November 18 2004
Universal Children's Day: Children in Natural Disasters
18/11/2004 - November 20 is Universal Children's Day - a day to promote the plight of children worldwide and commemorate all of the world's youngest citizens. This year, SOS Children's Villages would like to draw special attention to children affected by natural disasters.
Over the past year, extreme weather conditions and other natural disasters have affected millions of people around the globe, with children being among the most vulnerable. While emergency aid is required immediately following the disaster, those affected need help long after the media has turned its attention away from the scene.
Most of the children in affected regions do not die from the natural disaster themselves, but from the resulting food and water shortages, lack of shelter and healthcare as well as poor hygiene and sanitation.*
This year on Universal Children's Day, SOS Children's Villages seeks to draw attention to all of the world's suffering children and, in particular to children in natural disasters. SOS Children's Villages underlines the importance of providing aid long after the disaster has taken its toll.
Over the past year, SOS Children's Villages teamed up on several occasions with other welfare organisations, to provide humanitarian relief to children and families in regions affected by freak weather conditions and earthquakes.
Most recently, SOS Children's Villages joined forces with the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide relief to the Haitian city of Gonaives, which was devastated by heavy flooding following tropical storm Jeanne. In Gonaives, more than 2,400 people were reported dead, hundreds missing and thousands were in desperate need of food, water and medication.*
Four youths in the care of SOS Children's Villages in Santo, Haiti, accompanied the aid to Gonaives and helped the non-governmental organisation CARE with their food distribution efforts. "It had a great impact on me," said one of the SOS youths. "Not only to see the people who lost everything, but to see the mothers who didn't even have milk to give to their babies. The mothers were crying with their children."
Another SOS youth said the devastation of the schools in Gonaives had left him shattered. "I think the children of Gonaives will be unable to go to school this year," he said, while yet another youth said: "Even if they receive food, they have nowhere to sleep, they cannot even attend to their wounds. I feel a lot of compassion for these people."
Two months earlier in June, SOS Children's Villages had already provided emergency relief for the flood-hit regions of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which make up the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, in the form of food, medicine and blankets. In a joint effort with UNICEF, World Vision and Caritas, SOS Children's Villages also provided psychological support for children and families in the affected Dominican border town of Jimani.
North Africa was hit by serious earthquakes in the first two months of 2004. In Algeria, the worst quake in more than twenty years claimed more than 2,000 lives and left the country's heavily populated northern region in shambles.
In Morocco, an earthquake at the crack of dawn devastated the region of Al-Hoceima in the northeast, killing some 600 people, injuring hundreds and leaving many homeless.*
In addition to providing aid packages immediately after the quake in both countries, SOS Children's Villages and ECHO (the Humanitarian Aid Office of the European Commission) teamed up to launch a four-months aid programme to help some 5,000 affected children and 2,000 adults in Algeria.
The list of natural disasters that struck various regions of the world in 2004 is long and range from tropical storms, flooding and droughts to earthquakes and major landslides. The above-mentioned are just a few examples of such disasters.
First proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1954, Universal Children's Day has served to promote the welfare of the world's children - let's use this day to do so! Therefore, on Universal Children's Day, SOS Children's Villages asks the world to provide support for children in natural disasters and, above all, to continue helping even after the media has left the region.
November 20 is an important international day for children. On 20 November 1954, the UN General Assembly established Universal Children's Day. Five years later, on November 20, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed on 20 November 1989 and has, so far, been ratified by 192 countries.
*Source: WFP, UNICEF