Protecting the Youngest Victims of the Food Crisis

David Klauber David Klauber, Save the Children Intern   

Kobe Regufee Camp, Ethiopia

July 27, 2011


Today while half of the team here on the ground was focused on the operation of our Blanket Supplementary Food Program (BSFP) in the Transit and pre-registration Centers, the rest of us turned our attention towards mobilizing our Child Protection program in the Kobe refugee camp. As we drove the 45 miles to Kobe, I began to anticipate a rather surreal experience at returning to this camp.

When I last visited Kobe in early June, one could not have really called it a camp-it was still just a site, merely a large empty space with a few plots marked off by lines dug in the sand. It’s difficult to believe that within a month’s time of it opening (June 24th) it had reached full capacity.

Today there are 24,934 refugees living in Kobe, 88% (21,952) of which are under the age of 18 years old. We arrived and found the recently barren place transformed into a living, breathing refugee camp, overflowing with children.

Two colleagues and I weaved our way through the endless columns of tents. There were hundreds and hundreds of these small white domes that serve as the refugees’ only defense against the brutal environment of the exposed desert plain. Vicious winds periodically kick up the layer of red dust that coats the landscape. One must be quick to shield their face otherwise breathe a nice hardy mouthful. 

As we observed the countless children of Kobe wandering about in these awful conditions with really nothing to do, it became so apparent to me just how urgent the need for Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) is in this environment.

These spaces are an integral component of our Child Protection intervention in all the refugee camps as they provide children with safe zone/structures where they can take a break from the harsh environment and unstable situation. In this protected environment they can play, make art, express themselves, and perhaps most importantly, return to some degree of normalcy after being uprooted from their home and previous life. The child friendly zones also serve as screening mechanism for Save the Children caretakers to identify children in need of additional support or referral to medical services

By the time we left Kobe, the team had secured several sites, contracted local workers from the host community to begin construction, met with the committee of refugee elders/administrators to select community volunteers to help run the program, and put together a training schedule for both Save the Children staff and volunteers. In just two to three more days our child friendly sites sites will be operational and the kids here in Kobe will have a chance to be kids again.

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A Groundbreaking Day at Matau Primary School

Sophie headshot Sophie Hamandishe, Communications Officer, Save the Children Zimbabwe

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hurungwe District, Zimbabwe


Even before the sun was up, in the early morning chilly temperatures, we were on our way to to Matau, a 4 ½ hour trip from here in Harare, Zimbabwe.

We were going to the ground breaking for the Matau Primary School project. This is a Save the Children project funded through The Oprah Winfrey Foundation in honor of Tererai Trent, Oprah’s all-time favorite guest who attended Matau school in her early years. The project focuses on improving children’s education through rebuilding the school, and, more importantly, boosting literacy and early learning for children in Matau and neighboring villages.

Once we arrived at the school we were ushered to an open space behind an old classroom for the ground breaking. More than 1,000 people, half of them children, were gathering, waiting for the event to begin. You could feel the excitement. Parents, school children, Chief Matau and the guest of honor, the assistant district administrator, were all there. (This was not your ordinary day in Matau.)

The Headman, an elderly grey-haired man, led everyone in some blessings. To my surprise, the cultural blessing was simply having all man clapping their hands while the women sang.

The master of ceremonies, who is the deputy headmaster at the school, then called out to the children saying “Slogan” and all the children raised their little hands in excitement and chanted:

“Oprah! Auya nePower, (Oprah has brought education power), Oprah! Auya nePower. Save! Yauya nePower (Save the Children has brought education power), Save! Yauya nePower.”

Then, there were gymnastics, poems, songs and dances from parents and children.

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In his speech, the chairman of the Matau School development gave kudos to the parents for their commitment to the project. In just one and a half months, the parents molded all 450,000 bricks needed for the new school. (That’s a lot of sweat-equity!) All that remains is the curing of the bricks.

“The most important form of inheritance that we can leave for our children is education,” said the local counsellor for the area. He added that “today’s function is a reminder about one of Matau’s former students, who despite being based overseas, continues to be concerned about the welfare of children at her former school.”

“We want children to learn in a safe and child-friendly environment,” said the Mashonaland West Provincial education director. 

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Then, the district administrator, surrounded by school children, broke ground by digging a pick into the dirt at the construction site. Nearby, women and men were cheering and whistling in celebration.

After the closing remarks, it was time for us to join in the feast of “sadza,” (thick maize porridge), which was being cooked in black iron pots over the fire. This is the norm in our African culture. Food and celebration go hand in hand! 

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Audio Update from Ethiopia

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

Westport, CT

Thursday, July 21, 2011


In this podcast Duncan Harvey, Save the Children’s Deputy Country Office Director in Ethiopia, Michael Klosson, Vice President for Policy and Humanitarian Response, and Charles MacCormack, President, describe the worsening situation for children affected by the epic drought in the Horn of Africa and what you can do to help children children survive until the rains come.


Live from the Field: East Africa Food Crisis by Save the Children

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Arriving at Dolo Ado – Part 2

  David Klauber David Klauber, Save the Children Intern   

Dolo Ado, Ethiopia

July 20, 2011


Save the Children intern David Klauber has been blogging from Ethiopia, click here to read his first post. 

I sat down to meet a 28 year-old mother named Halima, surrounded by her five small children who were quite busy eating their porridge. The littlest one watched me curiously from upon Halima’s lap, nestled in the cloth of her dirac (long Somali dress).  As she helped her son navigate his spoon she began to tell me her story:

“We lived in a place called Halu in the Dedo region of Somalia. The long drought caused all of our animals to die there. We didn’t have enough food to go around and there was also violence going on around our home so I feared for my children. Together we walked 60 miles and I was scared for them the whole journey. When we came here we lived 10 days in the pre-registration center and have lived 10 days here [transit center]. We have experienced a lot of hunger, but here we have something eat. We have no hope of going back home now that our animals our dead. We have nothing.”

After our somber interview came to a close, I found the quiet gaze of Halima’s 8-year-old son, Hassan Nuur, and I could not help but to ask about his experience living in the refugee intake centers thus far:

“Things are better here. At home there was no rain and no food. But I miss my friends; they are still in Somalia. Sometimes there is nothing here to do during the day and it is cold and windy and night…I miss my home. I just want to move ahead.

I met several mothers and their children in the tent and they had all faced similar hardships in their journeys out of Somalia and through the Ethiopian intake centers. Most of the mothers had walked for multiple days with their children to reach Dolo Ado. But it was encouraging to learn that on this particular day we were able to feed more than 400 of these children

At our feeding site we also screen these children for malnutrition and refer them to Doctors Without Borders if they require medical attention. As well, we had a staff member dedicated to helping children wash their hands both before and after they eat. Definitely pretty amazing to see how fast we were able to setup here and already have such an impact. This particular supplementary feeding program will be duplicated in the pre-registration site and the fourth refugee camp, Halewen.

Tomorrow, I will head onward to the Kobe and Melkadida camps. I was last in the Kobe camp about a month and half ago when it was completely devoid of people and infrastructure so it will certainly be interesting to return now that is fully operational and now completely filled.  Until then…

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Arriving at Dolo Ado

David KlauberDavid Klauber, Save the Children Intern   

Dolo Ado, Ethiopia

July 20, 2011


Today I visited the Dolo Transition center just outside of town where nearly 10,000 newly arrived refugees are waiting to be transported to the camps located 55 miles away. Ideally, refugees would pass through this site in just a few days but the unfortunate reality is that it is taking as long as 10 to 15 days. Transport has slowed because the three existing camps are already at full capacity. 

The third camp, Kobe, opened less than four weeks ago, already holds 25,000 people and cannot take anymore. As a result the population at the transit center continues to swell by day and the need for the most basic of services (food, medical attention, shelter) is increasing exponentially.

Last Monday, Save the Children began a supplementary food program at a site that provides meals to all children under 5 years old. I entered our large feeding tent and was surprised to feel a large smile emerging on my face; there was a sea of tiny children sitting on mats scooping porridge out of bright yellow and red mugs. They were honestly some of the most adorable children I have ever seen. 

Even with the realization that the meal we were providing for the them was just a first step in meeting their most basic of needs, I have to admit to feeling a true sense of relief, an inner joy at watching them eat.

After seeing only fear and exhaustion on the faces of these little ones for the past two days, witnessing a smile here and there inspired an indescribable sensation within my chest: something inside me was no longer clenched as tightly as it had been before.

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Tererai Trent&#39s Remarks On Matau Primary School Groundbreaking

Tererai podium

Dr. Tererai Trent, PHD , Educator and Humanitarian   

California

July 15, 2011


 As we break ground for the new Matau Primary School, memories come back to mind. Once again, I am that little girl who wanted to learn how to read and write, but was deprived of that opportunity because of poverty. Today, memories like that belong to the past, to be buried under the ground on which the school of my dreams will rise.

Today I also am reminded of what has brought us here in the first place. It is the idea that education is a universal human right that holds the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Education shapes our current and future leaders, secures better livelihoods, and builds strong vibrant communities.
 
It was a thirst for education that started my journey that would take me thousands of miles away from Matau – a world where possibilities became realities.
 
As I achieved my dreams through the years, there was one more I harbored in my heart. It remains the greatest of all and I am seeing the beginning of it today. In this village will rise a school that will be more than just a building. It will be a school supported by trained teachers, new learning methods and literacy programs, ensuring quality education to over 4,000 children here and in nearby villages.
 
As I reflect on my life, I can’t help but remember that if the challenges were countless, so were the blessings. There is no greater testament to that than to know that in the years to come, the children here in Matau and those of our neighbors will be better readers, better writers, and better off for having started on the path to learning early in life.
 
I am grateful to Save the Children, which has always been a champion for children’s well-being and education in Africa. I am grateful to Oprah Winfrey for her support and generosity. This school is a gift from her and it is my great honor to hand it over to my beloved community.
 
I thank the teachers who are on the forefront to ensure the success of every child. I thank you Matau parents who stood by me and supported my dream for an education. To the children, you are the reason for my resolve to build a school here. My heart is filled with joy when I imagine you sitting in the classrooms of this school, starting your own journey to become the finest women and men you aspire to be. Make yourselves proud; show the world that “it is achievable.” Tinogona.

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