Did you read the terrible news about those children recently?
I’m talking about the 40 school children who were killed on their way back from a school picnic. I’m sure they’d had a fun day out, and were excited and eager to tell their family all about it – chattering happily over the homemade videos on their mobiles. But the bus stopped on the way back to school; maybe one of the kids needed the loo, someone said the driver stopped to get the children some drinks. That simple, everyday decision may have cost those 40 children from Yemen their lives, as an airstrike blasted their stationary bus. A week later, there was a mass funeral for those children who were indiscriminately killed – 40 little coffins lowered into 40 hastily dug holes. 40 wasted lives, 40 children that should still be here today, thinking about going on another picnic.
Maybe, like me, you followed another story a little more closely – you know, the one about the 13 Thai boys trapped in a cave? I certainly felt their fear from afar, and then the relief as they came out one-by-one safe and well and ready to continue their young and hopeful lives. I was intrigued by the complexities of the rescue mission, the detailed cartoons to explain the cave system and how the SEALs conducted the challenging rescue. The widespread coverage had me on the edge of my seat, willing the rescuers to be successful and praying for the safe return of the boys. I’m grateful this story had a happy ending, when it might have been different.
But …. why hadn’t I noticed the news about the children in Yemen with the same interest or intensity? Save the Children’s CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt recently visited Yemen, and shared with STC staff and the media some of the horrors facing families and children living there; “Yemen is the worst place on earth to be a child, and the situation on the ground is as bad as we hear. After years of war, people’s coping mechanisms have been largely exhausted and the country is on the brink of famine. As the two competing governments in the north and south focus their energies on the war, the state has completely collapsed, and many hospitals are only still going because agencies like us have stepped in to keep things functioning.”
Since being at Save the Children, I have started to sit up and take more notice of what is actually happening in conflict zones around the world – and more importantly the impact on the most innocent of victims; children. I want to understand more about Yemen, the gravitas of the situation on the ground and what I might potentially help to do about it. (The girl with the strawberry ring from the BBC is an engaging read). It’s complex and protracted … but the bottom-line hard-hitting facts and figures SCREAM OUT that something must be done;
Let me repeat: 22 million people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid – that’s equivalent to a third of the population of the UK.
All this made me wonder what turns news into News? What makes us sit up and want to read all about it? In my busy life, I’m rather ashamed to say I have often been guilty of ‘zoning out’ on stories about yet another bombing in the Middle East, crises that are happening 1000’s miles away or political wrangles between ‘despot’ leaders. News is a critical vehicle to inform, influence and maybe even shock us, so why do these life shattering stories often get lost in the melee of our first world problems, the ‘fake news’ or for whatever reason just fail to fully engage ‘Joe Public’? Maybe by definition, such stories no longer feel ‘new’; making it all too easy to shrug the shoulders, say ‘that’s not my problem’ and stay in time with the steady plod of apathy.
I got a pleasant surprise though, when a week or so ago (as I was researching and drafting this blog), I picked up the Evening Standard at the station on the way home from my London Office. I was greeted with a front page spread focussed on their new campaign in partnership with the NGO War Child. They are connecting London schools with students in refugee camps, to raise awareness amongst young people and help support the recovery of children impacted by conflict. Front page news! That’s great news! Save the Children, along with other such NGOs, are working tirelessly to advocate for the rights of children in conflict, bring justice to the perpetrators of war crimes against them and provide essential programmes on the ground to care for and support children as they recover from horrific physical and mental traumas.
Last week, BBC news reported that mistakes were admitted by the Saudi-led coalition when the Yemeni school bus was bombed, but the international response is insufficient – why on earth are we, a supposedly civil and caring society, still selling weapons to the Saudi-led coalition?? Just today, Save the Children announced it will be scaling up it’s response to support the humanitarian crisis in Yemen – as soaring food and fuel prices could lead to starvation on an unprecedented scale.
Despite the scale of the problem, we can all make a difference – but we’ll be more powerful if we all act together; and that is why ending the war on children will be the major global focus for Save the Children as we use the once-in-a-life time opportunity of the 100-year anniversary to make the world read all about it and take positive action for children (following in the footsteps of Eglantyne Jebb, who founded the movement in the aftermath of WWI).
Back to me and changing myself … What else have I not been hearing about? What have I not been engaging with? What have I been failing to take action on? I know in future I will be digging my antennae a bit deeper on the very real issues facing millions of children today. After all every child in the world is still just that – a child. And every single one of those children deserves a happy, healthy and secure childhood, and the opportunity to reach their true potential.
Will you do the same?
Want to know more? I recommend this short BBC article that describes the background to the crisis in Yemen in just 400 words.
Want to take action? Children in Yemen need your help now. Visit Save the Children’s Yemen Crisis Appeal page if you can make a donation.
#endthewaronchildren #protectchildreninconflict #savethechildren #100yearsofSTC #PULSE10 #ivolunteer #doingnothingisnotanoption
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and not those of Save the Children or GSK.