A few weeks ago I was at the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings in Bali, during which the World Bank’s President, Jim Kim, launched a new Human Capital Project (HCP). Save the Children strongly supports this enterprise, which is aimed at putting people back at the centre of development, and the associated index for assessing national progress. We organised a major event on the HCP, emphasising the importance of looking at inequality and the human capital of the most disadvantaged children, and linking this to the case for equitable public finance. The Annuals were also an opportunity for us to make the case for a strong replenishment of the Global Finance Facility, which is a key multilateral mechanism for strengthening progress in reproductive health and newborn survival among other areas – and I’m delighted the UK government has announced its support for the Global Finance Facility (GFF) with £50m committed from 2020 onwards.
The Annuals took place against the tragic backdrop of the earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi, and I visited the affected area. Seeing the work of our teams on the ground was humbling and uplifting in equal measure. Save the Children was one of the first agencies in, arriving with the Indonesian authorities, and despite having no programme presence in the affected areas we were able to develop a response spanning education, water and sanitation, child protection, shelter and health. In less than two weeks we had a team of 35 Indonesian technical experts, procurement specialists and administrators on the ground, and that figure reached over 100 by the end of the month. The team has now reached over 49,000 people in desperate need of assistance – including 23,000 children – working closely with national and municipal bodies.
It’s impossible to capture in words the situation in hard-hit areas. For those affected this is just the beginning of a period of personal recovery – and the reconstruction efforts will stretch into years. The destruction is indescribable – but Sulawesi is also a powerful demonstration of the resilience of hope. I visited one coastal village that had been swept by the tsunami. Not a single home was left standing, and nine of the 36 people living there had been killed. I met one family that survived. They were living in a tent. But on the day we visited their 12 year old daughter, Alissa*, had just come back from her first day in a Save the Children temporary learning centre. The broad smile on her face when I asked her how school had gone was a reminder of the awesome powers of hope and recovery that children have, and of how important education is in humanitarian emergency responses. In that context, I’m absolutely thrilled that we have been able to work with Education Cannot Wait, a multilateral fund created to support rapid education delivery, to scale up our emergency education provision in the area.
Closer to home, we recently published an independent review into our organisational culture (‘The Shale Review’). While the report recognises the positive changes that have occurred in Save the Children, my focus is on the areas in which we have to do more and better. We have now put in place a programme, Stronger, which will implement the recommendations of the review and wider measures. I am acutely aware that ‘culture change’ is not about CEOs and management teams writing new rules or sending out directives – and Stronger emphasises staff engagement in diagnosing underlying problems and identifying solutions. I fundamentally reject the view that there is some sort of trade-off between being a kind organisation and being an effective and ambitious agent for change. The bottom line is that we need to build an organisational culture which enables our staff to flourish and feel secure, while delivering on our mission.
The Safeguarding Summit convened by the Department for International Development was a great example of political leadership – and I’m delighted that the Secretary of State endorsed and announced UK support for a new initiative to stop perpetrators of abuse moving around our sector, which we were instrumental in developing with Interpol. Pilots for the initiative are now under development. More broadly, working with our colleagues in Save the Children International, we have greatly strengthened our safeguarding systems to ensure that they provide for effective monitoring and reporting, swift responses to complaints, rapid and effective investigation, and victim support. We take this incredibly seriously: there is no greater responsibility than that of protecting the vulnerable children and women we are there to serve.
Over the past year and a half Shaheed Fatima QC has led an inquiry into protecting children in conflict. Thousands of pro-bono hours from a fantastic team of legal minds have reviewed the position of children in armed conflict by reference to the ‘six grave violations’ as identified by the UN Security Council. The final work analyses the protection offered by international humanitarian law, international criminal law and international human rights law, and also assesses the related adjudicative accountability mechanisms. It’s potentially transformative for children – and I was delighted to speak at the launch event earlier this month and to co-write this piece with the UN Special Envoy for Education.
Last week we marked World Pneumonia Day with Dr Ellie Cannon’s interviews following her trip with us to the DRC last month, and a brilliant joint op-ed from two MPs from across the aisle about their own families’ experiences of pneumonia. Pneumonia is now the single biggest infectious killer of children – and the death rate is coming down far too slowly to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ending preventable child deaths by 2030.
Getting pneumonia on the global map and in national strategies is an uphill struggle. That’s partly because it’s a disease that overwhelmingly affects the poorest children who are getting left behind. Based on new research from Johns Hopkins University, 11 million children could die from pneumonia by 2030 unless governments do more to invest in prevention and treatment. Behind that headline figure are the tragic stories of individual children whose lives could be saved by low-cost, effective interventions, and of the parents who have to deal with the suffering and loss. The solutions are not straightforward, in part because we need to grapple with tough policy issues on health financing and the politics of inequality. But I am convinced that, working with our friends and partners, we can make a difference on pneumonia.
Finally, I’m really excited for our flagship festive campaign, Christmas Jumper Day. This year, it’s taking place on Friday 14 December and we hope that people will take part by wearing their wackiest, woolliest, most outrageous Christmas jumpers and donating to Save the Children. Please do spread the word and get your workmates, friends and family involved by signing up here.