out that he was living with his brother and therefore declared him “accompanied”. Even more shocking is that he was told he is now the head of the household – at the tender age of 16! Save the Children Community Protection Officer Daphrose took up Ndayizeye’s case to have it re-assessed by the camp authorities so as to accommodate him.
Save the Children is intervening in the camp through Community Protection, which essentially means ensuring that the more vulnerable residents of the camp and those with special needs like the elderly, expectant mothers, people living with disabilities, child headed households etc. have timely and appropriate access to services such as health, food, shelter, water and sanitation provided by other implementing partners.
According to Edwin Kuria, the Response Team Leader, “We have recruited a staff base of about 10, which has been bolstered by 20 volunteers from the Burundian refugee population, and the plan is to double that capacity in the coming weeks, to make sure that we have sufficient capacity to cover the 139 people with special needs (elderly and/or living with disabilities) as of 14th May 2015.”
In a short period of time, requests have poured in and Save the Children volunteers are working overtime to ensure these requests are responded to. A lot remains to be done at the camp to alleviate the suffering of minors like Ndayizeye, with neither parents nor home to call their own.
*Name changed for protection
To learn more about our work helping children like Ndayizeye, click here.
Save the Children staff members Sara Bernabeo, Jeremy Soulliere and Ellen Gerstein with NBC “TODAY” show host Matt Lauer along his 230-mile bike trek to promote Red Nose Day. Photo by Susan Warner / Save the Children.
It’s rare we can all have the chance to come together and share a laugh, while, at the same time, fight poverty and its detrimental impact on children in the United States and around the world.
For 30 years, Red Nose Day has been doing just that in the United Kingdom, bringing together comedians, stars from television and the silver screen, musicians and entertainers for a televised event to benefit poverty-fighting nonprofits. And this Thursday, May 21, at 8 p.m., Red Nose Day is taking a leap across the Atlantic, making its debut in the U.S.
Save the Children is excited and honored it has been chosen as one of the 12 nonprofits to benefit from this first-ever U.S. television special on NBC, which will support our efforts to ensure all kids have a healthy start in life, a quality education and protection from harm.
Red Nose Day is the only time A-list actors, comedians and musicians like Julia Roberts, Will Ferrell, Julianne Moore, John Legend, Save the Children Trustee Jennifer Garner and many more will take part in stand-up acts, sketch comedy, parodies and music performances – all to help meet the immediate needs of the poorest children living in the U.S. and throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The energy of Red Nose Day has also spread beyond the televised event itself. NBC “TODAY” show host Matt Lauer embarked on a 230-mile bike ride this past Sunday to raise money and awareness for the fundraiser. His trek kicked off from Boston’s Fenway Park, and ends this Thursday – Red Nose Day – at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. Save the Children staff, family and friends cheered Matt on along his route through Connecticut on Monday, all proudly wearing red noses.
Red Nose Day is certainly putting the “fun” in fundraising, and if there’s one thing that connects kids all around the globe, it’s laughter. From my visits to classrooms in Haiti to playgrounds in Appalachia, it’s evident that laughter is the universal language of all children.
Through Red Nose Day, and the belly laughs it’s sure to generate, we can all give children living in poverty more to smile about.
The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post
Every year Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report ranks the best and worst places in the world to be a mom, giving us a window into the shared strengths and burdens that mothers face.
All mothers carry the brightest hopes for their children’s health and wellbeing, whether their homeland is at the top, middle or bottom of the ranking. To show you how motherhood unites women from all corners of the world and walks of life, we have invited two moms from two different continents to talk about the trials and tribulations of motherhood in their countries.
Metro Manila, Philippines: Rizelle, 17, pictured holding her three-week-old baby, lives in a makeshift home under a bridge in the slums of Metro Manila. But she was fortunate to receive post-natal check-ups and immunizations for her newborn.
Maria Christina H. Oñate is from Metro Manila, Philippines. Holding the 105th spot out of 179 nations, the Philippines is a middle-of-the-road country for moms that has made great progress in recent years, especially in reducing the child mortality rate for the poorest children in cities. Rosalie Djouma is from the Central African Republic, which at the 177th spot is the third worst place in the world to be a mom.
Together, these two women represent two countries with very different realities for mothers and babies. Both women have dedicated their lives to helping some of the most vulnerable moms and children in their communities as part of their work with the international organization Save the Children. Here, they share their stories of motherhood, as well as their hopes and aspirations for all moms around the world — whether they live in bustling Metro Manila or the rural countryside of the Central African Republic.
Kaga-Bandoro, Central African Republic: Giselle and her son Ronny fled their home because of violence. “I am a woman,” said Gilselle, “and during war, it is always the innocent, it is women and children like us, those who do not fight, who suffer most.”
Oñate: The Central African Republic is third from the bottom in the annual ranking of the best and worst places for moms. What was it like for you to raise children in a country that ranks so low for moms?
Djouma: As a nursing medical supervisor with Save the Children working in the Central African Republic, my experience as a mother is rather unique compared to many women in the country. My job allows me to provide for the health and education of my children and support my family. The sad reality for many mothers in the Central African Republic is that the social safety nets and reliable health services are not available, leaving them and their children vulnerable to extreme poverty.
Djouma: You’re fortunate to live in a country that does much better in the ranking than my homeland. What’s it like to be a mom in the Philippines?
Oñate: My son Diego is now a healthy, bright and curious three-year-old. I remember the wonderful time I was pregnant. As a working professional in Manila with health insurance, I had access to quality health services, which allowed me to take advantage of family planning counseling and newborn care. My son benefits from preventive care, immunizations and the luxury of doctors’ visits whenever he feels unwell, which is a far cry from the situation for many mothers.
Oñate: What are some specific challenges moms in the Central African Republic face?
Djouma: The current situation for mothers and children in the Central African Republic is critical. During the political and military crisis there are some mothers who have lost their husbands, their property and who do not have a source of income. Some children who have lost their fathers and mothers become easily exploited by certain groups of people. Many children are unable to continue their studies.
Rural mothers have similar struggles to those living in slums. The differences are that rural mothers have farm work, while those from slums have small businesses.
Djouma: What’s some of the progress the Philippines has made for moms and children?
Oñate: The Philippines is making strides towards progress in the care of moms and children with the introduction of programs through a new national social protection initiative, the implementation of health care innovations and by increasing the number of health professionals serving urban and rural communities.
In my work I get to listen to the people behind inspiring stories who unceasingly help vulnerable mothers and children access basic health care. They are committed community health workers who do home visits and counseling to pregnant and lactating women to ensure healthy pregnancy and safe delivery and care for newborns, including the importance of exclusive breastfeeding.
Djouma: The new report commends the Philippines for the progress it has made in reducing child mortality and narrowing the survival gap between the richest and poorest children in urban areas. What challenges still remain for the poorest moms and children in cities?
Oñate: My work on maternal and child health in marginalized communities in Manila brings me up close and personal to the everyday struggle of poor, unemployed mothers with usually four or more young children. The struggle to find ways of putting a meal on their table is constant and, more often than not, their health and that of their children takes the back seat.
These poor urban mothers are at risk of dying due to pregnancy and childbirth because of a lack of access to health services. These are mothers, including teenagers as young as thirteen, who experience unplanned pregnancies, lack adequate prenatal care, give birth at home with no skilled birth professional, have no access to emergency obstetric and neonatal care, and receive no postpartum care.
Oñate: What would it take to improve the conditions for mothers and their children in the Central African Republic?
Djouma: Many women are responsible for financially providing for their families and need additional support to generate incomes — whether through entrepreneurship or agricultural opportunities.
Families also need expanded access to education and health care facilities to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of children, in both rural and urban areas.
Save the Children’s annual State of the World’s Mothers report, which was released this month with support from Johnson & Johnson, has become a reliable international tool to show where mothers and children fare best, and where they face the greatest hardships. It is based on the latest data on health, education, economics and female political participation. The full report is available at:www.savethechildren.org/mothers.
Editor’s Note: Save The Children is a partner of Johnson & Johnson, which is a sponsor of The Huffington Post’s Global Motherhood section.
Our voice in the field is Save the Children's Senior Director for Humanitarian Operations Gary Shaye.
The news of yesterday’s earthquake in Nepal was extremely personal for me, especially when I saw that its epicenter was in the very area through which I had walked so many times during my seven years there with Save the Children.
My Work in Rural Nepal
Several years ago, I was assigned to initiate Save the Children’s country program in Nepal’s Gorkha District, midway between Kathmandu and Pokhara. Save the Children’s programs at that time were focused in Gorkha, in an area of small, rural villages, north of the main road. From that road, our team spent three to six hours walking to the villages where we worked. Later, our work expanded to even more distant parts of Gorkha, reaching populations who lived as far as four to six days’ walk from the nearest road. Over the years, we worked in hundreds of remote, rural communities and with many thousands of Nepal’s children and families.
What News of Rural Children
I am deeply troubled and saddened by the loss of life and the horrific devastation in Nepal’s densely populated urban areas of Kathmandu and the neighboring cities of Patan and Bhaktapur, as we’ve all seen in the news. However, because the communities nearest the epicenter are so remote, with roads often blocked and access so challenging, news from rural areas is slow in coming. I have walked those roads and worked closely with those people, so I am anxious to know how they are. I worry that the simple mud and brick homes, as well as the many schools Save the Children helped villagers construct, may not have survived the quake. Mostly, I worry for the lives of those children and families.
I have worked for Save the Children now for nearly 40 years, half that time spent in the field, including as Country Director in Haiti, after the devastating earthquake of 2010. So I know what Nepal’s children and families are likely facing now. Children in crisis are always among the most vulnerable – and they often suffer more. There is an overwhelming sense of loss – loss of home, loss of family members and friends, loss of the safety and structure of school. Every aspect of children’s daily routines disrupted. Children may be injured. They may be separated and alone. In an instant, a child’s life is turned upside down.
We Must Help Them Now
We must provide immediate aid to Nepal’s suffering children and their families, both in its urban areas and its remote, rural communities. And we must help them now, because we are indeed in a race against the onset of the monsoon rains, as close to six or seven weeks away, which will only increase our challenges.
Far Away, But Close to My Heart
When one travels by foot, scores of times, over the same roads and across trails, you really get to know and love a country and, most importantly, its people. I learned a lot on my journeys in Nepal.
So I am going to do whatever is possible now to let everyone know about the remarkable and resilient people of Nepal – especially those who live in areas that are remote in distance, but for me, so very close to my heart.
How You Can Help
Please give generously to the Nepal Earthquake Children’s Relief Fund to support Save the Children's responses to ongoing and urgent needs as a result of the earthquake.
A consensus is emerging within the global development community about the rapidly shifting landscape: It is no longer about government or institutional donors, international nongovernmental organizations and projects.
Complex global challenges, evolving science and technology, and new resources — including private investments, are challenging us to think in new ways and embrace previously unimaginable possibilities. Poverty, illiteracy and hunger are seen as some of the great economic and business challenges of our time, worthy of the best minds and plans from both the business and philanthropy sectors. We are at a time in history where we can actually imagine solving these thorny problems. Read more at Devex.
India is always a fascinating place for a visit to see Save the Children’s programs, but the one I made earlier this month was even more so than usual. I was meeting with Save the Children staff from all over the world to discuss key learnings from our urban programs. Since our founding almost 100 years ago, Save the Children’s focus has been on serving children and families in rural areas who have traditionally been the most marginalized, with the worst outcomes for kids in terms of health, education and abuse. But as populations shift, more and more disadvantaged families are moving to cities to try to lift their standard of living. In 2007 for the first time in recorded history, the number of people living in urban settings equaled those living in rural areas. As of 2014, 54 percent of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. By 2050, it is expected that this percentage will grow to 66 percent. And now many of the worst statistics for children are found in urban slums. This data is often masked by the better averages in cities and, as the gap between rich and poor widens, the poorest children are suffering in terms of surviving and thriving.
For example, in India, more than 8 million children under the age of 6 live in slums and 71 percent of deprived urban children under 5 suffer from anemia. More than 54 percent of households in urban slums do not have toilets and public facilities are unusable due to lack of maintenance, leading to poor sanitary conditions, increasing children’s chances of getting sick and decreasing their chances for a healthy start. In areas of rapid and unplanned urban expansion, informal settlements often lack many of the basic services that city dwellers typically enjoy, such as electricity, clean water and sanitation, transportation, education and healthcare. In addition, the urban poor face higher food costs and a constant threat of eviction, removal and confiscation of goods.
Save the Children is working hard to shift our work to focus on both rural and urban settings – wherever the most deprived children find themselves. As part of my recent trip, I witnessed a wide variety of urban programs operating in Delhi. This included a heartbreaking program that focuses on female sex workers. While the government does not want NGOs distributing condoms and educating sex workers on HIV/AIDS, they also don’t want to disclose the ages of these women. Sadly, however, many I met were clearly teenagers. In fact, several looked no older than my own 13 year old daughter. They spoke freely to us about the challenges of making a living by selling their bodies to men, some living on the streets and some with their families while hiding their real jobs from them. We visited a bridge under which men frequent to seek sex from many of these women, in clear view of a police check point. It was a terrifying place, full of dark spaces and garbage and, based on the men watching us from the bank of the filthy stream that ran through it, clearly this was a well-known location for sex. Not only is being forced to sell themselves horribly demeaning for these young girls, but it’s extremely dangerous as well.
The girls we met made tiny sums of money, most of which had to go for food or were given to their families for rent and other expenses. They dreamed of going back to school some day and a few were able to stay in school at least part-time. When we asked them what they wanted to do when they grow up, like any teenage girl, they had dreams of being teachers, dancers and even doctors. Of course for many it is unlikely these dreams will ever come true. But my prayers went out to them that hopefully a few would make it.
The teeming city of Delhi has literally hundreds of thousands of children living in extreme poverty, in some of the worst circumstances you can imagine. There are complicated issues of land ownership, municipal laws and political corruption to overcome, but there is also the promise of better infrastructure, more services and more partners with which to create change for these children and their families. As Save the Children looks to the future, our efforts for and with urban children will be key in delivering a better world for kids, no matter where they live.