Can the Natural Curiosity of Children Help Build Community Emergency Preparedness?

“Kids love to learn,” says Save the Children’s Sarah Thompson, Director of U.S. Emergencies. “They love to bring home what they learn.” That can make children great safety and preparedness advocates if they are introduced to emergency preparedness exercises and information. “Part of what makes kids unique is actually what makes them the most powerful.

As the start of hurricane season surrounds us, Thompson’s words, as captured in a recent FEMA PrepTalk, “Youth: The Key to Building a Culture of Preparedness,” highlight how children are great mobilizers, actors, and connectors within their communities for building a culture of preparedness.

Currently, less than half of American families have an emergency plan, leaving children vulnerable when disaster strikes. Through youth preparedness education programs, children learn about how to develop an emergency plan, including how to ensemble an emergency go-to bag, and what their school’s evacuation plan is in an emergency. These exercises can help reduce the perceived fear surrounding emergencies because it gives them more understanding and control.

emergency preparedness exercises and information
Save the Children’s Prep Rally is an emergency preparedness program for children grades K-5. Maribel fills out a short quiz before participating in a Prep Rally at her summer camp program in Florida. 

Often, educators and parents think discussing risks and hazards with children may be too scary for them. The truth is – teaching children basic preparedness skills and letting them know that it’s alright to be afraid in disaster situations makes them better prepared to handle those disasters. 1

“Kids like to be part of the plan,” says Thompson. “They want to help. They want to be useful. That means they can be good emergency actors and safety advocates. When their safety is at risk, they want to do something about it. When we teach kids emergency preparedness skills, they are better equipped to respond to a disaster and they are better equipped to cope with a disaster.”

Save the Children’s Prep Rally provide a fun ways for kids to participate in disaster preparedness.

emergency preparedness exercises and information

Save the Children also launched a partnership with the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute to raise the visibility and inclusion of child-serving institutions like summer camps, public, private and charter schools, foster care agencies and, of course, early childhood programs, in community-wide emergency planning. This work has culminated in the launch of the Resilient Children Resilient Communities (RCRC) Toolbox, a set of resources designed to help communities plan for and better protect their youngest residents.

Children’s books provide a valuable resource as well, as kids can learn about and prepare for disasters through reading. For example, Clifford and the Big Storm by Norman Bridwell is a children’s book that puts everyone’s favorite big, red dog in the path of a hurricane and at the ready to assist when disaster strikes.

Save the Children’s Pep Rally Guide contains a list of additional children’s book titles about disasters that may can help build children’s resilience and ability to cope with crisis.

“Children are a great community link,” says Thompson. “Children are the bellwethers of resilience. After a disaster, how quickly children can cope and recover is a very good indication of how the overall community recovers.”

Save the Children’s Prep Rally curriculum was awarded the 2017 FEMA Community Preparedness Award.

For more information about Save the Children’s Emergency Response programs, visit our website.

1. PrepTalks Discussion Guide – Youth Preparedness

Mario, Community Developer


Mario Nah Pool

Community Promoter

Save the Children Mexico

August 13, 2018

Hola! My name is Mario, I am 30 years old and I am a Community Developer in Yucatan – a state in the southern part of Mexico. We are close to an archaeological area that highlights the cultural wealth and indigenous history of this area of the country. At the moment, I live with my parents and brothers, who always have supported me in the different projects and goals I’ve aspired to.

Since I started to work at Save the Children in June of 2017, when sponsorship first came to Yucatan, knowing my work benefits children from Mayan communities has been my greatest satisfaction. They live in situations of exclusion and poverty and do not always have the tools to succeed.

Mario playing with children at a sponsorship-supported school.

At Save the Children we carry out different actions in schools and communities, not only working with children, but also with the parents, teachers and people in their community. As Community Developer, I promote activities and participation of children through games and art, and work closely with community members and schools to help create a plan for improving the quality of education offered here. The main problems we face are gender inequity and the lack of parent participation in their children’s education, which makes the children feel indifferent towards working hard at school.

One of the most rewarding experiences has been to help design and implement summer activities in the community of Temozón. There, children learned how to express themselves through art and painting, group reading activities, theater and games.

It was very exciting to be a part of something new, since it was the first time that a development or non-governmental organization had worked with children from that community. During the summer, children were mainly staying at home and did not have many activities, so being able to spend part of their day playing while learning was an amazing and wonderful thing.

Mario participating in summer sponsorship activities with the kids.

The summer camp had a very positive impact on children, from the first to the last day they were very excited to be there. It was so rewarding to see kids come to the summer sessions, riding their bikes with large smiles on their faces. Using different types of games, we led the children through themes like gender equality, children’s rights and the different professional options that exist in the country, which was a very interesting discovery for them, since they did not know most of them. Most adults here work in local trade, as farmers or fishermen. Despite the heat, the boys and girls did not stop singing and dancing with us. They certainly seemed to enjoy every moment!

Every day with Save the Children is an adventure. My contact with the community keeps me very enthusiastic to continue strengthening my commitment to social responsibility. I think of myself as an education endorser to foster children’s human rights, and improve their everyday life and conditions.

From me and the children here in Yucatan – we send our greatest thanks!

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

Improved breastfeeding practices have the potential to save the lives of 823,000 children, like Sakariye

No one understands how breastfeeding can increase a child’s chance of survival the way a mother of a malnourished child does.

Did you know that undernutrition is estimated to be associated with 2.7 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths.1 However, research estimates that breastfeeding saves the lives of over 820,000 children under 5 years old each year.

In fact, around one in eight of the young lives lost each year could be saved through breastfeeding,3 making it the most effective of all ways to prevent the diseases and malnutrition that can cause child deaths.4 Here’s why.

Breast Milk Is a Superfood
In the first hours and days of her baby’s life the mother produces milk called colostrum, the most potent natural immune system booster known to science.5 A baby who is breastfed colostrum receives significant protection against pneumonia and diarrhea, which are two major causes of deaths of children in poor countries. A child who is not breastfed is 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die from diarrhea. 2

If we can ensure that every infant is given breast milk immediately after birth, is fed only breast milk for the first six months and continues being breastfed through two years of age and beyond, we can greatly increase the chance that they will survive and go on to fulfill their potential.

Mothers Face Barriers to Breastfeeding
Additionally, because of the chronic shortage of health workers, many women in developing countries give birth at home without skilled help, or in a health facility where the health workers are over-stretched and under-trained. One third of babies are born without a skilled birth attendant present. As a result the opportunity for new mothers to be supported to breastfeed in the first few hours is lost.7

The Importance of Breastfeeding Support
A mother’s access to skilled breastfeeding support can have direct impacts on her ability and confidence to breastfeed.  Breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone, particularly in emergencies.  In these times of difficulty, mothers need access to support.  Skilled support as well as basic interventions that support mothers and their youngest children have a direct impact on her child’s survival. Here is the story of one such mother.

Amran* holds her six month-old son Sakariye*, the youngest of her 3 children.

Sakariye*’s mum, Amran*, remembers the first time her son was seriously ill. “He was 15 days old. First, he had problems breathing, then he got measles,” she explained. Amran* did her best to care for Sakariye*. She tried to get him medicine. She tried to breastfeed him, but he continued to struggle.

A baby’s health is closely linked to its mother’s and so it was for Sakariye* and Amran*. When drought caused food shortages in Somalia where the family lives, Amran* did what any parent would do. She put her young children first.

“I wasn’t able to breastfeed Sakariye* because I was sick and malnourished,” says Amran*. She faced real challenges in feeding her child and lost her confidence in being able to feed Sakariye*.  Amran* didn’t have access to skilled breastfeeding support that could have immediately referred her for health services and supported her with information and counselling on breastfeeding.

With limited available options, Amran* began introducing water and food to supplement her breastmilk. At six-months old, Sakariye* fell ill, getting frequent diarrhea. He started vomiting and having fevers. He grew so weak he couldn’t turn over any more. Amran* knew her baby was in danger. She brought him to Save the Children’s treatment center, where he was diagnosed with malnutrition and admitted.

Today, Amran* is sitting by her son’s cot on the ward. She’s smiling because she has seen big changes in him during the last few days.

“It is good we are here,” she says. “Sakariye* has started recovering. He takes injections and other medicines. They give him some nice therapeutic milk.” Sakariye* is getting stronger and so is his mum.

Amran* is able to breastfeed again and she is looking forward to taking her son home.

Mabior*, who has pneumonia, is breastfed by his mother Ayen* at a hospital in South Sudan.

All across East Africa, babies and young children are at risk of malnutrition. Every day, more than 15,000 children around the world die before reaching their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable or treatable causes.9 A large, and growing, share of them are newborn babies in the first month of life.

Save the Children works with partners at global, national, regional, and community levels to prevent malnutrition by bringing a wide-range of multi-sectoral interventions and programs to disadvantaged families.

While our main target population is mothers and children, Save the Children’s strategies also include support for fathers and other caregivers.

Save the Children’s Emergency Health and Nutrition programs focus on  lifesaving maternal, newborn and child healthcare, including breastfeeding promotion, protection and skilled support.

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to celebrate breastfeeding awareness, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

 

1. Nourishing the Youngest

2.Edmond, K M, Zandoh, C, Quigley, M A, Amenga-Etego, S, Owusu-Agyei, S and Kirkwood, B R, ‘Delayed breastfeeding initiation increases risk of neonatal mortality’, Pediatrics, March 2006, 117(3):e380-6

3. Mullany, L, Katz, J, Yue M Li, Subarna, K, Khatry, S, LeClerq, C, Darmstadt, G L,and Tielsch, J M, ‘Breast-feeding patterns, time to initiation, and mortality riskamong newborns in southern Nepal’, Journal of Nutrition, March 2008, 138(3):599–603

4.Source: UNICEF, World Breastfeeding Conference, December 2012

5. Uruakpa, F, ‘Colostrum and its benefits: a review’, Nutrition Research, 2002, 22, 755–767, Department of Food Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2, Canada.

6. State of the World’s Mothers Report 2015

7. Superfood for Babies: How Overcoming Barriers to Breastfeeding Will Save Children’s Lives

8. Nourishing the Youngest

8.WHO

9.End og Childhood Report 2017

Natene from Finkolo, Mali

Abdramane Maiga

Community Development Assistant

Save the Children in Mali

August 6, 2018

Natene is an 11-year-old girl living with her parents in the community of Finkolo, in the southeastern part of Mali. She is the youngest amongst her two siblings, and she now happily attends the 6th grade. She enjoys reading and participating in outdoor activities and sports, like racing her bicycle. Natene and her family have been participating in sponsorship programs since 2008.

Before Save the Children came to Finkolo, very young children, usually around ages 3 – 6, whose parents were busy doing daily activities in the fields were often left to fend for themselves during the day. They would take care of themselves, occupying their time, feeding themselves and generally keeping themselves safe. A lucky few were able to stay with the grandparents nearby.

In order to help these very young children, and their parents, Save the Children implements its Early Learners program. Knowing that the emotional, social and physical development of young children has a direct impact on their development as adults, Save Children has found it necessary to invest in the very young to maximize the future well-being of themselves, their families and their community. Natene enrolled in Early Learners when she was just 3 years old.

Natene in her school yard in Finkolo.

Through these programs, children can learn basic skills to help prepare them for primary school, for example, how to hold a piece of chalk, identify numbers, letters and colors, how to play well with others in groups and how to stay focused in class. Through activities like interactive games, songs, storytelling, social interaction and outdoor play, trained teachers help make sure children grow and thrive.

In these local early learning and development centers, children are supervised and monitored by trained instructors. The goal is to allow children to grow-up while learning in a child-friendly environment. At the early learning centers children can learn how to interact with each other in the classroom setting, and to learn through educational games organized by their instructors. Children also learn good behaviors, for example how to have good personal hygiene and when and how to wash ones hands properly.

Thanks to the education she received at the Early Learners center, by the time Natene enrolled in primary school 3 years later she could easily read and write, and overall seemed brighter. Children like Natene’s brothers and sisters, who did not have the chance to benefit from the Early Learners program, encounter great difficulties in doing the same exercise Natene now enjoys and completes with ease.

Natene practicing her reading skills in class.

Likewise, parents are able to focus on their daily tasks without fear, knowing their children are somewhere safe.

Issa and Michata, Natene’s parents, shared, “We understand the importance of education because of our daughter, Natene, who has benefited from Save the Children’s Early Learners program. Thanks to this program, she has been well protected and monitored. She was learning while playing with her peers. In the center, Natene learned the importance of handwashing and personal hygiene. She washes her hands before and after meals and after using latrine.”

Siaka, another student’s father, commented “In our community, education plays an important role. Parents are increasingly aware of the importance of education in general and of girls in particular nowadays. We noticed a lower school drop-out rate in school. Thanks to Save the Children, schools receive hygiene kits and school supplies to help children to get a quality education and remain healthy.”

Natene is happy to share her health and hygiene lessons with her family members too, further widening the impact sponsors have made in Finkolo. Simple lessons like how to wash one’s hands help reduce disease and school drop-out rates and likewise increase class attendance and learning abilities as children can learn more when they are in good health.

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