Back to School Progress in #Nepal

MichelRooijackers (1)Michel Rooijackers

Save the Children Response Team Leader in Nepal



When most people hear that it's “Back to School” time, they probably remember ever-exciting first day when children return to their studies, ready to learn and see their friends. 

But for earthquake-ravaged villages throughout Nepal, getting children back into school isn’t as simple as packing their bags and giving them a hug goodbye.

Back to school copyMore than 32,000 classrooms have been completely destroyed, and an additional 15,000 have been badly damaged and considered unsafe for students and teachers. 

Buried inside those classrooms are books, desks, chalkboards and pencils; all of the necessary materials to make a quality learning environment for children.

Being overwhelmed by the scale of the challenges isn’t an option. Providing children with an education and safe-environment is as vital as providing them with food and water.

Our teams are working with communities across Nepal to build Temporary Learning Centers, simple structures made from tarps and local materials like bamboo. Located in open-spaces on the school grounds, they are a refreshing return to normalcy for children, parents and teachers.

Given the ongoing earthquakes and aftershocks, some parents have been understandably worried about sending their children back to school. What parent wouldn’t want their child close to them during such strenuous times? 

Thankfully, the design and materials of the Temporary Learning Spaces means that even if they are damaged by another earthquake, they’re very unlikely to cause any significant harm to children or teachers who may be inside. 

Teachers are also conducting drills with the students to ensure they know how to stay safe wherever they are when the next aftershock occurs.

With the help of community volunteers, we have already established 32 Temporary Learning Centers and will build a further 670 in the coming months. We’re also providing the schools and children with kits to ensure they have all the supplies they need to have a productive year.

Looking at the lively Temporary Learning Centers, juxtaposed next to the razed schools reveals a clear symbol of the progress Nepal has already made after this disaster, and a reminder of the challenges ahead.          

What is Innovative Development Finance? Depends on Who You Ask.

Twitter photo

Andrew Wainer

Director of Policy Research in the Public Policy and Advocacy Department 

Washington, DC

May 27, 2015

Financing is currently at the center of global development discussions and will be center stage in July at the Financing for Development (FFD) conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Thousands of finance experts and policymakers will descend on Addis to advance their vision on funding for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be approved in September at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

The SDGs are extremely ambitious – ending extreme poverty and child deaths are just two of its global goals – and achieving them will require a new development financing paradigm.

A clear and meaningful conversation on FFD is not an academic exercise. If we don’t get development finance right, the SDGs won’t be realized.  So it’s important to have well-defined terms as a foundation for action.

One of the most-discussed among the multitude of development financing tools is innovative finance. Before diving into definitional issues, there are several things to know about innovative finance:

  • It’s viewed as a solution to declining levels of traditional official development assistance (ODA). As national budgets in wealthy nations are squeezed, ODA decreases, and policymakers and analysts are shifting their focus to innovative finance to fill the gap. 
  • The term was coined at a previous financing for development discussion in 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico where the Monterrey Consensus emphasized, “The value of exploring innovative sources of finances.”
  • Everybody is interested in innovative finance. USAID, the UN, McKinsey and Company, and many, many others view innovative finance as a key component to meet the SDG financing needs and the lack of funding currently available.

But there’s one problem: There’s no common definition of innovative finance. In fact, some definitions are diametrically opposed.

Words matter. To analyze and envision development finance effectively at Addis – and then implement that vision – we need to have a (at least somewhat) common understanding of what we are talking about.

Currently, agencies are talking past each other when discussing innovative finance:

  • The UN often discusses it in terms of taxation. In its draft of the Addis Ababa Accord innovative finance includes, “Financial transaction tax, carbon taxes… taxes on fuels used in international aviation and maritime activities, or additional tobacco taxes.”

One major example of this type of innovative development  is UNITAID. UNITAID was established in 2006 to increase funding for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis treatments in low-income countries. 

About half of UNITAID’s $2.4 billion funding comes from an airline ticket tax. Through this $1-2 “solidarity tax, levied in nations as diverse as Chile, Congo, France, Madagascar, the Republic of Korea, UNITAID is able to fund much of its operations.

Is this innovative finance? According to some U.S. foreign assistance agencies, innovative finance has almost the opposite connotation.

One classic example of innovative financing that engages the private sector is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).  GAVI pools the demand from developing countries for new vaccines and provides long-term, predictable financing to attract new (private) vaccine manufacturers who otherwise would not work on the issue because it wouldn’t be profitable.

It’s a great example of government donors shaping a market so that it’s profitable for the private sector. It’s also been great for children in poor nations immunizing 370 million children worldwide.

The main agreement on innovative finance across many organizations is that there is no common definition. On this point there is almost word-for-word consistency.

  • International development consulting company Dalberg states, “Innovative finance means different things to different people.”

Development organizations around the world including Save the Children are looking at the July Addis Ababa meeting and the September New York UN meeting to imprint a new vision of global development.

That vision will be conveyed through words.

Without a better understanding of innovative financing and other SDG finance models, acting on the vision that comes out of Addis Ababa and New York City will make a challenging goal even more difficult.

In the short term, crafting a more inclusive – yet cogent – definition of innovative finance in the Addis Ababa Accord would be an ideal platform for a more meaningful – and actionable – understanding of the term.

However defined, innovative finance should adhere to the core principles of effective development finance: It should be transparent, accountable, and aligned with developing nations’ priorities.

Over the long-term, models should be tested, evaluated, and results should be disseminated and shared among the vast array of organizations working on innovative finance.

Only by first defining the term and then learning – and sharing – what works, will innovative finance live up to its promise to revolutionize international development.



Red Nose Day: Giving Kids More to Smile About

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post



Save the Children staff members Sara Bernabeo, Jeremy Soulliere and Ellen Gerstein with NBC “TODAY” show host Matt Lauer along his 230-mile bike trek to promote Red Nose Day. Photo by Susan Warner / Save the Children.


It’s rare we can all have the chance to come together and share a laugh, while, at the same time, fight poverty and its detrimental impact on children in the United States and around the world.


For 30 years, Red Nose Day has been doing just that in the United Kingdom, bringing together comedians, stars from television and the silver screen, musicians and entertainers for a televised event to benefit poverty-fighting nonprofits. And this Thursday, May 21, at 8 p.m., Red Nose Day is taking a leap across the Atlantic, making its debut in the U.S.


Save the Children is excited and honored it has been chosen as one of the 12 nonprofits to benefit from this first-ever U.S. television special on NBC, which will support our efforts to ensure all kids have a healthy start in life, a quality education and protection from harm.


Red Nose Day is the only time A-list actors, comedians and musicians like Julia Roberts, Will Ferrell, Julianne Moore, John Legend, Save the Children Trustee Jennifer Garner and many more will take part in stand-up acts, sketch comedy, parodies and music performances – all to help meet the immediate needs of the poorest children living in the U.S. and throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America.


The energy of Red Nose Day has also spread beyond the televised event itself. NBC “TODAY” show host Matt Lauer embarked on a 230-mile bike ride this past Sunday to raise money and awareness for the fundraiser. His trek kicked off from Boston’s Fenway Park, and ends this Thursday – Red Nose Day – at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. Save the Children staff, family and friends cheered Matt on along his route through Connecticut on Monday, all proudly wearing red noses.


Red Nose Day is certainly putting the “fun” in fundraising, and if there’s one thing that connects kids all around the globe, it’s laughter. From my visits to classrooms in Haiti to playgrounds in Appalachia, it’s evident that laughter is the universal language of all children.


Through Red Nose Day, and the belly laughs it’s sure to generate, we can all give children living in poverty more to smile about.

Stories of Motherhood from Central Africa to South East Asia

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post


Every year Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report ranks the best and worst places in the world to be a mom, giving us a window into the shared strengths and burdens that mothers face.


All mothers carry the brightest hopes for their children’s health and wellbeing, whether their homeland is at the top, middle or bottom of the ranking. To show you how motherhood unites women from all corners of the world and walks of life, we have invited two moms from two different continents to talk about the trials and tribulations of motherhood in their countries.


Metro Manila, Philippines: Rizelle, 17, pictured holding her three-week-old baby, lives in a makeshift home under a bridge in the slums of Metro Manila. But she was fortunate to receive post-natal check-ups and immunizations for her newborn.


Maria Christina H. Oñate is from Metro Manila, Philippines. Holding the 105th spot out of 179 nations, the Philippines is a middle-of-the-road country for moms that has made great progress in recent years, especially in reducing the child mortality rate for the poorest children in cities. Rosalie Djouma is from the Central African Republic, which at the 177th spot is the third worst place in the world to be a mom.


Together, these two women represent two countries with very different realities for mothers and babies. Both women have dedicated their lives to helping some of the most vulnerable moms and children in their communities as part of their work with the international organization Save the Children. Here, they share their stories of motherhood, as well as their hopes and aspirations for all moms around the world — whether they live in bustling Metro Manila or the rural countryside of the Central African Republic.


Kaga-Bandoro, Central African Republic: Giselle and her son Ronny fled their home because of violence. “I am a woman,” said Gilselle, “and during war, it is always the innocent, it is women and children like us, those who do not fight, who suffer most.”


Oñate: The Central African Republic is third from the bottom in the annual ranking of the best and worst places for moms. What was it like for you to raise children in a country that ranks so low for moms?


Djouma: As a nursing medical supervisor with Save the Children working in the Central African Republic, my experience as a mother is rather unique compared to many women in the country. My job allows me to provide for the health and education of my children and support my family. The sad reality for many mothers in the Central African Republic is that the social safety nets and reliable health services are not available, leaving them and their children vulnerable to extreme poverty.


Djouma: You’re fortunate to live in a country that does much better in the ranking than my homeland. What’s it like to be a mom in the Philippines?


Oñate: My son Diego is now a healthy, bright and curious three-year-old. I remember the wonderful time I was pregnant. As a working professional in Manila with health insurance, I had access to quality health services, which allowed me to take advantage of family planning counseling and newborn care. My son benefits from preventive care, immunizations and the luxury of doctors’ visits whenever he feels unwell, which is a far cry from the situation for many mothers.


Oñate: What are some specific challenges moms in the Central African Republic face?


Djouma: The current situation for mothers and children in the Central African Republic is critical. During the political and military crisis there are some mothers who have lost their husbands, their property and who do not have a source of income. Some children who have lost their fathers and mothers become easily exploited by certain groups of people. Many children are unable to continue their studies.


Rural mothers have similar struggles to those living in slums. The differences are that rural mothers have farm work, while those from slums have small businesses.


Djouma: What’s some of the progress the Philippines has made for moms and children?


Oñate: The Philippines is making strides towards progress in the care of moms and children with the introduction of programs through a new national social protection initiative, the implementation of health care innovations and by increasing the number of health professionals serving urban and rural communities.


In my work I get to listen to the people behind inspiring stories who unceasingly help vulnerable mothers and children access basic health care. They are committed community health workers who do home visits and counseling to pregnant and lactating women to ensure healthy pregnancy and safe delivery and care for newborns, including the importance of exclusive breastfeeding.


Djouma: The new report commends the Philippines for the progress it has made in reducing child mortality and narrowing the survival gap between the richest and poorest children in urban areas. What challenges still remain for the poorest moms and children in cities?


Oñate: My work on maternal and child health in marginalized communities in Manila brings me up close and personal to the everyday struggle of poor, unemployed mothers with usually four or more young children. The struggle to find ways of putting a meal on their table is constant and, more often than not, their health and that of their children takes the back seat.


These poor urban mothers are at risk of dying due to pregnancy and childbirth because of a lack of access to health services. These are mothers, including teenagers as young as thirteen, who experience unplanned pregnancies, lack adequate prenatal care, give birth at home with no skilled birth professional, have no access to emergency obstetric and neonatal care, and receive no postpartum care.


Oñate: What would it take to improve the conditions for mothers and their children in the Central African Republic?


Djouma: Many women are responsible for financially providing for their families and need additional support to generate incomes — whether through entrepreneurship or agricultural opportunities.


Families also need expanded access to education and health care facilities to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of children, in both rural and urban areas.


Save the Children’s annual State of the World’s Mothers report, which was released this month with support from Johnson & Johnson, has become a reliable international tool to show where mothers and children fare best, and where they face the greatest hardships. It is based on the latest data on health, education, economics and female political participation. The full report is available


Editor’s Note: Save The Children is a partner of Johnson & Johnson, which is a sponsor of The Huffington Post’s Global Motherhood section.

By Taking Care of My Teeth, I Take Care of My Health


Robin Quiroga Calderon

Sponsorship Program Implementation Facilitator

Cochabamba, Bolivia

May 18, 2015


Hello Friends. I am Robin Quiroga and I am the Sponsorship Program Implementation Facilitator here in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I want to share with you my experience working with the sponsorship program of School Health and Nutrition in one of our schools.


Juan David, Jhoel Alex & Yimer showing their dental hygiene kits

First, Save the Children provided children with dental hygiene kits, comprised of toothpaste, a toothbrush, and a water cup. We also joined with parents in requesting the help of the Faculty of Dentistry, from the University of San Simon, to teach children proper dental hygiene.

This effort turned into a "Dental Hygiene Campaign" during which 50 students from the Faculty of Dentistry helped in training children from pre-school up to sixth grade on dental hygiene, brushing techniques, prevention, and dental care. They did this using participatory and hands-on methodologies, such as theater sketches, puppet shows, paintings, and games. Additionally, children practiced brushing their teeth in their classrooms, using their new dental hygiene kits. Faculty of Dentistry students even performed teeth cleanings, with fluoride, in order to prevent cavities.


Dentistry students Anahi and Ronaldino explaining toothbrusing techniques

All in all, this was a fun day for children who were excited to learn how to care for their teeth. Some had never visited the dentist and for them, this was an extra special experience.

School teachers were very happy and grateful to Save the Children and the students of the University of San Simon for working together to improve dental hygiene for so many children. This effort reminded me, once again, of the importance of coordinating our activities with parents and other partners, and of the successes we can achieve by doing so!

How old were you when you learned proper brushing techniques? Who taught you? Consider how difficult keeping your mouth feeling clean and healthy must be if your family could not afford a toothbrush! In honor of the generosity and time of the University of San Simon dentistry students, we ask you to consider an extra special donation to support more clean mouths and happy children!

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

#Nepal: Trying to Make Sense of it All


Kyle Degraw

Humanitarian Communications Manager, Save the Children International


May 13, 2015


This post originally appeared at the Thomas Reuters Foundation.

It’s 8am and I’ve just landed in London from an overnight flight from Kathmandu. Only minutes ago another massive earthquake has hit Nepal.

And only hours ago, as I sat in the departures lounge of the Kathmandu airport, with rainwater from a thunderstorm streaming through the ceiling and ever watchful for news of yet another closure due to cracks in the runway, I struggle to find the words to describe the effects of the first earthquake.

It’s a tangle of paradoxes. Just yesterday I was observing Tibetan monks circle the beautiful (and intact) Boudanath Stupa, turning its hundreds of prayer wheels as they pass by, and suddenly the morning silence broken by US military helicopters heading towards the mountains in Gorkha and Sindhupalchowk, the worst affected areas. WFP helicopters quickly follow suit. The few tourists left in the square seemed not to notice.

This earthquake did not strike in the usual manor. Instead of destruction rippling out from the epicentre in concentric circles, it stretched straight out in a line to some of the most remote villages in the country, from Gorkha to Sindhupalchowk. This has spared Kathmandu the worst, though the effects are nonetheless devastating. Cultural heritage destroyed, critical supply routes bottlenecked, and much loss of life and livelihoods. And yet, while some buildings are reduced to heaps of rubble and many are damaged, most others are entirely untouched. A roll of the dice; a game of chance indeed.

I listen to news about this new 7.4 earthquake striking Sindupalchok, where I visited a temporary learning centre and household kit distribution only two days ago.  604

Frenzied emailing and tweeting followed suit. At the immigration counter, I broke the news to the border agent, a man of Indian origin who was taken aback at the news. Just on Sunday, I spoke with one community elder, Bharat, who said his biggest fear 'is another earthquake, undoing the progress we’re making and hurting our community even more'. It seems that his worst fears have come true. Bharat-ji is in my thoughts today, and all those already reeling from the April 25 quake.

The scene in his and other remote villages is not nuanced, as it is in Kathmandu. Entire villages, flattened, punctuate the serenity and beauty of the Himalayan foothills.

I struggle to comprehend exactly how anyone survived this earthquake in these regions, let alone entire communities. Most families that I spoke to were thankful for the earthquake’s timing, as if it were a friendly gesture: at mid day on the weekend, most were outdoors and away from danger. And yet the physical destruction is total: entire villages razed, livestock lost, and road access blocked by landslides. Today’s earthquake provided a similar friendly gesture of timing by Mother Nature.

Accessing the hardest to reach has been and will continue to be the major challenge in this response. Last week, in dry and clear conditions, it took me no less than 8 hours by road to reach Arupokhari, in Gorkha. The final 4 hours of that journey covered maybe 20 kilometres. Add the coming monsoon rains and seasonal landslides into the mix, and we’re facing a race against time to reach the hardest to reach.

Plans are afoot to share helicopter space with other agencies and load up donkeys with essential supplies for survival in areas without road access. To date, the team has been phenomenal – over 79,000 people reached in the first two weeks, with numbers continuing to rise. Literally, we are doing whatever it takes.

Because of the challenges presented by the odd pattern of destruction, the terrain, the coming weather troubles and resulting upswing in disease, it is clear the Nepal is a different kind of earthquake from those in recent memory.

It is no Haiti, China, or Pakistan. A damaged Kathmandu grinds on, restaurants and shops are open, and a handful of curious tourists linger. The team on the ground is adapting well, and I have full confidence in Nepal building back better.

To learn more about our Nepal Earthquake Relief Efforts, click here.

#Sponsorship: The Family Experience


Ana & Adriana

A Mother and Daughter in the Sponsorship Program

Tecuma, El Salvador

May 11, 2015


Mother’s perspective:

My name is Ana, I’m the mother of Adriana. We live in the community of Tecuma and my daughter has been sponsored with Save the Children for two years now. Since she received her first letter I knew she would have a nice friendship with the family who sponsors her, because the ones who write to her the most are the daughters of her sponsor. They are two girls almost the same age as Adriana, and maybe this is why they get along so well.

One day, as I was picking up Adriana from school, a parent approached me and asked me what it’s like to have your children sponsored. I told him that when you enroll your kids and they get sponsored, the entire community benefits from it and all the boys and girls can have a better education. I also explained to him how my daughter has learned so many things from her sponsored family, and how excited she gets when she receives a new letter from her two little friends.

Of all this experience, what I like most is that my daughter has gotten used to writing letters, something that nowadays is not done too often because everything is done through computers. Adriana dedicates time and care to write the letters, I only check her spelling!!


Adriana happy at school

Child’s perspective:

My name is Adriana and I like being sponsored because my two friends write to me about so many things. They tell me what they do in school and about their ballet classes, although they dance other rhythms too. I also like dancing. At my school I danced “Adentro Cojutepeque” (Salvadoran folkloric music).

I also like that they remember my birthday and last year they sent me some books. I like reading. I have books that are short and I read them all at once, but there are others that are longer, those I read them by bits. My favorite book is called “Llama, llama, red pajama”. It’s about this baby llama that cries when her mom leaves her alone in her room, but then her mom comes back and tells her not to be scared, even when it’s dark. From that book I learned I have to keep calm even when I don’t have my mom around.

In another book I have, I learned to make pink lemonade. I read the recipe and asked my mom to buy me the ingredients and it was so yummy that everyone liked it! In my next letter I will tell them that, and also I will send them a small blanket I learned to sow in school which my grandma helped me finish.

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

For Babies In Big Cities, It’s Survival Of The Richest

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post

I will never forget the moment when I looked out the car window at a bustling, steamy intersection in the heart of Manila, and locked eyes with a young woman. She was holding a tiny baby while begging in the street.


I glanced down at my six-month-old son, sleeping contentedly in my arms inside our air-conditioned car. The enormous inequalities between my world and hers struck me as never before. The child in my arms was about the same age and no smarter, cuter, or better than hers. Yet due to mere circumstance of birth, I knew my son would have many more opportunities in life, while this mother and her child would struggle to survive each day to the next.


It’s been 20 years since that fleeting moment, but the vision of the mother and her child has stuck with me. It drove me to change careers and join Save the Children, where we work tirelessly to ensure that every mother and child has a fair chance in life.


These days, more and more mothers in urban areas are seeking better opportunities for their children. That’s why Save the Children’s new report, State of the World’s Mothers 2015: The Urban Disadvantage — released with support from Johnson & Johnson — focuses on the health and survival of moms and babies in cities. The findings reveal a harrowing reality: for babies in the big city, their survival comes down to their family’s wealth.


I have been back to Manila many times. I am happy to report that, along with other urban centers in the Philippines, it is an example of how cities can narrow survival gaps between the rich and the poor by increasing access to basic maternal, newborn and child services, and making care more affordable and accessible to the poorest urban families.


A child’s chance of dying before his fifth birthday has been steadily declining over the years among the poorest 20 percent of urban families in the Philippines. From when I first visited that country in the mid ‘90s until today, child mortality rates among the urban poor have been cut by more than half and the urban child survival gap has narrowed by 50 percent between wealthy and poor kids.


Sadly, the Philippines is one of just a few countries with such dramatic improvements for poor urban children. In too many countries, urban child survival inequality is worsening, even as those nations have been successful in reducing overall child mortality rates.


In my travels throughout the developing world, I’ve never had to look very far to see evidence of these differences. For example, in New Delhi, India – a city with one of the largest health care coverage gaps between rich and poor – it is not unusual to see a gleaming hospital steps away from a sprawling slum, and to have babies literally dying on the doorstep.


But it’s not just in the developing world where our report found stark disparities between the haves and have nots. In our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., a baby born in the lowest-income district, where half of all children live in poverty, is at least10 times as likely as a baby born in the richest part of the city to die before his first birthday. And while Washington, D.C. has cut its infant mortality rate by more than half over the past 15 years, the rate at which babies are dying in the District of Columbia is the highest among the 25 wealthiest capital cities surveyed around the world.


We all have a lot more work to do to ensure that every mother has the same opportunities for her baby, whether she lives in Manila, Washington, D.C. or anywhere else in the world.


Find out more about Save the Children’s new report

Interactive Hygiene, Water Safety, and Sanitation Classes for the Children of Meherpur Sadar


Dr. Asadur Rahman

Senior Manager, School Health Nutrition

Meherpur, Bangladesh

May 4, 2015

Earlier this year I traveled to Meherpur, accompanied by other senior specialists and managers of School Health Nutrition. The purpose of our travel was to observe our new Community Based Health Education sessions, and to visit some primary schools in Meherpur Sadar and the Gangni sub-districts.


Students of Gondhorajpur at the Handwashing Corner

We first met with Head Teachers and School Management Committee members. We observed classroom-based health education sessions and demonstrations of hand washing at the hand washing corner in the schools. The children participated in the health education class very attentively and enthusiastically. To increase attendance rates through ensuring good health, additional teacher-led health education sessions are being implemented at primary schools according to individual class routine, along with weekly sessions included in physical education for all grades.

To answer the need for more education sessions on water, sanitation, and hygiene on a community level, the sponsorship program has started a new Community Based Health Education (CBHE) initiative in the Sadar sub-district in Meherpur. The objective of this new initiative is to increase the knowledge and skill of children ages 5 through 12 regarding water, sanitation, and hygiene through community based education sessions. Groups consist of 12 to 15 primary school age children, and are facilitated by 2 of the older students, 10 to 12 years old, from the community. The CBHE session we participated in was very enjoyable and interactive. The facilitators always aim to include innovative methods in each session.


Facilitator Conducting Sanitation and Hygiene Session

How do you think we can help emphasize the importance of water safety, sanitation, and hygiene to primary school age children? Sponsorship program staff always aim to make learning fun, please share your ideas with us!

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