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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