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Annual Report 2020 Foreword

It’s a pleasure and honour to write the introduction for Save the Children’s Annual Report for 2020. I am happy to cast light on the issues faced by children in the whole world, particularly in South Sudan.

I am an activist, raising the concerns of children at different forums, starting from my school, state and national levels. I have also been nominated by South Sudanese children to represent them in a pre-session meeting with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child committee on 9 February 2021.

When campaigning, I focus mainly on the inclusion of all children in education, including girls and those with disabilities; gender-based violence targeting children; sexual abuse, including forced and early marriage; and violence against children. During the COVID-19 outbreak and flooding in South Sudan I focused on ensuring children were safe by talking to them about the World Health Organization’s preventative and response measures, as well as highlighting the dangers of floods and how to keep children safe.

Coronavirus has affected girls in South Sudan negatively – many dropped out of school during the lockdown. It resulted in child marriage, as many girls thought schools would not open again. Here, it is only when a girl is going to school that she can avoid getting married before she is 18. The situation, peer pressure and demands from parents force them to marry earlier, if they are not occupied with books. Child labour has also increased due to the complex crises of Covid-19 and flooding, especially in Bor.

The lack of basic needs due to economic crises, widespread poverty and hunger are also issues children face in my country.

It is my hope and dream that one day children in South Sudan and the entire world live, learn and stay in a safe and protective environment. I want to take this golden opportunity to ask the government of South Sudan to prioritise children’s rights and provide equitable basic services, especially in health, education and security, and ensure the South Sudan Child Act 2008 is implemented.

The cases of child rights violations have slightly reduced, according to my personal observations.

When we advocate, we see that our efforts lead to some change and this keeps me wanting to do more.

This is one reason I am eager to represent children in Geneva, to tell the world about what life is like for children and share ideas and experiences with my colleagues from around the world.

Finally, I want to tell leaders that we children are looking at you, to ensure our rights are prioritised and you give us the education we need, because we are seeds of tomorrow.

Achol, age 14, Child Campaigner,

South Sudan

In a year that has been challenging for us all, the Coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on children’s futures. The lives of today’s children will be deeply marked by the turmoil and long-term damage the pandemic has caused, and sadly the crisis is not over yet.

A great challenge calls for a great response, and throughout this demanding time I have been impressed with how quickly and effectively Save the Children has adapted to help children affected by the virus. At the start of the outbreak, we launched our COVID-19 Appeal, and once again were very grateful for the public’s unstinting generosity. In the UK, we delivered learning materials, food vouchers and household essentials to families. Globally, we provided protective equipment and medical supplies, and worked with local health authorities to set up hospitals. At a time when it has never been more important to support children’s education, we have been making sure children can continue their learning even when their schools are closed.

Part of rising to the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic has been making sure our other life-saving work could continue. We are still on the ground responding to emergencies, and our work to prevent killer diseases like pneumonia and malaria is more important than ever. Around the world, the commitment of Save the Children’s local staff, partners and health workers is as strong as it always has been. It is this commitment that means we can work together to meet children’s immediate needs, while dealing with the added demands a pandemic brings.

It has been an incredibly difficult year both for our programme work and for our fundraising. Sadly, we have seen the temporary closure of all of our 120 retail shops across the country, events cancelled and considerable disruption to many of the other ways we raise money for our cause. Staff have had to adapt to new ways of working. I have joined some really informative and innovative video discussions with staff and supporters.

Despite these challenges, as difficult and widespread I have witnessed throughout my years of service, Save the Children supporters have been unwavering in their dedication. They have refused to accept that children be allowed to fall behind because of coronavirus. This kindness and dedication are what sums up Save the Children’s supporters, volunteers and staff. You have given your time, energy and talent to help children, no matter what.

I thank you for everything you have done for children this year. Your support is needed more than ever before. Thank you for being with us, and being there for children.

HRH The Princess Royal

Patron, Save the Children

We wish to thank Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal for dedicating 50 years to Save the Children UK, serving as both President and Patron.


2020 was a year like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic took a terrible toll on the lives of people around the world, and the ripple effects disrupted health systems, forced schools into lockdowns and triggered economic recessions. Children are carrying some of the deepest scars.

Reports from our programmes tell a story of rising child poverty, worsening malnutrition and increased stress on child health systems. One country after another documented the devastating effects of school closures on children lacking any learning support.

Here in the UK, the pandemic has left more children in poverty and more parents struggling to provide nutritious meals. Already extreme inequalities in education have widened.

As part of our global movement, I’m proud that Save the Children was on the ground responding to crises triggered by COVID-19.

In Bangladesh, our Emergency Health Unit established a COVID-19 isolation ward. Across the Horn of Africa, we expanded our nutrition programmes and worked with governments to establish distance learning opportunities for children. With an international funding shortfall in Yemen, we supported 58 health facilities in the north of the country in their provision of vital health and nutrition services. In the UK, we expanded our emergency grants programme, providing urgently needed financial and home learning support to some of the families most in need.

We also linked local action to advocacy for – and with – children. At an international level, we engaged with the World Bank, UN agencies, and donor governments to mobilise financial support for countries and communities bearing the brunt of the crisis. Our global campaign Safe Back to School worked to get children back into a learning environment – and to keep adolescent girls out of early marriage.



COVID-19 severely disrupted our plans for the year. Many of our staff were furloughed. Our shops were closed for significant periods and events were cancelled, which affected our fundraising. Lockdown meant that most of our staff had to transition to working from home.

Despite everything, we were able to achieve some extraordinary results – many of which are documented in this report. For that I want to pay tribute to the professionalism, commitment and resolve of our extraordinary people. They went way beyond the call of duty.

Our fundraising surpassed expectations, not least thanks to a brilliantly creative Christmas Jumper Day. We were able to secure significant new institutional funding from international donors, especially in education. Our smooth transition to home working owed much to an enormous amount of hard work and support from teams across the organisation.

As ever, we were able to draw on the energy, enthusiasm and backing of our supporters, volunteers and partners. We are privileged to be able to do so.

I was also thrilled by the appointment of our new Chair, Dr Tsitsi Chawatama, a consultant paediatrician with a wealth of clinical and development experience. Appointed through an open and transparent process, Dr Chawatama joined us in January 2021 and brings with her a deep commitment to child rights.

I also want to take this opportunity to remember the colleagues who we lost in 2020. Our thoughts are with their loved ones.


Last year, we continued our journey on organisational culture. Save the Children is built on an unrelenting ambition for children. But that ambition must be harnessed to a culture of kindness, respect and support for staff.

In March, the Charity Commission delivered its inquiry report into our handling of allegations of misconduct and harassment of staff in 2012 and 2015. We accepted the report’s recommendations in full and collectively apologised for letting down the women affected, and for letting down our organisation.



The work we do through our fundraising and campaigning, and through our programmes in some of the world’s toughest places, makes a positive difference. But Save the Children is also part of a colonial history in which people of colour were dominated and oppressed, and we did not always speak out when we should have done. We should be honest enough and confident enough to acknowledge this – and that our organisation is not insulated from the pervasive institutional racism endemic in British society and experienced by our colleagues today.

During 2020 we actively discussed and acted on these issues and launched our Free To Be Me Diversity and Inclusion strategy. Co-created with staff, the strategy outlines a compelling vision backed by practical measures for its delivery. I’m indebted to our staff equalities networks for their courage in raising concerns and their constructive guidance and advocacy in driving change.



We’re now preparing to tackle the crisis facing so many children across the world. The aftershocks of COVID-19, conflict and climate change are magnifying old inequalities linked to wealth, gender and other markers of disadvantage, and creating new fault lines within and between countries. For the first time in over three decades, there is a real danger of reversals in areas like child survival, nutrition and education.

That must not happen on our watch.

I joined Save the Children as CEO just after governments around the world agreed to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Those goals include ending preventable child deaths, eradicating poverty and providing all children with the learning opportunities they need to thrive.

Today, that ambition may seem out of reach. But in these moments, I find inspiration in these words of our founder, Eglantyne Jebb: “Save the Children is often told that its aims are impossible – that there has always been child suffering and there always will be. We know it’s impossible only if we make it so. It’s impossible only if we refuse to attempt it.”

Kevin Watkins

Chief Executive

I have always been a passionate advocate for child health, and for children’s rights and wellbeing. Joining Save the Children UK – a values-based global movement that is at the forefront of this work – is both humbling and a privilege. Having personal experience of the impact of girls’ access to education, Save the Children’s ambition is close to my heart.

The welcome I have received since joining in January 2021 has been tremendous. The passion for our purpose and the enthusiasm of the team are both inspiring and infectious. This is even more impressive given the backdrop of 2020, which was a challenging year, with a global pandemic and the intensified spotlight on long-standing societal inequalities and injustices. However, through resilience, solidarity and teamwork the organisation has continued to be an important voice in advocating for and with children and ensuring programmes achieve impact at a time when this has been needed most. Our mandate – to pursue our founder Eglantyne Jebb’s vision of a world where children realise their right to be healthy, happy and fulfilled – has never mattered more.

I firmly believe our focus on achieving the best outcomes for children must remain the beating heart of Save the Children. The 2022–24 strategy development process is a timely opportunity to focus on our role and contribution to the wider Save the Children movement, while ensuring we are forward looking and remain fit for purpose. It will require continued emphasis on strengthening our organisational people and culture work, including commitments to our ambitious Diversity and Inclusion strategy.

I would like to thank Charles Steel for serving as Interim Chair and for his stewardship and leadership during this time. Together with the rest of the Board of Trustees, I am committed to ensuring that this good work continues.

Dr Tsitsi Chawatama

Chair of the Board of Trustees