Category Archives: Save the Children

Post-Conflict Ivory Coast: An Interview with Annie Bodmer-Roy of Save the Children

Ten-month-old Sara has been found to be malnourished, and will receive treatment to make her strong and healthy again. Even before the conflict, already one in three children under five years old in Côte d'Ivoire was suffering from chronic malnutrition (Photo: Annie Bodmer-Roy/Save the Children)

Four months have passed since the conflict in the Ivory Coast came to an end following a disputed election. But the wounds run very deep in the West African nation.

There were thousands displaced by the fighting between supporters of President Alassane Ouattara and those of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo. Many of the refugees fear returning home. The conflict caused a loss of livelihoods, shelter, medical care and other basic services.

The Ivory Coast needs peace and reconciliation, as well as unity against the hunger and disease still attacking the population. Annie Bodmer-Roy of Save the Children recently talked about how the charity is taking action to help Ivory Coast recover from the violence.

What kinds of programs is Save the Children running in the Ivory Coast?

The conflict that hit the Ivory Coast following disputed elections in November 2010 had a huge impact on the population. As in conflict around the world, children have been hit the hardest. Pre-existing high levels of poverty even before the conflict – 49% of the population was living under the poverty line – were suddenly combined with large-scale loss of income as hundreds of thousands of families were forced to flee their homes for safety. This has meant that thousands of parents no longer have enough money to ensure enough food for their children. Widespread violence and looting also limited families’ access to health care and children’s access to schools as health workers and teachers fled the areas of fighting, hospitals were looted, and schools used as temporary camps for those families who had fled their homes.

In response to the increased needs of children and their families, Save the Children launched a large-scale emergency program, appealing for funds to help meet the immediate needs of children affected by the conflict. We’re currently operating across eight offices and are running seven different programs, including health; nutrition; food security and livelihoods; education; child protection; shelter; and water, sanitation and hygiene. We’re also running a civil society initiative where we provide small cash grants to local NGOs and community-based organisations for them to implement projects in their communities, enabling a local response to needs identified within the community as being the most pressing for families.

As so many families lost their means to an income, one initiative Save the Children has started running is a cash transfer programme, where the families most affected by the conflict are identified by our staff, and are provided with ID cards that allow them to take out money at specific banks we’ve partnered with throughout the country. In this way, families who have been displaced, families on their way back home, or those who have already returned, can access this cash when they are on the move and once they arrive, providing a buffer that will help them get through the day-to-day as they start building back their lives. The cash provided will enable families to buy food at local markets, ensuring their children will begin getting the nutritious food they need, while at the same time improving livelihoods for local farmers and vendors. So far we’ve helped close to 2,000 families through this project – and we’re scaling up in the coming weeks to provide this assistance to an additional 8,000 families.

What is the level of malnutrition among the children?

Even before the conflict, already one in three children under five years old in Côte d’Ivoire was suffering from chronic malnutrition. One in five children under five was considered underweight. With the outbreak of conflict and massive population movement, it has been difficult to gather accurate and up-to-date information on malnutrition rates; however Save the Children and other agencies working on malnutrition have observed worrying signs of increases in malnutrition, including some areas where severe acute malnutrition has increased in a matter of weeks. Save the Children has recently started up malnutrition screening and treatment for children under five in western Ivory Coast, where some of the worst of the fighting and looting took place during the conflict.

Are there any basic health services available to children?

One of the immediate results of the conflict was the breakdown in health services as hospitals and health centres closed in many areas due to the fighting, with health workers fleeing the areas hit by violence and the centres and hospitals themselves being looted and pillaged. Medicines and medical equipment were stolen, which meant that even once health workers began returning and hospitals began to re-open, patients were unable to receive the treatment they needed.

Another major concern has been health user fees – because so many families lost their means to an income, they could no longer afford medical care and treatment. As a result of advocacy by aid agencies like Save the Children however, the Ivorian government agreed to drop health user fees, passing a decree enabling families to access free health care throughout the country.

Today, health centres are largely open and running with the support of agencies like Save the Children, who ensure regular provision of medical supplies and essential medicines, as well as support in rehabilitating infrastructures destroyed during the conflict. For areas where there are no functioning health centres or hospitals running, Save the Children and other agencies have been running mobile outreach clinics, travelling to remote villages and towns to ensure that the health needs of children and their families’ are being addressed and proper care and treatment is provided.

What has been the psychological impact of the conflict?

Children have been exposed to enormous levels of violence and many have been separated from their families when they had to flee their homes. Save the Children’s teams have spoken to children who have fled violence in the west of the country who have seen their houses burnt down and family members killed. Even today, four months after the end of the fighting and over eight months since the elections, our teams are identifying children who had to leave relatives behind when they fled – and still do not know whether their family members are alive or dead. Some of the older children have lived through the 2002 conflict and have now been exposed to heavy violence in their lives for a second time – while it is clear that this has an immediate and profound impact on children, Save the Children is also concerned about the longer term psychological impact on children.

In the past weeks, our teams have spoken to children who consider the war to still be going on – despite the end of fighting and the resolution of the political crisis. We’ve also been to villages in the West where children no longer play in the same areas they used to go play in, as they no longer feel safe there. Save the Children is running regular play activities for children in Abidjan and in the West, areas hardest hit by the conflict. Through the spaces set up for these activities, Save the Children is providing an opportunity for children to play together in a safe area, getting a chance to be children again and regain a sense of normalcy to help them recover from the difficulties they’ve faced in the past months. The spaces also give children the chance to speak to an adult they can trust, trained by Save the Children to help children talk through their problems and ensure children have someone who will listen.

How can someone help Save the Children in the Ivory Coast?

Although the political crisis sparked by last year’s elections has now been resolved, immediate needs remain for hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are still displaced from their homes even today. Save the Children is running an emergency response in the Ivory Coast to make sure that children are able to access enough nutritious food to stay healthy and strong; medical care and treatment; and clean drinking water. We’re also working closely with other agencies and the government so that children are well-protected against violence, abuse and exploitation, also making sure that children can get back into school. As families begin to return home, we are looking at transitioning some of our programmes into longer-term work to ensure that even once the immediate crisis has passed, children and their families are not forgotten, and continue to receive the assistance they need to build their lives back.

Someone who wanted to help Save the Children in the Ivory Coast can keep up to date on what we’re doing by signing up to Save the Children’s email updates, sent out regularly to supporters, providing information on what we’re doing on the ground. You can also check out our webpage on the Ivory Coast at our website and spread the word among your friends and family about what we’re doing to help children recover from the conflict. You can also donate here to help us continue our work and make sure we have the funding we need to continue to meet the needs of children and their families in the Ivory Coast.

Article first published as Post-Conflict Ivory Coast: An Interview with Annie Bodmer-Roy of Save the Children on Blogcritics.

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Filed under global hunger, Ivory Coast, malnutrition, peace, plumpy'nut, Save the Children, West Africa

A New Friendship Train to Fight Global Hunger

When hunger ravaged Europe after World War II how did Americans respond? They started a Friendship Train to feed the hungry and help win the peace after the war.

Let’s start a New Friendship Train today to reach the hungry overseas starting first with East Africa which is suffering from famine and a severe drought. Then the train will move to provide relief to drought afflicted Afghanistan. Yemen, Haiti, the Ivory Coast and many other countries also need support.

Start the New Friendship Train. You can donate at these aid agencies……
 

First Destination: East Africa…To Feed the Hungry and Malnourished…..

Train images courtesy of Shortlines of Chicago Historical Society. Crossing lights image courtesy of Amazing Animations.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Catholic Relief Services, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, global hunger, History, malnutrition, plumpy'nut, Save the Children, School feeding, Somalia, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, UNICEF, World Food Programme, World Vision

The Roadmap to End Global Hunger

During 2009 the global hunger crisis escalated with the number of people suffering from hunger climbing over one billion. This great humanitarian crisis calls for action on the part of world leaders. In countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan hunger threatens hopes for peace. This book includes press releases, interviews and perspective on The Roadmap to End Global Hunger legislation in Congress. This bill (H.R. 2817) was introduced during 2009 by U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.). The legislation is based on the recommendations made by groups such as Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, Friends of the World Food Program, World Vision and others. Inside you will hear from offiicials from these organizations as they discuss the Roadmap and its importance in fighting hunger. Also you will see how you can get involved to support the Roadmap to End Global Hunger. Also included in the book is a special historical perspective section on Fighting Hunger and World War II.

The Roadmap to End Global Hunger is available from:

Amazon.com

Google Ebookstore

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Filed under Afghanistan, Catholic Relief Services, drought, East Africa, global hunger, History, Ivory Coast, Kenya, malnutrition, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, School feeding, Somalia, Sudan, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, West Africa, World Food Programme, World Vision, World War II, Yemen

Humanitarian Aid Needed Long After Guns Fall Silent

10-month old Sara has been found to be malnourished, and will receive treatment to make her strong and healthy again. Even before the conflict, already one in three children under 5 years old in Côte d'Ivoire was suffering from chronic malnutrition (Photo: Annie Bodmer-Roy/Save the Children)

Earlier this year I wrote several stories about the conflict in the Ivory Coast. A disputed presidential election led to violence which displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the West African nation. While the post election violence has subsided, the scars remain. Hunger is still on the attack.

Annie Bodmer-Roy of Save the Children says, “The international perception is that because levels of violence have died down and the country has a president, the crisis is now resolved. This is not the case. Our teams are on the ground, speaking to children and their families and witnessing the horrible conditions that these people are still living in – we know that the humanitarian crisis is far from over.”

As we honor World Humanitarian Day , this is an important concept to note, not just for the Ivory Coast but for any conflict-affected area. Hunger and sickness are the companions of warfare. These scourges last much longer than the actual fighting itself. The Ivory Coast is one of these examples.

Think of your own community and how daily life plays itself out. And then imagine the unthinkable, a war striking. Basic things that you see every day, like food deliveries and shopping at stores, would cease. Housing would be destroyed, leaving many trying to find basic shelter. Imagine large-scale displacement, on foot mostly, as fuel deliveries have stopped. Farms that produce food may be damaged. Health clinics may be destroyed or unable to get deliveries because transportation systems are not functioning. Medical care would decline.

Once a war ends, these repairs to basic life must begin. It’s bad enough for any community to go through such a rebuilding process, but imagine areas that were already impoverished. Their resiliency would be far less. The same reconstruction pains often take place with recovery from natural disasters. In East Africa, for instance, recovery from the massive drought there will take years.

The key is maintaining focus on areas once the headline-grabbing conflict ends. For example, in Yemen very little coverage is given to the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons from the Sa’ada War in the northern part of the country. The fighting there too has subsided, but great suffering remains. In Southern Sudan, many are still struggling to recover from conflict with the North. Fighting earlier this year displaced hundreds of thousands of people. But you hear little of their plight in the headlines.

World Humanitarian Day is to honor the dedication of those helping in the many crisis points around the globe. It’s also a time to remember that humanitarian aid is still needed even long after the guns fall silent in a war zone. Just because news coverage wanes in an area does not mean the suffering does as well. It’s important to support humanitarian efforts in conflict or disaster zones to finish the job of reconstruction.

Coming soon, an interview with Annie Bodmer-Roy as she gives the latest on the situation in the Ivory Coast. She will discuss how Save the Children is helping communities fight hunger and overcome the effects of conflict. You can donate to Save the Children’s relief mission in the Ivory Coast here.

(Listen to Annie  Bodmer-Roy of Save the Children discuss the post-conflict humanitarian crisis in the Ivory Coast in an interview in May with the BBC. )

Sara receives a supply of plumpy'nut: Genevieve, 34, heads home from the local health clinic with her son Komène and her daughter Sara, 10 months, asleep wrapped up against her mother’s back in the town of Guezon, western Ivory Coast. Genevieve has just received a bag full of plumpy’nut, a peanut paste packed with vitamins and minerals, designed to help babies like Sara recover from malnutrition. (photo: Annie Bodmer-Roy/Save the Children)

Plumpy'nut is a special peanut paste used to treat severe child malnutrition in small children. Countries suffering from conflict, natural disasters, or poverty need adequate supplies of plumpy'nut to combat child malnutrition. The plumpy'nut requires no cooking and can be easily stored and distributed. Children who suffer malnutrition in the first 1,000 days will have lasting physical and mental damage. (Photo: Annie Bodmer-Roy/Save the Children)

Article first published as Humanitarian Aid Needed Long After Guns Fall Silent on Blogcritics.

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Filed under Ivory Coast, malnutrition, Save the Children, Sudan, West Africa, Yemen