August Floods in Siraha

Sam

Samjhana K.C.

Junior Sponsorship Officer

Siraha District, Nepal

June 29, 2015

 

Over 250 people live in a temporary shelter after floods moved through Siraha District in eastern Nepal. Resulting from the geographical setting and high socioeconomic vulnerabilities, this region in Nepal makes headlines every year because of the recurring floods. For me, the unpleasant truth is that this is a bitter experience that these people have come to expect.

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Flood-affected area in Siraha.

Save the Children was one of the few organizations providing humanitarian support when floods swept through 10 communities of Siraha from August 10th to 13th. The turbulence caused by flooding not only disrupts everyday routines, but could be combined with the lifelong effects of losing homes, livelihoods, and mostly tragically loved ones. The August flood in Siraha alone resulted in 3 casualties. In addition to being potentially life threatening, these floods create waterlogging which disturb basic facilities like transportation and electricity.

We supported the District Disaster Relief Committee in their emergency response efforts. Teams were mobilized first to assess the impact of the flood and then to distribute support to the affected communities. The sponsorship fund was mobilized for emergency relief activities to help children and their families. Two types of immediate relief materials were distributed, non-food relief items such as blankets, utensils, and shelter kits, and ready-to-eat food items. The rescue team facilitated stockpiles of non-food relief items for 197 households in Siraha, touching the lives of 521 children. Save the Children also provided school kits to 127 school-going children affected by the flood. To prevent and contain potential epidemics, a health camp was also organized by the District Health Office in the shelter. The active participation of locals in relief and recovery activities boosted the spirit of our team.

Boxes

Flood-displaced families being distributed basic necessities.

Save the Children had initiated its development activities in Siraha as a response to an earthquake in 1988. Since then, our projects have focused on communities in Siraha where locals struggle with very low incomes. Our main focus has been child survival intervention, as a high percentage of women and children were considered to be at risk. In a country where natural disaster induced hazards are a regular phenomenon, Save the Children and our sponsorship team in the field are prepared to support humanitarian crises so that the distressed don’t have to endure their problems alone.

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Global Tax Policy Just Got Sexier

Andrew wainer

Andrew Wainer

Director of Policy Research in the Public Policy & Advocacy Department 

Washington, DC

Few public policies are less popular with Americans than taxation.

In 2014 52% of Americans said their taxes were too high, while 3% said they were too low. The Internal Revenue Service is rated as one of the least-loved federal agencies. In 2013 only 27% of Americans said it did a good or excellent job while 42% said it was doing a poor job, making it the lowest rated agency among all surveyed.

But from a global perspective, taxation and prosperity often go together. As analysts have asserted, wealthy, healthy, and well-educated populations are typically supported by high levels of government expenditures. That money has to come from somewhere, often it’s from taxes.

Evidence indicates that – in general – the wealthier your country, the more taxes it raises as a percentage of its economic output (GDP). If you live in a prosperous country – unless you are living on top of massive oil reserves – then you probably have an above-average tax-to-GDP ratio. For example:

But we have to be careful not to make facile linkages between taxation and healthy and prosperous societies. While taxes and development often go together, the relationship is complex.

Taxation is beneficial in developmental terms only if it’s done to an extent that doesn’t hamper economic growth and doesn’t hurt the poor. Government intervention can increase poverty rather than raise incomes.  As analyst Charles Kenny has noted, “The incidence of poverty after transfers, taxes and subsidies is higher than market income poverty in Armenia, Bolivia, Brazil, El Salvador, Ethiopia, and Guatemala.”

But before delving further into the nuances of taxation on poverty, it’s useful to ask: Who cares? In addition to being disliked, tax is also typically regarded as a dull public policy issue.

That’s changing.

The momentum on “taxes for development” has been growing for some time as the development finance focus has shifted to include domestic resources, which now contribute nearly 70 percent of development finance in Africa. No wonder that domestic resource mobilization (DRM) – developing countries increasing their own revenue – is receiving increased attention from governments and analysts:

  • Developing country leaders are driving the conversation. In a recent op-ed Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that developing nations, “Need to invest in modern tax collecting systems, stem corruption…and crack down on tax evasion.”
  • This month analysts and policymakers discussed the U.S. role in promoting DRM at the Brookings Institution. During the discussion, U.S. officials revealed the Addis Tax Initiative, a multilateral DRM package to be rolled-out at the conference in Addis Ababa.   
  • USAID and the U.S. Treasury Department have expressed increasing interest in using more international development assistance on DRM, helping developing nations with their tax administration – collection and spending – to be more self-sufficient in reaching their development goals.

DRM and tax are experiencing their 15 minutes of fame, but more development assistance for DRM is not enough. It needs to be done right. In addition to ensuring that taxation is pro-poor and progressive other key principles include:

  • Strong country leadership: Reforming the tax sector can be politically hazardous, so using development assistance to help countries improve their tax collection and spending is only workable in countries where there is demonstrated and authentic political will to do so.
  • Long-term support: Increasing DRM is a long-term process that can take more than a decade. Reform needs to be sustained by ongoing support.
  • Donor coordination: Lack of donor coherence for improving DRM can create confusion rather than reform if donors promote different systems in the same country.
  • Include civil society: Supporting taxpayer associations and other civil society organizations will help hold government revenue generating agencies more accountable and transparent.

Taxation is moving to center stage in development finance, and could be a key tool in achieving the SDGs. If the increased focus on DRM contributes to the achievement of the ambitious SDG goals, including eliminating extreme poverty within a generation, than its newfound fame will be well-deserved.

Five Ways I Think Like A Millennial (Sort Of)

This blog was first published on the InterAction website. Carolyn will be speaking at the InterAction Forum on June 24 on the panel: ‘Meh’ to ‘Yes!’-Simple Moves to Win Support for Our Sector.

 

CAROLYN-MILES-BIO-IMAGE-2011-SMALL2My 22 year-old son is a member of the Millennial Generation and is, at first glance, a completely different creature than I was at his age: I wore shoulder pads; he wears ear buds. I tuned the radio; he streams songs online. I searched for a phone booth to call a friend; he reaches into his pocket and sends a text.

 

But as it turns out, we’re not so different. I am – basically – a Millennial myself. Bill Gates told me so.

 

Well, sort of. Through new research from The Narrative Project, an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we’ve learned that communications tailored to members of the public who are engaged in global aid (like those of us attending the InterAction Forum June 22-24) also resonates with the Millennial Generation. Millennials grew up in a world where people are increasingly connected through technology – and they share common interests with people from different societies and backgrounds. These young people are comfortable talking about global issues, and are compelled to take action when something is important to them.

 

This latest research shows that we respond to the same kinds of messaging…which makes me more like a Millennial than I ever thought possible.

5 Ways I Think Like A Millennial:

 

  1. I don’t believe birthplace = destiny

Millennials know that people don’t choose where they’re born, but in too many cases the simple fact of geography determines much of their future including their economic prospects, educational opportunity, and access to healthcare. This imbalance of opportunity simply isn’t fair – and it’s why equality is a major focus of Save the Children’s future strategy.

 

  1. I care about individuality

Statistics showing progress year-over-year, or even decade-over-decade, are great…but Millennials know that’s not the whole story. In fact, narratives that focus on progress score below those that stress partnership, morality, and autonomy among most Millennials and members of the engaged public. I agree: I want to meet the people behind these statistics and hear their stories so that I can relate to them on a more personal level. So I travel as much as possible, hearing directly from the children and families we’re working to serve.

 

  1. I think globally and act locally

I don’t think the only people who need help are “over there.” I know it’s important to make a difference in my own backyard – for example, though Save the Children’s programs reaching kids in the United States – while still taking action for others around the world.

 

  1. I know we can change the world

Like most Millennials, I think my own actions can make meaningful change – and that I can have a personal impact on reducing poverty.  But we also believe that our government can make “a great deal of difference” (in the US, 59% of Millennials and 50% of the Engaged Public), so partnerships like those highlighted at the InterAction Forum are crucial.

 

  1. I think Taylor Swift is awesome

Okay, this one’s a little off topic, but it’s just one more way I’m an honorary Millennial…her songs are catchy!

 

This new research from The Narrative Project will help those of us working in global aid better understand how the Millennial Generation is becoming the next generation of engaged, active and inspired leaders. I look forward to talking more about this new narrative with you all at the Forum!

The Right to Education

Abeer

Abeer Bakeer

Basic Education Assistant

Arab Al Atteyat, Egypt

June 22, 2015

 

My name is Abeer Bakeer. I am the Basic Education Assistant in the sponsorship program, where every day I am confronted by parents who lack basic knowledge of health, hygiene, and maybe cannot read, as well as poorly equipped schools and teachers. Despite all this children still exhibit a great desire to improve themselves.

Library

Abeer with a group children at the school library

One memorable moment which illustrates this occurred when I was in Arab Al Atteyat, a culturally Bedouin village far from many basic services, monitoring some educational activities there. A parent came to take his child home from school for an unknown reason. The child passionately refused because he wanted to remain to solve a specific math problem he was working on!

When I graduated, I volunteered with several community projects that serve marginalized people. I really enjoyed the social aspect of the work. When a permanent position became available with Save the Children, I jumped at the chance. I have worked in this role for one year now, where I spend five days weekly serving needy children.

School

Abeer with a group children at school

Over the past seven years, Save the Children in Egypt has worked with the Ministry of Education, our local partners, schools, teachers, and children. We work closely with teachers on classroom management techniques, lesson planning, and supporting children to be leaders. When children cannot read, we help them to learn. And they do.

The thing I am most proud of is how children change, changes I see. Thank you, sponsors, for helping to support our work.

How do you think having to fight for your right to an education could affect a young child’s attitude towards learning? Do you think the challenges school age children face in impoverished communities to attend school makes their desire to learn stronger?

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

The Life of Unaccompanied Child in Mahama Camp

Steve

Steve Nzaramba

Communications Assistant, Save the Children International

Mahama Refugee Camp, Rwanda

June 20, 2015

 

*Ndayizeye smiles shyly and looks away when asked what he hopes to be when he grows up. He seems unsure of how to tackle an often-asked question. Could it be that he is yet undecided on what he would like to do with his life? Or maybe it is due to the fact that he is now a refugee, and despite his tender age, is well aware of the limitations that status imposes on him and his prospects for the future.

Ndayizeye is one of thousands of children who currently calls the scorching-hot Mahama Refugee Camp in Kirehe District…home. He, and many like him, fled from Burundi’s volatile Kirundo Province as reports of violence against civilians intensified.

Kirundo residents have borne the brunt of attacks from a government-controlled youth militia known as “Imbonerakure” (which ominously means those who see from afar). Kirundo residents were among the most vocal against the current President’s plans to run for re-election, often taking to the streets in protest and having running battles with the police day after day.  Ndayizeye

After waffling ,Ndayizeye says he wants to be a medical doctor, as he enjoys learning languages and human sciences. His uncertainty mirrors the situation he now finds himself in, as it remains unclear how he can pursue his studies and become a doctor when his schooling has been interrupted, with no clear timeframe for when he will resume studies.

Ndayizeye left his home abruptly one morning when he was actually due to be in a human sciences class. As rumors spread like wildfire about impending raids, he and his younger brother took the bold decision to leave, a decision thrust into their hands prematurely by the untimely death of their parents years before. He and his brother were both staying with relatives, who didn’t care much for their whereabouts. Joining a group of young men who said they were Rwanda-bound, Ndayizeye left without a single penny in his pocket, then trekked across the country.

Travelling mostly via back-roads and cutting through the bush to avoid the marauding Imbonerakure, the group made good progress on foot until they encountered a river which they had to cross; the alternative of going around it would have been unsafe.

If not for the mercy of a native of the area, who warned them that Imbonerakure now controlled the ferry that transported travelers across the river, they would not have made it. He advised them to wait until dark and construct a make-shift raft on which to cross. Even then, they had to be extremely careful to avoid the ferry the Imbonerakure were using to smuggle people across after-hours, extorting fees from the fleeing population.

Their terrifying journey continued until they reached the Rwanda-Burundi border, where they hid all day and crossed to Rwanda via back-paths usually used by traders to illegally import goods. After crossing into Rwandan territory their journey became easier as they found buses chartered by the Rwandan government to transport all Burundian asylum-seekers (as they were known at the time) to a transit camp in Bugesera free of charge.

Once there, life became a bit easier as they were received warmly, given a tent to rest in and given food. After a brief stay at Gashora Transit Center, Ndayizeye and his little brother were again on the move, headed to Mahama Refugee Camp.

There, his plight resumed as he told us of how he was removed from the list of unaccompanied minors due to receive special assistance, since the authorities found out that he was living with his brother and therefore declared him “accompanied”. Even more shocking is that he was told he is now the head of the household – at the tender age of 16! Save the Children Community Protection Officer Daphrose took up Ndayizeye’s case to have it re-assessed by the camp authorities so as to accommodate him.

Save the Children is intervening in the camp through Community Protection, which essentially means ensuring that the more vulnerable residents of the camp and those with special needs like the elderly, expectant mothers, people living with disabilities, child headed households etc. have timely and appropriate access to services such as health, food, shelter, water and sanitation provided by other implementing partners.

According to Edwin Kuria, the Response Team Leader, “We have recruited a staff base of about 10, which has been bolstered by 20 volunteers from the Burundian refugee population, and the plan is to double that capacity in the coming weeks, to make sure that we have sufficient capacity to cover the 139 people with special needs (elderly and/or living with disabilities) as of 14th May 2015.”

In a short period of time, requests have poured in and Save the Children volunteers are working overtime to ensure these requests are responded to. A lot remains to be done at the camp to alleviate the suffering of minors like Ndayizeye, with neither parents nor home to call their own.

*Name changed for protection

To learn more about our work helping children like Ndayizeye, click here. 

Getting to Zero — and Staying at Zero

This blog was first published on The Huffington Post.

 

I was recently able to congratulate Liberia and its leaders for being declared “Ebola Free” by the World Health Organization. That was a big deal for me, because when I visited that country at the peak of the epidemic last year, I didn’t know how long it would take for us to get to this point. I knew we had to do it, not just for the 2.5 million children living in areas affected by Ebola, but for all children around the world vulnerable to epidemics and outbreaks. In our interconnected world, a highly contagious health threat to children in one section of the globe, is a threat to all children. And even though Liberia made it to this milestone, its neighbors, Guinea and Sierra Leone, are still seeing new cases.

Save the Children has been hard at work over the last year in order to help bring the world to this point. In Liberia, we’ve reached over 165,000 people, built two Ebola Treatment Centers, provided psychosocial support to more than 5000 children, reunified 65 children with their families and much, much more. But we didn’t do all of this alone.

Government leaders around the world, realizing the serious nature of this crisis, quickly pledged financial support and donated expertise, talent and time. In the U.S., an emergency appropriations measure allowed for a significant and effective emergency response by the Center for Disease Control, USAID and others.

 

The private sector was also with us. Companies increasingly have global workforces and their leaders understand better than anyone how important identifying and containing global health risks and epidemics has become. This is one of the reasons that major tech firms (like Google and Facebook) and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation stepped into this fight with us.

The people of Liberia and their leaders deserve the lion’s share of the credit. Without their determination, perseverance and willingness to partner, none of this would have been possible.

 

All of this goes to show that problems of this magnitude cannot be solved by just one group — or by multiple groups working in isolation from each other. Everyone has a role to play and partnerships will remain critical as we go forward in this fight. Important pieces of work remain for us to accomplish together including:

 

• Continuing to support response efforts. No country will be safe at zero until all countries are at zero.

• Investments in global efforts to strengthen our collective response to future health emergencies. In addition to reforming international emergency health systems, we will need bold new initiatives to help other countries strengthen their own preparedness, disease detection and response capabilities.

 

I know the world is up for this challenge and one of the things that gives me hope is the commitment and creativity we have seen, and are seeing, on so many fronts and from so many partners.

A Girl’s Dreams, Rescued

Getachewdibaba

Getachew Dibaba

Media and Campaigns Manager, Save the Children in Ethiopia

Amhara Region, Ethiopia

June 16, 2015

 

Ayelech* 13, lives in a remote village in the Amhara region, north of Addis Ababa. She likes local celebrations which involve traditional songs and dancing. Last year, when Ayelech's parents started to organize an event in their house, she was excited to be part of it.

After school, she assisted her family in preparing the feast like other rural girls in her village. She collected fire wood and washed utensils for preparing local drinks. But she was confused and shocked when she learned from her close friend that the feast was not for any other social or religious events but for her wedding.

Bewildered, Ayelech started contemplating a way to escape from the wedding ceremony.

"I am aware of the challenges of child marriage," says Ayelech who is in grade four. "I also know many women including my mother who did not finish school because of getting married as a child. I do not want to miss school, I informed the girls' club coordinator and school director to help in stopping my parents and the family of the 'husband-to-be'."

"My favourite subject is science. I want to become a doctor when I grow up," she says. 

Ayelech's marriage was cancelled after a joint intervention of a women association supported by Save the Children, a school administration, a local administration and other actors in the community.

"Ayelech is brilliant," says, Belayne Mucha, the School Director who was informed by Ayelech and helped cancel her marriage. "I am confident she can be one of the celebrated professionals in the country."

Child marriage is not uncommon in her village and other parts of Amhara Region. The deep-rooted practice is adversely affecting the lives of many children, forcing them to abandon school and leaving them more likely to become pregnant early, experience more complications during labour and become more vulnerable to gender-based violence. Despite progress over the past decades, there is still high rate of child marriage in Ethiopia. In Amhara region, where Ayelech lives, the prevalence (44.8%) is much higher than the national average which stands at 21.4%.

The good news is that Ethiopia recognized child marriage as threat to development and prepared the 2013 National Strategy and Action Plan on Harmful Traditional Practices with the objective of reducing child marriage from the current baseline of 21.4% to 10.4%. The Ethiopian government also made a commitment – at the first Girl Summit held in London in July 2014 – to eliminate child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Ethiopia by 2025.

The implementation strategy and action plan will certainly enable thousands of children like Ayelech to have a bright future where child marriage will not rob their dreams and expose them to many social ills and life-threating diseases.

Save the Children works with Amhara Women Association (AWA) that aims to improve economic status of women, empower them in decision-making processes and eliminate socio-cultural factors that hinder equal participation and benefits of women.

The Association has helped cancel more than 40,000 child marriages over the past five years. AWA, through its members who are also well recognized at grassroots level, empowers women and closely works with the local administration and school community.

Save the Children supports the association to strengthen its efforts in addressing the many challenges facing children and women so that children can grow and thrive.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the child