ChildFund International Blog

Sierra Leone’s President Honors ChildFund’s Ebola Work

By Karifa Kamara, ChildFund Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone presidential medal

ChildFund’s Billy Abimbilla (in white jacket) accepts a medal from Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma.

At an awards ceremony Dec. 18 in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown, President Ernest Bai Koroma recognized ChildFund Sierra Leone’s work in the fight against the deadly Ebola epidemic.

Billy Abimbilla, national director of ChildFund’s offices in Sierra Leone and Liberia, was on hand to accept the bronze medal and certificate “in recognition of its support to the government and people of Sierra Leone during the outbreak of Ebola disease, especially in the operation of Observation Interim Care Centers and donation of food and non-food items to communities.”

ChildFund was among 199 organizations and individuals honored at the State House in Freetown for their work against Ebola, which claimed 3,955 lives in Sierra Leone during 2014 and 2015. Abimbilla and Davidson Jonah, ChildFund’s field operations support director, were instrumental in opening Interim Care Centers in Liberia and Sierra Leone last year during the height of the epidemic.

Children who were exposed to the deadly virus stayed in ICCs during their 21-day quarantine period and were cared for and observed for signs of Ebola by trained health workers, many of whom had survived the virus and were immune to it. For many children who had lost loved ones to the disease, ICCs were safe havens where they could play, receive nourishing meals and sleep comfortably.

Ethiopian Mother: “I Don’t Know What Is Waiting for Me Tomorrow”

Ethiopia food shortage

Kefyalech with two of her six children outside their home in Ethiopia. The family is among the millions suffering from a widespread food shortage.

Reporting by ChildFund Ethiopia’s local partner staff in Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region

Kefyalech, a 30-year-old mother who lives in Ethiopia, stays home to care for her six children while her husband, Derara, seeks work. But Derara often comes home without having found a job, because the coffee crop is suffering just like all the others in the two-year rainfall shortage that has gripped Ethiopia for months now, so the family remains hungry.

Three years ago, Kefyalech worked as a daily laborer and earned 10 birr ($0.47) a day, which covered some of the family’s expenses. But these days, Kefyalech and her children wait each night to see if Derara has earned enough money to buy maize flour, the only food they can afford.

Ethiopia food shortage

A man loads boxes of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food onto trucks for distribution in Ethiopia.

Kefyalech’s family is not alone. Poor rainfall over two growing seasons has limited the number of crops, and El Niño is delaying rainfall now. Experts predict the situation will worsen over the next eight months, and it could take more than a year for Ethiopia to recover.

The drought has damaged Ethiopia’s agriculture-based economy and limited its food supply, and it’s expected to continue well into next year; the Ethiopian government estimates that 10.1 million people will need food assistance in 2016, including 5.75 million children. Save the Children, another non-governmental organization working in Ethiopia, estimates that 400,000 children will be at risk of suffering acute malnutrition next year.

Working with the Ethiopian government, ChildFund and its local partner organizations in seven districts are providing supplementary food and cooking oil for nearly 74,000 children under age 5, pregnant and lactating mothers, and elderly people.

ChildFund and its partners are also working to support the government health office, including the health center in Kefyalech’s community. At a nutrition screening recently held there, her youngest child, 3-year-old daughter Debritu, was diagnosed as moderately malnourished in a nutrition screening held there, so the supplementary food Kefyalech was able to take home — Famix, a maize-and-soybean mixture fortified with vitamins and minerals — was especially welcome.

But Kefyalech says she felt she could not give the extra food to just Debritu and deprive her other children.

“As a mother, I had no choice but to feed the whole family, because there has not been enough food in the house,” she says. “I could not feed the supplementary food to only one of my children while seeing the rest going to sleep on an empty stomach.” As a result, the supplement was gone early, and Debritu remains malnourished.

The little girl also came down with pneumonia recently — no surprise, as malnutrition undermines children’s immunities. She is improving, with the help of prescription medication she received from the health center.

Kefyalech is understandably concerned about her family’s fragile future.

“I’m afraid of tomorrow because I have nothing,” she says. “I’m worried for my daughter. I’m scared. What if I don’t get support from ChildFund? I don’t know what is waiting for me tomorrow.” Kefyalech adds that her older children are not going to school anymore because they can’t spare the expense.

ChildFund’s local partners are also working with the Ethiopian government to provide blankets, sheets and mattresses to help the health centers handle the growing demand as more and more children need treatment. These organizations also are supporting the distribution of Plumpy’Nut, a therapeutic food provided by UNICEF for treating severe acute malnutrition, to government health centers in the areas affected by the food shortage.

You can help families like Kefyalech’s by making a donation to our emergency fund for Ethiopia. Learn more on our Emergency Updates page about what is happening in Ethiopia.

Rita of Guatemala: A Student and a Teacher

Guatemala guide mother

Rita is a guide mother in Guatemala’s highlands, and she is learning to lead early childhood education programs in her community.

By Nicole Duciaume, Americas Region Sponsorship Manager

Rita’s first day as a volunteer is filled with bursting nerves, excitement, confidence and fear. At one point, she candidly admits that she wants to do a good job so that those who trained her would be proud of what she learned and how she is applying it.

Guide mother Rita with her children, 4-year-old Sebastian and 1-year-old Jocelyn.

Guide mother Rita with her children, 4-year-old Sebastian and 1-year-old Jocelyn.

She joined ChildFund recently as a guide mother in the highlands of Guatemala. Over the next several years, she will take weekly classes on diverse topics such as parenting skills, children’s learning styles, nutrition, child rights, the importance of play and many more. She will then lead weekly community-based early childhood education sessions and will be a go-to resource for other mothers in her community.

Now 21 years old, Rita got married at age 17. She explains that her father died when she was in the fourth grade, forcing her to drop out of school to work on a small farm along with her mother and six siblings. This was the only way for the family to survive. She talks about the hardships of being a mother in a part of the world where women have little opportunity for education or work.

When asked why she wanted to be a guide mother, she lights up. Her answer is simple: “A better future for my children, so that they have chances that I never had. I want them to get an education and get whatever job they want.” She goes on to explain how important it is for her to learn and be a good model for her children, saying, “I didn’t get a chance to study, so this is also my turn to learn.”

With her 1-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, wrapped to her back with a perraje, a woven shawl, Rita stands in front of 15 eager children ready to play and learn. One of them is her 4-year-old son, Sebastian. Rita leads the class of 3- to 5-year-olds through various singing and coloring exercises, which translates into language acquisition and fine motor skills development. A smile of relief spreads across Rita’s face as the class ends and she knows that this session, the first of many more to come, has been a huge success.

Through ChildFund’s guide mother program, Rita is both the student and the teacher.

Waiting and Watching: A Volcano Threatens Eruption in Ecuador

Reporting and video by ChildFund Ecuador staff

With its snow-capped peak jutting into the Ecuadorean sky, the Cotopaxi volcano is one of the highest and most famous active volcanoes in South America. Since its most recent eruption in August 2015, it has become a source of growing concern for people living in the Cotopaxi province, where ChildFund works through its local partner FEDECOX.

Currently, the volcanic activity is moderate as Cotopaxi continues to emit steam and ash, and the Ecuadorean government has placed the area on yellow alert – the lowest of three possible safety warnings. FEDECOX has distributed masks and caps to help children and families block out the ash and prevent respiratory and skin diseases. The affected communities are also conducting large drills to prepare for a possible eruption.

The volcano, known to be one of the most dangerous in the world, remains carefully watched. Cotopaxi’s glacier cover multiplies the potential for lahars, which are enormous and devastating mud- and rockslides that can race down a mountain much too fast for people to escape.

ChildFund and its local partner organizations in the area are working to ensure that children and their families are as prepared as they can be, and we remain poised to provide the special help they’ll need in case of emergency.

We will provide further updates as they become available. In the meantime, take a look at this video featuring 7-year-old Leidy, who shows us how she puts on her protective gear – with a smile and plenty of style.

The Power of a Baby Goat

Video by Jake Lyell

Each year, goats are one of our top gifts among donors, because they are easy to give and bring such joy to children and their family members. Watch what a difference a (very cute) baby goat and its brothers and sisters have made in the lives of Perina and her grandmother Alidessa, who live in Zambia. Then, you can make a difference for a family in Ethiopia, The Gambia, Guinea, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Uganda or Zambia by giving the gift of goats.

A Real Gift for the Holidays

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Not to alarm you, but Christmas is approaching and Hanukkah is already underway. Some of you are probably all set, presents bought and wrapped, but not everyone is. Don’t stress. You still have time to purchase a meaningful gift. Every year in November, ChildFund comes out with a new catalog of items that children and their family members request in the 30 countries where we work. These real gifts — real because your money is used to send the specific gift listed to a child or family in need — are great for friends, family, coworkers or others. These gifts don’t take up extra room on someone’s coffee table, and, most importantly, you’re doing something to help a person in need, which is in the spirit of the season.

This year, our online gift catalog is redesigned and easier to navigate, and, best of all for the procrastinators, we have a new Gift Finder Quiz that suggests an item for your giftee after you answer a few questions. When I took the quiz, it suggested that I give a Dream Bike in my loved one’s honor. How about that! A girl can get to and from school safely and quickly with my gift. Pretty cool for me, my friend and the girl who gets the bike.

 

dream bike in Indonesia

Aisyah, a sixth-grader from Jakarta, Indonesia, used to leave her home to walk to school at 5 a.m. This bike gets her there faster.

Harvest Time in Ecuador

Mother and daughter in Ecuador

“I like spending my time helping my mom in the garden, especially when it is harvest time,” says 6-year-old Samira of Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Veronica Travez, ChildFund Ecuador. 

Living with HIV in a Ugandan Village

Reporting by Mark Can, Punena Parish HIV/AIDS Project Officer

A young mother, 32-year-old Lakot, describes her life after being diagnosed with HIV. Two years ago, she joined a ChildFund-supported group in her village in northern Uganda, which has allowed her to receive support from people going through similar challenges. Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day. In Uganda, approximately 1.5 million people are living with HIV, according to 2014 statistics from UNAIDS, and most people in sub-Saharan Africa are either directly or indirectly affected by the disease.

Lakot, a young mother living with HIV.

Lakot, a young mother living with HIV.

I joined the family support group 2 years ago. Before I joined, life was hard. I was living in fear and isolation because I was HIV positive.

After joining the group, life became easier. From the other members, I learned a lot about how to take care of myself and my family. I sometimes used to forget to take my medication, but the group members remind me, and if I need it, they escort me to pick up my drugs. Now I have no fear of living with the disease.

I also realized that I was not alone and that I could freely live and talk about it. That’s why I am even free to talk to you right now.

In the process of our meetings, we decided that we needed to save some money to support ourselves in times of need. So, we started the bol chup (village savings and loan) group. We meet every Monday and collect money after our support meetings. This group helps us when we are in need of money;  we borrow funds and pay them back with little interest.

Because of the family support group meetings, I realized the need to disclose my status to my children.

I am appealing to the government and to nongovernmental organizations asking they support our groups more, in terms of finances and sponsorship for our children, so they can continue to study in school.

Learn more about HIV’s impact on children in Uganda and what you can do to help

****

From Ya Sainey Gaye, ChildFund The Gambia:

James Pimundu, national director of ChildFund The Gambia, shared his thoughts about the United Nations’ goal to end the spread of HIV by 2030. He also highlighted the need to reflect on the challenges faced during the past in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Pimundu called for strong partnership with other international nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and civil groups to complement government initiatives.

He also touched on the impact that HIV and AIDS have on people’s lives, especially in the area of child mortality: “It creates marginalization of those infected due to the stigma attached to its name. This can hinder the fight for control and, by extension, eradication of the disease. ChildFund believes that through engagement with marginalized people — and using the power of advocacy, community mobilization and a host of other strategies to reach those affected directly and indirectly — will help us succeed in the total eradication of HIV and AIDS by the year 2030.”

Finally, Pimundu called for changes in attitude, bringing about greater support and understanding of people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. Together, our collaborative actions will certainly bring a halt to the spread of the disease, he added.

 

United States Children’s Survey Shows Fear, Insecurity

police in Oklahoma

Children line up to meet a police officer and check out a squad car during ChildFund’s Just Read! Reading Festival in Oklahoma. Safety and security are on many children’s minds, according to our recent poll. 

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

If you were president, what is the one thing you would do to keep children safe?

We put that question to 1,188 children and youth ages 5 to 18 in ChildFund’s U.S. programs in Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. When we take a look at their answers, the common denominator is fear.

What would they do as president? Most say they would keep children away from predators, bullies and strangers. Some would make children stay inside their homes, lock down schools, put stone walls around parks.

Some would even implant tracking devices under children’s skin and in their teeth.

More than 30 percent spoke about enforcing adult supervision, setting up alarm systems and giving children safe places to go.

Another 7.5 percent recommended keeping children isolated and restricting their movements or staying with their parents at all times. And 18 percent say they would create, change or enforce laws, mostly to keep children safer. Others would shut down the Internet or use technology to track down sex offenders and predators and keep them away from children.

Children usually are reflecting the concerns — voiced or not — of the adults around them.

Part of this sense of danger and insecurity is likely based on real problems in their communities; the children polled are from disadvantaged and poor areas, with more than 20 percent of the population under the national poverty line. High dropout rates, domestic violence and substance abuse are documented issues, along with other hardships associated with poverty.

“While children responded overwhelmingly that they feel the safest at home, we know that many homes are not safe environments for children in these areas,” says program director Julia Campbell. “In previous surveys and consultations with children, they are reluctant to talk about what goes on at home and mainly focus on the problems outside the home. Perhaps compared to the other choices, home still feels the most safe to them. It’s still what kids know best and what they prefer.”

But children also are reacting to perceived problems, too. They’re scared of being targeted by sexual predators, kidnappers and other villains around every corner. Dangerous people exist, of course, but are they as omnipresent as some of the children’s answers suggest?

We need to pay attention, even when what they say seems a little off the wall. Children usually are reflecting the concerns — voiced or not — of the adults around them. Just read some of their answers to “If I were president …”

I would make a small town and keep them in there. There wouldn’t be no bullying, no people trying to get them.

I would keep children safe by putting the schoolhouse on lockdown.    

If they are ages 6-13, they should not go places without parents guarding them.

NO Guns, NO Drugs.

Ban drugs and walking home alone from school.

I would make a stone wall around the park and only kids and their parents can go in.

I would make the parks safe 24 hours.

Make sure that the parents are good; they don’t get drunk and beat their kids.

I would keep children safe by keeping ISIS away from America.

Remove every website.

I would have a soldier at as many doors as possible, make it illegal for people to use motorcycles, make animal shelters that don’t kill animals, and make it illegal to smoke or drink.

Have an online school because a lot of children get kidnapped walking home after school.

There are a few light-hearted and optimistic answers, like the children who would ban homework on Fridays and establish four-day weekends, but the vast majority of the young people polled suggest fairly extreme solutions to the question of keeping kids safe. And as we know from working in countries with political strife and other dangers, it’s hard for children to concentrate on playing, making friends, studying and reaching their potential when they’re afraid.

But if we look back to the children’s words, we can find a few answers about how to ease their fears and help them feel safer and more confident. We just need to listen:

Make parents teach children what’s right and wrong and lead them on the right path.

Have a class where all children go and talk to a teacher to tell them anything that is going on with their lives.

Listen to what they have to say and look for the best solution for their problems.

Talk to them about all their insecurities and just tell them that everything will be all right.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with warm thoughts and love. What are we thankful for at ChildFund? The chance to see children’s happy faces and hear their voices. Here’s a class at an elementary school in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, singing about a garden full of pretty flowers. Please enjoy.

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