Save the Children Federation

Save the Children is the world's leading independent organization for children. Our vision is a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation. Our mission is to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives.
Apr 28, 2015

Nepal Earthquake: Aid Worker's Firsthand Account

Nepal Earthquake
Nepal Earthquake

Nestled in the majestic Himalayan mountains, Nepal is near the top of the world and home to Mount Everest. I’ve always been in awe of the snowy peaks and fond of the gentle Nepalese children I’ve had the honor to work with over the years.

I was hiking with friends on the rim of a pristine lake. We were enjoying our day off, celebrating a colleague’s birthday. Then suddenly in the distance, we saw buildings start to shake. Then the rumbling sounds started. People ran out of buildings, but the shaking ground knocked them off their feet like game pieces on a chessboard that had been turned over. We felt the ground shake as the shockwave came crashing toward us. We huddled together, instinctively, for stability. I’ve never been more frightened in my life – I was paralyzed with fear and clung to my friends for dear life. We watched as buildings collapsed and houses came crashing down. The sounds of destruction and dogs barking filled our ears. The quake lasted little more than a minute – but it felt like an eternity.

At first, we didn’t know the extent of the damage. Communications were down. My wife saw the news back in the states and was frantically trying to contact me. Thankfully, she reached me within a few hours.

We slept in a tent for the night and then headed back to Save the Children headquarters in Kathmandu, where our staff was readying our response to the disaster. What’s typically a 4-hour trip took more than 7 hours, but we were grateful that the roads were relatively intact. So many homes have been damaged and destroyed. The aftershocks make it unsafe to be inside. It is still cold here in the mountains, and it rained last night, but people are fearful to return to their homes and are sleeping outside in makeshift tents.   

Our teams have been working around the clock in response to the earthquake. The first phase includes the distribution of emergency supplies like tarps and other materials children and families need to survive. The next phase will also include protecting children who have been orphaned or separated from their families during this tragic disaster. As a public health professional, I have great concerns about the potential for the spread of disease in the coming days. With little or no access to clean water and proper sanitation, conditions are ripe for diarrheal diseases, such as cholera. These diseases are already the second leading cause of death for young children around the world. 

We are doing everything we can to keep children safe from harm and help families recover in the aftermath of the earthquake. We have more than 500 highly trained staff members in Nepal, many of whom have received intensive emergency response training. We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from our donors that will enable us to give children what they need to survive this horrific disaster and recover in the days, weeks and months to come. On behalf of Nepal’s children and families, thank you.

Mar 17, 2015

UN Security Council Gets a "Fail" Grade on Syria

Syria
Syria

The agencies today released a scathing critique of the UN Security Council powers detailing how they have failed to alleviate the suffering of civilians in Syria amid intensifying conflict four years after the start of the crisis.

Despite three Security Council resolutions adopted in 2014 that demanded action to secure protection and assistance for civilians, humanitarian access to large parts of Syria has diminished and more people are being killed, displaced and are in need of help than ever before, according to the report "Failing Syria."

In the hard-hitting report agencies present a score card that compares the demands made in the Security Council resolutions last year, with the reality on the ground. The grim statistics reveal how the resolutions have been ignored or undermined by the parties to the conflict, members of the Security Council and other UN member states, leading to the worst year of the crisis for civilians:

  • People are not protected: 2014 has seen reports of 76,000 people killed in the conflict out of a total of at least 220,000 deaths over four years.
  • Aid access has not improved: 4.8 million people reside in areas defined by the UN as "hard to reach," 2.3 million more than in 2013.
  • Humanitarian needs have increased: 5.6 million children are in need of aid, a 31 percent increase since 2013.
  • Humanitarian funding has decreased compared to needs: In 2013, 71% of the funds needed to support civilians inside Syria and refugees in neighbouring countries were provided. In 2014, this had declined to 57%.

"The bitter reality is that the Security Council has failed to implement its resolutions. Last year was the darkest year yet in this horrific war. Parties to the conflict have acted with impunity and ignored the Security Council's demands, civilians are not protected and their access to relief has not improved," said Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland.

Fewer people were reached via inter-agency convoys from Damascus in 2014 compared to 2013 (1.1 million compared to 2.9 million), and less than half of the requests were accepted by the government of Syria. Some assistance has been entering across the borders from neighboring countries, but out of Syria's 34 border crossings, only five are currently open for humanitarian convoys, nine are restricted and the remainder are closed.

"Across Syria, children are missing out on their education because we cannot reach them, many schools have been destroyed and parents are afraid to send their children for fear their schools will be attacked," said Save the Children's Regional Director Roger Hearn. "While heroic humanitarian workers risk their lives to give essential aid and services, millions of Syrians remain out of reach, not only because of fighting and a worsening situation but also because of lack of funding and bureaucratic hurdles."

The humanitarian organizations are calling on UN member states, including the permanent members of the Security Council, to go beyond words and ensure the resolutions are fully implemented.

"The Security Council's words now ring hollow. The last year has seen little concrete action from parties to the conflict and governments with influence to tackle the spiralling humanitarian crisis in Syria. What good is a resolution to a mother whose house has been bombed and children are hungry if it is ignored and undermined? It is time for powerful governments to stop fuelling the conflict, significantly scale up humanitarian assistance to meet people's immediate needs and push the warring parties towards a political solution. Russia, the US and other states have the political and diplomatic influence to make the changes set out in the resolution real; there is no more time to lose", said Andy Baker, who heads Oxfam's response to the Syria crisis.

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Mar 17, 2015

A Wake Up Call - Lessons From Ebola

Ebola
Ebola

Health systems throughout the developing world need to be strengthened to prevent another Ebola-style outbreak, or worse, warns Save the Children in its new report ‘A Wake Up Call: Lessons from Ebola for the world’s health systems’.

The report ranks the world’s poorest countries on the state of their public health systems, finding that 28 have weaker defenses in place than Sierra Leone where, alongside Liberia and Guinea, the current Ebola crisis has already claimed more than 9,500 lives.

The report also advises that prevention is better than cure, finding that the international Ebola relief effort in West Africa has cost $4.3bn, whereas strengthening the health systems of those countries in the first place would have cost just $1.58bn.

Ahead of an Ebola summit attended by world leaders in Brussels today, the charity warns that alongside immediate much needed support to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, lessons need to be learned and applied to other vulnerable countries around the world.

President and CEO of Save the Children USA, Carolyn Miles, said: “A robust health system could have helped get Ebola under control much sooner, saving thousands of children’s lives and billions of dollars.

“Without trained health workers and a functioning health system in place, it’s more likely that an epidemic could spread across international borders with catastrophic effects.

“The world woke up to Ebola but now people need to wake up to the scandal of weak health systems, which not only risk new diseases spreading, but also contribute to the deaths of 17,000 children each day from preventable causes like pneumonia and malaria.”

The reports’ index looks at the numbers of health workers, government spending on health, and mortality rates. Somalia ranks lowest, and is preceded by Chad, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Haiti, Ethiopia, Central Africa Republic (CAR), Guinea, Niger, and then Mali.

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