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Interview with Andrew Moore of Save the Children in Yemen

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Yemen is a country in crisis. The conflict in the North between the government and rebels has displaced many Yemenis from their homes.

Recently, I  have published a number of stories on the hunger and malnutrition ravaging the country. Low funding for the UN World Food Programme has devastated its programs that operate throughout Yemen.  

Who suffers the most through all of the hunger, conflict and poverty in Yemen? It is the children, the most vulnerable of the population. The charity Save the Children is dedicated to helping children in these harshest of circumstances. 

As is the case with the World Food Programme, Save the Children needs support so it can carry out its programs. 

Andrew Moore, country director for Save the Children in Yemen, recently answered some questions about the crisis there and how the charity is helping. Most important, he tells how you can get involved. 

What kinds of programs is Save the Children operating to help children in Northern Yemen make it through the trauma of conflict?

Since August 2009, Save the Children has been responding to the crisis in Northern Yemen, helping to improve children’s health and nutrition, protection and education needs.  To date, we have reached nearly 28,000 children living in displaced camps and communities through our programs. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Save the Children joined with Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population on a campaign to vaccinate more than 50,000 children against measles and polio in Sa’ada Governorate.  
  • Save the Children has conducted 1,200 home visits to provide health education to mothers on feeding practices for their baby, as well as on hygiene and childhood diseases. 
  • Save the Children, in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health and UNICEF, is carrying out a nutritional survey in Amran Governorate. 
  • Save the Children distributed non-food items and essential supplies to 12,500 children.  Examples include clothing to 1,500 children, school supplies to 1,200 school-aged children, and winter kits of hats and blankets to 10,000 babies. 
  • Save the Children set up 15 child-friendly spaces for more than 9,000 children.  These spaces are specially protected areas in displaced camps that offer sport and creative activities that help children cope through this conflict on a daily basis.   At these child-friendly spaces, more than 2,500 children were trained in skills to protect themselves and others through child-friendly health education and first aid. 
  • Save the Children is working with 23 schools to provide education to more than 5,000 displaced children.  Our efforts include an outreach program to children, families and community members on the importance of education and non-discrimination against girls.  In addition, we provide school supplies.
  • Save the Children, in partnership with UNICEF, has provided temporary learning spaces for 1,200 children.  The children’s permanent schools are not accessible because displaced families have moved in and are living there now.

Across all of Yemen, what kinds of initiatives is Save the Children carrying on to improve education for children?

Despite recent improvements in enrollment, school statistics in Yemen remain among the lowest in the Arab world, so there is much opportunity to improve education for children, especially among girls and children living in rural areas, who are missing out on school the most.   

Save the Children has education programs throughout Yemen, reaching more than 47,000 children.  Our education programs focus on improving primary school education for children by encouraging teachers and parents to make schools more child-friendly, ensuring schools become more inclusive of traditionally excluded groups like girls and children with disabilities, and improving access to schools.

In addition, Save the Children’s programs seek to improve enrollment and reduce drop rates in schools, especially among girls.

Save the Children's work has a focus on inclusive education (IE), including a program with refugee children in the Somali refugee camps of Kharaz, as well as in districts with a high number of refugees such as the Aden district of Bassatin and the Sa’ana’a districts of Al Khafgi and Al Safia.  With support from UNHCR, and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), Save the Children was able to ensure that schools in these communities are now part of the government’s Inclusive Education department. 

Through support from Dubai Cares, Save the Children also works on developing a model of inclusive education for Yemen with the Ministry of Education in 35 schools in three southern governorates.  Part of the plan includes ensuring more female teachers at the schools and setting up 20 “satellite” classrooms in rural villages to encourage girls and young children to attend school.

The goal is to improve enrollment among vulnerable groups as well as to improve the quality of education, ensuring that schools become truly inclusive to all children.  The 35 schools have been identified as Inclusive/Child Friendly Schools by the Ministry of Education’s Inclusive Education department.   

In addition, Save the Children is helping vulnerable children re-enter or stay in school by setting up “reception” classrooms.  These classrooms provide a space for children who come too early or too late to school (half of the children enrolled in reception classrooms start at age 6, while the rest start later) – or for children who have dropped out. Here, children can catch up and be placed in the right class for their age.

Save the Children also is ramping up efforts to improve early learning opportunities for children.  We are planning to do programs to better prepare children for school through a child-to-child approach that has been piloted successfully by UNICEF in Yemen. This program engages older children to do activities with pre-school children.

As I understand, security and other concerns prevented Save the Children from using a McGovern-Dole grant to give 50,000 children in Yemen a school meal.  But what other alternatives are there for helping these children receive some kind of nutritional and educational support?

Yemen has one of the highest child malnutrition rates in the world. And, when a child is malnourished, he is more vulnerable to childhood diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia that can be life-threatening.  The downturn in the economy and increased food prices coupled with bad dietary habits that rely on bread as a major food source have only exacerbated the nutritional situation for children.

Due to the poor health and nutrition situation for children in Yemen, Save the Children plans to have school health and nutrition programs across the country. At the moment, we have programs funded through the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) in the conflict-affected governorates of Amran and Sa’ada. We also have an EU-funded health and nutrition project in Lahj and a Dubai Cares-funded education program in Lahj, Aden and Abyen that includes school-based health and nutrition. We hope to expand our school health and nutrition programs to three governorates in the South, pending funding approval.

These programs are aimed at giving children and mothers knowledge on health and nutrition so they can change their behaviors. For example, in Yemen, only 13% of women exclusively breast feed for the first six months. This means newborns are more vulnerable to disease, in particular diarrhea.  Many women are unaware of the dangers from non-exclusive breast feeding.  The projects also give basic knowledge and skills such as hand washing before eating and after ablutions which helps to reduce disease.

How can someone get involved to help Save the Children in Yemen?

People can go to www.savethechildren.org and donate to help us reach more children through our Yemen programs, or they can download a community kit here and get their friends and family involved in a local fundraising event for Yemeni children.  They also can stay informed and connected through any of our social media sites:  YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | MySpaceRSS | E-mail Alerts.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.