War in Syria. Catastrophic devastation in Nepal. A deadly epidemic in West Africa. In these, and many other ways, 2015 was a traumatic year for children.
The closest many of us came to this trauma was seeing the television images of refugees braving the perilous crossing to Europe from Africa and the Middle East.
In the face of so much suffering it is easy to believe there is nothing we can do.
But last year you showed, time and again, that we can make a real difference to the lives of millions of children. What follows is a snapshot of the crucial humanitarian work you made possible – and how you can do even more for children in the year to come.
In all, we reached nearly 3 million children in 2015 caught up in 76 emergencies.
Europe: A terrifying journey
The footage of refugees making the perilous voyage across the Mediterranean to Europe dominated our TV screens last year – and divided political opinion.
For us, it’s simple: we’re doing whatever it takes to help child refugees and their families.
Last year, around one million refugees arrived in Europe – more than four times as many as in 2014 – many of them fleeing conflict and persecution.
Conditions in the makeshift camps that await them are often dire. And children on the move across Europe – many thousands of them alone – are at risk of abuse, exploitation, violence and trafficking.
Our teams work along the whole route that refugees take, and in the countries where they settle.
Across Europe we run programmes that protect children from trafficking and exploitation. We provide families with food parcels, warm clothes, blankets and tents. We make sure children who need psychological support can get it, and have set up safe spaces where they can play and learn.
We’re giving people the advice and information they need when they arrive at reception centres, and we’re working with authorities to reunite children with their families.
We’ve helped thousands of refugees across Europe. But with the numbers of people escaping conflict, persecution and poverty only likely to increase, we aim to step up our response next year.
Syria: Childhood under attack
Rising numbers of refugees seek safety in Europe, but most never make it that far.
Syria’s vicious and intractable civil war has forced 4 million people to leave the country – sparking the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.
The vast majority end up in camps in neighbouring Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey. Over 7 million more are displaced within Syria.
More than half of Syria’s refugees are children – many have experienced terrible scenes of violence. Khalid* lost his arm in a missile attack on his school, and saw classmates killed and severely injured. Psychological as well as physical scars are deep. Parents say their children are more introverted, are scared of loud noises, are more prone to panic attacks and nightmares.
Uprooted from all they know, they confront another bitter winter exposed to the elements in overcrowded camps or on the move. We’re making sure they get the basics they need to survive – food, water, clothing, shelter. We’re also helping them come to terms with their traumatic experiences.
We’re running safe spaces across the region, where children are free to play, learn and just be children again. We’re making sure children dealing with severe emotional trauma get access to trained psychologists. And we’re helping them return to school so they have the chance of an education, and of a future.
So far we’ve reached almost 3.2 million people, including more than 2 million children, both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries.
Yemen: Suffering in silence
While the eyes of the world are fixed on the disaster engulfing Syria, a tragedy on an even larger scale is unfolding almost unnoticed in Yemen.
Violence has ripped through what was already the poorest country in the Arab world. An estimated 3,000 civilians have been killed, 2.3 million people have been forced from their homes and 21 million are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. More than 800,000 children under five were acutely malnourished even before this latest crisis. The country is just one step away from famine.
Many children have witnessed brutal violence, the death of family and friends, and the destruction of everything they know.
As in Syria, many are prepared to go anywhere just to escape the fighting. Around 17,000 people have crossed the Gulf of Aden to reach Somalia, itself torn apart by war. The conditions for many – in camps or makeshift accommodation – are appalling. It’s a life one-day-old Nadeen*, pictured, has been born into.
We’ve reached 400,000 people caught up in the crisis in Yemen, including more than 227,000 children. Our teams are working amid the violence to deliver essentials to tens of thousands of people.
More than 10,000 children attend our safe spaces where they receive the support they need to come to terms with their terrible experiences.
South Sudan: Families reunited
When conflict erupts, families are often separated in the chaos. Young children can be left to fend for themselves in a war zone, without the protection of their parents and at risk of exploitation and abuse.
In South Sudan, where a fresh explosion of violence in December 2013 forced 2.2 million people to flee their homes, we’re uniting families torn apart by war.
In May 2015, Save the Children reunited Gatwech* with his children Sammy*, six, and James*, three, all pictured.
When he saw them again for the first time he was overwhelmed with joy.
* Name changed to protect identity.
When disaster strikes
Nepal: Straight into action
Within 24 hours of the massive earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April, our teams were on the ground, even in the midst of continuous aftershocks, distributing relief and lifesaving supplies.
Our rapid response was thanks in part to having prepositioned supplies in warehouses across the country and an emergency plan we could put straight into action.
We reached more than half a million people – including around 325,000 children – with food, water, sanitation, shelter materials and temporary classrooms, so children didn’t have to miss out on their education.
But the devastation left by the earthquake – and a follow-up quake on 12 May – was immense. Bhagawati and her daughter, 18-month-old Arati, are pictured standing where their village once stood. Arati was badly injured when their house collapsed while she was sleeping inside. There’s was one of more than 600,000 homes destroyed in the quake.
What took seconds to destroy will take years to rebuild.
Save the Children will be there for the long haul. Over the next three years we aim to help 600,000 people get back on their feet, and build back stronger.
Bangladesh: Climate chaos
Climate change is already making extreme weather events more frequent and intense – with catastrophic consequences for children in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Our Children's Emergency Fund – a vital source of finance available before a disaster strikes – means we can help communities prepare for climatic extremes and respond quickly when they hit.
So when four days of torrential rain at the end of June caused flash floods and landslides in south-eastern Bangladesh – a remote corner of the world far from the media spotlight – we could move straight into action.
Thousands of families – like this one in Cox’s Bazar district – were forced from their homes with only whatever they could carry on their backs.
We gave cash grants to thousands of families so they had the flexibility to buy whatever they most needed – be that food, medicines or educational materials.
We delivered household essentials and helped rebuild schools damaged in the floods. In all we reached 79,000 across the stricken nation.
Vanuatu: Ready for the worst
As Cyclone Pam hurtled towards Vanuatu our teams were already on the ground, helping families prepare.
Winds of 250mph tore through the tiny Pacific island in the worst storm in its history, leaving a trail of devastation to homes, schools and health facilities, but the death toll – thanks in part to our preparedness efforts – was remarkably low.
An estimated 166,000 people were made homeless and 110,000 left in desperate need of clean water – some resorted to drinking sea water.
We launched one of our fastest ever responses. In the first month alone we reached more than 17,000 people with food, temporary shelter, vaccinations, health kits, and safe water – for children like five-year-old Liana and the rest of his village.
And we set up temporary learning spaces so children could return to their education and a semblance of normality.
We're rising to new challenges
Ebola: Into the unknown
It filled our television screens with terrifying images of medics in protective suits, jet sprays, body bags. It was a crisis like none we’ve ever faced before. It pushed our ability to respond to the limit.
As Ebola coursed through West Africa, eventually killing more than 11,000 people, we embarked on a health response unprecedented in scale, scope and complexity.
We built clinics from scratch that would normally take years to develop, and stocked health centres with medical supplies. We made information a key battleground, telling people how the disease spread, and how to protect themselves. We trained volunteers to monitor and trace people who’d been exposed to the virus, so they could be isolated and treated as soon as they became infected.
So far, we’ve reached almost 4.6 million people across West Africa, including more than 2 million children, with life-saving health care, protection and support.
Slowly we’ve helped to bring the crisis under control. Infection rates have stabilised in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The fight to stop Ebola is a story of success, but the fallout will last for years: children struggling to deal with the emotional trauma of watching their parents die and being left alone to face exploitation, stigma and abuse; a decimated health service deprived of hundreds of workers; millions of children who’ve lost a whole year of school, and whose parents now can’t afford to send them back.
So our response has moved beyond healthcare. We’re now working to reunite children with extended family members or finding appropriate care; getting them back into school; giving them the expert psychological support they need to deal with their experiences.
And we’re lobbying governments in the countries affected to take effective measures so that children are protected from exploitation and are able to go to school.
Our Emergency Health Unit: Right people, right place, ready to act
The Ebola experience made us realise we needed a faster, more effective means of responding to health emergencies.
The EHU is a network of teams of surgeons, doctors, nurses and logistics experts positioned in emergency hotspots across the world.
It means we can put world-class health professionals at an injured child’s side within 72 hours of a disaster striking – the right people, in the right place, ready to respond.
It’s a radical new approach that will help us reach children even faster in an emergency.
Help us respond to the next emergency
The Children’s Emergency Fund
Much of the life-saving humanitarian work you’ve read about was made possible by our Children’s Emergency Fund.
In the past year alone, it has helped us allocate 124 grants to disasters across 49 countries.
This emergency fund allows us to provide a comprehensive package of humanitarian response – a three-pronged approach that doesn’t wait until after a disaster strikes or end when it’s over:
Before disaster hits, we help communities prepare for the worst.
Within hours of a disaster striking, our teams can be on the ground, saving lives.
In the months after a crisis we provide ongoing support to children in conflict zones, refugee camps or in disaster-prone areas.
Your support is vital
Your support has never been more important. The world faces a refugee crisis on a scale not seen since the Second World War. The number of people caught up in humanitarian disasters – fuelled by population growth and climate change – has doubled in just the past decade. While deadly epidemics such as Ebola can still strike without warning.
We urgently need to expand our world-class humanitarian work to reach millions more children. You can help us do just that:
£35 could pay for a box of ready-to-use therapeutic food sachets. This high energy, fortified food is suitable for the treatment of children with severe acute malnutrition.
£80 could pay for a series of life-saving medical vaccinations for 10 children, including measles, tuberculosis, polio, and hepatitis B.
£100 could provide 10 hygiene kits, containing essential items such as soap, shampoo, a bucket, toothpaste, toothbrushes, towels, a basin and a comb.
Please donate what you can to our Children’s Emergency Fund today.