How to ‘Beat’ Child Mortality

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post.

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Can the sound of a child’s heartbeat inspire the world to save children’s lives? Can it inspire you? Children’s heartbeats recorded in Malawi and Guatemala inspired the band OneRepublic to write a song with a beat like no other. If “Feel Again” grabs you enough to download it, you can help save children’s lives.

 

The song provides the soundtrack to Save the Children’s new Every Beat Matters campaign. The aim is to raise awareness about the millions of children around the world who die needlessly before their 5thbirthday, and what can be done to save them. The timing is right for this campaign launch, and not just because it’s Infant Mortality Awareness month. Yesterday, the United Nations released their latest child mortality estimates, which show — for the first time — that child deaths have fallen below 7 million per year. While this figure is still far too high, it reflects the tremendous progress the world has made in reducing preventable child deaths. We can and must now finish the job.

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Moussa’s story

When they brought Moussa over and laid him in my arms, my heart stopped for a minute. He was barely breathing and was so frail, I was afraid he might die as I held him. Though he was more than two months old, his arms and legs were tiny and frail and his breathing was labored. Here in a small village outside Diema in the West African nation of Mali, I saw what the face of hunger in the latest food crisis in Africa really looks like. It is the face of Moussa.

 

Moussa’s mother, just 18, brought him over to us when she saw the Save the Children car drive up. He had been identified that day by a health worker trained by Save the Children and now we needed to get him to the town for help. Moussa and his mom were bundled into the car and they sped away to the center in Diema, about 10 kilometers away, where Save the Children-trained staff were there to help him and food and medicine was available from other partners like UNICEF.

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Not Your Average Teddy Bear

Dhheadshot Dave Hartman, Save the Children, Internet Marketing and Communications Specialist

Westport, CT

Monday, December 6, 2010

 

My favorite stuffed animal from my childhood was a light-blue bear that I dubbed, Bear. Not the most creative name but I was nine-months-old so cut me some slack.

Bear was my best friend for two reasons. One, he always took my side in an argument with my mother. And two, he was always open for a hug. 

The ever-innovative geniuses at IKEA are behind a new initiative to make stuffed animals not just cute, cuddly and good listeners, but advocates of universal education. 


 

In real life they don’t actually make signs, give speeches or march on Washington but the impact is just as powerful. (Disclaimer: No, they are not alive either.)

For every soft toy sold IKEA donates 1 euro to Save the Children and UNICEF to support our education programs. 

In October, four IKEA employees and two IKEA customers traveled to Vietnam and Bangladesh, respectively, to see first hand the problems facing children, their families and communities and the difference that the money raised by the IKEA soft toy campaign is making.

To say the least, they were all wowed: 


 

 


 

Here are some quotes from the video that capture the impact that education can make in children’s lives.

“Investing in education sounds fantastic, but it’s not until you’re here and you see on the ground the difference its making and the positive ripple effect that it has on communities that you understand the difference that’s being made.”

                                             -Keith McLeish, IKEA Edinburgh  

Our children are studying, so their prospects are so much better.They are mixing with good people and are confident and safer.”

                                             -Mother of Bangladeshi student 

“Even to get to school some kids have to travel 10-15 kilometers, and it’s not by car. They have to walk. So even getting to school is a challenge…If that challenge is met by the children then it should be met by us.

                                              -Nigel McGarry, IKEA Belfast

So in honor of my old chum Bear, who now resides in the attic, join the soft toy movement and help every child realize their right to education.

A Hands-On Approach to Water, Hygiene, and Sanitation in Schools.

Jessica headshotJessica Harris

Media Relations Intern, Save the Children

Washington, D.C.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blue skies and sunshine abounded as I walked down Connecticut Avenue yesterday morning on my way to the Academy for Educational Development’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene event. Birds were chirping, people were sharing a laugh on a street corner, and I even caught myself humming a tune as I approached the AED building.

This feeling of joy soon dissappeared as I began to tour the WASH exhibit.

Did you know that 50% of schools worldwide do not have access to clean water?  As I read the children’s stories from developing countries that are currently displayed in the AED exhibit, I chastised myself for being so naïve to the plights of others.

As the crowd found their seats, Jon Hamilton of NPR introduced us to Jack Downey of AED, Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and the three panelists who would be speaking.

In total, seven people addressed the audience. The message, however, was the same.  By implementing WASH programs in schools in developing countries, we are improving the quality of life for the students as well as their families.

Tippy station

A "Tippy Station", complete with water, soap, and hand towels, was available for attendees to take turns washing their hands during the event.

Denise Knight, Water Sustainability Manager for The Coca-Cola Co., shared a story that highlighted the importance of providing clean water to developing countries.

During one visit to a community in which WASH programs were just being introduced, one community member said that they had been getting their water from the nearby stream for as long as she could remember. It had never dawned on them that the water was contaminated. It was, though, and the community had had its fair share of loss because of the dirty water. At the time, there was only one child under the age of 5 still living in the town.

Stories like these make you stop and think about how lucky we are. I rarely question whether I will be able to wash my hands with soap and water when I use the restroom or sit down to eat. Even less common is my fear of contracting an illness like worms or hepatitis from tainted water. To take this one step further, and to be completely honest, I have never thought about dying from contracting a preventable illness like diarrhea.

This is a real fear, though, for many children across the globe: 1.5 million children die from diarrhea annually.

As I left the WASH event today I felt as though I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. Here I had been enjoying listening to my iPod and drinking my $5 Starbucks coffee just two hours earlier, and now I could not stop thinking about the millions of children to whom contamination and severe illness are an everyday threat due to the lack of clean water.

The work done by organizations like Save the Children, UNICEF, AED, and others is commendable and, in reality, a lifesaver.

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Update:

Today, October 15,  is Global Handwashing Day. Bloggers around the world are raising awareness of the topic by posting about water as part of Blog Action Day, an annual event intended to spark global action. 

Texting Empowers Pakistanis

Dhheadshot Dave Hartman, Save the Children, internet marketing and communications specialist

Westport, CT

Friday, October 8, 2010

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, it quickly became apparent that text messaging could be used by charities as a powerful fundraising tool. Save the Children, UNICEF and the Red Cross, among others, recieved significant donations to support our response to the crisis. Cell phone

Well here at Save the Children, we've figured out a new way to harness the power of text messaging and mobile devices in order to empower those affected by a disaster. We’ve implemented a text-messaging response service in Pakistan to handle any issues that might arise with our aid distribution.

How does it work?

We set up “hubs” in Sindh, Punjab, Swat and DI Khan provinces, where people can call or text a suggestion or complaint about our health clinics and distribution centers. Once a comment is received, we circulate it to the relevant team who devise a way to implement the suggestion or address the complaint.

Every one of our Monitoring and Evaluations officers carries a cell phone dedicated solely to this suggestion/complaint hotline. (The Monitoring and Evaluations team make sure programs are running smoothly and efficiently.)

We also have a database set up where each and every complaint is filed so we know:

  1. What the complaint was
  2. How it was resolved

This revolutionary concept will allow us to ensure that our efforts have the greatest possible benefit for the flood-affected children of Pakistan. It also empowers Pakistanis to have input into the relief and rebuilding process, something that is crucial to getting those affected back to living normal lives.

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Learn more about our emergency response to the flooding in Pakistan

Help Us Respond to the Pakistan Flood Emergency. Please Donate Now.

Moscow: From &#147The Bourne Supremacy&#148 to Babies and Toddlers

 Katherine Brown Katherine Brown, Information and Documentation Specialist, Education and Child Development department

Moscow

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

 

 Moscow is known for its architecture, its ballet, and as the setting for “The Bourne Supremacy.” But this week, Moscow turned its attention to the world's babies and toddlers, when it hosted the first-ever global conference on Early Childhood Development and Education.

More than 50 ministers of education, finance and health attended the UNESCO-sponsored event, designed to elevate the need for countries to invest in early learning opportunities globally, and to engage them in committing political will and resources to early childhood development programs.

Research shows that children with early learning opportunities tend to do better in school and in life.  According to a 2006 UNICEF report, more than 30 governments had established national early childhood development policies, and more than 70 countries had national commissions coordinating these programs.  Yet, more than half of the world’s governments do not have any policy or mechanism in place for early childhood development.

So you can see why there is a need to focus on early learning globally, beginning at infancy.

Save the Children is here to share some of our learning and to learn from others, too.

Today, Save the Children’s senior director of Early Childhood Development Pablo Stansbery, PhD., spoke on a panel, which examined early childhood education in emergency and post-emergency settings

 
Pablo Moscow Panel

Here are a few of the points that Pablo shared:
 

  • Early learning experiences matter for young children, especially in emergency situations, and social interactions are key. Young children interpret new experiences through interaction with caregivers.
  • When governments are developing emergency preparedness and response plans (EPRP) as well as Disaster Risk Reduction plans (DRR), these plans should include an early childhood development component. 
  • In order for these plans to be effective, governments must provide guidance and training for caregivers and emergency responders on meeting the needs of children.
  • Nepal, for example, has held education in emergencies training sessions that included an early childhood development component. The government also included early childhood development in its national emergency response policy, and it provided kits for use in safe and secure areas of emergency settings tailored to young children. Those kits contained games, stories, reading and play materials for babies and toddlers, as well as for school-aged children.
  • In emergencies, all sectors must be integrated to provide care for infants and toddlers, not just the education sector. In fact, health is also critical – and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) elements in particular are important.  For example, families and caregivers need clean water to wash and sanitize toys.   
  • Two helpful resources for more information: Even in Chaos: Education in times of Emergency by Kevin M. Cahill, M.D.; and a special section in the July/August 2010 issue of Child Development, which focuses on the developmental impact on young children after emergencies.

The three-day conference ended today with the adoption of a framework of action, which outlines a number of challenges that must be tackled to achieve global Early Childhood Development and Education goals. These include addressing the need for greate r political commitment, public funding, and external support and effective delivery of services – a framework of goals that does not require a great super agent like Jason Bourne to tackle. Just committed governments and communities working together.

Child Survival, Malnutrition and Giant Poos


Dhheadshot  Dave Hartman, 
Save the Children, internet marketing and communications specialist

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:

Check back tomorrow for another update, you can follow along live by visiting our Facebook page or following us on Twitter.