The Injustice in Dying from Pneumonia

When Lokuru brought her 1-year-old baby to get food at Save the Children’s stabilization center in northern Kapoeta, South Sudan, she had another concern on her mind. The night before, her daughter Hakaroom’s breathing had become heavy and labored. Her small body was starting to feel hot. A nurse at the center recognized Hakaroom’s symptoms as pneumonia and sent her to the Primary Health Care Center, where the infant was treated for severe pneumonia with antibiotics and fluids. All of Lokuru’s four children have suffered from pneumonia at some point in their lives, but Hakaroom’s case was the worst. According to the Save the Children medic who treated Hakaroom, without immediate medication, she would not have lived through the night.

Nearly 1 million children died of pneumonia in 2015. I continue to be shocked by that fact. We know how to prevent, diagnose and treat pneumonia, and we have known for a long time. So why do so many children around the world still lose their lives to this disease?

You often hear people describe an illness with the cliché, “it doesn’t discriminate.” I want to be clear: Pneumonia discriminates.

Pneumonia is a disease of poverty. Ninety-nine percent of child deaths from pneumonia occur in developing countries. Within these high burden countries, it is the poorest and most marginalized children who are at greatest risk. A child should not die because of where she was born or what resources her family has.

The world’s poorest children are more likely to suffer pneumonia risks such as malnutrition, indoor air pollution and a lack of primary healthcare. If they do get sick with pneumonia, they are the least likely to get medical treatment. Each year, about 40 million cases of pneumonia are left untreated.

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Because inequality can be fatal, Save the Children has committed itself to reaching Every Last Child. Our organization is working to improve the health and wellbeing of the poorest and most marginalized children around the world. When the United Nations developed the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, it proposed that by 2030, no child should suffer a preventable death. We cannot achieve this goal if we do not overcome pneumonia.

Save the Children is a leader when it comes to combatting pneumonia. We have been preventing and treating the disease in children for decades. We can prevent pneumonia by increasing immunization, addressing undernutrition, ensuring safe water, sanitation and hygiene, and reducing household air pollution. Most cases of pneumonia can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics.

To end pneumonia deaths for good, the global community needs to come together with equitable solutions. We’re asking Congress to increase funding for USAID’s Maternal and Child health programs and to support and pass the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.

To learn more about how Save the Children is fighting pneumonia for all children and how you can help, please visit SavetheChildren.org/pneumonia.

After Fleeing Danger, Children Deserve a Warm Welcome

carolyn lesvosI am just back from the island of Lesvos in the southeastern part of Greece, where I was visiting our programs for refugees who have made the perilous crossing from Turkey. It is a surreal experience: on the one hand a beautiful island with lovely small towns where vacationers from Europe flock in the summer months; on the other hand, a beach strewn with deflated rafts, substandard lifejackets and water bottles, with soaked families huddled together after a rough journey across the strait from Turkey. This far-flung island off of Greece is now the first landing point for thousands of refugees fleeing from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

The trip can be deadly for children. The night I arrived in Lesvos, a one-year-old died in the chaos when he fell into the middle of an overcrowded raft packed with more than 30 people. In the dark, the baby drowned in a few feet of water before his mother could find him in the jumble of people.

 
As I sat and talked to families waiting in line for a bus which would take them down the coast to the registration camp, I was struck by the enormous hardships these families had endured along the way – and the fact that this is only their first stop in a long journey through Europe’s many borders. Many had been first displaced in their own countries by conflict, often living for years under fire, experiencing danger and violence on a regular basis. Finally they felt unable to endure another day of fear, lack food or medical services and no school for their children. They had all made the difficult decision to use all their remaining resources to try to start new lives in Europe.

 

Their journeys through Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and other routes were often marred by tragedy. One mother and grandmother cried as they described to me leaving behind a 9-year-old boy who was separated at the Lebanon/Turkey border and was denied a visa to cross with them. Another young mother told me about the birth of her 14-day-old baby while they were in Iran – on the way to Turkey from Iraq – with no hospital or help available. Despite her advanced pregnancy, she and her husband were forced to flee from ISIS and a life of constant danger. And parent after parent told me that their children had now been out of school for years and they needed to give them their future back.
In the face of this massive wave of people (more than 160,000 reached Lesvos in the month of September alone), Save the Children has been working to make lives easier. Rather than enduring the 40-mile walk, often in brutal temperatures, from where the boats land to the registration camp, Save the Children and other partners have rented buses to take families down the mountainous road. Once at the camp, we distribute hygiene kits and blankets for mothers and children who come with almost nothing but will be facing Europe’s cold winter temperatures. We have our signature child-friendly space set up so that kids can spend even a few hours playing games, getting colorful drawings painted on to their faces. These spaces bring a smile to a child that has often not smiled for many months. We also look for those children having the hardest time coping and refer them for more help. And each afternoon, we supply a cooked meal to over 3,000 people – often the only meal they may get that day.

 

The young staff here from all over the world are tremendously hard working, living together and working all hours seven days a week – they seem to never stop thinking about ways they can make our work better and respond to ever-changing demands. As those fleeing war and persecution continue to arrive, we must all remain committed to meeting their needs to the best of our ability – so that these children don’t have to spend more of their young lives in fear.

 

I am struck by one little boy I met on Lesvos named Hassan, who told me that what he wanted more than anything was to have a home again, and to not be scared. Surely this most basic request is not too much for a little boy, only 8, to ask of us.

 

PHOTOS: Revolution & Evolution: My Trip to Egypt – Part 2

Don’t forget to check out the first part of my trip, a visit to one of our Early Childhood Development centers.


After a fun morning with the kids, I headed over to visit our maternal and newborn health program in Assiut, which was a great opportunity to see how much our programs depend on partnerships with the local community and government. Local community groups helped provide a simple space, volunteers, and matching funds to ensure that pregnant moms and newborns receive critical pre-natal services from health staff trained by Save the Children. And the local government helps by ensuring that these health workers are part of the broader health system training as well.

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Abdi’s New Life – Part 1

CAROLYN_MILES_HEAD_SHOT_062001 Carolyn Miles, President & CEO-elect

Hagadera Refugee Camp, Kenya

August 17, 2011


Today we traveled to one of the camps to meet with Abdi, a shy 13-year-old boy with bright dark eyes and a tough story with a happy ending. I thought how young and small he looked, remembering my own towering son at 13.  We sat outside on straw mats, huddled close to the mud wall for some shade from the afternoon sun and spoke wIth Abdi and the woman who lived here about his journey from Somalia and his new life in Kenya.

With his head hung, he told us that both his parents had died in Somalia, first his mother and then his father.  An uncle had taken him in and then in a desparate bid to get Abdi to a better life away from famine and civil war, had paid for him to travel alone for several days on a truck, packed with other Somalis, along bone-jarring roads.  He arrived at Hagadera camp on his own knowing not one single person.

We had met Abdi the day before at the registration center where Save the Children staff meet unaccompanied children and help get them food, supplies, clothing and most of all a foster family where they can stay while we try to trace parents or any relatives.

We got him what he needed and then staff started to work to find him a place to stay.

As we heard today from his kindly new care giver, it turns out Abdi thankfully had already started his new life with some luck

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Learn more about our response to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

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Isino and Habibo Find a New Family

CAROLYN_MILES_HEAD_SHOT_062001 Carolyn Miles, President & CEO-elect

Dadaab, Kenya

August 16, 2011


In Carolyn's last blog we met Ibrahim, a man living in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Ibrahim and his wife help care for many of the children in the camp, including six of their own. 

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Ibrahim leads us into a tiny mud and stick room, swept clean and bare.  On a thin mattress covered with a simple cloth sits a small teenager holding a beautiful baby.  Her name is Isnino and she is 16.  Her baby Habibo is small but alert and looks healthy.  

Carolyn Miles isino and habibo

Carolyn sits with Isnino Adan and her two-month old baby girl, Habibo.

I sit on a stool with our one of our staff to interpret and ask her how she came to be here in Ibrahim's house.  At first, she looks away shyly as she tells me about how her family in Somalia was split apart, how she was married off by her father when she was 12 and how she left to look for her mother when the hunger became too bad.  As she tells me the next part of her story, she finally looks at me and you can see the sadness in her eyes. 

"I lived in the bush for several weeks with nothing but this cloth to cover me," she says as she points to the cloth now covering her bed. "I knew I had to get somewhere where there was food but did not know how to get there.  I knew my unborn baby also needed me to eat".  

She describes how she then managed to find a truck going to Kenya and how she used her last bit of money to pay for a ride.  The truck was packed full of people and Isnino was wedged under many others for the two day journey.  

On the second day of the journey, Isnino gave birth to her daughter inside the truck, surrounded by other refugees.  She was too exhausted and scared to feel much happiness but hoped where she was going would be a better place for her daughter.

When she arrived at the reception center, Isnino and her newborn baby were lucky to be moved quickly through the long line where thousands of refugees were waiting to be registered.  Because she had just given birth, she was taken quickly to the hospital and Save the Children, the agency in charge of child protection, was contacted.  

Save the Children staff knew Ibrahim was willing to take in more children as a foster parent but would he and his wife accept this young girl and her fragile, newborn baby? Miraculously, he immediately agreed and Isnino and Habibo came to stay in the small mud room where I find her now, a few months after her horrible journey.

After telling me her courageous story, I ask Isnino if she thinks she may be able to find any of her family here.  She tells me she doesn't know where her mother might be but her father has been in contact. 

"I hope he can come to visit me so I can find out how my brothers and sisters are doing.  I am worried for them because there was no food when I left.  I am safe here and my baby and I have what I need but they had nothing".

Carolyn ibrahim and family

Carolyn stands with Ibrahim Adan, 48, (holding child) and his wife, Aisha (center), who have been foster parents in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya for Save the Children since 2007. 

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Learn more about our response to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Help Us Respond to the Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa. Please Donate Now.