Four stories of hope from young education activists on World Humanitarian Day
Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies
The #sharehumanity campaign today is allowing thousands of people around the world to mark World Humanitarian Day. Heartbreaking and inspirational stories of people struggling against the odds in the face of war, disasters, poverty and other problems are being shared on Twitter, Facebook and other digital platforms.
At A World at School, we are inspired by the amazing work being done by our Global Youth Ambassadors – a network of 500 young activists in more than 85 countres, who are spreading the message of education for all in the face of often overwhelming obstacles.
Today, on World Humanitarian Day, we are proud to share some of their stories from three countries which have suffered humanitarian crises in the past year – the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, the Nepal earthquake and the war in Yemen.
THE EARTHQUAKE IN NEPAL
By Bhawana Shrestha
Nepal is one of the poorest nations in Asia and it struggles to feed and educate its children in the best of its times. A decade-long civil war between government forces and Maiost rebels left in its wake and unstable political system.
Nepal’s challenges are many and the magnitude 7.8 tremor that hit Nepal three months ago brought a new suffering for the Nepalese. People are trying to pick up the pieces and get on with their lives despite the challenges, which definitely is very tough.
The country remains perilously unstable, with the risk of landslides from ongoing aftershocks, forcing thousands to leave their homes and camp out in open fields when the seasonal monsoon rain has already started.
Nepal’s government estimates that reconstruction wil cost a third of the country’s GDP – but with so many barriers it could take years to rebuild the country. There is also the threat of the spread of disease and cholera, which has already out broken in the capital. The children have started playing, but many fear still going to school in the worst-hit areas. Many of them show signs of skin diseases, coughs and fevers.
Children play in the grounds of damaged school in Susma Chhemawati, Dolakha Picture: Plan/Matt Crook
Living a life in this crisis has been a mixture of fear and hope. There is a constant fear that anything may happen at any time. Even a small jolt shakes our whole emotions now. But, at the same time, there were good people and organisations who helped us to overcome our grief, which gives some rays of hope. It gives faith in humanity.
As Mahatma Gandhi said: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
The crisis that occurred after the earthquake made me realise it is because of this humanity we are surviving. If so many people and different national and international organisations hadn’t helped us to rise, we wouldn’t have become able to even hope for our survival and dreaming of rebuilding would be a hard dream.
World Humanitarian Day has a great significance in all our lives, when we can appreciate the humanity within us. We must help each other to live like a human and enlighten the world with the brightness of education.
EBOLA OUTBREAK IN LIBERIA
By Richlue O. Burphy
Global Youth Ambassador Richlue with Liberian children
Living in a crisis situation is not an experience any normal human being would want to wish for. Such life is characterised by fear, uncertainty, insecurity and ultimately death.
When the Ebola virus struck Liberia, it brought fear and panic over the nation and everybody in its borders. Schools were forced to close. The economy was virtually shut down. Foreigners and development partners left the country and, eventually, a state of emergency was declared.
A ban was placed on public gathering including campaigns. People had to refrain from touching sick loved ones and watch them die. There was not much that could have been done. Social and cultural activities could not go on. And no one could imagine who would be the next victim.
Liberian primary school children in Monrovia wait to wash their hands Picture: UNICEF/Irwin
The sound of the ambulance was like a popular and familiar song. Every heart was troubled at that sound. We could only hope on the God of our salvation to save Liberia and return life to normal.
We fought. Our friends came to support. Some even died. But today Liberia is free of Ebola.
My heart goes out to all humanitarians who lost their lives in saving Liberia. And on this day, I say thank you very much to those that are still in the humanitarian business and may the souls of the dead ones rest in perfect peace.
By Moses Brown
Ebola has plagued Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone for the past year. Liberia was hit hard between July and October 2014. The outbreak damaged the country’s infrastructure especially, shattering the already crumbling health sector and keeping schools closed for nearly six months.
Everything was at a standstill during the height of the crisis. Now the outbreak, which has been the most severe and complex in history, has declined significantly in Liberia. Unfortunately, the immense negative impact is still being felt throughout the country. According to Liberian leader Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, “education is still a mess”. The health of the country is still struggling to be restored and many children are now orphans.
The deadly disease has killed over 4716 people so far in Liberia, with 10,695 cases being reported across the country, according to the latest United Nations report. Over the course of the outbreak, a total of 141 high-risk contacts were listed and followed up from a nearby town 50km from the capital Monrovia. Since the first case of Ebola was discovered in Liberia in early March 2014, the youth have been working with the government and international development partners like Plan International, UNICEF and the UN Mission in Liberia to fight Ebola.
Liberian children return to Slipway Primary School in Monrovia Picture: UNICEF/Irwin
We stood the test of time. We raised awareness about Ebola in communities that are typically difficult to reach through youth groups and the radio. With small resources from partners, we went to communities and met suffering children and dying mothers.
Children went back to school after a very long time; they spent less than four months in school between March and June 2015. However, the fight against the largest and most-protracted epidemic in history is not over. It remains a top national security priority for Liberia and the other affected countries. Many children have lost parents and have no opportunities to return to the classrooms.
Everyone is now focusing on maintaining the Ebola-free status. There are no new cases at the moment and we are excitedly awaiting the World Health Organization’s declaration of Liberia as Ebola-free for the second time – after a 17-year-old boy tested positive in June. Remaining at zero and staying safe is our topmost priority. Calm has finally returned to every part of Liberia.
Everyone in the country is excited and celebrating the victory, albeit with caution not knowing if Ebola will return. Schools and businesses have reopened; everyone is hoping the situation will remain stable. There is hope that children and communities in Liberia will go back to normal life but challenges do remain.
A Liberian boy is told about hygiene during the outbreak
It may take a little longer before the actual recovery work can start – the health sector needs rebuilding and enrollment in school needs to increase. Basic social services such as safe drinking water and good sanitation will take time to acquire. The trauma created in the minds of the people will take a little longer to heal.
As we move towards the recovery phase, we call on national and international partners, donor organisations and the international community to continue the fight against Ebola. We now have to focus on child protection, ensuring all children affected receive the appropriate support. Many are in need of a nurturing environment that will empower them. There needs to be food security and livelihood services to rebuild national socio-economic resilience to prevent future outbreaks. We must continue to support the education and health sectors of Liberia with funds to adequately train our teachers and health practitioners.
Rebuilding health systems, restoring people’s trust in government, finding more effective ways to communicate with the public and jump-starting the economy are all major areas of intervention. As we count the days to the declaration of Liberia being Ebola-free for the second time, we can’t overstate the challenges that remain very high.
You can follow Moses on Twitter.
THE WAR IN YEMEN
By Amani Abdulrahman
This is an extract from a blog which is published on our Global Youth Ambassadors page.
An end to the war in Yemen is the dream of every Yemeni child. Whenever I ask children about their dreams they don’t say they want a PlayStation, a toy or any game but say:
“My dream is to stop the war on my country.”
“Stop killing us.”
“We want to live a safe life.”
“We want to study!”
Imagine, these are the dreams of children. Can we help them turn their dreams into a reality?
The conflict that began in late-March is now in its fifth month. The coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been either bombing or blocking the most vitally needed humanitarian aid, killing thousands of civilians, destroying Yemeni infrastructure and other non-military targets, such as schools, houses, hospitals, historical places, and universities.
Read the full blog by Amani here.