Redefining Gender Roles Through Kangaroo Care in Africa

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

Written by Nicolle Keogh  | Photography by Peter Caton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION FROM CENTRAL AMERICA

Addressing the Root Causes of Migration from Central America

Save the Children is taking action to assist children and families affected by U.S. immigration policy in recent months, and to strengthen our work to address the root causes of migration from Central America. Bringing decades of humanitarian expertise, we seek to sustain and strengthen our ongoing work in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, where pervasive and often ruthless violence has families living in fear for their lives and safety.

Save the Children has a strong presence and longstanding child- and youth-focused programs in the countries of origin for the majority of migrating children, adolescents and families, and in Mexico, which is both a source and transit country. We have used our presence and expertise to launch humanitarian programs to protect children, address the needs of children returning from the U.S. and reduce violence.

We seek to prevent dangerous and forced migration through activities such as awareness campaigns on the risks and rights associated with migration and programs related to youth empowerment, jobs training and family livelihoods.

We also strengthen national protection systems to care for children and adolescents in their home communities, as well as during transit and return, including family reunification, so that they can access their rights to dignity, protection and security.

Recent examples of our work include:

  • Pilot projects to interrupt the cycle of gang violence in El Salvador and to create “Schools of Peace” at 70 schools in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
  • A collaboration among Save the Children, the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation, the Secretary of Social Development and the German Cooperation Development group to prevent the migration of unaccompanied children from targeted communities by enhancing their livelihoods and life skills opportunities.
  • Advocating for violence reduction at the community and government levels in Honduras and Guatemala.
  • Preventing trafficking and smuggling of women and youth at risk or victims of human trafficking in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
  • Improving protection systems for children who have been displaced and/or returned to El Salvador and Honduras after migration.
  • Providing sexual and reproductive health services to returning adolescents in El Salvador and Guatemala.
  • Working to ensure that children in border shelters in Mexico are being protected from harm and have access to psychological and emotional support activities.
ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION FROM CENTRAL AMERICA
Estrella*, 16, is a local young leader involved in ECP peace-building workshops in the school near to Las Canoas, Guatemala

Save the Children is the national leader in child-focused disaster preparedness, response and recovery. We have over 80 years’ experience serving the needs of U.S. children and have well-trained national staff ready to deploy anywhere at a moment’s notice to assess needs, help protect children and provide critical relief. We are a partner of the Red Cross and a member of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.

We are also one of the few organizations in Central America with longstanding programs primarily focused on children and adolescents in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. Each year, we reach 2.8 million children in these countries with protection, health and education programs.

Save the Children was founded in 1919 on the pioneering belief that every last child has the right to survive, learn and be protected. Today, we continue this work, advocating for children facing inhumane treatment and potential irreparable harm at the U.S.-Mexico borderThrough all of the complexities of this crisis, one thing is clear and simple: we can and must do more to protect children and keep families together.

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done in Guatemala to protect children so they are safe in their home communities, read our photo-essay on Medium.

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

How to Help Children in Crisis at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Save the Children was founded in 1919 on the pioneering belief that every last child has the right to survive, learn and be protected. Today, we continue this work, advocating for children facing inhumane treatment and potential irreparable harm at the U.S.-Mexico border. Through all of the complexities of this crisis, one thing is clear and simple: we can and must do more to protect children and keep families together.

In response to this crisis, Save the Children is announcing new and expanded efforts to support vulnerable children, including supporting programs here in the United States, strengthening family reunification efforts, programming to address root causes in Latin America and continuing to speak out against policies that are harmful to children.

“Children and their families are fleeing unspeakable violence in their home countries and face a long and dangerous journey to the U.S. border, with the hope of a better life. Last year, I met a 13-year-old boy in El Salvador who recounted the story of how his best friend, beaten by a gang because he refused to join, died in his arms. After sharing that heart-wrenching story, he told me his fear: ‘I don’t think I’ll ever grow to be an adult in my country.’ No child should live with this kind of fear, with so little hope for the future,” said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children. “Simply put, our children deserve better.”

Save the Children is calling on all people who care about kids to use your voice and take a stand with Save the Children.

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

5 HARMFUL LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF FAMILY DETENTION ON CHILDREN

5 Harmful Long-Term Effects of Family Detention on Children

This post originally posted by Save the Children Action Network.

Written by Mira Tignor

It is difficult to imagine hearing the panicked cries of children being separated from their families, but this is the reality happening at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The separation of migrant families at the border has been the subject of intense media scrutiny and outrage. Even if the issue of family separation were to be resolved, children are still negatively impacted by indefinite family detention, with their well-being at risk.

Below are 5 harmful long-term effects of family detention on children:

  1. Harms family relationships and stability – Family separation can permanently damage familial relationships, even after reunification. Many children don’t understand why the separation is happening, and feel that their parent has abandoned them. The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that “detention itself undermines parental authority and capacity to respond to their children’s needs,” and results in fraught parent-child relationships.
  2. Damages psycho-social development and well-being – Detention involves experiencing a loss of control, isolation from the outside world and detachment from community and culture. These experiences are harmful for people of all ages, but have a higher impact on children because their brains are still developing. The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that detention affects children’s brain chemistry in a way that is comparable to child abuse. Research has shown much higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal thoughts in children who have been detained.
  3. Worsened school performance – Detained children often experience impaired or delayed cognitive development, which affects concentration and other abilities that are crucial to academic success. This makes keeping up with the age-appropriate reading and math level especially difficult for detained children. Even once their period of detention is over, their learning capabilities are already behind those of their peers.
  4. Poor sleep quality – The lack of bedding for children sleeping on concrete floors, coupled with the mental stress they are under, often results in sleeping problems such as insomnia, sleepwalking, bedwetting and night terrors. Poor sleep quality, in turn, can have detrimental effects on physical and mental health.
  5. Risk of exploitation and abuse – Children are at higher risk of being exploited or abused while in detention centers. There have been reports of privately run detention centers paying extremely low wages to detainees for their labor, as well as experiences of physical and sexual abuse from guards and other officers. Some detention centers have been reported to use severe disciplinary measures to control children’s behavior, including drugging children without consent.

In order to help children address these consequences and prevent more children from having to experience them, we must contact our members of Congress and urge them to put the best interests of children first.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE.

ABC News “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Interviews Carolyn Miles on the U.S. Border Crisis

On Sunday, June 24, CEO and Save the Children President & CEO Carolyn Miles and International Rescue Committee President David Miliband were guests on ABC News “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” On the heels of World Refugee Day, their discussion focused on the treatment of immigrant families at the southern border and the worldwide refugee crisis.

Carolyn Miles spoke to the trauma that separating a child from his or her family inflicts. Her words supported the grave concern Save the Children has for the treatment and well-being of children from Mexico and Central American nations who are in the custody of the United States government after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Top of mind is also the Presidential Executive Order which Save the Children believes simply replaces family separation with indefinite family detention. ‘The trauma that happens to children is very real,” Carolyn Miles explained. “It’s psychological. It’s physical. It’s lasting. You see that what happens to kids when they’re separating from their families in these kind of crisis is something that stays with them.”

Carolyn Miles also shared a personal story of a boy she met while travelling in El Salvador. Working closely with local communities and organizations in El Salvador, Save the Children designs Sponsorship programs to help vulnerable children from early childhood to early adulthood — giving them a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm along the way.

Watch the full segment, visit ABC News “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” and sign Save the Children’s petition telling President Trump that we have ZERO TOLERANCE for policies that do not put children’s interests first.

Reading for All Children

Author Portrait_Memory Mwathengere, Sponsorship Communications Coordinator
Memory Mwathengere

Sponsorship Communications Coordinator

Save the Children in Malawi

June 23, 2018

Reading is a critical skill to learn, and one that enables all future learning – children must learn to read so they are able to learn. However, reading is also a skill where many children can quickly fall behind, especially those with learning disabilities. How then can children with learning difficulties be supported?

Save the Children in Malawi is working to address this problem through an education program we call the Special Needs Action Pack, or SNAP. Since 2008, we’ve been working with children, teachers and community members to strengthen literacy skills of children in Zomba, for example through efforts that improve access to books and introduce child-centered teaching methods in classrooms that use games, songs and play to help children learn to their fullest potential. Last year, we started working to redesign those programs to ensure they are truly all-inclusive, most importantly for learners who were not fully benefiting yet due to their diverse learning needs.

Modester in her classroom in Zomba, with one of her students.
Modester in her classroom in Zomba, with one of her students.

Through SNAP, we help ensure quality and equitable education to every child, regardless of his or her physical, mental or emotional status. SNAP explained simply is a set of tools designed to equip teachers with skills on how they can identify and effectively support learners with special needs, and ensure those struggling to read in class improve their reading abilities. Save the Children also works hand-in-hand with the district’s Ministry of Education office, to ensure local partners are involved in ownership of programs for children.

Modester is a 6th grade teacher who has benefited greatly from the SNAP trainings. Before the trainings, Modester faced numerous difficulties in teaching special needs children – she handled all the students in her classroom as though they had the same abilities. She did not realize the importance of treating children as individuals with different abilities to learn, and as a result, learners who were slow to grasp were missing out on her lessons.

Through lessons learned in the trainings she participated in as a part of SNAP, Modester is now able to identify and employ effective strategies of supporting all her students. Strategies include how to better plan lessons to accommodate individual learning and needs. Learning and assessment materials are also provided, and general knowledge on how teachers can ably accommodate all learners in their lessons. Modester also learned how to create learning materials using low-cost and locally available resources, for example, how to create raised prints for learners with visual challenges by hand.

“SNAP is an effective program. It has helped improve my relationship with children with learning disabilities as I have gained skills on how to involve them in all classroom activities. They are able to open-up to me whenever they have challenges. Similarly, parents of these children are now able to open-up regarding the challenges faced by their children, which they were unable to share in the past.”

Previously, discussing issues like children’s disabilities openly with parents was not culturally accepted, however Modester has learned how to bring up these topics with families in a sensitive and respectful way. She shared there is improved performance by her students as well. “The performance of learners in my class has greatly improved and I foresee more improvements.”

Modester, a 6th grade teacher who has benefited greatly from sponsorship trainings.
Modester, a 6th grade teacher who has benefited greatly from sponsorship trainings.

SNAP training sessions have been conducted in 30 sponsorship schools and through these sessions, teachers are able to use these skills to help children with learning difficulties in other learning areas besides reading, such as in mathematics. School attendance is up in these schools, and overall now all students can be seen participating in class activities, rather than just a few.

“I am proud and thankful to Save the Children. I would not have acquired these skills without them, and the Ministry of Education would not have done this alone. Such innovations are very imperative”, concluded Modester.

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

NEWS8 Interviews Carolyn Miles in Response to the Executive Order Regarding Family Separation

 

In response to the Presidential Executive Order regarding family separation, Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children, issued a statement outlining how the Executive Order is harmful to children. The statement continues to urge the President to do the right thing for children and for Congress to include the policies and recommendations outlined in the Keep Families Together Act in any legislation that is voted on in the House or Senate on this topic.

On June 20, a day recognized as World Refugee Day, NEWS8 interviewed Carolyn Miles, in addition to other Connecticut leaders. In the interview, Carolyn Miles articulated the grave concerns Save the Children has for what’s happening to children at the border, specifically the trauma they endure.

Separating a child from his or her family unnecessarily is inhumane, traumatic and simply put, unacceptable,” read the statement Carolyn Miles issued on June 19, one day prior to the White House executive order was signed. “The cruel act of separation can cause severe negative social and emotional consequences for the children and their families in the days, months and years ahead. Our global evidence shows that children living in institutions away from their families are highly vulnerable to emotional, physical and psychological abuse, which can lead to lasting developmental problems, injuries and trauma.

Save the Children believes the Presidential Executive Order addressing family separation achieves one thing: further harming already vulnerable children. As announced, the Executive Order simply replaces family separation with indefinite family detention – this unconscionable order does not once mention the best interests of children. Save the Children has zero tolerance for policies that do not put children’s interests first.

We know from our nearly 100 years of service that family detention has significant adverse effects on a child’s development and psychosocial well-being, which ultimately results in the loss of childhood.

To read the full statement and to learn how you can take action to tell congress that families belong together, visit Save the Children.

Why We Recognize World Refugee Day

Around the world, children and families are fleeing their homelands to escape oppression, violence and ongoing conflicts. These people seek safety and shelter in countries other than their own and become refugees. There are currently more than 22 million refugees around the globe – and those numbers grow by the day. More than half of all refugees are children, whose childhoods are at risk of ending too soon.

World Refugee Day brings attention to the ongoing plight of refugees and what can be done to help them. It was first established by the UN General Assembly in 2001. World Refugee Day offers us a chance to raise awareness in our own communities about the conditions endured by millions of refugees every day. Together, we have an opportunity to show how everyone can help make a lasting impact on the lives of refugees in need.

A Childhood Lost
Today, on World Refugee Day, it is more important than ever to remember that all children deserve safety, an education and a chance at a future.

Desperate circumstances force refugee children into hazardous work. Child labor has been identified as a major barrier to education in many countries currently experiencing conflict or recently emerging from conflict.1 It is also reportedly on the rise for both Syrian refugee children and host communities.2 In Jordan, for example, a recent survey of the resident child population (which included migrants and refugee households) found child labor rates have roughly doubled compared to pre-crisis figures. 3

More than half of the world’s refugee children are not in school—forced from their homes, education and everything they once knew, their childhoods cut short. Education is a necessity and provides hope and opportunities for the future, as well as a sense of safety, stability and normalcy for children overcoming traumatic events.

Child marriage is reportedly on the rise for girls in Syria and among Syrian refugee populations.4 Marriage of children under 18 years old is not a new phenomenon in Syria. However, with the protracted nature of the crisis, child marriage has evolved from a cultural practice to a coping mechanism.5

An Uncertain Future

Suffering violence, witnessing violence or fearing violence can cause lifelong disabilities and deep emotional trauma. Separation from family members and economic hardship can expose girls and boys to exploitation in the forms of child labor, child marriage, sexual violence and recruitment into use by armed groups.6

But the less visible dangers for children in conflict are caused by lack of food and the collapse of essential services such as health care, sanitation and education.7

Malnutrition takes a toll on the immune system and it is particularly severe for growing children. Refugee children are more vulnerable to succumb to such preventable and treatable conditions such as pneumonia and diarrhea, which account for nearly one in five deaths in children under the age of five.

Inadequate nutrition during childhood can lead to impaired growth, cognitive impairment, and increased risk of mortality. A lack of to basic healthcare causes needless death and suffering for so many young children who need a healthy head start in life.

An Opportunity to Help
When refugees are displaced from their homes, it’s often the children who suffer the most.

Save the Children is working around the clock to ensure refugee children and their families are supported in their basic human needs.

We work nonstop supporting refugee girls and boys, helping them survive, and thrive. Whether in camps, on the move or in host communities, our caring staff help refugee children from Syria, South Sudan, Burundi and other countries marred by violence and persecution.

 

1. Justino, Patricia. “Barriers to Education in Conflict-Affected Countries and Policy Opportunities.”

2. UNICEF. Preparing for the Future of Children and Youth in Syria and the Region through Education: London One Year On: Brussels Conference Education Report. (April 2017) p.5.

3. University of Jordan. National Child Labour Survey 2016 of Jordan. (Amman: 2016)

4. UNICEF. Preparing for the Future of Children and Youth in Syria and the Region through Education: London One Year On, Brussels Conference Education Report, April 2017, p. 5.”

5. Whole of Syria Protection Sector. 2018 Protection Needs Overview V2. (2017)

6. 2018 End of Childhood Index (Amman: 2016)

7. 2018 End of Childhood Index (Amman: 2016)

Refugee Children Are Missing Out On School

To escape violence, hunger and harm, refugee children leave everything behind. Too often, that means they lose their education as well. Refugee children urgently need access to safe places to learn, grow and play.

On World Refugee Day, and on every day, Save the Children is working around the clock to ensure refugee children and their families are supported in their basic human needs. We work nonstop supporting refugee girls and boys, helping them survive and thrive.

In our second annual End of Childhood Index, we take a hard look at the events that rob children of their childhoods and prevent them from reaching their full potential, including being out of school.

Refugee children are 5 times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children.1 Girls living in countries affected by conflict are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys.2 Without education, displaced children face bleak futures. Especially in times of crisis, education can offer a child stability, protection and the chance to gain critical knowledge and skills. Schools can also serve as social spaces that bring together family and community members, and create bonds of trust, healing and support. Failing to provide education for displaced children can be hugely damaging, not only for children but also for their families and societies, perpetuating cycles of poverty and conflict.

 

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. MAKE A DONATION TODAY TO SUPPORT OUR RELIEF EFFORTS FOR REFUGEE CHILDREN.

1. 2018 End of Childhood Index

2. Nicolai, Susan, et al. Education Cannot Wait: Proposing a Fund for Education in Emergencies. (ODI: London: 2016) 122 UNESCO. Education for All Global

Hiding in Plain Sight: Helping Communities Better Protect Children When Disaster Strikes

By Erin Lauer

Since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Save the Children has been responding to disasters all across the United States — from small local floods to the most destructive hurricanes and tornadoes in recent history, and everything in between. Despite the many differences in those storms, we have seen one commonality across communities in every corner of the country: far too often, emergency managers don’t always know where child care programs are located. Our smallest and most vulnerable children are sometimes hiding in plain sight, with early childhood programs in a wide variety of locations, including churches, schools, strip malls, hospitals and downtown office buildings.

In 2015, we launched a partnership with the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute to solve that. Funded by a grant from global healthcare company GSK, we’ve worked with two pilot communities — Putnam County, New York, and Washington County, Arkansas, to raise the visibility and inclusion of child-serving institutions like summer camps, public, private and charter schools, foster care agencies and, of course, early childhood programs, in community-wide emergency planning. This work has culminated in the launch of the Resilient Children Resilient Communities (RCRC) Toolbox, a set of resources designed to help communities plan for and better protect their youngest residents.

One of the tools I’m most excited about helps local emergency managers design a disaster preparedness exercise focused on exploring the unique needs of children during a disaster and the variety of agencies and organizations required to address those needs. Exercises like this are a critical tool for emergency management, as they test plans and procedures and show communities what areas might need more attention.

Earlier this year, as part of a larger community exercise, we worked with two child care programs in Washington County, Arkansas, to test the evacuation and shelter in place procedures they established with a full-scale exercise. One child care program evacuated a classroom of 12 students, put them on a school bus, and received them at another early childhood center over a mile away. For local leaders, it was a chance to see how these child care programs implement their plans, and what support first responders and other partners can offer to keep children safe. For the 12 boys and girls, however, it was a fun field trip to meet some new friends and play with some new toys. In fact, as they were leaving the evacuation location, one of the little girls asked “when are we going to have the fire drill Ms. Jennifer told us about?,” not realizing that their field trip had, in fact, been the drill. For one boy, the most exciting part of the whole thing was the chance to have a different snack at snack time!

Through resources like the RCRC toolbox and the Get Ready Get Safe initiative, Save the Children is determined to share the best information and resources, so that every community is ready to protect its children when disaster strikes.

Erin Lauer is a Community Preparedness Manager with Save the Children’s U.S. Programs.