Save the Children’s health breakthroughs depend on responsive, equitable, quality-focused health systems to carry out and integrate effective health interventions and sustain impact for the future. We have set the strengthening of systems for health as a strategic priority to help us ensure, by 2030, no child dies from preventable causes before their fifth birthday.
We are pleased to announce that Save the Children is one of four core partners of Abt Associates on a $209 million contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development to support scale up of quality reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition services through the Achieving Sustainability through Local Health Systems activity. The five-year global project will:
Reduce financial barriers to health services;
Ensure equitable access for poor, underserved and socially excluded populations ; and
Improve the quality of care for clients.
Save the Children will provide leadership to strengthen inclusive health system governance, engage civil society organizations to promote social accountability, enhance health systems at the community level, and sustainably scale up life-saving interventions. Our efforts will contribute to improved sustainability and resilience within health systems in as many at 52 countries to ensure mothers, newborns and children can access quality health services.
Additional partners include Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Training Resources Group and Results for Development, among a large consortium of deep expertise.
Written by Janti Soeripto Chief Operating Officer and President, Save the Children
Two things never fail to strike me when visiting health facilities as part of my work. First, without exception, is the absolute dedication of healthcare professionals to want to help mothers and children survive and thrive.
Secondly, it’s the incredible frustration of seeing basic gaps in delivery that interrupt that service. From access to clean water, the availability of consistent power sources to affordable referral options and a reliable cold chain to keep drugs safe for use, it must seem a constant game of solving one problem even as another arises for those running health clinics to consistently achieve the outcomes we all want.
Getting to one huge outcome – a sustainable, significant global reduction in healthcare-acquired infections that cause tragic deaths of newborns and mothers and needless pain and suffering – is at the heart of the BASICS partnership. Each partner – Save the Children, WaterAid, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Kinnos – brings a proven approach for tackling one of the factors that contribute to millions of newly acquired infections every year.
Integrating them into one strategy is an elegant solution.
And if we know why infections get passed to mothers and newborns in maternity wards (and to anyone in a health facility, for that matter); if we know what to teach health workers and cleaners to change their behavior and which tools they need; and if we know how to work with governments to set and institutionalize cleanliness standards for facilities; then why wouldn’t we make BASICS one of every partners’ highest health priorities?
The short answer is, we have.
BASICS’ objective of improving health outcomes couldn’t be a more natural fit for each partner’s aspirations, especially for Save the Children, which has been at the fore of maternal and child health programming for decades. Our 2030 ambitions for children include the global breakthrough that no child under age 5 anywhere will die from a preventable cause.
Each year, 17 million women give birth in facilities where cleanliness is questionable. BASICS will catalyze a simple, low-cost change in practices that can save many of them and their infants from death or illness by infection.
Who is to say these women and babies don’t deserve the same right to a clean maternity ward that I had when my own children were born?
As I step into the role of leading Save the Children, I’m putting the weight of the agency behind BASICS. We’re all eager to begin transforming health care as the recipient of this next 100&Change award.
To learn more about BASICS (Bold Action to Stop Infections in Clinical Settings) is a new initiative that will transform healthcare and reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) by at least 50%, visit savethechildren.org.
Schools are a great place for preparing young people academically, however schools can also play a vital role in preparing them to take on life’s challenges and make informed life decisions.
Many children in rural areas of Uganda experience struggles during their adolescence, especially as their bodies begin to change from those of children to those of adults. Information on their growth and development, and especially on sensitive issues like sexuality and puberty, was hard to come by. This is because the conservative local culture shies away from speaking about these issues openly, which has led many adolescents to make regrettable life decisions guided by misinformation.
This is the story of Emmanuel, a 16-year-old boy living in Namayumba, Uganda, with his grandmother and four siblings.
Emmanuel was terrified when his body started to change, as he had no idea what to expect. “I didn’t know what to do and was embarrassed to ask my grandmother about it.” Emmanuel told me.
His friends had said the way to deal with his changing body was to get a girlfriend right away. “This advice left me very confused and worried about what to do… I was not ready to have a girlfriend.” Emmanuel continues.
With so many questions ringing in Emmanuel’s mind, he jumped at the opportunity to participate in a health talk organized by Save the Children one evening at his school. “I learned that actually… it was normal and I didn’t have to be ashamed.” Emmanuel says. He also learned that it would have been wrong for him to start having sex at such a young age, and about the possible negative outcomes which would have followed if listening to the advice of his friends.
Save the Children, through our adolescent development program supported by sponsors, ensures that students like Emmanuel have the right information on reproductive health, and are able to cope with the changes of puberty and make the right decisions in their lives. Thanks to sponsors, we are able to support health workers in visiting schools and organizing health talks with these young people.
The health talks encourage openness and the free flow of accurate and much needed information. Save the Children also helps train health workers in how to deliver youth-friendly services, by communicating with teens in a way that makes them feel comfortable and respected.
Likewise, in these programs children are encouraged to speak to health workers when they face challenges or difficult questions. Adolescents learn about the services that are available for them at health facilities so they are comfortable going there when they need help or guidance. They are also encouraged to share what they have learned with their friends and fellow students, further spreading the good information. In particular for girls, important guidance related to how to manage their menstruation cycle is provided during these health talks. Boys also learn about the different needs of girls and how to respect those differences.
After attending the health talk, Emmanuel was motivated to help his peers confidently approach puberty. Save the Children helped schools establish health clubs, so children could have more learning opportunities as well as a voice, spreading the information they have learned through music and drama at community events for other children and family members.
Emmanuel is grateful to Save the Children for empowering him with knowledge to make great choices for his life. Thank you sponsors, all the way from Uganda!
Looking for a fast way to give while you’re on the go? Save the Children is excited to announce that supporters can now donate using Venmo.
We continue to use new and innovative ways to make it easy for supporters to help children around the world, and because of this, we are excited to be among the first charities to offer Venmo on mobile web. Since we know Venmo users are a digitally engaged and mobile-first audience, we hope that offering this new payment option will make the donation process more aligned with the fast checkout experience they’re used to on their mobile device.
“We are thrilled to partner with Braintree on this innovation to accept Venmo as a new payment method for our next generation of donors,” said Ettore Rossetti, Sr. Director, Social Business Strategy & Innovation.
Offering Venmo to our supporters isn’t the first time we’ve expanded out digital payment options for charitable giving. Save the Children has also been an early adopter of PayPal, Apple Pay, Bitcoin, PaySafeCard, G2A Pay Wallet, YouTube donate cards and Facebook donate buttons. We will always continue to look for ways to adopt to consumer demand and provide a variety of ways for supporters to help make a difference for children in need.
Venmo payments are possible on Venmo app versions 7.5.0 or later for iOS and Android devices. To donate to Save the Children on your mobile device using Venmo, visit www.savethechildren.org/venmo.
“Thank you for helping refugees for us!” 7-year-old Miriam from New York wrote in her letter to Save the Children back in January. Miriam and her younger brother Simon, 6, both wrote letters to the organization thanking them for the work they do for refugees.
“I wanted to write to Save the Children because I am thankful for the people who help the refugees,” said Simon.
Simon and Miriam have two older brothers and a baby sister. The family was living in London at the time the Syria crisis began to pick up a lot of media attention, but has since moved back to the United States. After the more recent attention in the public eye on the Syria crisis grew even more, their mother Jo, felt compelled to do something.
Simon and Miriam first learned about refugees in 2015. Word got around their school about the viral photo of the 3-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan, who drowned as his family tried to flee from Kobani to Europe. The image shows the young boy, dead, washed up on the Turkish coast. This image began to raise questions in the family home.
“It’s important for me to know what’s going on in the world,” said Jo. “I really want to teach my children empathy so it’s important for me to talk to them about the privileges they have.”
After writing their letters to Save the Children, the family received a letter back, introducing them to the kind of work Save the Children does for refugees.
“We got a letter from Save the Children and it had a picture from one of the girls at the refugee camp,” said Miriam.
The family hung this photo, along with the child’s drawing, on their refrigerator next to their family photos.
“I felt happy to know that all of them were happy and were having fun at the refugee camp,” said Miriam.
With Save the Children’s unique refugee child sponsorship model, a number of sponsors may be matched with the same child, who represents the many refugee children who will benefit from our sponsors’ generous donations, providing access to low-cost, high-impact programs that are the best chance for success for these children.
With the battle for West Mosul still raging, and ISIS increasingly using civilians as human shields as coalition airstrikes continue, many expectant mothers are fleeing for their lives – in some cases even giving birth on the run.
Layla* is just three days old and was born in the ruins of an abandoned house, with shelling and shooting all around. Her 17-year-old mother Rehab* was just days away from her due date when the fighting in her neighborhood got unbearable and forced her and her family to flee in the middle of the night.
Rehab fell repeatedly as they tried to escape and went into labor hours into the journey.
“I went into labor on the road. I was very scared for me and my baby but my mother and another older woman helped me,” said Rehab. “It was very quick, maybe just 15 minutes. We rested for about another 30 minutes and then we started running again.”
The family is now in Hamam Al Alil reception center, the main focal point for those fleeing Mosul, where more than 242,000 have been registered since the offensive began.
Most people are relocated quickly, but with thousands arriving every day and more than 320,000 people displaced since the Mosul offensive began six months ago, families, many with young children, are falling through the gaps.
Save the Children is distributing water, toiletries and newborn kits in the camps and have built and continue to clean latrines in the reception center.
Twenty-day old Lubna* has been in the center for almost two weeks. Her 15-year-old mother Reem* was in labor for more than two days but could not get medical care due to the fighting raging outside. The second she was strong enough, her and her mother Masa* fled with several other members of their family.
“Her delivery was very hard, very hard indeed, but there was nothing we could do because of the fighting. We wanted to leave Mosul,” says Masa.
“My brother has been killed and we wanted to go but Reem was too weak, so we stayed for five days and then we left and walked to safety. Thank God Lubna is healthy but we are very worried about her and that she will get sick in a place like this.”
Save the Children’s Deputy County Director Aram Shakaram says:
“The situation inside the reception center is extremely poor and there is a widespread shortage of food, water and blankets. Whole families sleep on nothing but cardboard, huddling together for warmth at night.
“Very young babies, many just days or weeks old are living in these conditions and their mothers, some who are as young as 15, are not getting the support they need.
“With 325,000 people still displaced since the Mosul offensive began and thousands still fleeing every day, it is imperative that we get more funding to support new mothers and their extremely vulnerable children who are starting their lives off in camps.”
Save the Children provides education and psychosocial support to children displaced from Mosul and our child protection teams work in the reception centers to identify cases needing urgent assistance, like unaccompanied minors.
Since the offensive began, we have distributed 3,740 newborn care packages, which have reached almost 11,500 infants. We have also distributed 7,000 rapid response kits that have reached almost 33,000 people and contain essentials like food, water and toiletries for the newly displaced. In addition we are also working to provide clean drinking water and basic sanitation to tens of thousands of people who have fled from Mosul.
To learn more about our response to the refugee crisis and how you can help, click here.
A dusty police station in northern Iraq is a strange sort of paradise.
But that is what it is to the eight families crammed in here on the hard, tiled floor. Babies are crying and young children are sleeping where they collapsed from exhaustion.
They have walked over 60 miles, and scaled a mountain last night, to escape territory held by the Islamic State group.
Many did it barefoot, including a five-year-old. But they survived. “I have come from jail to paradise,” one mother says to me, surrounded by her five children. “I am finally home.”
Shot at as they flee
These parents tell me that they are lucky. They show me graphic images of families who did not make it on their cell phones.
Pictures of children who dodged IS snipers and checkpoints, only to step on land mines sown into fields and mountain paths. Others collapsed and died on the journey after running out of water.
One woman says she paid thousands of dollars to smugglers — only to be pointed in the vague direction of freedom and then abandoned with her family to stumble down deadly routes in the dark.
I hear stories like these every day.
Families are growing increasingly desperate to flee with their children before the final assault. And they’re ready to risk capture and execution by IS fighters.
“I tried escaping on four separate occasions,” one woman says. “But each time I was caught and sent back, and my husband was brutally beaten.”
An exodus of one million
We have already seen at least 150,000 people flee their homes in recent weeks, and more are on the move every day.
When the final push for Mosul comes, the U.N. and aid agencies like us on the ground are expecting an exodus of a million, maybe more.
What we’re witnessing now in areas recently captured from IS by the Iraqi army, suggests they will need everything — water, food, shelter and psychological first aid.
“We have nothing but our clothes!” one man shouted out to us when we arrived with help.
The only memories some young children have is of a long and brutal two years of IS rule. Families told us they had resorted to desperate tactics to feed themselves under IS rule, some even cooking grass to eat.
600,000 trapped children
Every family I meet has their own harrowing tale.
As the offensive fast approaches, Save the Children is gearing up our response plan to cope with the incredible level of need we expect will flood out from the city. By our estimates there are 600,000 children trapped inside right now.
Within 12-72 hours from the call to deploy, we aim to get emergency supplies to those that need them.
And we aim to provide proper care for children traveling alone, reuniting them with their families where we can.
But across the board there is a shortage of funding. The UN has raised less than half of the money it needs for what is likely to be the biggest humanitarian crisis for many years. We need more help.
In the violence of this assault, children must be kept safe while they are fleeing — and protected if they make it out alive.
Mike McCusker is Save the Children’s Field Manager in Baghdad
By Gloria Steele, Senior Deputy Assistant Adminstrator, USAID
On September 7th the US Agency for International Development (USAID) released full revisions to the Automated Directives System (ADS) chapters 200 and 201. For those unfamiliar with the ADS, it articulates USAID’s policy and procedures on a wide range of topics. From USAID’s hiring process to how Missions negotiate and develop multi-million dollar bilateral agreements with foreign county governments, the ADS contains all the rules of engagement. These recently updated chapters provide policy for USAID’s internal policy development process, as well as strategic planning, project and activity design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
For the average American, the ADS revision might not be the most exciting reading material. While policies and procedures can be boring to read, putting them into action is not. New policies will give USAID Missions and their staff the authority to improve development practice and make lasting change in countries around the world—something the average American can get excited about.
A topic that is foundational to the revised policy is promoting sustainability through local ownership. Local ownership is vital for effecting enduring change. As the Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia and the former Philippines Mission Director, I fully recognize the importance of local ownership, sustainability and systems strengthening.
During my time in the Philippines, I encouraged my team to embrace local ownership and change the way we work with Filipinos. There is significant capacity in the Philippines to achieve lasting development results, and USAID should continue to look towards local actors to drive development. The commitment of local CEOs under a partnership that we had with the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) resulted in a collaboration between local businesses and the academe in transforming the relevance of university curricula. This has significant implications for fostering inclusive growth by addressing the phenomenon of “jobless growth rates “in the Philippines.
While many Missions around the world are already supporting local ownership, the revised ADS will formalize existing efforts and require all Missions to change the way they work. A few highlights from the new ADS can illustrate how shifts in policy may change the way USAID operates around the world.
Per ADS 200, USAID development policies should now be grounded in four principles: evidence-based, inclusive, sustainable, and coherent. While all are important principles, I can’t stress enough the importance of inclusive and sustainable. Our programming should always encourage participation of local actors, including those often marginalized, and give them decision-making power. This inclusiveness can help ensure that our programming is sustainable and valued by the citizens of partner countries.
Revised guidance for Program Cycle Operational Policy, reflected in ADS 201, also lays out four foundational principles for successful program implementation, one of which is to “Promote Sustainability through Local Ownership”. The principle goes on to say:
“The sustainability and long-term success of development assistance ultimately requires local ownership and strengthening the capacity of local systems to produce development outcomes at the regional, national, sub-national, or community levels, as appropriate. USAID should seek out and respond to the priorities and perspectives of local stakeholders, including the partner country government, beneficiaries, civil society, the private sector, and academia. These processes should be inclusive of the poorest, most marginalized populations and women and girls. USAID assistance should be designed to align with the priorities of local actors; leverage local resources; and increase local implementation to sustain results over time.”
According to the new ADS, the existing Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) process continues to serve as the platform for implementing development policy in the field. CDCS’s must “Promote the principles of aid effectiveness, including partner country ownership, strategic alignment with partner country or regional development priorities, harmonization with other donors and mutual accountability”. This will continue our efforts to build strategic plans that align with citizen’s needs and achieve results that stand the test of time.
Having worked many years for USAID, I can say we have come a long way. Over 10 years ago, donor countries and developing countries met in Paris and committed to supporting local ownership of development. Agreements in Accra and Busan deepened and strengthened that pledge. However, those commitments made by the US government, and many other donor countries, lacked a tangible accountability mechanism. The revised ADS 200 series illustrates how those high-level commitments are trickling down to where it counts- the operational level where real change happens. And that is absolutely something to be excited about.
I’m Mirvat Mahran, a teacher at one the preschools supported by Sponsorship, in a village called Arab AlQadadeh in Egypt.
My preschool takes part in Sponsorship’s Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) program, which targets children under the age of 6. This program focuses on the development of young children to ensure they enter primary school with the skills they need for school success. Through activities like interactive games, songs, storytelling, social interaction and outdoor play, we help make sure children grow and thrive. In remote areas, where this important stage of life is often neglected, the ECCD program helps get children excited about education and thus increases enrollments in primary school.
On a regular work day, I perform activities with children to help build their social skills and teach them the basics they need to be ready for school. We welcome everybody, and in particular give special care to children with disabilities.
One of the children who joined us a while ago is Rania, a 5-year-old and very sweet little girl. Her mother tells us that before enrolling in ECCD, Rania always refused to talk or express herself. She wasn’t able to count to ten, didn’t know names of familiar animals, wasn’t able to identify names of many common objects to her surroundings and wasn’t able to put sentences together correctly. Her mother came to realize that she was significantly behind in language development.
As a mother, she was willing to do whatever it took to help her daughter. She thought that a preschool might be the answer, and so decided to enroll Rania in a Save the Children supported preschool. As Rania’s new teacher, she explained to me her child’s issues and that she believed Rania had lost her self-confidence due to the laughter and criticism she endured from her peers. My biggest challenge with Rania was that I needed to avoid the same thing happening twice, so I had to welcome her very carefully, building her capacity using ECCD’s multi-activities package which is designed to promote the cognitive, physical, language and psycho-social skills of children her age.
I talked to her about the activities that the children here do to figure out what she loves best. She asked to play in the art corner and after she’d finished her drawing I asked her to describe it. I encouraged her to talk by giving her the impression that I understood her comprehensively. Gradually, I started to correct her and teach her the proper pronunciation of letters. In this way, her language skills developed as did her comfort in the classroom.
She began participating in our classroom’s reading corner, where she enjoyed reading and acting stories out in front of the other children. With her self-confidence rebuilt, she started to take part in the collective games, like playing with, and sharing, blocks and preforming plays with the other children.
Now, Rania is able to clearly communicate and understand the others. I feel so happy for having a positive impact on her life. I felt responsible for her since the moment her mother came to me asking for help. I doubted myself at times, but the trainings I had received with Save the Children built a solid foundation that I relied on, and continue to rely on. Many of the mothers in our village turn to me whenever they face problems with their children. Now, I’m proud to say that Rania is looking forward to moving onto primary school next year!
Before, finding your happiness used to be “Find what you love to do and do it often.” Well that was early adulthood me. Now, diving head-first into another milestone age, it’s gradually become:
“Do what you love to do, do it often and use it to help another person find their own happiness.”
There’s always a personal reason behind why we do the things we do. What we believe in now is greatly affected by the experiences we’ve had — both the good and bad — and it is always changing. How we want to carry ourselves, what we want to invest in, the people we socialize with and the organizations we want to be a part of; they’re all affected by life events.
5 years ago, if you asked me about children, I’d probably give you this “Please stop talking to me” look and carry on with my career-art-driven life. But since then, things happened — both the good and bad — and something changed my perspective on what I want to bring about in the world, my purpose and my intentions. I had been involved with local homeless shelters since as long as I can remember and did pro-bono design projects for not-for-profits, but there was still something I wanted to do, I just hadn’t found it yet…well until recently.
Within the past year, I’ve been dedicating myself to understanding my Filipino roots, the culture and values, learning Tagalog so I can break that language barrier with my pamilya (family) back home and being more mindful of the lifestyle there. My recent Philippines trip really helped guide where I’m at this very moment
My revelations and travels really came down to one thing: helping somebody overseas.
I had been contemplating the past year on sponsoring ang bata sa Pilipinas (a child in the Philippines) and did a lot of research. I’m really happy to have found the right fit with Save the Children and super excited to help out a child in need, especially back in the homeland.
I truly believe everything that happens in your life builds up to a particular moment when you realize a piece of your purpose — and I can say this is one of the outcomes from past challenges and realizations I’ve had. I’m not ready just yet to have a child or adopt one, but so glad there are foundations like these that I can still contribute to.
I’ve been in contact with the young girl out in the Philippines through emails, letters and drawings. She keeps me updated on her schooling, her friends and family. It’s also been really great practicing my Tagalog writing to her (excuse the beginner style you may see in these photos!) Save the Children also keeps me updated on how my contributions are helping not only her family, but the community she’s in.
I’m hoping to go back to the homeland next year and finally meet this sweet girl. *fingers crossed*
Until then, I’ll keep doodling and being her pen-pal 🙂