Early this month I took my first trip to Abuja, Nigeria. Despite visiting almost 60 countries with Save the Children, I had never been to the West African nation. It is a country of over 162 million, one of the most populous in the region and seventh most populous in the world. With an average family size of almost 7, it has the highest population growth in Africa-today, one out of every four inhabitants of the African continent is a Nigerian. While Nigeria may top the charts in these ways, it also unfortunately has the second-highest number of under-5 deaths. I wanted to understand about why so many children, and especially newborns, are dying in Nigeria.
Rachel, Sponsored Child
Taguig City, Philippines
February 21, 2013
Rachael, age 14, has been sponsored through Save the Children for four years. Rachael has been actively involved in development and life-skills activities organized by Save the Children for adolescents. Through these and other trainings, she has learned how to facilitate learning activities, and advocate for children’s rights and development through involvement in CRC training and monitoring. She also participates in the Urban Gardening Project which aims to help produce food items that could meet the food needs of supplemental school feeding.
It has been four years since Save the
Children’s Sponsorship Program first made its way to my village. Their presence
brought big changes, not only within our community and among my fellow youth,
but also in me.
Along with the physical transformations
I went through as part of growing up, I also experienced big changes in the
mental, emotional and social aspects of my life which helped me to develop and thrive.
At my young age and in my own simple way of living, I did not notice that Save
the Children has contributed so much, not only to the people in my community,
but to me as well.
Together with the seminars I attended in
far-off places came the expansion and deepening of my understanding of the
various things happening in our society. With the continuous mental development
these activities brought, I learned about the rights of children like me. With
this knowledge, we can now fight for our rights, defend ourselves and prevent
or at least lessen the discrimination that we are experiencing that is
currently widespread in our society.
In learning about these rights, I am
able to help others by sharing what I know, how I feel and also, by sharing the
experience of the youth who are not protected from various forms of abuse. I am
able to help others and this is why I am very happy that I have become part of
I believe that children
can help bring about change and progress in ourselves, in other people and in
our society through our simple way and with our little hands.
Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more.
Guatemala City, Guatemala
July 18, 2012
Sometimes the best way to serve families over the long haul is to step back. A recent change to U.S. foreign assistance policy is putting more local organizations in the lead on development projects around the world.
In Guatemala, chronic malnutrition keeps half the country’s children from developing properly. That fuels a vicious cycle of poverty that hurts children in rural, indigenous communities the most. U.S. investments to break this cycle have helped countless children and families, but new reforms mean Guatemalans will play a bigger, more sustainable role in fighting the worst rate of chronic malnutrition in the Western hemisphere.
Save the Children has worked in Guatemala for 14 years with a variety of public and private funding to help poor populations overcome the impact of poverty and three decades of civil conflict. As an international nonprofit humanitarian and development agency, we work alongside communities to implement integrated programs that improve health, nutrition, economic opportunities, disaster risk reduction, democracy and governance.
For the last five years, Save the Children was the prime recipient of funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to run a major food security project. In tandem, a local consortium created by Guatemala’s largest export corporations called AGEXPORT was running small scale projects with USAID funds opening up markets for poor rural farmers.
As a result of USAID’s policy called Implementation and Procurement Reform, AGEXPORT is about to move into the driver’s seat. Under this policy, USAID aims to spend 30 percent of its resources on local institutions by 2015. In Guatemala, USAID has required that a local organization be the prime funding recipient in a new Feed the Future project called “Rural Value Chains.” AGEXPORT has been selected to take the lead and AGEXPORT has asked Save the Children to play a supportive role by providing key technical support and institutional capacity.
We know that improving farmers’ access to markets leads to greater, steadier income through the year and–critically for children–to improved nutrition for their own families.
If the new project moves ahead as planned, AGEXPORT will bring its expertise with domestic market to the partnership, and Save the Children will bring our experience improving children’s nutrition and food security.
AGEXPORT’s selection as the prime grantee will also give the organization the opportunity to build capacity and institutional expertise to lead increasingly large-scale projects.
That bodes well for the future.
In the next grant cycle, I suspect that AGEXPORT may not need Save the Children or any other international NGO to improve conditions for Guatemalan farmers and their children. And Save the Children can move on to another area where our technical expertise and services are still truly needed.
Working ourselves out of a job is a development success.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
I worked in Haiti in 2004, when I responded to two natural disasters and civil unrest in Cap-Haïtien. Six years later not much has changed.
On top of the earthquake, Haiti has faced four emergencies in the last 10 months: hurricane season (Tomas flooded many of the flimsy tents around Port-au-Prince), then came the cholera epidemic and finally the pre- and then post-election violence. How can any country have the opportunity to bounce back let alone recover in such circumstances?
I was in Juba, Southern Sudan when I heard that an earthquake had struck Haiti. I could not believe my ears! Haiti has always held a very special place in my heart, maybe because I met my fiancé in Cap-Haïtien and because all the wonderful moments we experienced with all our Haitian friends dancing kompa and talking about why they would never leave Haiti.
I work as part of the Food Security and Livelihoods team with Save the Children. We are 16 in total, 15 national staff and me. Sadly I am the only woman in the team, but we are trying to rectify this!
After the January 12, 2010 earthquake, a large proportion of Port-au-Prince residents lost all their belongings. Women, both as family providers and as small-market traders, have borne the brunt of this loss and income. One disastrous consequence is that without a reliable income families are no longer able to pay the school fees to keep their children in school. In Haiti it is the women who generate the majority of the household income.
Livelihoods underpin sustainable development. Save the Children’s goal is therefore to improve and diversify livelihood activities to enable families to provide appropriate care for their children, send them to school and ensure that they are healthy and well nourished. As we transition from the emergency phase to longer term development, our Livelihoods programme aims to support Haitian households to do this.
My work is to increase and improve people’s access to employment opportunities, with a particular focus on the market traders who sell their wares in the Croix des Bosalle market – the major market in Port-au-Prince.
We also want to help small businesses such as carpenters and blacksmiths with grants to rebuild their industries. But in order to receive these grants, the entrepreneurs are required to take part in Business Development Services (BDS) training. By linking small-scale market traders to business development and microfinance services, we support traders to develop business plans and increase their knowledge of management capacities and knowledge and access to micro-credit and savings plans.
Our programmes also supply small grants with which people can recover the tools and household assets they lost during the earthquake – with the money a plumber can buy a wrench; a carpenter hammers and nails and a mother can buy pots and pans to cook for her children.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I have been in Haiti since the end of January 2010 working as the Program Manager for Safer Construction and Disaster Risk Reduction in Port-au-Prince. I came out here with another international NGO as a shelter coordinator, but after their initial distribution of emergency shelter they switched focus to WASH – NGO parlance for water and sanitation health – and job creation for people affected by the earthquake.
So, I joined Save the Children at the end of April – the children’s charity I worked for in Aceh, Indonesia following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004/5.
Our safer construction team in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince consists of six engineers, an assistant and me. Since April we have been strengthening temporary schools, building child friendly spaces and health clinics. Recently our focus has been on constructing cholera treatment units – CTUs.
In total we have built four CTUs in partnership with Save the Children’s health and WASH teams. It is my first experience of working in a cholera epidemic, which has so far claimed the lives of 3,600 people in Haiti.
But what surprised me most is how incredibly easy it is to prevent and treat cholera – simple rehydration solutions will reverse the devastating effects of cholera on the body within one to three days. Obviously the earlier someone gets access to rehydration treatment the quicker they can make a full and speedy recovery.
I remember the first cholera case we had at our cholera treatment unit based at a place called Gaston Margron, where approximately 6,000 people are living in tent camps. It was a nine-year old boy. He was very sick when he arrived, but the next day he sat up looking for something to do – healthy again with the aid of an IV drip and rehydration!
In Haiti safer construction was originally simply called reconstruction. But we wanted to emphasise that Haiti had to build back safer and better. Already we are planning to build ten transitional schools in Port-au-Prince as well as more in Leogane and Jacmel. We hope these schools will act as a model of safer construction methodologies that will be replicated in shelters and other construction projects in the neighbouring communities.
I’m also involved in managing the final stages of a tender process to appoint a local building contractor to construct schools in all three locations. It has taken time to get to this stage since we had to get our school design approved by the Haitian Ministry of Education. I am looking forward to getting contractors finalised and the start of school construction. It has been an arduous process, and I feel very sorry for the children studying in tent schools.
We also have to ensure the school authorities own the land where we plan to build – a crucial factor since we don’t want to end up in the awful predicament of having to tear down a school because of contested land ownership. And that’s a potential problem here in Haiti since pre-earthquake many of the schools were on rented land.
There are other problems too. There is limited capacity and skills for construction in Haiti. So, whilst we are completing construction projects we have to build the capacity of local tradesman, and monitor their progress carefully to ensure the highest possible building standards.
Port-au-Prince is not a large city, but because of poor road conditions and traffic it can take at least two hours to get to some of our sites. This limits what is possible to achieve each day. Also, most quality construction materials like timber have to be imported from places like the Dominican Republic, which takes time to arrive in country and clear customs. As a result of the cholera outbreak as well as election violence late last year it has been difficult to undertake ‘normal’ activities.
Before signing off I must mention how amazed I am by the resilience and good humour of the Haitian people. They have been through so much in the last year, and yet they always have time and a smile for you. They deserve a break and some luck in 2011.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
2010 was a busy year for Save the Children in Haiti. From the onset of the disaster our Voices from the Field blog kept readers informed about on-the-ground efforts in Haiti. We’ve created four Flickr slideshows that recap the progress we have made in providing relief to Haitians and look ahead at the work remaining to build back Haiti better.
Miracle Baby Winnie
One of the early glimmers of hope was the rescuing of a baby named Winnie. She was pulled from the rubble by an Australian television crew and quickly treated for dehydration by Save the Children medical staff. In May and October our staff caught up with Winnie who is now a healthy and lively 2 1/2-year-old. Check out the album below to see the newest photos of this “Miracle Baby”.
Cash for work, cash grants and asset recovery vouchers are among the programs that Save the Children supports, specifically targeting the most vulnerable families as identified by their own communities.
The most vulnerable include female-headed households and families with one or members who are more chronically ill or living with disabilities. Some cash-for-work projects also reduce future disaster risks – for example, stabilizing river embankments in Jacmel and protecting families’ assets from flooding by cleaning canals in Léogâne.
Through our support for farmers, fishermen and other small traders, Save the Children is contributing to economic recovery in Port-au-Prince, Léogâne and Jacmel.
These programs will ensure that families can provide food for their children, rebuild their homes and send their children to school.
Getting Schools Back on Track
Education is key to building a better future for Haiti’s children, and it remains one of Save the Children’s top priorities. We have provided tents, furniture and supplies so schools could reopen as quickly as possible, allowing children to learn in safe surroundings and regain a sense of normalcy. In addition, Save the Children has trained 2,300 teachers in disaster risk reduction so they’re prepared in the event of another earthquake and we have distributed school kits which include a backpack, notebooks, pencils and other essential supplies to more than 38,500 children.
Cholera Prevention and Treatment
Cholera first struck Haiti in October 2010 for the first time in decades. The global support Save the Children received, allowed us to respond quickly to the outbreak, which had not been seen in Haiti for decades. As cholera continues its deadly spread, Save the Children is intensifying efforts to prevent and treat additional cases in the areas where our health and hygiene teams already have a presence and have relationships with communities. Our health workers — reinforcing an intensive education campaign spearheaded by the government of Haiti and other international organizations — are broadening prevention and education activities to provide families with information about the importance of washing hands with soap, boiling water and seeking medical support at the first sign of illness.We aim to reach 600,000 people in six months with these activities.
On this one-year anniversary, of the earthquake, Save the Children and others have made a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of Haitians who have lost so much. But it is clear that the needs remain great and vast amounts of work lie ahead. The country’s children are both the most vulnerable, and the most resilient of its citizens. Investing in them offers the best chance for a better future for the nation as a whole. The global community must seize the opportunity to support a new Haitian government in creating meaningful change in the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable children. Save the Children is committed to Haiti for the long-term, and the promises that the international community has made to Haiti and its children must be kept.
July 28, 2010
Today I’m recovering from the last three days marathon of the heads of state meeting at the African Union summit. With the theme of “Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and Development in Africa,” this summit offered the perfect chance to muster major action to save the lives of millions of children and mothers.
I’m sorry to say that although Africa has around 12 percent of the world’s population, half the world’s child and maternal deaths occur here. So there’s much work to be done.
A few days ago, I wrote here what Save the Children and many other advocates and experts were calling on our leaders to deliver at this summit. I’m happy to report good news. African heads of state have issued a declaration on that includes many commitments we believe are necessary to dramatically reduce the annual 4.5 million child deaths and 265,000 maternal deaths on the continent.
On the resources question, the leaders recommitted themselves to meeting their 2001 promise in Abuja to devote 15 percent of their national budgets to health. In reality, few countries have reached this goal as of yet. In the last budget year only three did—Rwanda, Tanzania, and Liberia—and that’s down from six countries the year before. So I’m happy that African leaders recognize they must continue to chase this goal, and not just push it aside. Prioritizing health funding is central to results in maternal, newborn and child health.
The leaders also promised to strengthen their health systems “to provide comprehensive, integrated maternal, newborn, and child health care services.” They listed several important strategies, including addressing the health worker shortage as we had called for.
The leaders themselves called the current situation a “human resource crisis.” They pledged to train community health workers to help fill the gap. That’s good policy because you don’t need a huge amount of money or time to train these workers, and they can deliver most of the services needed to save mothers and children’s lives. Also, these workers come from the community and, especially when they are women, they can reach mothers and children who are isolated from existing health services.
However, I’ll point out that while community health workers can deliver lifesaving prenatal and postnatal care, and prevention and treatment for leading child killers pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria, they cannot necessarily provide skilled attendance at birth. That’s also critical to saving mothers’ and newborns’ lives. So African nations must also look at ways to increase the number of midwives, nurses, and doctors—and work to retain these professionals.
Another major concern of Save the Children and partners has been around making sure health services reach all women and children. Too often, poorer mothers and children don’t have the same access to health care (and thus survival) as better-off compatriots. So I was very pleased to see the leaders pledge to reduce out-of-pocket payments and to single out a strategy we’ve pushed for—making health care for pregnant women and children under 5 free.
The final pieces of good news that came out of the Summit was the decision to institute a strong and functional monitoring and evaluation framework at national level for data generation, the establishment of a continental task force on Maternal, newborn and child health as well as commitment to an annual report to the AU assembly moving forward on Maternal, newborn and child mortality. This should help hold governments accountable for their delivery on maternal, newborn and child mortality interventions.
If the leaders follow through on what they’ve pledged in Kampala, you can be certain that many more African children and mothers will survive and go on to lead healthy, productive lives. That’s good for families, communities, and the very future of the continent.
So there’s the question of that word “if.”
In the closing ceremony last night, President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi implored his fellow leaders to act on the declarations they had passed.
He said: “The time has come for us is to go for action, so that our people are able to see and appreciate the tangible results and benefits that this organization will bring to them. I believe that we have the means, and we have the political will to do so. Let us use these means and the political will to show to our people and the rest of the world that indeed we mean to move the economic and social transformation of our continent.”
Amen to that!
I hope African heads of state will heed Bingu’s words, because they are the ones with the power to transform promises into action. If the political will is indeed there, African mothers, newborns, and children will stop dying of preventable causes. So let’s continue to raise our voices, and do our part to build and sustain that political will!