It’s been a busy year for us! From the Nepal earthquake to the ever-expanding refugee crisis, we’ve run more Emergency Relief Programmes than ever and responded to some of the most challenging events of recent times. Here we take a look back at six of the most important events of 2015.
Refugee crisisThis year saw the largest migration of people since the Second World War.
By 31 December, over 1 million refugees and migrants will have arrived in Europe in search of a new life of security and opportunity.
Fleeing war, violence and poverty
Many of them have been driven from their homes by the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, poverty and violence in Afghanistan and persecution and human rights abuses in Eritrea.
But the single biggest driver has been the increasingly bloody war in Syria. 4.4 million Syrians have now fled the country. Half are children. 1.5 million have crossed the border into Lebanon where strict labour laws make surviving a real battle. Hundreds of thousands of others are scattered across Turkey, Greece, the Balkans and Germany.
Children are the most vulnerable
Child refugees are incredibly vulnerable and face the very real threats of exploitation and trafficking. Many children have made the perilous journey alone, or have become separated from their families along the way. They are suffering from hunger, illness and cold.
We are working with refugees in Macedonia, Serbia, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Austria and Finland. We are:
- Providing backpacks filled with sanitary and cold-weather essentials
- Operating child-friendly spaces where children can escape the chaos that surrounds them
- Giving interim care to children who have become separated from their families
- Caring for 30 refugee children who have found a new home with us in Austria.
The massive earthquakes that hit Nepal in April and May killed over 9,000 people and injured more than 23,000. Thousands of children were separated from their families and, sadly, lots became orphans.
Hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed along with schools, hospitals and bridges. Many remote areas were completely inaccessible for weeks as roads were made impassable.
How we helped
We were on the ground within hours of the quakes:
- We distributed aid to families in need, including innovative 'home-in-a-box' packs
- We reunited families
- We opened child-friendly spaces where children were able to play in a safe environment and receive psychological support and counselling
- We gave a new home to 39 children who were left with no-one to care for them
We are continuing to offer support to families who lost everything and are helping with the recovery process. But 9 months after the earthquakes, Nepal is still reeling. The task of rebuilding is a monumental one, made all the more difficult by the arrival of winter.
EbolaFor the first six months of 2015, the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea showed no sign of abating.
But, by late summer, the number of new cases being announced was reducing and in September Liberia was declared Ebola free by the World Health Organisation. A similar announcement followed for Sierra Leone in early November. Guinea is still dealing with a handful of cases.
Sadly, earlier this month, three new cases were reported in Liberia, but things look to be under control and the WHO are carefully monitoring the situation.
The virus has devastated communities and the economy in these three countries. Tourism was hit, business slowed, people lost their incomes and the already poor populations have become much poorer.
What we're doing to help
- Through our well-established Family Strengthening Programmes, we have been able to offer much needed support to the most vulnerable families, providing them with staple items such as rice, cooking oil and soap, and helping them get back into work.
- Several children who became orphans have found a new, loving home with us, including Charles who lost his entire family to the virus.
- At the height of the outbreak, we ran the only 24-7 medical clinic for non-Ebola cases in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. This service was vital for easing demand on the over-stretched services in the city and saved the lives of people who would otherwise not have received treatment.
Sustainable Development Goals
This year we waved goodbye to the Millennium Development Goals and ushered in their replacement, the Sustainable Development Goals.
When world leaders gathered in New York in September to finalise and formally adopt the new goals, we were proud to be there!
Together with five other NGOs, we played an important role in their formulation and pushed hard for the new development agenda to work harder to protect children and their rights.
The stories that didn't make the news...
For every crisis that makes the headlines, there are many more that don't make it onto the front pages. These events may have been somewhat forgotten by the media, but not by us:
Central African Republic crisisThe violent conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) is known as one of the world’s ‘forgotten wars’, yet it has claimed the lives of over 6,000 people in the two years since it started.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes in terror as Muslim rebels and Christian militias battle for control of the government.
SOS Children affected by the violence
Our Children’s Villages in Bangui and Boaur have both been affected by the violence, but thankfully all our children and staff remain safe.
Ramping up our emergency relief programme
We have been running an emergency relief programme in the CAR since 2014 and significantly expanded our reach in 2015. Our efforts have helped over 65,000 people.
- We have reunited children with their families
- Provided food, shelter and health and nutrition support to vulnerable families
- We are running five child-friendly spaces which provide much-needed respite for traumatised children and their parents.
Burundi has also been rocked by violence in 2015. In May, a failed coup rocked the country and dozens were killed in attacks. Sadly, one of those killed was an SOS young person.
Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, many of them children. Schooling has been disrupted and we have been forced to close several of our schools due to security concerns.
No end in sight
The violence has escalated in recent weeks - 87 people were killed in just one week at the beginning of December. Over 400 people have now died since the violence began.
We are closely monitoring the situation.
From Haiti to the Philippines and Pakistan, our well-established presence means that we're always one of the first to respond when disaster strikes. Learn more about the emergencies we've responded to over the past five years.