OP-ED

Empowering Children, Enabling States

Charles McCormack, President of US Save the Children paid his first visit to Yemen this month. His unprecedented visit underlined the seriousness of the support the organization has in Yemen.

Even though Save the Children (SC) has maintained a presence in Yemen since 1963, it was originally only through representation of the Sweden based headquarters, and not an independent entity.

Initially, the different SC bases around the world used to work independently in different countries. The coming of the U.S. President of the iNGO – ‘Charlie’ as everyone calls him – demonstrates the global unified support given from the 30 countries SC operates in globally to Yemen, in a process started in 2007.

Thanks to these combined efforts, SC Yemen witnessed a 400% growth in the last three years as Mr. McCormack announced in a press release on the 12th of October at the Yemen Headquarters of the NGO.

Save the Children, the world’s largest children’s NGO, involves 122 programs in the world, with 15.000 active staff members and about 2 million community volunteers. It was the first INGO for children in Yemen and has different national partners to empower the youth in the country.

With the aim to enhance children and youth rights recognition, SC is collaborating, among other associations, with the Democratic School and the Children’s Parliament.

“This child rights organization has multilateral activities, mostly funded by the U.S.” explained Andrew Moore, Save the Children country director for Yemen.

For instance projects in the Southern part of the country deal directly with Somali refugee children with the objective of integrating them into Yemeni society. “Some of them, after having gone through the whole education system under our programs, are currently working with us as employees.”

In the North, Save the Children is directing a health and nutrition program to enhance the survival and well being of those aged under five and their mothers. Also, SC has medical doctors in the field to directly reach those most in the need, especially in conflict affected and rural areas.

“There are huge difficulties and challenges for children in Yemen” Moore observed, but he also reminded that the charity also works in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many countries considered failed states. That said, he’s keen to underline that Yemen cannot be filed along with them despite the sensationalism portrayed in the media.

“Yemen is not a failed state yet, but it is at a crossroad. We, as an international community, have an opportunity to improve this situation by starting to improve children’s conditions.”

The nature of the Yemeni family would perhaps ease alleviation of children’s issues. Mr. McCormack praised the strong, Yemeni family ties, their attachment to tradition and also the pride in their culture.

Regarding Yemen’s massive problems Charlie agreed that Yemen was in critical condition, but also argued that there’s no country which is completely free from challenges. The only way to overcome those obstacles would be to use the “educational tool”; to adapt and find a solution to them.

“My personal belief is that the strength of any country is in its people and their education. Governments may come and go; sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re bad. But if people are educated and empowered then the country will continue to serve itself” Mr McCormack explained.

“My experience is that if you’re building schools, training doctors and delivering medicines, then there are good chances that you’re in the presence of a good government but if the state is not involved in this then the opposite probably holds true.”