Cholera Epidemic in Yemen Threatens Puts Children at Risk

Children at Risk in Yemen Need Urgent Support as Cholera Outbreak Threatens Hodeidah

Undernourished children in Yemen’s district of Hodeidah are far more likely to contract cholera should the disease spread quickly in the hot summer months. A new alert from Save the Children reports conditions are ideal for cholera to spread rapidly, with almost 3,000 suspected cases reported in the first week of July across the country – the highest number seen since the start of the year.

“There is no time to waste,” Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children said in a recent statement. “Aid agencies need unimpeded humanitarian access to save lives. The international community must also step up its support so that we can prevent another outbreak of cholera.”

In Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, an estimated 2.9 million children and pregnant and lactating woman are acutely malnourished.1  Undernourished children are far more likely to contract cholera, as the disease causes violent vomiting and diarrhea. The disease is especially deadly for children under five years and those whose immune systems have been badly compromised by malnutrition.

Families in Yemen have already been through so much as war wages on for a fourth year. Children like Lina* are especially susceptible to the deadly effects of cholera.

Cholera Epidemic in Yemen Threatens Puts Children at Risk
Lina* (8 months) visits a Save the Children supported health facility in Amran to receive treatment for malnutrition. Two of her siblings have already died due to illness.

At 8-months old, Lina* is already receiving treatment for malnutrition. Her parents brought Lina* to a Save the Children-supported health facility in Amran so a health worker could administer emergency treatment, including therapeutic food and medicine. “We are from a remote village,” Lina’s* mother explained. “We barely have anything. Lina* is in a weak state. We buy food as much as we can afford. I give them bread to manage their hunger. What can I do?”

Lina’s* family has been displaced for at least six years. Her parents have already lost two children to illness.

Cholera Epidemic in Yemen Puts Children at Risk
Families like Lina’s* are struggling to withstand continued conflict, food reduction and danger in Yemen.

Since early May, the frontline of Yemen’s civil war has edged closer to Hodeidah, the main port city on Yemen’s west coast and the country’s primary entry point for goods and humanitarian aid. Save the Children is increasingly concerned that Hodeidah city could be besieged as the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition makes advances in northern Yemen and continues to consolidate gains around the south of the city. This could potentially cut off Hodeidah city, its port and its people from the rest of the country. 2

Save the Children is on the ground, working to provide children caught in the crossfire with access to food, health care, education and protection. We need your generous gift to support our efforts. Our relief in Hodeidah now includes treating children for life threatening conditions such as malaria and diarrhea. We’ve rehabilitated health centers and hospitals and provided equipment, medicines, and support to help keep the health system functioning.

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done in Yemen, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. MAKE A DONATION TODAY TO SUPPORT OUR YEMEN CHILDREN’S RELIEF FUND.

 

1. Conflict in Yemen Fact Sheet 

2. A Siege of Hodeidah Could Have Devastating Consequences, Warns Save the Children 

 

South Sudan: Six Months of Fighting, a Generation of Children at Risk


Anonymous

Dan Stewart

Save the Children , South Sudan

June 15, 2014

 
 

Six months ago today, fighting of shocking brutality erupted in South Sudan.

The toll of those months of conflict makes grim reading: more than 500,000 children have been forced to flee their homes and are now scattered across the bush, staying in overstretched communities or bunched together in camps, their lives in limbo.

Three-quarters of those hit by the crisis are under 18

There are 95 schools that remain occupied by armed groups or displaced people;  a quarter of all schools in the country are closed.

Image001_SouthSudanCommunities are cut off from supplies with families surviving on leaves and grass. Famine looms. Unless swift action is taken, 2.5 million children face a hunger crisis and 50,000 are likely to die of malnutrition.

More than 9,000 children have been recruited into armed groups since the fighting began, while at least 22,300 have been affected by grave violations including attacks on schools, sexual violence and abductions.

South Sudan’s children have suffered for six months. The question is, what kind of future will they have?

Building lasting peace and security

I have seen children responding with courage, hope and determination. All parties involved in the fighting should follow their example.

These brave children are at serious risk, not just from the violence but from the psychological impact of what they have already been through. Without psychosocial support now to help them recover from their traumatic experiences, the events of these past few months could scar their entire futures.

Dwindling food stocks, rising prices and empty stomachs

Many communities are trapped: completely cut off from possible help. To travel along roads that cross the front line? “That is the end of your life,” I have been told.

Other, less dangerous, roads have become impassable as the rains turn rough roads into muddy quagmires.

In remote areas, families already eating grass and leaves have told me their food supplies will run out completely by the end of June. The rains will also become too heavy then to plant crops.

These children want to learn

These people desperately need seeds and tools now so they’ll have a harvest in the autumn. Otherwise, the hunger crisis will only deepen. And they need food to see them through until then.

Yet with all the hardship, hunger and uncertainty, children tell me they want education above all. They are right to want this: the longer a child is out of school, the further they fall behind and the more likely they are never to return. South Sudan’s future depends on giving its children their right to learn.

Six months on from the start of the crisis the need to act could not be more urgent. Save the Children is doing whatever it takes to bring children protection, education, and treatment for malnourishment. We need your help to reach more children. Their future hangs in the balance.

 Donate to help the children of South Sudan.

South Sudan: “Since we arrived here, no-one will kill my family, but hunger could.”


Anonymous

Dan Stewart

Save the Children , South Sudan

June 16, 2014

 
 

Nyandong and Sunday“Nyandong* looks straight at me. She is unflinching. Small, thin limbs occasionally wrap around her or clamber up, looking for purchase, as her children mill around us. She has her malnourished one year old boy quiet and still in her arms and her face is intent as she tells me what has happened to her family since brutal fighting engulfed many parts of Jonglei, South Sudan, in December.

“Innocent people were killed in those days. There were a lot of us running together then some of the people we were with got caught. They were surrounded and killed. It was just by luck that we survived. We crouched and hid behind a fence, just hoping no-one would find us. I could see the scared faces of my children, and armed men walking the streets looking for people to kill.

 “When the sun set we left. We took nothing and it took us thirty days to walk here. We ate the leaves off the trees and I thought we would die of thirst. When we saw birds circling in the sky we followed them because we hoped they would be flying above water. I don’t know how we survived.

 “My children kept asking me for food and water but I didn’t have any. The children were constantly crying. They got rashes on their skin and became thin. They wanted to stop. They fell down on their knees and cut themselves. I had to pull them along – if we stopped we would have died there. My daughter had to bring her little brother, but he was too tired. I had to tell her to drag him along even though he cried.

 We are talking in remote Nyirol county, in an area set back from the frontline where tens of thousands of people have fled for safety. But Nyandong explains that for her family and many others, one threat has been replaced by another. Severe hunger is the price they have paid to escape the bullets.

 “Since we arrived here, no-one will kill my family. But hunger could. Hunger could kill everyone here. Nyandong and family

 “We depend on others. When people in the community give us some food, then we can eat. We eat one small meal a day. We mix grass and leaves in with sorghum to make it last longer. The leaves are very bad for children – it gives them diarrhoea.

 There is just one chink of light. Save the Children screened Nyandong’s 1 year old daughter Sunday* and found she was severely malnourished. We have been providing therapeutic feeding to begin nursing her back to health. “Sunday was about to die” Nyandong says. “She was very thin. A baby should walk one year after she is born but Sunday is more than a year old and still she can’t because of the malnourishment. If she has food I know she will walk soon. And my other children are suffering so much. They have nothing.”

 In South Sudan 50,000 children are likely to die from malnourishment unless treatment is scaled up immediately. Save the Children is helping catch children like Sunday before it is too late, but we need your help to reach more.

 Donate to help the children of South Sudan.

*Names changed to protect identities

Linking Hunger and Economic Impact in Pakistan

During my visit last week to see Save the Children’s work in Pakistan firsthand, I was able to introduce the launch of an important series of papers by the prestigious journal The Lancet, following up on initial research done in 2008 by Drs Robert Black and Zulfigar Bhutta. That original series first defined the link between malnutrition and child mortality, describing the impact that hunger and malnutrition has on a child’s ability to survive simple but dangerous diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea.

 

Establishing that link was an important scientific step for highlighting children’s urgent nutrition needs. This latest research expands further on the health impacts—and, importantly, the economic impacts—of malnutrition, particularly in the first 1000 days of a child’s life, from conception through age 2.

 

As I highlighted in my opening remarks at the official launch event, 45% of worldwide under 5 deaths have malnutrition as an underlying factor.

That statistic is shocking enough. But since more and more child deaths are occurring in the first few years when nutrition plays such a crucial role, that percentage is actually going up around the world. In Pakistan, 35% of under 5 mortality can be linked to malnutrition and 44% of children are stunted and suffering from chronic malnutrition and hunger—showing that an empty belly early on can decide
the course a child’s life.

Malnutrition is not just a health issue but a long-term issue for a country’s development. The studies in The Lancet show that, on average, a high rate of malnutrition can cause

The Real Breastfeeding Scandal

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post.

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2013-02-15-Time_cover_parody_HP.jpg

Last year, Time magazine’s “Are You Mom Enough?” cover practically shouted “Scandal! Women breastfeeding too long!”

 

The unforgettable image stirred up controversy and I’m sure it sold magazines. But are moms and kids any better off?

 

Now, imagine funneling all that outrage and punditry into something that really helped mothers and their babies when it came to breastfeeding — especially in the developing world where it can literally save lives.

The real scandal is not breastfeeding late, but that too many moms don’t get the support needed to breastfeed early — or to keep breastfeeding, should they want to.

 

In our new report, “Superfood for Babies,” Save the Children estimates that 830,000 babies could be saved every year if they were breastfed in the first hour of life. The colostrum, or first milk, provides a powerful shot of antibodies that can stave off deadly disease. And immediate breastfeeding more often leads to exclusive breastfeeding for six months, which can save even more lives.

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A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action

I spent last week at the Clinton Global Initiative and the UN General Assembly meetings in New York. There was much talking about issues of international development, about the rights of children to an education, about stopping children dying from preventable things like pneumonia, about making sure that the world is free from hunger. But in the midst of all this talking, I noticed that there was simply not enough of one thing—not enough shouting. We need louder voices to make changes on what really needs to be done for poor children and families around the world. Simply put, we need more people to care and speak out. Loudly.

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Are Kids of the World Doing Better? Not When it Comes to Hunger

Child Development Index 2012This week, we released our Child Development Index and the bottom line is: kids deserve a lot better. The Index ranks the best and worst places in the world to be a child based on education, health, and nutrition statistics.

 

While there is some good news in terms of education and child survival rates—33% more kids are in school now than in the 1990s and almost 5 million more kids surviving to age 5 per year—there is one part of the report that is really shocking. In the 21st century, we still have children in the world without enough to eat every day—and it’s gotten worse over the last decade, not better. The number of acutely malnourished children across the globe has actually risen since 2000. The situation is particularly

Saving Children’s Lives — What’s New And What You Can Do

The following first appeared on The Huffington Post.

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Like most moms, I love remembering my children’s firsts. Their first steps, first words, first day at school. But, one first I didn’t realize was a milestone at the time was the day each of my kids completed the first month of life.

 

I later learned that, around the world, that first month is the most dangerous time of a child’s life. Infections, premature births and childbirth complications are the leading causes of newborn deaths, but they are highly preventable through basic health care, such as antibiotics, breastfeeding support and improved hygiene.

 

Still, every year, more than 3 million babies die before they turn one month old. Thankfully, that number is dropping, but not nearly as fast as more successful efforts to end deaths to older children and mothers.

 

That’s because global health efforts haven’t quite caught up with what we now know works to save newborn babies. So, although newborn deaths now account for more than 40 percent of child deaths, they are mentioned by only 6 percent of the world’s official development assistance programs for maternal, newborn and child health. Only 0.1 percent of these programs target newborn babies exclusively. That must change.

 

This mismatch of funding and need is one of the major findings of Save the Children‘s new report, “A Decade of Change for Newborn Survival.” A collaboration of 150 global experts and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the report shows that efforts to make basic lifesaving care available to families in poor communities work. Countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Malawi have substantially cut newborn death rates, and have lessons to share with many other countries.

 

One of the most effective methods is Kangaroo Mother Care. When mothers wrap their newborns to their skin, premature babies get the warmth and better access to breastfeeding that can save their lives. Sharing this method with communities where families have limited access to hospitals, high-tech equipment — or even electricity — could save hundreds of thousands of babies a year.

 

That kind of care doesn’t take a lot of money, but it does take political will.

 

The United States has been a leader in reducing global deaths to children under 5 years old from 12.4 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010. It’s also a leader on targeting newborns, providing double the assistance of the next biggest donor, the World Bank.

 

To show that you support this kind of leadership, please join Save the Children in calling on world leaders to finish what they started and end preventable child deaths. Sign the petition. Every child deserves a 5th birthday!

The Lifesaving 6: Hope for Moms and Children Everywhere

The following first appeared on the Huffington Post.

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I am a lucky mom.

 

I received quality prenatal care and gave birth in a state-of-the-art hospital. My kids received essential nutrition from the moment they were born through their early years, giving them a better chance to fight off disease and perform well in school. Today, they are on a path to reaching their full potential.

 

Many moms in developing countries such as Ethiopia, Niger and India aren’t so lucky.

 

In fact, children in an alarming number of countries do not get the nutrition they need from pregnancy to their second birthday–the critical window for ensuring healthy growth and development–according to Save the Children’s 13th annual State of the World’s Mothers report. The report shines a spotlight on the lifelong, if not deadly, impact chronic malnutrition has on millions of children across the globe.

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Thriving in Nacala: One Community’s Story

I recently spent a week in Africa, my second visit to the continent in 2012.  After a quick stop in Cape Town for The Economist’s global meeting on healthcare in Africa I went on to Mozambique to visit Save the Children programs in rural communities in the north of the country.

 

I came away from this trip with a renewed understanding of the huge difference it makes when a community is really involved with kids’ development.  I visited a village outside Nacala where, besides meeting some truly beautiful children, I also got to see how the whole village was building a better future for their children.

 

The program, funded by USAID and private donors, included several elements.  Mothers, trained by Save the Children local staff members who speak the indigenous dialect, were clearly in charge of the health and nutrition element of the program.  They were weighing each child on a scale hung from a tree branch.  A couple of the kids cried in the little blue sling, but most swung happily as their weight was noted—it was clear that this was something they had done before.  The woman in charge—the community leader of the program—counseled each mom about her child’s progress, showing her on a chart where her child was and the line where he or she should be.  She advised moms to breastfeed their children exclusively for the first six months and to continue breastfeeding through age two for the best health outcome.

 

Next, the women showed me how they make a fortified porridge for the kids from corn meal, sugar, salt, and a few secret ingredients.  The secret ingredients are actually the key for this dish: they include ground sesame seeds for fat content and the leaves of the moringa tree, a local tree that is very high in vitamins. Using another leaf as a spoon, we all got a taste and I could see why the kids were finishing every bite…tasted a lot like grits to me!

 

Then, others community members took me through the agricultural part of this program.  Through double translation (from the local language to Portuguese to English), we followed along charts that detailed the different crops they grew, plans to increase yields, market values, and expected profits for the upcoming harvest.  The community’s ability to sell some of the crop after growing enough for their needs is the difference between children having all the nutrients they need during the “hungry season”  and surviving on a diet of staples that does not fully nourish their growing bodies. Without that income, families can’t buy extra protein and fat they need to ensure their children develop.  Mozambique still has many malnourished children, and 44% of children under five are stunted, according to UNICEF. But in this community, the children all seemed to be flourishing thanks to the hard work of their parents and the support of the program there.

 

As the sun started to set, we concluded our visit by sitting in on the village savings group meeting.  Community members, with women all in matching green scarfs, went through their accounts and made decisions on which members would be approved to take out loans, who may need help from the emergency fund, and which loans had already been paid back with interest to continue to grow the funds.  Save the Children trains community members on how to run these funds and make their own decisions.  This group was on their third round of loans to members and had a 95% repayment rate on outstanding loans.

 

The best moment of this long and busy day came when we were saying goodbye. One of the groups’ members said to me, “We are very grateful for Save the Children’s help in getting this savings group started.  But we don’t need you to stay here to do this program anymore.  We can do it all ourselves now and your team can go teach another village how to do this.”

 

This was music to my ears. Truly, the best result of Save the Children’s work is when a community can support the health and development of their children and we are not needed. This vibrant group of people has built a community that invests in the health, wellbeing and future of its children—a model of self-sufficiency that so many communities can emulate.