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.
Sep 2, 2015

Save the Children's 2015 Disaster Report Card

Save the Children
Save the Children's 2015 Disaster Report

Iowa is now the only state in the country that fails to require four minimum emergency planning standards at schools and child care centers, placing it last among 18 states missing basic protections for children, according to Save the Children’s 2015 National Disaster Report Card.

“If we were passing out report cards to states for their efforts to protect children at school and in day care, Iowa would get the worst grade,” said Rich Bland, who heads advocacy and public policy for Save the Children’s U.S. programs. “The state has fallen behind every other state in making sure all schools and child care centers have basic emergency plans in place.”

“In total, 18 states and D.C. can still do much more to protect children,” he added.

Each year, since 2008, Save the Children has assessed all 50 states and the District of Columbia on the emergency plans they require on four basic emergency preparedness standards for the 69 million children who attend school or child care centers nationwide. In 2008, only four states met all four standards. That total has risen sharply in recent years to 32 states, with three new states – Kansas, Oregon and South Carolina – being added this year.

Three of the standards focus on child care and require facilities to develop detailed, written emergency plans that cover evacuation, family-child reunification and assisting children with special needs. The fourth standard requires all K-12 schools to develop a written, multi-hazard disaster plan.

Failing States:

Today, only the District of Columbia and three states – Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota – still fail to require the minimum emergency planning standard for schools.

Eight states – Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Montana and South Dakota – have failed to require any of the three child care standards, according to Save the Children’s report card, while 33 states and the District of Columbia meet all three preparedness child care standards.

Additional states that currently fail to meet one or more child care standards are Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

However, states who have resisted the child care emergency planning standards will soon have a price to pay if they don’t change course. Congress passed legislation last fall that will require states to meet the standards in order to fully qualify for Child Care Development Block Grant funding.

Stay Connected:

At the same time, families must also do their part to protect children from disaster. Save the Children has launched a “Stay Connected” campaign urging parents to create emergency contact cards for each of their children.

This coming August will mark 10 years since Hurricane Katrina led to 5,000 missing children reports, with many children separated from their parents for days, weeks or even months.

Save the Children’s annual Disaster Report Card is part of a larger report this year entitled, “Still at Risk: U.S. Children 10 Years after Hurricane Katrina,” which evaluates federal efforts to assist states in protecting children in emergencies a decade after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and children’s lives.

Save the Children reported that only 17 of the 81 recommendations issued by the National Commission on Children and Disasters in its 2010 final report have been fully met, with an additional 44 still a work in progress. The remaining recommendations – 20 in all – have not been addressed at all.

“A decade after the nation’s Katrina wake-up call, it’s unacceptable that children across the country still face unnecessary risks to their safety, health, emotional wellbeing and long-term development should disaster strike,” said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children.

“We know children’s unique needs make them especially vulnerable during and after emergencies. Our nation’s children deserve better without further delay.”

Links:

Sep 2, 2015

New Moms Face Exploitation In Ebola-Affected Areas

Young Girl in Ebola-Affected Sierra Leone
Young Girl in Ebola-Affected Sierra Leone

Children across Sierra Leone report that exploitation and violence against girls has increased during the year-long Ebola epidemic, resulting in rising cases of teenage pregnancies, according to a new report launched today by three leading aid agencies.

Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision International, with the support of UNICEF, recently consulted over 1,100 girls and boys aged 7 to 18 from nine districts about the impact of Ebola, which has killed more than 3,500 people in Sierra Leone.

They shared their personal experiences and deep concerns about the devastating long-term effects of the crisis on their lives as part of the Children’s Ebola Recovery Assessment report. The study was conducted to enable children to contribute their feedback and recommendations to the Government of Sierra Leone’s national Ebola recovery strategy.

The children viewed the country’s nine-month school closure as being directly linked to increases in child labour and exploitation, exposure to violence in the home and community, and teenage pregnancy.

Most of the 617 girls interviewed said they believe that higher incidences of teenage pregnancy in their communities are as a result of girls being outside the protective classroom environment, exposing them to the risk of sexual exploitation or assault. Classrooms only reopened in Sierra Leone on 14 April, after a prolonged closure to help prevent the spread of Ebola, delaying the schooling of some 1.7 million children.

Some children (10 per cent of the focus group discussion participants) reported that vulnerable girls in their communities, especially those who have lost relatives to Ebola, are being forced into transactional sex to cover their basic daily needs, including food. Children saw this as one of several factors contributing to increases in teenage pregnancy.

The fear of sexual assault was also common among the children interviewed. A large number spoke of at least one case of rape against a girl in their communities, including attacks on girls in Ebola-quarantine households. This was mainly voiced by girls aged 15-18, but younger girls shared their concerns about rape as well. Boys were also acutely aware of the risk faced by their sisters and friends.

“Some of our friends are raped when they go far to get water, some are drowned in the streams,” said a young boy from Kailahun.

Children also said they were concerned about the impact of rape on their peers, including psychological damage, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, physical harm or death, discrimination and stigma.

“This report confirms that Ebola has put an incredible strain on children’s lives and it will take time for them to recover. The impact on them has been huge,” said Casely Coleman, Country Director of Plan International in Sierra Leone.

Children participating in the assessment suggested measures to prevent teenage pregnancies, and also recommended actions to achieve zero new Ebola cases, rebuild health services, and address food, money and livelihood gaps exacerbated by the Ebola crisis. Many families lost their livelihoods during the crisis and may not be able to afford to send their children back to school.

The three aid organisations are urging the government and international donors to ensure that children’s voices are heard and their concerns addressed as Sierra Leone moves towards its Ebola recovery phase.

“Children shared with us stories of missed opportunities, exploitation, and abuse,” said Isaac Ooko, Country Director for Save the Children in Sierra Leone. “If this recovery strategy is to be successful, it’s clear that their needs must be considered. This means ensuring that every child has access to education and help to recover from a year of lost schooling.”

Nearly half the population of Sierra Leone is under the age of 18.“Our children have spoken,” said Leslie Scott, National Director of World Vision Sierra Leone. “In this report, children clearly state that education, access to healthcare and a safe environment to grow up in rank high on their list of priorities. We have heard them and now we must act.”

Participants in the Children’s Ebola Recovery Assessment recommend that the Government of Sierra Leone:

  • Take effective measures to bring Ebola to an end quickly so the recovery phase can fully begin.
  • Ensure that education is accessible for all children, including school fee subsidies and scholarships for those who have lost relatives to Ebola, especially orphans.
  • Strengthen the health system, providing additional qualified staff, especially for rural clinics that have been abandoned by personnel fearing Ebola.
  • Stop child labour and exploitation—and thereby reduce teen pregnancies—by sensitizing parents and providing livelihoods to poor families in order to protect girls from transactional sex.

Links:

Jul 29, 2015

Nepal 3 Month Report

Nepal Earthquake
Nepal Earthquake

In one of the largest ever child consultations undertaken following a disaster, nearly 2,000 children who survived the earthquakes in Nepal have expressed fear and insecurity at having to live in tents and overcrowded shelters, anxiety about the risks to their health from unsanitary conditions, and worry about their future if they cannot return to school.

The aid organizations that carried out the consultations – Plan International, Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision – highlight the need to strengthen the resilience of communities against major disasters. They also warn of severe risks to children’s health, well-being and protection during the monsoon season unless urgent humanitarian needs are met.

In the research released today, children shared their top priorities as adequate shelter, to be able to return to school and to have access to safe water supplies, sanitation and health care. After the earthquake: Nepal’s children speak out reveals the deep fears and anxieties of children, who are among the hundreds of thousands of people whose homes were destroyed.

Girls and boys described the difficulties of living in temporary shelters that were neither water or wind-proof in the aftermath of the earthquakes.

“Our shelter is at high risk of heavy storms. We were forced to stay awake for a whole night to hold on to the tarpaulins to save them from blowing away,” said a young boy in Nuwakot, one of the 14 most affected districts where children were consulted.

Save the Children’s Humanitarian Advisor and author of the report, Lucia Withers said: “Tens of thousands of children are living in inadequate shelters. Despite efforts to help earthquake-affected communities, it is still a race against time to provide basic needs of shelter, sanitation and protection.”

Children expressed concern about the lack of privacy and space, with some younger children fearing attacks of wild animals. Girls in particular reported feeling vulnerable in shelters shared with extended families and neighbors, while others felt subjected to sexual harassment and feared an increase in trafficking.

“Living under the sky increases our exposure to abuse,” said an adolescent girl from Sindhupalchowk – a district hit by the earthquakes.

World Vision’s Nepal Earthquake Response Operations Manager Admir Bajrami said, “With the monsoon season intensifying, we must act quickly and effectively to ensure the welfare of earthquake-affected children and their families is addressed. Children have lived through a hugely distressing experience which has also disrupted their education and they urgently need psychosocial support to recover.”

Children who took part in the consultation provided detailed and practical recommendations on how to rebuild their lives and communities, including the need for earthquake-resistant homes, schools and other buildings. Children also want to be better prepared for future earthquakes.

“I want to see earthquake-resistant houses built in flat areas with trees planted,” said a teenage boy from Sindhupalchowk.

Children suggested that schools be run in tents or other temporary shelters until new schools have been built and called upon the government to replace the books, stationery and other school materials that were buried under the rubble of their homes.

Furthermore, they called for stronger protection for themselves and other children in their communities.

Plan International’s Head of Disaster Preparedness and Response, Dr Unni Krishnan said: “Children’s lives in earthquake-affected areas have been turned upside down. The world must wake up to the fact that it is absolutely critical that children are factored in for any disaster preparedness and response efforts to be successful.”

Despite the huge challenges faced by the earthquake survivors, children also talked of communities rallying to help each other. In the consultation, children showed remarkable levels of resilience and optimism highlighting that their lives would normalize and even improve through the support of their communities.

UNICEF Deputy Representative Dr. Rownak Khan said: “These children have provided us with valuable insights that could have been missed by adult eyes. These suggestions now need to guide our programs in the rest of the country, to better prepare all communities in Nepal for impending disasters.”

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