New York, New York
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Save the Children staff was all over New York City advocating for a renewed commitment to achieving the U.N Millennium Development Goals. The morning kicked off with “Five Years for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity,” a panel discussion featuring Elisabeth Dahlin, Secretary General of Save the Children Sweden, Dr. Abhay Bang of SEARCH and senior executives from World Vision, Plan International and UNICEF. In the video below Dahlin gives a brief overview of the discussion.
Save the Children Board Chair Anne Mulcahy attended an event sponsored by the U.S. and Irish governments to address malnutrition among children. Malnutrition weakens children’s immune systems and makes them more susceptible to major life-threatening childhood illnesses. Mulcahy elaborates on the event:
Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, was interviewed by Sian To, aka “Mummy Tips,” a mommy blogger from the UK. To recently returned from Bangladesh where she blogged about Save the Children’s health work in remote areas of the country.
In uptown Manhattan, staff members heard from various speakers and panelists at the UN Week Digital Media Lounge, hosted by the 92Y with support from Mashable and the United Nations Foundation. Here are just a few of our favorite quotes from the summit and other events Save the Children attended:
“Children are not just our future, they are our present… they are powerful actors who need to be engaged” Kevin Jenkins CEO of WorldVision
“I wish there was a rock star against Diarrhea, that would be awesome!”- UN Foundation’s Elizabeth Gore
“When you change the lives of girls and women, you also change the lives of boys and men.” World Bank’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
“The Millennium Development Goals have been good, but not been good enough for the most marginalized children” Alfred Ironside, Director of Communications, Ford Foundation
A vicious, relentless killer was spotted outside the lounge (sort of). Water Aid, a nonprofit dedicated to providing universal access to clean water, had staff members parade around the city in a giant poop costume, complete with fake flies. The goal was to raise awareness of inadequate sanitation and hygiene in developing countries, two issues that contribute to more than 4,000 child deaths in the developing world, perday. Enough from me, Steve from Water Aid can better explain:
By the Deputy Team Leader for Save the Children's Pakistan Flood Response
Shikarpur District, Pakistan
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
After a week in sweltering Sindh province, the region hardest hit by Pakistan's devastating floods, I am now safe, cool and comfortable in my Islamabad apartment. But in my head, one picture from my trip remains. I remember walking into the children’s ward of the Shikarpur District Hospital. On old, ripped cots, mothers and their children were stretched out, two pairs per bed. At first I just noticed how crowded the room was (there were at least 50 women and children in the room, and another 30 next door).
But then I looked at the children, and the women cradling them in their arms.
“What do you feed them?” I asked the head of the hospital, who was guiding me from room to room.
“Nothing,” he responded, “We don’t have money for food.”
Two-year-old Ramzan suffers from severe dehydration. A Save the Children doctor gives electrolytes in order to replace lost salts and sugars. For the last fifteen days Ramzan has been sleeping on a baking concrete wall with little access to clean water and food since the floodwaters swept away his parents land.
Photo Credit: Ian Woolverton
I looked to the far corner of the room, where a mother sat wrapped around a skeletal child who reminded me of photos I’d seen in National Geographic – protruding skull on top of a fragile body.
I asked again, “But, what do they eat? Ask them.”
I pointed to the near corner, where a girl of about 9 years old lay connected to a saline drip. Her cheekbones protruded through her skin.
The hospital chief asked the girl’s mother, and translated her answer: “Nothing today.” Although I’ve worked for Save the Children for two-and-a-half years, this was the first time I’d encountered children who might actually die within a few days. Not because we couldn’t find them or because no one knew they were sick, but because medicines and health care were not enough – neither their parents nor the health facilities could afford to buy food.
I fished out 10,000 Rupees (about $110) from my wallet. “This is a personal donation,” I told the hospital chief, “Please give all these children and their mothers a meal tonight.” Save the Children does not simply hand out cash – it can cause conflict, and it’s difficult to ensure the money goes where it’s needed most. But, literally choking back tears, I broke the rules to make sure that these kids would at least eat for one day.
Later that afternoon, we met with a doctor from UNICEF and brainstormed a way forward – UNICEF would immediately fly in calorie-dense, ready-to-use supplementary foods, if Save the Children could train the hospital staff on how to administer these foods to malnourished children. One of our senior doctors, a nutrition expert, was on a plane from Islamabad the next day, and he conducted food supplementation training sessions for medical staff from three hospitals in less than 12 hours. UNICEF then sent the ready-to-use foods to the hospitals.
While this is one small success, we need so many more – Save the Children has helped over 500,000 people in the last five weeks, but this is only 2 percent of the estimated 21 million people who have been affected by these unprecedented floods. What breaks my heart is that, no matter what I, Save the Children and the many government and aid agencies on the ground do in the next few weeks, some children will not be reached in time.
September 7, 2010
Youth living in camps in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, held an art expo last Friday, September 3. This was no ordinary art show – these children were demonstrating how they can take what others view as waste and not only turn it into art, but also turn it into a livelihood.
Maxon Aubourg, 15, demonstrated the skills he learned through creating a handbag out of recycled candy wrappers from the Archachon 34 camp. “This can help us in the future because we can show how waste can be used,” says Maxon.
After thorough cleaning, children participating in Save the Children’s Water, Sanitiation and Hygiene Promotion programs take waste materials like plastic bags and candy wrappers and weave them into handbags, picture frames and bracelets. Additionally, they create garbage cans out of plastic bottles that are placed throughout the camp to promote more hygienic living conditions.
At the expo on Friday, children and youth displayed their items for sale, engaged in workshops about their rights and learned how to treat water so that it is safe to drink.
Items were available for sale at the Save the Children Port-au-Prince office, with the proceeds going towards the programs so the youth could continue to create their art and learn innovative ways of waste management.
“One of the most incredible results of this program has been the way it has impacted entire camp communities,” says Maude Marie Sanon, a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Coordinator with Save the Children in Haiti. “Save the Children no longer provides garbage cans – the camps are creating them for themselves out of recycled materials.”
Maude proudly displays the items made by children living in three of Port-au-Prince’s camps
Monday, September 6, 2010
The water has receded in Swat but has left behind vast needs.
Over 1,600 people died in the floods, many of them in this area when water from the mountains came rushing down into villages, bringing lots of large trees and debris, which tore away bridges, sheared off houses along the river and swept away whole villages. One of our staff at the local Save the Children office showed us pictures of that day – torrents of water running through what was the main street of his village. He told me stoically that the next day the main part of the village was gone. He lost several friends to the rushing water.
It will take a long time to get things back to normal in an area that was considered to be one of the most beautiful in the country, with steep green mountains, lush orchards and farms, and many streams and rivers. It used to be a place Pakistanis and visitors came to get away from the heat and crowds of the city.
That won't be true for a long time now.
Swat is not unaccustomed to misery. This also is an area that was devastated by conflict the last year, with heavy shelling between the Taliban and army displacing tens of thousands. Families were just starting to return to their homes and beginning to recover when the heavy rains hit this July.
Children are suffering from diarrhea and skin diseases caused by dirty water. They need to get back to normal routines and start school again. They were happy to see us today but several told us with sadness in their eyes about how the water rose so quickly, forcing some of them out their homes in the middle of the night. When they returned many of their homes were missing or damaged, their land eaten away by the surging river.
The greatest needs right now are still for the basics — household supplies like buckets, jerry cans, soap and pots and pans as families lost everything. Food is also needed as fields were swept away along the banks of the river.
I saw a distribution of household and hygiene kits, a tent distribution, a health clinic and hygiene training, and saw the first day of our food voucher program. With this program, funded by Food for Peace, we are able to give families vouchers that they can use in the local market to buy the foodstuffs they most need. Our staff who manage the program told us "This works so well because it isn’t a hand-out and it lets people buy what they want from the local shopkeepers". The vouchers will buy enough food for a month and support the local economy as well.
I met a young girl of about 13 years old. Because of the fighting, she had been out of school for several years. She had recently returned home and thought this would be the year she could start school again. Sadly, the floods have damaged her school and now she must wait again to start back. Without help, she and others like her will miss out on all the opportunities that an education offers.
Save the Children's work on distribution of non-food items, mobile medical clinics, food voucher distribution, and child-friendly spaces is helping tens of thousands of people in the Swat valley. It is just a part of the work we are doing in many areas along the main rivers where more than 17 million people have been affected by the floods.
As our staff in Pakistan work hard to meet the needs of children here, they worry that they will not have enough resources and people will start to forget about the tremendous difficulties still to come. The international humanitarian community and people around the world need to continue to help Pakistan recover from this largest disaster they have ever experienced.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Imagine what your life would be like if you weren’t able to read. What basic tasks would you be unable to do? What simple pleasures would you be unable to enjoy?
Reading is a skill many of us take for granted. But for millions of children in the countries and communities where Save the Children works, reading remains a struggle.
Parents typically have little time or training to help children learn the alphabet, or to make the link between the words they speak and the letters on a page. Books are few and far between, and are written in the school language, which is different from what children speak at home.
Teachers without training often teach reading in the same way they were taught—mainly through drills and repetition, with limited time spent on teaching key skills or on ways to learn as you read text.
Save the Children’s Literacy Boost program promotes training teachers and
creating a culture of reading outside of the classroom.
Photo Credit: Brent
Stirton for Save the Children
In 2007, Save the Children set out to measure how well children in the early grades in Nepal, Malawi and Ethiopia could read. The results were startling. We found an alarming number of children unable to read even a single word in a text or passage.
We decided we needed to do something to change this. That’s how Save the Children developed Literacy Boost, our signature program for helping children learn to read. Here is how it works:
Through Literacy Boost, children in the early grades are given opportunities to practice their reading skills both in-school and in their homes and communities. Book Banks of storybooks in the local language are provided so that children have materials to read other than their textbooks.
Community volunteers also are mobilized to conduct weekly Reading Camps for children, where children can listen to stories, read books, and play games to improve their reading skills. Parents are coached on activities they can do with their children at home to improve language skills, even if they are not literate themselves.
Teachers are trained in strategies for teaching the five skills needed for reading. And children’s reading skills are measured at the start and end of the school year to track their progress and identify where they still need more help.
During a recent trip to Nepal, I was heartened by how the schools and communities had embraced the program.
“Before Literacy Boost started here in Kailali, there were no storybooks for children available in the community,” Anita, a Reading Camp facilitator told me. “Now, they have story books and fables in both Nepali and Tharu. This has brought the habit of reading to the community. Even parents are more interested about reading now.”
The results are encouraging. In a year’s time, children who participated in Literacy Boost had increased their reading scores significantly compared to those from non-assisted schools.
But it is the spark that lights up children’s eyes when they talk about books that especially inspires me.
“I like the stories, especially the one with the monkey,” said Kamal, age 7, one of Literacy Boost’s participants in Nepal. “When I borrow a book to take home, I can read it to my whole family. We can all enjoy the story together.”
Ishwor Khatry, Save the Children’s tireless education coordinator in Kailali, shares my sentiment. He said, “Through this program, we can really see that we are making a difference.”
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
When you sponsor children through Save the Children, you have the unique chance to change lives and to build relationships with girls and boys in need. One New Jersey family has made sponsorship an integral part of their lives. Kim, Tom, and their daughter Felicity sponsor four children from Egypt, Mali, Nepal, and Haiti.
The best thing about sponsorship is that the family is connected to the world around them. Kim noted that it allows them to support Save the Children’s programs that work to impact lives and build strong communities. She realizes it takes time to achieve sustainable changes and sponsorship allows her family to remain engaged through these community transformations.
Felicity, 11, raised over $3,000 in February for Save the Children’s relief efforts in Haiti by selling cookies and she is currently raising funds for our relief efforts for children affected by the flooding in Pakistan through selling pins.
Kim and Tom instilled their passion for sponsorship in their daughter at a young age. Felicity began writing to her family’s sponsored children when she was just 6. She was encouraged to write to their sponsored girl in Mali named Korotoumou when she began learning French. Felicity now writes to her family’s sponsored children monthly. “I am very happy and excited when I get a letter,” Felicity says.
In their letters, they share what they are learning in school, stories about their families and pets, and about their favorite activities.
Felicity’s advice for letter writing—keep it simple! Felicity understands the importance of being involved in sponsorship. She says, “You have to start young and take the time to be part of the close relationship you can gain from giving to others.”
What makes sponsorship special to you? We’d love to hear from you!
Ian Woolverton, Save the Children Media Manager
Sukkur District, Pakistan
Friday, August 27, 2010
I had to choke back tears as I watched a doctor supported by Save the Children give Ramzan, a 2-year-old boy, fluids in a feverous attempt to reverse the devastating effects of severe dehydration.
Ramzan’s mother, Hajra, looked on anxiously as the doctor explained that she must help her son drink electrolytes to replace lost fluids.
Make no mistake, Ramzan is gravely ill. He has reached a dangerous level of dehydration brought on by watery diarrhea. No wonder. For the last fifteen days mother and child have lived on a baking concrete floor in one of the hundreds of camps that have sprung up in Sukkur district.
Before floodwaters broke the banks of the River Indus, Ramzan lived with his eleven brothers and sisters in Jacobabad. Now they are destitute and face an uncertain future.
At the camp Dr. Sheikh impressed upon me his concerns for a second wave of disaster — an outbreak of flood-related illnesses like diarrhea, malaria and skin infections.
These types of preventable but communicable conditions send shivers down the spine. With still pools of water visible in most camps, reported cases of malaria are rising.
Biggest killer of children
But watery diarrhea concerns us most. It robs the body of fluids, which can lead to heat stroke, kidney failure and death.
The sad truth: diarrhea is the biggest killer of children under the age of five. Yet low-tech, low-cost solutions like packets of oral rehydration salts can help prevent children from becoming dangerously dehydrated.
In many cases families are sourcing water from stagnant pools, which often contain human and animal waste. This might sound ghastly, but what would you do if your son or daughter were desperately thirsty and drifting in and out of consciousness? Might you accept the risks of drinking dirty water in the hope of alleviating the suffering of your child?
Factor in the stifling heat — temperatures soars high into the forties — and drinking contaminated water might not seem such a bad idea. There’s a cruel irony at play in flood-affected Pakistan. Despite being swamped by billions of gallons of water, children and families cannot get enough safe water.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Save the Children's Reporting Coordinator in Pakistan
After spending three weeks in the cold mountainous Swat
valley, I arrived in the hot and humid climate of Multan to work
alongside Save the Children teams working in the worst affected
districts of Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan. The floods
arrived here a week after the showers began in late July. There were
reports of nearly 300,000 people displaced overnight. There was also
news of entire villages living on the highways and in government
schools of Muzaffargarh and Multan. However, none of the reports came
close to the reality on ground.
Displaced by flooding her village, Sakina camps at the side of the road with her 10 children and goat
Photo Courtesy Jason Tanner
Destruction in Muzaffargarh
The sight of makeshift shelters and tents begins at
xthe border of Muzaffargarh and Multan districts. Long lines of men,
women and children are found loitering on both sides of the busy
traffic. Besides those displaced from remote areas, people of nearby
villages are also found on the highway – their dilapidated homes
visible a few meters away. It is mind-boggling to consider the
populations affected by the floods. In the district of Kot Addo the
lives of approximately 112,000 men, women and children have been
disrupted. These vast numbers of people do not have food, shelter,
clothing, access to health care and have completely lost their
livelihoods due to the floods. They will certainly require assistance
in the coming months, if not years, to not only resettle and establish
their lives but also to rejuvenate their income generating activities.
Imtiaz, 25, with her 2-day-old unnamed baby
Photo Courtesy Jason Tanner
Relief to Brahimwala
Save the Children is the first NGO that has provided
food rations here. The packages include wheat, lentils, cooking oil,
micronutrient biscuits as well as tents, jerry cans, water buckets and
blankets to people who have lost their homes in district Muzaffargarh.
During one such distribution to the village of Brahimwala, I learned
how the villagers had departed from their homes in haste to reach safe
ground 25 kilometers away in the city of Muzaffargarh. There were no
registration points or information centers available for the displaced
to receive aid. They spent many days under the open sun before finding
temporary shelters on open grounds, roads and rampantly setup camps.
Food and drinking water distribution was irregular and chaos erupted
each time a truck arrived with provisions.
Unfortunately, the urban poor who live in shantytowns
of Muzaffargarh and Multan had joined the displaced to fight for
whatever donations they could lay their hands on. The needs are so
As soon as the waters receded displaced people
returned to their homes. Although, most villages are still submerged
with the flood’s deluge of putrid water and mud, families have pitched
up tents alongside roads and canals. Water in Brahimwala has withdrawn,
demolishing each and every house in the village. The conditions are
appalling but with nowhere else to turn, people are living amidst mud,
flies and the remains of their houses squashed on the ground. The murky
flood waters and searing heat has worsened the dismal condition and
have increased the prevalence of diseases like diarrhea, malaria, skin
and respiratory infections.
Each and every member of Save the Children realizes
that an intense and continued support is essential to normalize the
lives of flood-affected people in Pakistan.
Shamim,45, mourns the death of her four children and husband.
Photo Courtesy Jason Tanner
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Save the Children's Reporting Coordinator in Pakistan
Ishrat, a 6-year-old Pakistani girl, calls the village of Brahimwala home. Brahimwala is situated near one of the several canals which irrigates the wheat, corn and rice fields of district Muzafargarh with water from the River Indus.
In late July, epic monsoon rains caused flash floods in the River Indus. Vast torrents of the flood waters totally collapsed the banks of the river in southern Punjab, especially in the districts of Muzafargarh, Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan.
"We heard in the late afternoon that a massive flood was coming towards Brahimwala." said Ishrat’s father, Talib, a sharecropper. Ill-prepared for the disaster, they grabbed some precious items such as food and clothing and rushed towards the city of Muzafargarh.
"My mother grabbed me as we ran out of the village," Ishrat remembered.
That evening the village was struck with flood waters at speeds of 30mph. The mud and brick houses collapsed within minutes as the entire village was submerged in six feet of water. Ishrat and her family were part of the mass exodus of 300,000 people who fled to Muzafargarh by motorized vehicle, donkey-carts and on foot in search of safer ground
"We walked for many hours that night and slept under a tree." Ishrat said.
In the next few days, the government, armed forces and local charities had set up temporary shelters and began providing the displaced families with cooked food.
However, Talib said, the distribution of food was chaotic, “we were lucky to receive even one meal a day."
Just when they were expecting the waters to recede, approximately 700,000 displaced people in Muzaffargarh were shocked to hear that they had to evacuate the city. A single road was used by these people to reach neighboring Multan. Ishrat and her family moved into a generous villager’s home near Multan city – 12 people in three rooms. They survived for 10 days on the handful of food rations provided by their hosts. When they heard that the flood waters finally receded from Brahimwala, they immediately returned home.
"Everything I owned is either destroyed or covered with mud." Talib said. "My share of the harvested wheat is ruined and my home has entirely collapsed."
As the rains continued, Ishrat and her family were hungry and had no roof over their heads. Devoid of all possessions and savings, the family was destitute and vulnerable.
Save the Children’s teams began to assess damages and select the neediest families to receive food rations and temporary housing items in Muzafargargh district. Due to extensive flood damage, Brahimwala’s residents were one of the first areas selected for emergency support."The people came to our village and asked us questions," Ishrat said. "They promised to give us some things to make our home."
Talib was delighted the morning Save the Children handed him a tent, blankets, jerry cans and buckets for his family. Food rations — including 170 pounds of wheat, 30 packets of micronutrient biscuits for his children and 5 liters of cooking oil — were provided the following day.
Ishrat ran around the rumble of her home clutching a water bucket, excited that she will now have a home.
"I have no words to describe how grateful I am. We have a roof over our heads and enough to eat so I don’t feel hungry anymore."
August 20, 2010
Sometimes it is those who have experienced hardship and loss themselves who are the ones who reach out to others in times of tragedy. This is definitely the case for the students of UNSYIAH Laboratory School, a model community school established in 2007 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, designed to educate the students from the areas severely damaged by the 2004 earthquake and tsunami.
Following the news of the earthquake in Haiti, the students of the UNSYIAH Laboratory School held several events to raise funds for the victims in Haiti.
For two weeks in mid-January of this year, they prepared and sold food and beverages to their fellow classmates, organized a charity car and motorcycle wash, volunteered as parking lot attendants and set out collection boxes on the streets of Banda Aceh to raise money from area residents.
The school’s senior class presented the funds to Save the Children as their class gift during the graduation ceremony this year, requesting that the money be used to help school children impacted by the Haiti earthquake.
Click here to learn how you can fundraise for Save the Children in your community.