“I really want to return to school soon”

Anonymous manFan Xiaowen, Program Manager 

Sichaun, China

April 29, 2013

Xinqun, age 12,
grabbed her 6-month-old baby sister when the earthquake struck and ran to an
open area, away from her home.

Both sisters were
unhurt in the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck on April 20th,
2013, that killed at least 190 people and injuring at least 11,000 others.
Xinqun learnt to react in an earthquake after her school
started holding earthquake drills, highlighting the importance of preparing
children for disasters in these quake-prone areas.

“The roof collapsed,
and the walls cracked. But thank goodness that no one was hurt,” she said.

Zhang_Xiquan_Blog_April_2013The two sisters live
with their grandparents and mother. Their father works in Kangding while their
elder sister works in a factory in Lushan. Both were in quake-hit areas, but
were unharmed.

“The first night after
the earthquake, we slept in a makeshift shelter and we had hardly any food to
eat. Even my mother did not seem to have enough breast milk to feed my 6 month
old baby sister,” Xinqun said.

“Each time there was
an aftershock, I was very scared.”

Yuxi Village is
Baosheng township’s most remote village. It took more than a day for the rescue
crew reach them and set up a camp site for them. On the evening of April 21st, Xinqun and her family had a tent over their heads and received bottled
water, instant noodles and rice from the government rescue team.

“I wished my sister
could have some diapers,” Xinqun said. “She wets the bed now without any
diapers at night, so I hope we can get her some soon. “

When Save the Children arrived the following day, we were told that no
other aid (besides the dry foods, bottled water and shelter) had reached the
quake-affected population but the people needed essential items such as
diapers, towels and soaps. As such, a range of immediate relief items were distributed, including towels, sanitary napkins, soaps, hand sanitizer, raincoats, plastic
tarp, toilet paper and baby diapers
to 148 families in Yuxi village, reaching 200 adults and 244 children.

Xinqun came on behalf
of her family to collect the relief items. “I’m glad
that my baby sister has diapers now,” she said.

Xinqun also hopes to
return to school soon. She studies in a primary school in Lushan, and comes
home to spend time with her family on weekends.  

“We could not contact
the teachers or the school after the earthquake so I did not go back to
school,” she said.  

“I really want to
return to school soon.”

“I hope to have a space to play with other children here”

Anonymous manFan Xiaowen, Program Manager 

Sichaun, China

April 23, 2013

Li Zixin was playing when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan Province on 20th April, killing at least 190 people and leaving thousands injured.

"I was playing at home," 6-year-old Zixin said. "My grandmother pulled me up and we ran outside. We watched our house collapse."

The temblor left Zixin and many of his neighbours’ homes badly damaged. When they went back in, they found that all their furniture and belongings were destroyed except for a few bowls. Zixin lives alone with his 86-year-old grandmother in Jingkou village, Sichuan Province, China, as his mother passed away when he was just six months old and his father works in Xi an in order to support the family.

Blog_Li_Zixin_Story_300"On the first night, we were too afraid to sleep in side, so we slept in an open area," Zixin said. "We did not bring any extra clothes with us."

Military officials arrived the next day, setting up a camp site for about 60 families who were displaced in the disaster.

"Grandmother and I were given a tent to sleep in and some biscuits and bottled water," Zixin said. "It was raining all day and night and the ground was very wet. It was very cold throughout the night."

Save the Children arrived in Jingkou village two days after the earthquake. The team brought with them initial relief supplies including towels, sanitary napkins, soaps, hand sanitizer, raincoats, plastic tarp, toilet paper and baby diapers.

The team was told that families had no water to wash their hands because there was not enough clean water, so the assessment team distributed 48 bottles of wash-free hand sanitizer to the camp centre.

Having lost their home and all their belongings, it may be a while before Zixin and his grandmother’s lives return to normal. The young boy has not been enrolled in preschool as his family cannot afford the school fees.

Zixin said: "I hope to have a space to play with the other children here."

Children Most Vulnerable in the Aftermath of Sichuan Earthquake

Anonymous manFan Xiaowen, Program Manager 

Sichaun, China

April 21, 2013

It was not a typical Saturday for the
children in Sichuan, China. Instead of enjoying a weekend morning, a 7.0
magnitude temblor rocked the province, causing buildings to collapse and roads
to be blocked due to debris and landslides.

At least 180 people have been killed in
the most affected areas of Ya’an and Lushan, children among them. Overall, 1.5
million people have been affected and tens of thousands left homeless. Rescue
workers dove straight into action, trying to pull as many people out of the rubble
within the first 72 hours, also known as the golden hours for rescuing quake
affected people.

In Chengdu, where Save the Children’s
closest field office is located, tremors were felt but little damage was
sustained. Despite having families to care for as well, staff immediately
arranged to go into the field to assess the damage and impact on the most
vulnerable children and their families in the worst-affected areas of Ya’an and

Sichuan_truck_2013_300But the rescue and assessment efforts
will not be easy. Roads have been blocked due to debris and landslides. Many
could be cut off as rescue workers find their way through the rubble.
Electrical lines are down and mobile communications signal poor in some areas.
Wet weather has also been predicted by weather forecasters in the coming days.
Mudslides and flash floods are also possible with heavy rain in the mountainous
areas. Temperatures are expected to fall to as low as 13 degrees Celsius at
night, and children without blankets and shelter could be left out in the cold. 

More than 24 hours have passed, and
children could have spent the night without clean water, hot food, blankets and
a bed to sleep in. As we go into the worst-affected areas, we are especially
concerned about the children who have been separated from their parents in the

It is going to be a very distressing
period for young children, especially those who have lost their homes and
playgrounds and had school interrupted. They will almost certainly require a
safe place to play, learn and talk through their experience in order to regain
a sense of normalcy again.

About 230,000 children have been
affected in this earthquake and we are now working around the clock to reach
vulnerable children and their families.


In This Case, Second Place Isn’t Something To Celebrate

Early this month I took my first trip to Abuja, Nigeria. Despite visiting almost 60 countries with Save the Children, I had never been to the West African nation. It is a country of over 162 million, one of the most populous in the region and seventh most populous in the world. With an average family size of almost 7, it has the highest population growth in Africa-today, one out of every four inhabitants of the African continent is a Nigerian. While Nigeria may top the charts in these ways, it also unfortunately has the second-highest number of under-5 deaths. I wanted to understand about why so many children, and especially newborns, are dying in Nigeria.

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In Refugee Camps, Basics Become Luxuries

The Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan is home to more than 100,000 refugees who have fled the fighting in Syria, but it’s unlikely that any of the camp’s residents consider this place—cold, crowded and under resourced—“home.”


I traveled to Za’atari last week after the launch of Save the Children’s recent global report, Childhood Under Fire, marking the two-year anniversary of the conflict in Syria.  What I saw gave all of the statistics we hear about in the news—more than one million refugees in neighboring countries, and an estimated four million displaced inside of Syria —a very human face.


I met a young mother and her two month-old son at our infant and young child feeding center inside the camp.  She told me that when she and her other children fled Syria, they left nearly everything behind…including her husband, who stayed to protect their home.  She was very pregnant when they left and she was afraid she might give birth on the way, but she was too scared to stay.  Her town was being bombed heavily and she didn’t know if there would be a hospital left standing when it was time to give birth.  According to our report, many doctors and health facilities in Syria have been targets of attack and nearly a third of the country’s hospitals are now closed.


When this young mother arrived at the frigid camp, she found out about Save the Children’s infant and young child feeding program and sought it out, where they staff helped her find the right care for the birth.  Save the Children’s center—in a trailer inside the camp—works to help moms initiate and continue breastfeeding, get help on how to keep their babies healthy by providing access to vaccines and health services and receive clothing and blankets and high protein biscuits for nursing moms.


These small things, which until recently were considered basic items and interventions for new moms at home in Syria, have become luxuries for refugee moms in Za’atari.


Similarly, people often think of early education as a luxury for children living in refugee camps, but some families have been living in the camps for two years—and the interruption to young lives can be devastating.  Before the conflict, more than 90% of primary school-aged children in Syria were enrolled (one of the highest rates in the Middle East) but the conflict has upended their learning.  Access to early education, with a focus on nutrition, can make a world of difference for a generation of Syrian children.


I was lucky enough to visit with more than a hundred 3-5 year-olds there during their meal time at a kindergarten Save the Children set up inside the camp.  Every day, children enrolled in the school receive a meal of yogurt, fruit, bread with meat and juice each day—a major source of nutrition for kids, since food rations available in the camp consist mostly of lentils, bread, bulgur, oil and sugar.  This meal also helps them have the energy they need to learn in the classroom and, just as importantly, to play. Many of the children saw horrific things in Syria, experienced fear as they fled their homes and are living in very close and uncomfortable quarters—so having a chance to play with other children and just be kids is a crucial part of their healing and development.


No family should consider nutritious foods, safe childbirth and kindergarten a luxury and we’re working to make life a little easier for displaced kids.  But at the Za’atari camp, and for families everywhere who have been forced to flee due to violence, drought or conflict, the greatest luxury of all would be simply to go home.