Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Five Years After Katrina, U.S. Remains Unprepared to Protect Children During Disasters

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New Reports Reveal Millions of Children Vulnerable Should Disaster Strike

WASHINGTON, D.C., (August 23, 2010) — New reports from Save the Children and the National Commission on Children and Disasters reveal that the federal government and a vast majority of states are still not fully prepared to protect children in disasters, five years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.

Children participate in a Save the Children program following Hurricane Katrina intended to build community and self-esteem and strengthen resilience.

Children participate in a Save the Children program following Hurricane Katrina intended to build community and self-esteem and strengthen resilience.

According to Save the Children's report, fewer than one quarter of all states and the District of Columbia have enacted four basic safeguards to protect kids who are in school or child care during disasters, such as requiring all licensed child care centers to have a plan to reunite children with their families and requiring schools to have a clear written evacuation plan in place.

A report approved today by the National Commission on Children and Disasters shows modest progress at the federal level to accommodate the needs of children should a disaster strike. Among the findings are seriously underfunded federal programs for school disaster preparedness, inadequate coordination among federal, state and local agencies and lack of preparedness in our private health care system, including a disturbing finding that only six percent of hospital emergency rooms carry essential pediatric equipment.

Hurricane Katrina revealed the harm children and families experience when kids are not accounted for in disaster planning:

  • The storm displaced nearly 200,000 children from the Gulf Region.
  • Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it took six months for all of the 5,192 children separated from their families to be reunited.
  • About 50,000 Louisiana and Mississippi children missed school in the 2005-2006 school year and approximately 15,000 did not attend in the 2006-2007 school year.
  • More than a third of Louisiana children affected by the storm experienced clinically-diagnosed depression, anxiety, or another behavior disorder.

"Parents assume that their children are taken care of when they drop them off at school or child care,” said Mark Shriver, Save the Children U.S. Programs senior vice president, “But many schools and child care facilities are not required to meet basic standards to protect kids should a disaster strike. For the 67 million kids separated from their families on any given day, this is unacceptable. If we're not prepared to protect kids, we're not prepared to protect America."

The BP Oil Spill this summer also revealed a major lack of preparation. Families recovering from this man-made disaster are experiencing similar issues that families face in the aftermath of a hurricane or other natural disaster. The spill has had catastrophic effects on the local economy and the community, and has placed enormous strain on parents, who are forced to pull their kids out of child care because they cannot afford it. Struggling parents frequently must bring their kids with them to BP claim centers, where they face long lines outside in the summer heat, putting children at risk for heat exposure.

In order to better prepare our nation to protect kids in an emergency, Save the Children urges the adoption of all four standards outlined in the report by states as well as federal passage of the Child Safety, Care, and Education Continuity Act of 2010 (H.R. 5240/S. 2898), which would require states to adhere to many of the same standards. Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) is the sponsor of the House legislation, and Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) are the sponsors of the Senate measure.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nafy's Story: Kangaroo Mother Care in Mali

R10-MA__-70aDr. Nialen Kaba, Save the Children, project assistant for newborn survival and health

Bamako, Mali

April 14, 2010

I met Nafy on a visit to the Kangaroo Mother Care unit at Gabriel Toure Hospital in Bamako, Mali this past December. She was proud to be carrying her newborn son on her chest.

At delivery, Nafy was upset when the midwife told her that her baby was very small, weighing only 1200 grams (2.6 pounds). When her husband Adama learned of the baby’s condition, his joy quickly faded and he decided not to give the child a name. So, Nafy named him Ismael.

The day after Ismael was born, he was transferred to the pediatrics unit of the hospital. Expecting the worst, Nafy was relieved to learn that her baby had no abnormalities. However, because he was born premature, he would need to be kept warm to help him gain weight and grow.

She was told about Kangaroo Mother Care, a recently accepted practice in Mali that when coupled with a mother’s determination could help Ismael survive.

View a photo essay featuring moms and babies in the Kangaroo Mother Care ward at Gabriel Toure Hospital in Bamako, Mali.

Nafy quickly adopted the Kangaroo Mother Care method in hopes of seeing her baby survive. She was forced to cope with Ismael alone because her husband Adama and his family were convinced that her efforts would be in vain.

Their reaction only reinforced Nafy’s resolve. She practiced Kangaroo Mother Care and Ismael gained weight day by day.

Her slogan was, “She who gives birth to a snake, attaches him to her waist.” The slogan means: Whatever the physical and mental condition of her baby, a mother is always ready to do whatever it takes to help her child survive.

Each year, about 900,000 newborns worldwide die due to premature births. In Mali, more than 14 percent of newborns are born premature, according to the 2006 Mali Demographic Health Survey. But since the kangaroo care center opened 20 months ago, sover 550 babies have benefitted.

Learn how more than 50 percent of newborn deaths could be saved through Kangaroo Mother Care.

On the day I visited Nafy, Ismael was entering his third week of life. He weighed 2800 grams (6 pounds) and wiggled to break free from the chest of his mother, who never stopped smiling.

Learn more about Survive to 5, Save the Children's campaign to save the lives of children under 5.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Save the Children and Scholastic Establish 'Education Recovery Fund' to Benefit Haiti over the Long Term

Haitian children at temporary school in Haiti. Photo credit: Rebecca Janes

Haitian children at a temporary school in Martissant, Haiti. Photo credit: Rebecca Janes.

WESTPORT, Conn. (April 19, 2010) — Save the Children has teamed up with Scholastic to establish a long-term education recovery fund that will benefit the children of Haiti.

The Scholastic Education Recovery Fund was seeded by a $50,000 contribution from Scholastic following the earthquake and will receive an additional $50,000 contribution from Scholastic in connection with this month's publication of a new paperback edition of Hope Is An Open Heart by Lauren Thompson. The book pays tribute to children's resilience and ability to consider the brighter aspects of life — to be hopeful — even in the most difficult situations.

"Scholastic supports organizations that share our mission to provide hope and help on a long-term basis to children and families after natural disasters," says Karen Proctor, vice president of Community Affairs and Government Relations at Scholastic.

"Through the Education Recovery Fund we can support the rebuilding of Haiti by investing in the children — recognizing that by providing them with educational resources, we are encouraging them to keep learning, growing and preparing for their futures as the next leaders of their country."

"We truly appreciate Scholastic's contribution and commitment to helping the children of Haiti get an education through their newly established Scholastic Education Recovery Fund," said Chloe O'Gara, Save the Children's director for Education and Child Development. "More than three months after the Haiti quake, the country still faces tremendous challenges in getting children into school, some for the first time. But, they are not insurmountable."

The Haitian Ministry of Education estimates that 90 percent of schools in the affected areas have been damaged or destroyed following the January earthquake, that over 400,000 children have been displaced, and that only 50 percent of students have returned to schools. In addition, many teachers and administrators in the Ministry of Education were killed or injured in the quake or were displaced from their homes.

O'Gara added, "The education recovery fund will help us reach more Haitian children through our education programs, getting them back into school and a routine among friends, where they can begin to recover from this crisis, and setting them on a path of learning that will benefit them for years to come."

About Scholastic and Hope Is An Open Heart

Hope Is An Open Heart, an inspirational children's picture book, was originally published by Scholastic Press in the wake of the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes to provide encouragement and inspiration for all children dealing with challenging situations. The new, revised version, available through all of Scholastic's distribution channels to schools and at bookstores nationwide in April 2010, features new photographs and text about the January earthquake that ravaged Haiti.

Haiti's children

Haiti's children