It has been a tumultuous year for children. The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, the Greek wildfires, drought and famine in the Horn of Africa and protracted wars in Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo have torn families apart and placed children in terrible danger. The refugee crisis remains unresolved and despite efforts to reduce global poverty children continue to live in desperate conditions on every continent on Earth.
And yet, 2018 has offered moments of hope and inspiration too.
Thanks to your generosity, we have been there to support children during every one of these emergencies – and in dozens more. In our child-friendly spaces in Indonesia children have found a safe place to continue their education, access a decent meal and medical attention and above all behave like the children they are, by playing and making friends. This pattern has been repeated in crisis situations around the world – from Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, to ISIS survivors in Iraq and exiled Rohingya children in Bangladesh.
With your support, families across Ethiopia, Somaliland and Kenya have rebuilt their drought-devastated farms and are feeding their children nutritious meals again. And as the Syrian civil war marches into its eighth devastating year, we have reopened schools and playgrounds, cared for children who have lost their parents and helped struggling families give their children a better start in life.
Together, we have fought for the right of children to go to school, live a life free from poverty and fear, and grow up with the support and protection of a caring family.
This year I witnessed our supporters come out in force to show solidarity with child refugees who have escaped the horrors of warfare, persecution and disaster to seek sanctuary in Europe – and fight for their right to be reunited with their families. And I visited our village community in Chipata in Zambia and saw first-hand the devotion, care and compassion which is giving parentless children there the chance of a happy childhood and better future.
Your support for our poverty prevention and family strengthening programmes has meant our mission to prevent child abandonment and neglect worldwide continues, and through your child sponsorships you provided a supportive and stable family upbringing to thousands of children worldwide without parental care.
I wish I could say that next year will be better for children – that fewer will experience the pain of losing their families, have their futures ruined by poverty or be forced to grow up under the constant threat of bombs and bullets. But it seems I cannot.
The UN estimates that 132 million people will need humanitarian assistance next year in 40 countries, and it is an awful irony that the most innocent in our societies, children, are always hit first and hardest when disaster strikes.
But I can promise that as long as incredible people like you continue to support us, we will be there to support them.
Alison Wallace, CEO, SOS Children’s Villages UK