Liberia’s Government Takes the Helm to Protect Vulnerable Children

Geoffrey OyatGeoffrey
Oyat, Child Protection Manager

Monrovia, Liberia

February 28, 2013

Mr. Mulbah, a farmer in Gleegbar Town in northwest Liberia,
was persuaded by a distant family member to send his four older children to a
boarding school in Monrovia in 2007. 
This school, Aunt Musu said, would provide a better life for his two sons
and two daughters since there was no good school in Gleegbar Town. Four years later, Mr. Mulbah was notified
that his children were living in an orphanage, where they had been beaten,
starved, and forced to beg for money on the streets. Mr. Mulbah’s children were
returned to him in July 2011 and he is now caring for a family of nine and
sending all his children to the local school in Gleegbar Town. Although Mr. Mulbah is now reunited with his
children, many other parents in the region still face uncertainty about their
kids’ whereabouts.

Poor services and poverty in rural areas compel parents to
send their children to the capital city Monrovia with hopes for a better life
for their children. Parents enroll their kids in orphanages with false promises
of funding for their education. An
assessment done by Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in 2008
found that a majority of the 5,000 children living in orphanages in Liberia are
not orphaned but wrongly placed.    

The Government of Liberia is faced with the daunting task of supervising
orphanages and ensuring the protection of Liberia’s two million children. Moreover, the country is still recovering
from a 16-year civil war and its institutional capacity remains weak.

AidreformLIBOver the past decade, Save the Children has been assisting
Liberia’s Department of Social Welfare, the government ministry
responsible for child protection on measures and structures to prevent and
respond to abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence affecting children. 

With funding from the United States
Agency for International Development (USAID)
’s Displaced Children and Orphan’s
Fund, and administered by World Learning, Save the Children Liberia has been removing
children from the streets, unsafe orphanages, and other risky circumstances,
and reintegrating them with their parents when possible. We have also helped parents to improve their skills
and economic opportunities to prevent family separations in the first place.  

With its latest package of reforms called “USAID Forward”,
USAID is investing more resources in building the capacity of Liberia’s institutions
to take over essential functions such as child protection and health services
that were primarily led by international NGOs and private contractors in the
years immediately following the war. By
shifting these responsibilities –from US entities to the Liberian public sector
– USAID is fostering sustainable development and reducing the need for U.S.
development assistance over time.

Over the past several years, Save the Children's role
has expanded beyond providing child protection services alongside Liberia’s
Department of Social Welfare. We are now
working to help improve the government’s tracking and protection system for
vulnerable children. In the USAID-funded
project called, “Educating and
Protecting Vulnerable Children in Family Settings” project, we are setting up a
case management system for the Department of Social Welfare, in partnership with World Learning, to enhance
the government’s ability to prevent vulnerable children from being separated
from their families and reintegrate those that have been separated. World
Learning has also been working to build the capacity of the Department of Social Welfare in child
protection and other priority areas. Since
the project began, we have prevented 457 separations and returned 221 children,
ages 4 to 18, to safe homes.

Once the project is over in 2014, the Department of Social
Welfare will take leadership over the protection and unification of children in
Liberia. They will have quality baseline
information on vulnerable families in six counties and an active county-level
database of families linked to the national record. Moreover, members of Liberia’s judiciary
and police will be able to work with 36 community groups and local leaders trained
by Save the Children to identify child protection risks, relevant laws, and local
services provided by the Department of Social Welfare.   

Building stronger and more responsive government institutions
is a challenging task, particularly in a country like Liberia that has been so
deeply impacted by war. Efforts by Save
the Children, however, help to ensure that U.S. development assistance not only
improves the lives of vulnerable children in Liberia now but also strengthens the
country’s public institutions to lead and drive effective service delivery for
at-risk kids in Liberia in the future.  

“It’s not peaceful in my head.”

Annie bodmer royAnnie
Bodmer-Roy, Senior Media Manager, Emergencies and Advocacy

Gao, Mali

February 26, 2013

is what 15-year-old Aissatou finishes with. We have been talking for almost an
hour – she has had so much to tell me. It’s hardly surprising, after everything
she has been through.

from her home over one year ago, Aissatou was more than eight months pregnant.
She was 14, and gave birth to her son Salam less than one month later, on the
run and staying in Gao.

still remembers the day the rebels first entered her town, but the words come
hesitantly at first, in short pieces. “I was really scared,” she starts. I ask
what she was doing before the attack started. “I had been having fun. I was
playing with my friends. Everyone was outside. It was a Friday.”

we heard gunfire,” she remembers. “We thought it was the military. Then we
started seeing people running everywhere.” Aissatou tells me she started
running too, straight into her house. She stayed there for two days without

was on the second day that she finally came out and heard what had happened.
One of her friends had been hit by a stray bullet. She was alive, but needed
urgent medical treatment, and was fleeing the town for a refugee camp in Niger.

family had also been directly affected. As she describes what happened, her
pace picks up, rushed, as if she wants to get the words out as quickly as
possible. She tells me how her brother-in-law had been accused of stealing. She
explains how, under the rebels, the punishment for this was amputation. She saw
her brother-in-law after it happened – his hand had been cut off at the wrist.
As she explains this to me, Aissatou looks down at her own hands, drawing a
thin line with her finger over her wrist, over and over again. “It wasn’t
true,” she says, looking back up at me. “He said he hasn’t stolen anything.”

what hit Aissatou the hardest wasn’t either of these things. It was what
happened to her friend Ines. And it’s now, telling Ines’ story, that the words
pour out of Aissatou’s mouth. She stares me straight in the eyes, and I can see
the horrific events playing back in her mind as she describes them.

rebels went into the village and took girls – not women, but girls. They were
15, 16, 17. They said they needed the girls to go prepare food for them. They
took them into their cars and brought them into the bush. They left them in the
bush after they were done raping them – but they beat them before leaving. I
know because my friend was one of them. There were 16 girls in total. My
friend’s name is Ines*, she is 15 now. She was 14 then, like me – we went to
school together,” Aissatou starts, and then paints a vivid picture of just what
happened to Ines.

told me that they took her by force. They threatened her with their weapons to
make her sleep with them. There were 20 men but only 16 girls – so some of the
men shared the same girl between them. Ines was lucky; there was only one man
who took her. Afterwards though, he hit her five times with a long rod before
she managed to escape.”

and abused, Aissatou’s 14-year-old classmate ran from the bushes, but in her
fear and confusion, fell when she reached the road. Aissatou says that’s how
the men from her village found Ines, and brought her back home again. Ines told
her classmate the whole story before Aissatou got her brother and brought her
friend to the hospital. Aissatou and her family fled the town the next day, and
she hasn’t seen Ines since.

she finishes her story, Aissatou pauses. She looks at the ground down for a
second, almost self-conscious. “Even now, even if I’m here,” she starts, “…I
can’t forget what happened. My head is full of these things – what happened to
my friends, my family…” She looks up one more time at me, willing me to understand.

not peaceful in my head.”                                               

Syria Crisis: Reuniting Lost Children with their Families

Farisphoto (2)Faris Kasim, Information & Communications Coordinator 

Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan on the Syrian border.

February 26, 2013

Near the reception area, Save the Children is caring for unaccompanied and separated

There were more than a dozen lost girls and boys as young as 6 years old who were
residing at special designated areas.

About two to three lost children are arriving at the camp every day. Most are eventually reunited with their parents or extended families within the camp.

However,four unaccompanied children have been living at the space for the past three

The Save the Children team has been working day and night to assist the refugees in
Za’atari, and there is good coordination between all the NGOs and agencies
working to make room for new refugees.

But everyone is anxious about what will happen if this exodus continues. Will the
humanitarian community and the Jordanian government be able to shelter, feed
and clothe another 60,000 people?

of children need caring people to support Save the Children’s response efforts.
Please give generously to our Syria Children in Crisis Fund

Little Hands working towards Big Changes


Rachel, Sponsored Child

Taguig City, Philippines

February 21, 2013

Rachael, age 14, has been sponsored through Save the Children for four years. Rachael has been actively involved in development and life-skills activities organized by Save the Children for adolescents. Through these and other trainings, she has learned how to facilitate learning activities, and advocate for children’s rights and development through involvement in CRC training and monitoring. She also participates in the Urban Gardening Project which aims to help produce food items that could meet the food needs of supplemental school feeding.

PHCO Rachael asking a question_rszIt has been four years since Save the
Children’s Sponsorship Program first made its way to my village. Their presence
brought big changes, not only within our community and among my fellow youth,
but also in me.

Along with the physical transformations
I went through as part of growing up, I also experienced big changes in the
mental, emotional and social aspects of my life which helped me to develop and thrive.
At my young age and in my own simple way of living, I did not notice that Save
the Children has contributed so much, not only to the people in my community,
but to me as well.

Together with the seminars I attended in
far-off places came the expansion and deepening of my understanding of the
various things happening in our society. With the continuous mental development
these activities brought, I learned about the rights of children like me. With
this knowledge, we can now fight for our rights, defend ourselves and prevent
or at least lessen the discrimination that we are experiencing that is
currently widespread in our society. 

PHCO During school vacationIn learning about these rights, I am
able to help others by sharing what I know, how I feel and also, by sharing the
experience of the youth who are not protected from various forms of abuse. I am
able to help others and this is why I am very happy that I have become part of
this program.

I believe that children
can help bring about change and progress in ourselves, in other people and in
our society through our simple way and with our little hands.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more.

The Real Breastfeeding Scandal

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post.




Last year, Time magazine’s “Are You Mom Enough?” cover practically shouted “Scandal! Women breastfeeding too long!”


The unforgettable image stirred up controversy and I’m sure it sold magazines. But are moms and kids any better off?


Now, imagine funneling all that outrage and punditry into something that really helped mothers and their babies when it came to breastfeeding — especially in the developing world where it can literally save lives.

The real scandal is not breastfeeding late, but that too many moms don’t get the support needed to breastfeed early — or to keep breastfeeding, should they want to.


In our new report, “Superfood for Babies,” Save the Children estimates that 830,000 babies could be saved every year if they were breastfed in the first hour of life. The colostrum, or first milk, provides a powerful shot of antibodies that can stave off deadly disease. And immediate breastfeeding more often leads to exclusive breastfeeding for six months, which can save even more lives.

Read Article

Syria Crisis: Being There When Children are Sick

Farisphoto (2)Faris Kasim, Information & Communications Coordinator 

Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan on the Syrian border.

February 19, 2013

Save the Children is responsible for general food distribution in the camp. I saw
long lines of families sitting with boxes of their bi-monthly rations. Many had
recently arrived, and were happy to receive the rations.

talking to a colleague who was supervising the distribution, a man ran up to us
clutching a little girl in his arms. His face covered with a red kaffiya (traditional
headscarf), he urgently called to us to help his daughter.

She had
been sick for many days and was running a dangerously high fever. She was
barely conscious and couldn’t even sit up straight.

colleague immediately rushed them to the camp hospital. I later learned that the
girl was given medicine and was put under observation by doctors for hours in
case she had to be transferred outside of the camp.

of men, women and children are arriving at Za’atari in similar conditions, and
many don’t know how to get help at the camps. Luckily for this man’s daughter,
we were there to get her safely to the hospital.

So many children need caring people to support
Save the Children’s response efforts.Please give generously to our Syria Children in Crisis Fund.

Syria Crisis: Supplies Needed for Refugee Families

Farisphoto (2)Faris Kasim, Information & Communications Coordinator 

Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan on the Syrian border.

February 15, 2013

As I
entered the refugee camp, there were dozens of vehicles unloading people near
the registration center.

A little
boy ran up to me, asking something in Arabic. My colleague intervened and found
out he wanted to know where to get breakfast.

walked back to his family and told them about the Save the Children tent nearby
where they can get welcome meals made up of hummus, beans, juice, tuna,
crackers and honey.

family had hastily fled their homes in Syria after hearing news of bombardment
in their area. After travelling overnight, they reached the border near
Za’atari at dawn.

waiting for registration, the father told me he was worried about what kind of
accommodation he would get for his family, but thanked God that at least his
children were now safe from harm.

was a large tent nearby where the newly registered families were given
blankets, mattresses, buckets, water bottles, soap, cleaning powder and other
sanitary items.

was a huge crowd pushing against the fence around the tent. Though the camp
staff insisted people queue to speed up the distribution, most of the men and
women were furious about the delay in receiving their supplies. Calm was
restored when some of the frustrated families agreed to be patient and wait
their turn.

Save the Children is working to help the thousands of children living in the refugee camps. So many girls and boys need caring people to support Save the Children’s response efforts. Please give generously to our Syria Children in Crisis Fund.

Kids from around the World Tell Us Why They Love to Read


Ajla Grozdanic, Manager, Marketing and Communications, U.S. Programs

Washington, D.C.

February 14, 2013

From Valentine’s Day to World Read
Aloud Day on March 6, this time of year is all about spreading the love—love of
reading, that is. Teaching our kids to become skilled readers early on is key
to ensuring their success in school and life. This is as true in America as it
is in Nepal, Mali or any other country for that matter. Why? Because education
is one of the most viable pathways out of poverty.

That’s why Save the Children,
through our early childhood education and school-based programs, strives to
help disadvantaged children around the world, including right here in the
United States, develop and grow as readers. The results speak for themselves! In
America alone, 69 percent of participants in our literacy programs showed
significant improvements in overall reading ability and the number of those
reading at or above grade level more than doubled by the end of the school

Here, some of our once strugglingreaders from
the United States and Nepal tell us how their newfound love of the written word
turned them into young bookworms. 




“I love reading because you can learn many things in a book. You can even learn how to build a hamster home!” –Kori, 7, Point Pleasant, WV






“When I read, my grades will be better. Being able to read helps you read stories. When you can read, you can become anything you want. I like Nepali stories. My Nepali textbook has many stories and poems. My favorite poem is ‘such a pretty sun, such a pretty shadow, the two play together in the ground.’ I think this poem is very nice.” –Umesh, 3rd grader, Nepal






“I love to read because the pictures and stories help me to imagine that I am somewhere else!” –Nevaeh, 7, Landers, CA  






 “I like to read because there are new adventures all the time. Fiction is my favorite, because you can get inside the adventure.” –Brandon, 11, Lobelville, TN




Anita_Nepal“I think reading will make me smart. My father
brought a book for me from Qatar. The storybook is in two languages, Arabic and
Nepali. It’s about a teacher who teaches Arabic. My father reads the story to
me.” –Anita, 1st grader, Nepal  





“The more I read, the faster and better I can read. It helps me to get better grades.” –Orlando, 9, Shaw, MS






like reading because when I grow up I want to become an engineer or a teacher.
My favorite book is DhungakoKhichadi
(Stone Porridge). I like stories about old men and women.” –Bijay, 3rd grader,


Kayla_Shaw_MS thumbnail


“Because my mama likes to read!” –Kayla, 8, Shaw, MS







“Reading lets me travel to awesome places in my imagination. That’s why I like to read.”—Nyla, 9, Foxworth, MS



Dontavious_Columbia_MSthumbnail (1)


“Reading is good for your mind.” –Dontavious, 9, Columbia, MS







“I love reading because it takes my mind to a different world.” –Macie, 10, Williston, SC





“I love to read because it helps me learn.” –Hayden, 8, Maury City, TN


AJ_maury_city_TN thumbnail


 “Reading can take you on exciting adventures.” –A.J., 8, Maury City, TN





“I want to be a veterinarian and reading is helping make my dreams come true! I already work at the zoo and reading has helped give me the knowledge I need to do my job well.” –Dedra, 16, Lobelville, TN (former student in Save the Children’s U.S. school-based program)



“I love reading, because if I read a book and I see the movie, for instance, Harry Potter, I can compare them. They usually leave out details and skip scenes in movies. Books have more details.” –Lauren, 11, Morongo Valley, CA




“I love to read books because it’s the only fun thing I can do.” –Patrick, 10, Morongo Valley, CA






“I read because Nana says I got to. It is fun and I learn my ABC’s from books.” –Emilee, 3, Jackson, KY





All photos taken by Save the Children staff. 

Syria Crisis: Refugees Pour in to Za'atari

Anonymous man
Faris Kasim,
Information & Communications Coordinator 

Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan on the
Syrian border

February 11, 2013

“This is an exodus! Nearly 22,000 people have come
into the camp in the past week, 6,000 alone in the past two days.” 

people are arriving with just the clothes on their back. They fled for their
lives, unable to grab anything from their homes. I’ve seen women covering
themselves only with a large shawl and children without shoes.”

is how one Save the Children worker at Za’atari, the largest Syrian refugee
camp in Jordan, described the crisis to me as I arrived at the camp.

52066 Zaatari

camp population has recently soared to 60,000 people – a 20 percent increase
since the start of the year.

is turning into a small town. There are shops opening on the side of the camp’s
main road, set up by refugees themselves, as well as small eateries, coffee
shops, barbers and stalls selling food, clothes and other household items.

a high vantage point, one can see endless rows of tents, interspersed with
toilets, schools and distribution centers.

the Children is working to help the thousands of children living in the refugee
camps. So many girls and boys need caring people to support Save the Children’s
response efforts. Please give generously to our Syria Children in Crisis Fund.

Finding Hope in Haiti

I expected to be disappointed. Disappointed that more had not been done; disappointed that there were still families living in squalor in tent cities; disappointed that there was still no

Board Member Bill Haber visits with children in Leogane

education or health system; disappointed that there wasn’t more progress. And while I saw things that made me frustrated and angry on my fourth trip to Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake, I also came away with a real sense that there is a chance for this country. A chance that wasn’t there before. A chance for a better future in a place that never seems to catch a break, whether from natural disasters or bad governance. There was a very different feeling, a palpable sense of hope in the air this time—especially from Haitians themselves.


While it’s far from the most important thing, the streets are finally mostly clear from rubble (80% now cleared, according to the UN) and the listing or crumbling buildings are finally down, from the Presidential Palace to the Ministry of Finance to many of the flattened apartment buildings. Even though families are still far from housing secure, more than 70% of those displaced by the earthquake are no longer living in tents. Importantly, small businesses are booming, with most average Haitian citizens working in small local enterprise. The economic growth is not as robust as we all would have wanted, but it’s expected to be close to 3%—which, in the current global slowdown, is better than many countries.


But what’s most promising to me is the state