By George Ingram and Nora O’Connell | Photo credit: Victoria Zegler
While the movement for global gender equality is growing – including prominent placement at the recent World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings – major gaps remain that, if addressed, could unleash significant progress. One of the first gaps that United States foreign assistance agencies should tackle is the lack of uniformity on the gender equality data they collect and use.
Our institutions – the Brookings Institution and Save the Children – recently teamed up to host a roundtable with current and former U.S. government (USG) officials, private sector, academic, and non-profit experts to examine the data gaps in gender programming and investments.
We agreed more rigor is needed in calculating U.S. government investments in gender equality globally, and more importantly, determining what these investments are achieving and teaching us about what works. This will help to shift U.S. aid from outputs and earmarks to impact and move us closer to genuine equality.
According to the most comprehensive data on foreign assistance for gender equality – the OECD’s gender equality policy marker – during 2014/2015 about 21 percent of all USG foreign assistance included some focus on gender equality. This puts it behind the average of most donors from highly developed nations who dedicated an average of 35 percent of their foreign assistance to gender equality.
The OECD’s gender equality policy marker is the only comprehensive measure of the extent to which the USG dedicates its foreign assistance to gender equality. And while this marker was a major step forward in measuring how much foreign assistance goes to gender equality programming by donor and sector, major gaps remain — including information about what these investments are achieving.
Various USG agencies have made strong commitments to improving gender data and are making progress on collecting and reporting their impacts and challenges – a continued focus on advancing gender data is vital.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to USG collection of high-quality gender data is the lack of uniformity of approach among USG foreign assistance agencies. USAID, the State Department, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and others are all collecting gender data on their programs and financing, but there is little consistency across the data. This makes it impossible to ascertain the full extent to which the United States is supporting gender equality around the world and whether those programs are truly making a difference at eliminating the disparities between women and men, girls and boys.
If we invested in the collection of more detailed data, USG could also improve its programming on gender equality. When the USG agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals, we committed to collecting more sex-and age-disaggregated data on project outcomes. As an example, this will not only allow us to compare the under-5 nutritional outcomes of boys versus girls and the employment rates in fisheries of men versus women; it will also enable us to see if women’s employment is translating into greater decision-making power at the household level or in the public sphere.
From the roundtable discussion, we identified three actions we must undertake to address gender data gaps:
1) Leverage New Momentum for Aid Reform
The gender data gap is ultimately an aid effectiveness issue. With reform momentum gaining at USAID and the State Department, we can demonstrate the benefits of quality gender data in terms of boosting development outcomes. Ultimately, there is a cost associated with improving data collection and we need to foster political will in order to back this up and garner the support we need to make better gender data a reality.
2) Listen to Voices on the Ground
The USG should finance more citizen-generated data as well as engage diverse local stakeholders in monitoring, evaluation, and learning related to USG gender equality programs. Data drives so much of what people working on the ground do and it’s important to incorporate their voices into this conversation. Fully engaging with actors on the ground will ensure that the USG is strategically targeting data collection and bringing all the efforts together to maximize impact. Additionally, by connecting with people at the local level, we can learn how quality gender data contributes to women’s empowerment and better development outcomes, enhancing the case for further data investment.
3) Establish a Cohesive Gender Data Reform Agenda
As noted above, gender experts are saying we need fewer data silos. Currently gender data is fragmented across USG agencies and sectors. We need a comprehensive data approach so data can be efficiently collected and compared across USG agencies. Furthermore, we need an agreed-upon set of program and funding targets that are measurable so we can know whether or not we are accomplishing what we set out to do.
By working to improve and standardize data collection, analysis, and use across all sectors, the U.S. government can be a leader in catalyzing a quantum leap towards gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls around the world.
Learn more about Save the Children’s Global Advocacy at https://www.savethechildren.org/us/what-we-do/global-programs/global-advocacy.
This post was originally published on the Brookings Institution’s Future Development blog.
12-year-old Gniré lives with her large family in a rural community located in the Sikasso district of Mali. Gniré loves school, especially math. When she’s not studying, she enjoys getting together with her friends and acting out stories, her favorite one being Cinderella.
In the village where Gniré lives, 90% of the mosquitos are female, which means they can carry malaria. This puts children at a high risk of being bitten by a mosquito and contracting the disease. Last year, Gniré was treated for malaria, not once, but twice.
The first time that Gniré contracted malaria, it became hard for her to make it through a day of school because her body was weak, her head hurt and she was cold and shaky. At first, she hid her illness from her parents but after she started vomiting and had to miss school for an entire week, she told her parents she was worried she might be really sick. Her parents immediately took her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with malaria and treated.
Not long afterwards, Gniré became ill again and was treated for malaria a second time. As a result of being sick for so long, Gniré’s growth has been stunted and she’s now smaller than her peers. This has made her self-conscious, especially at school, but Gniré’s future is now looking up thanks to Save the Children sponsors.
Through the Healthy Girls and Boys program, Gniré learned more about malaria and how to avoid it. She also received a mosquito net that she now hangs above her bed. Mosquitos bite at night, which means that Gniré is incredibly vulnerable to malaria without a net protecting her while she sleeps.
When asked what gift she would give to every child, Gniré knew right away that she would want to protect other kids from malaria.
“If I could give one gift to every child, it would be a mosquito net so that no one else has to get sick.”
Because of sponsorship in her community, Gniré now receives malaria medication that helps to reduce her risk of coming down with the disease again. She also stays healthy by washing her hands frequently and taking vitamins that keep her body strong. “I am thankful that Save the Children is in my community,” says Gniré. “It means that they care about my health!”
Now that she’s feeling better, Gniré is able to attend school every day. She can focus, learn and participate in class. Gniré knows how important it is for her to continue her education and dreams of becoming a doctor so she can help other people when they are sick.
“When you are educated, so many doors open for you!”
Every day, malaria threatens the lives of children around the world and also prevents them from attending school and learning. Save the Children sponsors are helping children like Gniré to not only survive, but thrive. With World Malaria Day happening this month, it’s the perfect time to consider becoming a child sponsor to help protect children like Gniré.
Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.
By: Carlos Carrazana
In September of 2017, Hurricane Maria, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in 90 years tore across the island, packing winds over 150 miles per hour. As is often the case these days, attention has moved on to other crises at home and abroad, but we must not forget Puerto Rico. In mid-April , after months of slow progress, the island completely lost power again. And for the American families still without basic services and the children who have collectively lost out on millions of full school days, the hurricane is still a daily reality.
Here are six things you’ve probably forgotten about Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico but shouldn’t.
- People were vulnerable before the storm. Nearly half of people on the island were living below the poverty level. The rising cost of goods, housing, and power was leading people to leave. The Pew Research Center reports that between 2005 and 2015, nearly 500,000 people left the island. A 2016 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found 56% of children in Puerto Rico in poverty and 36% in extreme poverty.
- Life is Not Back to Normal in Puerto Rico Today. Even before April’s massive blackout, 10% of the island remained without power and for more than 50% of households in some rural and mountainous regions, power has yet to be restored. Frequent blackouts across the island cause residents to relive the immediate effects of the hurricane long after it has passed. Some families still do not have clean drinking water or reliable sanitation systems. Because conditions on the island remain bad, more than 20,000 students have left the island and lost days, weeks and in some cases months of learning. Tens of thousands of houses still have tarp roofs.
- Schools in Puerto Rico are not fully operational. Today, some schools are still unable to operate on a full day schedule because they lack reliable power, which influences a wide variety of services like sanitation pumps, the cafeteria and learning. This is unacceptable and considerably slower than it took to reopen schools in Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Hurricane Irma. In addition to regaining power, it is imperative that the government develop a stronger plan to help children make up for lost learning and improve the quality of education on the island.
- As physical damage continues to be repaired, emotional wounds need attention too. Catastrophic natural disasters often cause people to witness wide-scale destruction, be torn from routine and normalcy, and sometimes even experience the loss of a loved one. At this point, black-outs serve to quickly remind people, and in particular, children, of the trauma they experienced. Psychological support is needed for parents, teachers, principals and caretakers in addition to the island’s children.
- Puerto Ricans are resilient and want to rebuild. I grew up in Puerto Rico. And in my multiple trips to the island over the past months, I have met countless people who are working as fast as they can to rebuild what was lost and build back their communities even better than they were before. That includes Alexandra and her brother, who I met in one of our child-friendly spaces while their parents worked to salvage all they had lost. The determination of their family to make Puerto Rico home again was motivating, and I know we can do better for the island.
- The next storm could be here sooner than we think. Now is the time to plan for what could be another active season. Save the Children will be working on emergency preparedness with the schools we support but a wider government plan must urgently be put into place.
History will judge how American citizens and the government aided Puerto Rico not only in the immediate aftermath of the storm but also in the long-term recovery. There have been amazing stories of people helping one another and Puerto Ricans showing their strength and resiliency but simply put, more should have been done and more must be done. Puerto Ricans urgently need reliable, functioning power, and Congress should allocate more funding that puts children’s education and recovery needs front and center. And we all must resolve not to forget our fellow Americans who are still suffering seven months after Hurricane Maria.
Carlos Carrazana is the chief operating officer and executive vice president of Save the Children. Learn more about Save the Children’s Hurricane Maria response at savethechildren.org/Hurricane-Maria.
As a concerned parent, you are sensitive to the nutritional needs of your child, and that includes avoiding risk factors that could lead to malnutrition. Understanding the major causes of malnutrition can help you form good habits when it comes to your own health as a parent, as well as the health of your child. Here, we breakdown four major factors that contribute to malnutrition in children.
Poor Quality of Diet
Malnutrition, at its core, is a dietary deficiency that results in poor health conditions. We typically think of malnutrition as it relates to children not eating enough of the right foods. It can also occur when children eat too much of the wrong foods. Either way, more than 170 million children fail to reach their full potential due to poor nutrition.
Malnutrition can occur in children of all ages, but young children are the most vulnerable. The World Health Organization has stated that malnutrition is the single most dangerous threat to global public health . It contributes to 45 percent of deaths of children under the age of 5 . This is due, in part, to the critical importance of the first two years of a child’s life.
The largest window of opportunity for a child’s health occurs in the first 1,000 days-from the start of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. Mothers who are malnourished during their pregnancy can experience complications giving birth. Many children are born small because their mothers are undernourished. Severely malnourished mothers can also have trouble breastfeeding their infants.
We know that breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life has health benefits that extend into adulthood. However, if a mother is too malnourished to breastfeed, these health benefits may not be passed on and a child can be at risk for malnutrition. This is especially true in developing countries.
Mothers like Zinak*, pictured above, who live in developing countries can be unaware of nutritional benefits of breastfeeding. In Tanzania, for example, the average duration of breastfeeding is only 2.4 months. Tanzania is one of the 10 worst affected countries in the world by chronic malnutrition and is the third worst in Africa.
Global health programs like the ones Save the Children supports works to help maternal, newborn and child health, which ultimately helps end child malnutrition. We work in many of the world’s poorest places, in the United States and abroad, to alleviate child hunger and prevent malnutrition. However, children living developed countries are still at risk for malnutrition if they are born into poverty.
Poverty is the number one cause of malnutrition in developing countries. Often times, families living in poverty lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Many communities do not have full-service grocery stores that regularly stock fresh produce.
Even if they do, fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive. When fresh fruits and vegetables are out of reach for children, they can fill up on less expensive, less healthy foods.
War and Conflict
Sadly, the violence of war and political unrest can also lead to severe malnutrition. In South Sudan, for example, conflict and drought has led to devastating conditions for children. Save the Children in South Sudan is the lead health and nutrition provider in much of the region. We run 58 feeding program sites for infants and young children, all powered by the support of our donors.
The crisis in Syria has also shed light on the number of refugee children who are at risk of malnutrition. Children, who make up more than half of the world’s 22.5 million refugees, often go without healthy food, health care and an education.
Access to food and water has become a heartbreaking challenge— leaving thousands of Syrian children at risk for malnutrition. There are many ways to help Syrian refugee children. Your knowledge and support can make a world of difference for children around the world.
*Name changed for protection
Of all of the conflict-affected areas in the world (and sadly, there are far too many), Syria is ranked as the most dangerous place for children. In Syria, there are 5.3 million children in need of humanitarian aid. According to the United Nations, Syrian children suffer all of the designated Six Grave Violations, even in demilitarized zones. They are denied humanitarian access, subjected to abduction, recruited as child soldiers, and have been robbed of their innocence – and even their lives – due to conditions that plague this Middle Eastern nation.
As the war in Syria enters its eighth year, conditions are far from improving. An estimated 5.4 million Syrian men, women, and children have made an exodus from their homeland, seeking refuge outside its borders in the hope of a better, safer life. Now is the time for us to take action and help these refugees in their time of crisis.
You may be asking yourself, “How can I help Syrian refugees from halfway across the globe?” The good news is that there are organizations that have made it their mission to provide assistance to the people of Syria. Take a minute to look through our guide on the Syrian crisis to learn how you can help donate and aid Syrian refugees during this time of grave need, and see through the eyes of Syria’s children what it’s like to have to endure the conditions they have known for most of their young lives.
Background on the Syrian Refugee Crisis
The Syrian crisis began in the wake of political upheaval that occurred in March of 2011. Conditions have swiftly declined, resulting in war, sickness and famine. Bombings have become part of daily life for Syrian families, resulting in a mass dispersion of refugees who seek shelter and safety since their homes and land have been destroyed. Unfortunately, many host countries fear that taking in these refugees will result in political and social unrest in their own nations. This leads to the pivotal problem of millions of people having nowhere to go – no place to call home.
The result of this fear has been devastating for the people of Syria. A child’s future is largely determined within the first few years of their lives. Without adequate care, the conflict is redefining what it means to be a child in Syria. You can help make a difference in these children’s lives in order to ensure they can reach their full potential. Although there are some countries that have implemented travel bans or other restrictions, there are still many other ways to help Syrian refugees.
Donate to Help Syrian Refugees
Donations to world aid organizations like Save the Children will go a long way toward providing necessary aid to the children and families of Syria. As a zone riddled with conflict, the area has become a major priority for organizations to provide food, water, medicine, education and shelter to displaced refugees. For the millions of children who need help around the world, a small contribution can go a long way. Donate to help Syrian children today.
Connect with Syria
Listen and share their stories. Many refugees have shared their personal stories with the world. They have felt fear as they hear bombs exploding overhead. They have felt hope for the war to end so they can go home and be reunited with loved ones. They have felt the desire for safety in times of insecurity and loss. Providing refugees with your hope and support can provide comfort in times of need. Social media can work wonders connecting people from around the world. Be sure to send your support to the people of Syria by raising awareness, connecting with refugees through social media, and even listening to and sharing their stories of hope.
Sponsor a Refugee Child
Through a child sponsorship program, you, the sponsor, can be a hero in a child’s life and in the lives of other children in the community. Your monthly support can help provide refugee children with access to a variety of resources that will help better their lives, their communities and their futures. You’ll influence young lives by supplying healthy food, health care, education, and helping to foster a productive and safe environment to grow. Newborns are provided with a healthy start. Children are given a strong foundation in education. Teens and young adults can learn the skills needed for empowering future careers. Choosing a refugee child through a sponsorship program can make a world of difference.
Child Sponsorship 101
As we step into the new year and reflect on the joys and blessings to come, it’s important to remember that there are children around the world who are suffering and in need of our help to have the future they deserve.
A child’s future is determined – to a large extent — within the first few years of their lives. You can help make a difference in these lives in order to ensure these children reach their full potential. For the millions of children who need help around the world, a small contribution can go a long way.
We can provide newborns with a healthy start, give children a strong foundation in education, and empower teens with the skills needed for promising careers. Choosing a child through a sponsorship program can make a world of difference in one person’s life and to the lives they touch as they grow.
So, where do you begin? You likely have a lot of questions as to how you can help and how sponsoring a child through Save the Children can help positively impact a person’s life — through childhood and beyond. Read on to learn more about how you can make a difference.
What is child sponsorship?
Through the child sponsorship program, you the donor can choose a child whose story has touched your life in a special way. Even if you’re halfway around the globe, you may see some similarities between yourself, your loved ones, and a child you wish to sponsor. Each month, your sponsorship helps provide children with the necessities for a healthy and successful start to their life – nutrition, early childhood and adolescent development, education and school health.. Over the course of months – or even years – your sponsorship will continue to make an impact on this child and his or her community.
As of 2016, Save the Children and the sponsors we are fortunate to work with have benefitted over 2.5 million children worldwide, in 43 global communities, and have contributed over $70.7 million to enrich the lives of these children.
What does it mean to be a child sponsor?
The primary goal of sponsorship is to help provide children with their best chance for success. Through the sponsorship program you will develop a strong and important relationship with the child through letters, birthday cards and photos. The most important aspect of being a child sponsor is the impact you will have on the community as a whole. Your contributions will directly affect the education, health care, recreation and safety of others within the community, as well.
How much does it cost to sponsor a child?
You can help change the lives of children all over the world for just over $1 a day. Sponsorship starts at $36 per month, and you will be changing the lives of more than just one child. Your contributions are combined with other sponsors and donors in order to help better entire communities. This ensures that children in these communities still benefit from the programs and support even if they do not have a sponsor of their own. If you’re able to give more than $36 per month, your donation will help achieve greater goals for the children of these communities.
What impact does sponsoring a child have on the community?
The positive impact on the lives of these children can’t be measured in money alone. Thanks to our network of generous sponsors like you, we’ve been able to help treat 418,000 children for parasitic infections (often due to unclean, unsafe water in their regions), making sure their childhood is as healthy and happy as possible. We were also able to equip 37,000 parents with the tools they need to support their children’s early development. And we’ve helped train 6,000 teachers to give children in impoverished parts of the globe the education they need to build a better life for themselves and their community.
Your contributions help lift entire communities and assist not only the children, but also the families, caregivers, and other people in a given area. Depending on which program and age group you wish to sponsor, you’re able to help a wide range of people :
- Babies & Expecting Mothers: Even before birth, you’ll improve the lives of expectant mothers and provide them with the health and nutrition services that will ensure their babies begin life happy and healthy.
- Toddlers & Young Children: You’ll be able to provide children with early learning opportunities that will lay a strong foundation for educational success. You’ll be able to improve the overall learning experience for all children in the community ensuring the quality education they deserve.
- Teens & Pre-Teens: Adolescence is a time of intense change that shapes future opportunities. With your assistance, you will help pre-teens and teenagers build lasting life and work skills to build a better community.
Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. With millions of children living in poverty, it is the primary goal of Save the Children to connect children in need with people like you who want to become involved and make a serious impact. Sponsorship provides these children with the necessities for a successful and healthy start to a bright future. Through sponsorship, you’ll be able to support these children as they learn and grow.
If you’d like to sponsor a child and make a tax-deductible donation today, please connect with us for more information.
Save the Children in Egypt
March 20, 2018
“How does it make you feel to be a representative of your school, Aseel?” I asked.
She froze, hesitant to answer.
Then she admitted that she didn’t want to sound “arrogant,” so I reassured her, “Confident, Aseel! Not arrogant.”
It was at that moment she took a deep breath and let out the most genuine response I could have hoped for.
“As an ambassador, I feel that I have a nice talent,” she said. “They chose me from the entire school, they chose me from among 800 students! I cannot believe this!”
As the war in Syria enters its eighth year, there are still children who are out of school, and most are up to six years behind in their reading and math skills. This, I cannot believe!
For refugee children, war has put their educations – and therefore their futures – at risk.
Back in October, I was able to visit Save the Children’s refugee sponsorship program in Egypt. I witnessed firsthand the impact being made in the lives of children who, at one point, were without an education.
During my visit, I was given the opportunity to meet our four child ambassadors – Aseel, Mohanad, Malak and Karim. Each of these inspiring children expressed their gratitude for having Save the Children in their community school and felt honored to be chosen as a representative among their peers.
I watched plays orchestrated by local Save the Children staff to promote hygiene in a fun and inclusive atmosphere (think big toothbrushes constructed out of cardboard and plastic straws!). I heard the excitement in the children’s voices when they talked about attending summer camp and art exhibits. It made me smile knowing that our sponsors are giving vulnerable children the education and support they need to succeed.
After meeting each of these children and hearing their stories, I couldn’t help but notice their sense of self-awareness. All of the incredible support we receive from sponsors like you allows refugee children to thrive in a safe environment, one where they can focus on learning and just being kids again. These children recognize what is happening in the world, even though they may not understand it. They realize that they have been given a second chance, and they know they have to work hard. Because of your generosity, refugee children are able to continue their educations and dare to dream of their futures.
It moved me to see these young children serving as leaders within the community and talking about their hopes for the future. This is what your generosity is doing. You’re helping provide the care and support these children desperately need to pursue their dreams.
Thank you for making a positive difference in the lives and futures of refugee children like Aseel.
Within our impact area of Greater Cairo, Save the Children responds to both short-term and long-term needs of vulnerable refugee children and their families by offering child protection, education, health and livelihoods support, counseling and psychological support. Learn more and find out how you can help at SavetheChildren.org/RefugeeSponsorship
Md. Hasan Iqbal
Deputy Manager, Sponsorship Communications and Data Quality
Save the Children in Bangladesh
March 19, 2018
Shohayeb is a 12-year-old boy studying in 7th grade, at a sponsorship supported school in Meherpur, Bangladesh. He was enrolled in the child sponsorship program in 2011 when he was only 7, although sponsorship has been working in his community since 2006.
During this time, Shohayeb has gained motivation in his studies, knowledge on good practices in his personal life, for example how to wash his hands properly and how to eat healthy, and learned about the many benefits of a strong education. His community has also become strengthened and more aware through sponsorship, realizing too the importance of education for their children, healthy living practices and how the prevention of early marriage benefits the long term development and prosperity of their community. Shohayeb’s community has also received material benefits like vitamin and iron supplements for malnourished children, and school infrastructure development such as safe water treatment, hygienic latrines and new learning materials like books.
In August of 2017, Shohayeb had the great excitement of meeting his sponsor, Hyeona from South Korea, for the first time, who has been sponsoring him since 2013. They spent two days together, talking, reading, drawing, taking photos with each other and just getting to know one another.
During this time, Shohayeb even got to celebrate Hyeona’s birthday with her, as it took place during their visit. It was an amazing journey with friends. Hyeona visited his school and met with his teacher and classmates. She saw how now, thanks to sponsors, classrooms have print-rich learning materials and posters, instead of blank walls. She even witnessed a vision screening test at his school, a service that wasn’t available to children with vision problems until sponsorship came to his school. Later, they spent time together making arts and crafts, playing ball games with Shohayeb and his classmates, and even dancing!
Shohayeb tells us he will never forget those memories. He shared many things about himself and his family with his friend from so far away. Hyeona also shared stories about herself and her experiences, so Shohayeb not only gained a close friend but also learned many new things.
Shohayeb shared after the visit, “Now I can look to the future and hope to fulfil my dreams. My friend [sponsor] supports me a lot, and encourages me in her letters. Sponsorship has done much more for me, my family, and my village. Thank you my friend, Hyeona Kim.”
It was a wonderful moment for both. During their farewell, Shohayeb expressed his feelings, “I never thought that I could meet my friend. Over the last two days I talked to my friend, we ate together, played together… I became very happy. But, she will go soon… I cannot see her more. I hope that we could meet in future. I wish that one day after I grow up, I will go to Korea to see my friend.”
Hyeona also shared her experiences about her visit to the sponsorship programs in Bangladesh, “I feel very happy to have met with Shohayeb. He is a very nice person. I feel really proud of this good boy. He will be a very gentle man in the future. We enjoyed very much our time together. He drew a picture for me – that was wonderful. We took photos together of our memorable moments. I will never forget Shohayeb. I think he will remember me. And also I feel very cheerful because my support is effectively received for children’s wellbeing. After this visit, I understand how successfully and hard Save the Children has been working for the children.”
Where does your sponsored child live? Would you like to learn more about what life is like in that country, and how your sponsorship is changing the lives of children there? Consider making the big trip to visit. Contact our team in Fairfield, CT at ChildVisits@SaveChildren.org to learn more!
Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.
The Conflict in Syria is not “Normal”
After seven years of war in Syria, we hear more and more that the general public is becoming desensitized to the conflict. As horrible as the news reports are, the stories are no longer shocking. But we must never accept suffering and human rights violations as “the new normal.” The crisis in Syria is unacceptable—and it’s getting worse.
In the U.S., people work hard to achieve the American dream. Before the conflict, families throughout Syria were pursuing their Syrian dream—sending their children to school, buying what they wanted, working and running businesses. That was their normal.
When you listen to displaced Syrians describe life before the conflict, it sounds a lot like the lives my friends, family and neighbors live:
Just as we strive to raise our children in peaceful communities surrounded by neighbors, friends and relatives, a mom named Haya* reflected to us that: “Ours was a simple quiet village.” Seven-year-old Amer* recollected that: “My grandfather used to lift me and pick me up, play with me. My memories of Syria are we went for a walk at night, with my father and my mother. We bought something sweet.”
Sadly, seven years on, we know that many places in Syria are anything but quiet. Escalation in fighting forced more than a million people across Syria from their homes in the last three months of 2017.
Just as we dream of owning homes and giving our children more than we ever had, 7-year-old Lubna* told us: “I had a big, big home. My grandmother got me a toy, I remember that. I had a white room and it had a closet. The closet had a lot of clothes in it. I had a lot of toys in Syria.”
Today, homes in communities like Eastern Ghouta are being decimated by bombings. Satellite images show neighborhoods with the majority of their buildings destroyed. Basic services like sewage, electricity and water are gone.
Just as we are ambitious and work hard to provide for our families, one young boy we met named Mushen* told us: “We used to have chickens and sheep in Syria. My dad had a small shop. We also had two cars.”
Now, in besieged communities in Syria, 80 to 90 percent of people are now unemployed and even staple foods are unaffordable for many families.
Just as we send our children to school and want them to be safe, 13-year-old Rasha* remembered that: “My school was really nice, it had two playgrounds. I really liked the school and had many friends.”
But in Syria, attacks often target schools and hospitals. In Eastern Ghouta alone, more than 60 schools have been hit by bombing in the first two months of 2018. Many schools operate in basements because of bombings. Children are years behind in basic reading and math skills.
We must actively resist the feeling that what we are seeing out of Syria is normal. It would not be for us and it is not for Syrian families who are desperate for peace. Seven years of conflict must end now. Millions of Syrians are dreaming of rebuilding their lives.
Since 2012, Save the Children has been supporting children and families both inside and outside of Syria. Our programs address physical and psychosocial health, return children to education, give them safe spaces to play, provide food and more. Save the Children will continue to raise its voice for those affected by the Syrian conflict. On March 15, join us by sharing your message of hope for Syrians on social media with the hashtag #7WordsForSyria.
Marianne O’Grady and Carolyn Alesbury
Save the Children in Afghanistan
March 9, 2018
As the spring flowers brought color to the gardens, and the trees were waking up after a long and cold winter, we flew into Faryab to visit the sponsorship program. The trip was long overdue and as representatives of the technical team, we were delighted to see the high quality programming happening in Faryab and Sarepul.
The early childhood, school health and basic education programs in Afghanistan are strong, highly necessary and innovative. The sponsorship staff are team players, dedicated, focused and so engaged. With Faryab and Sarepul under new and crippling security strains, the staff face extreme challenges reaching some communities – something that must now be factored into their planning to ensure programs still reach children. Our teams partner closely with the local Ministry of Education department to provide educational activities in areas that the government cannot access. Save the Children sponsorship programming is there to support children in preparing for and transitioning to primary school, as well as ensure they are healthy and able to stay in school once they get there.
In Afghanistan, the ministry is working to get national preschools in every village, but currently only a few early learning centers are in place and functioning in Kabul. Since we know that stimulating children’s cognitive, social, language and even reading and math skills at an early age is important to set them up for success as students later on, sponsorship has been working hard to address these challenges.
We are successfully modeling community-based early learning programs for these young students, usually ages 4 – 6, throughout the country, and in Faryab and Sarepul, the local ministry officials even came to Save the Children and asked us to incorporate these programs into the primary school curriculum. This innovative approach demonstrates our strong partnership with the local government.
We were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit one of these early learning centers during our trip. The children were both excited and shy to sing and read with us, and to show off on the high quality playground equipment sponsors had provided here.
Another example of our close partnership with the local government could be seen in the health team’s recent visit. They provided blue prints for toilets that are low cost, high quality and long lasting. After much review with local ministry officials, sponsorship teams and village partners have built some of these new toilets at primary schools that had no toilets before or not enough to accommodate the number of students.
We are so proud of the program in Afghanistan and want to remind our sponsors, our members and our technical advisors that Afghan children are still in need. We are working in some areas where other NGOs and the local government cannot reach – we hope that the inspiring and impactful efforts of our colleagues in Faryab can continue until all those needs have been addressed!
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