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Future of childhood

It’s been three months since I took over as CEO at Save the Children UK, and every day it’s been a privilege to have the opportunity to work with wonderful colleagues across the UK and the world, as well as with so many committed supporters, partners and friends. I hope you don’t mind me sharing a few reflections on some of the work I’ve been involved with over the past few months.

Protecting children's rights

The situation which continues to unfold in Afghanistan is immensely sad and one which strikes at the heart of what Save the Children exists to do – protect the rights of children across the world. It’s still very early days with a lot of unknowns but if there is one positive to be found here, it has been the level of cooperation I have seen right across the aid sector, and beyond, to mobilise and support the people of Afghanistan. We’re now restarting some of our operations, including mobile health operations in Kandahar.

This is an important step, but more needs to be done and while I’m encouraged by the support shown by ministers at the recent UN High-Level meeting on Afghanistan, governments around the world must act so that children do not continue to bear the cost of the crisis. Save the Children has been working in Afghanistan since 1976. There has never been a more important time to reaffirm our dedication to the Afghan people and our commitment to stay and deliver.

Of course, Afghanistan isn’t the only country facing a humanitarian emergency. Increased conflict and the impact of both the climate crisis and COVID-19 has left more than 41 million people globally facing emergency levels of food insecurity, including over 5.7 million children under the age of five. In response to this, we launched a Global Hunger Appeal, aiming to raise £380m ($520m) to support work in 13 countries globally. As of September, the movement has secured approximately $380m of the $520m appeal target. For millions already struggling to cope with the impacts of conflict and climate change, COVID-19 is yet another shock undermining their livelihoods and pushing them towards the brink.

It was promising to see the commitments made by President Biden but more needs to be done to ensure vaccine equity. The science has delivered the solution with safe and effective vaccines, however inequality has meant that the fruits of this science have not been shared equally and the data shows only 1.9% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose and children are paying the price. We need to do better or risk losing the gains made over the last two decades, starting with the redistribution of doses from high-income countries and a commitment from G7 leaders to finance the $43 billion needed to push global vaccination forward.

Looking ahead 

While COVID-19 has demanded the world’s attention, it has also intensified the battle against other diseases such as pneumonia. I’m really pleased to share Save the Children’s brand-new report on pneumonia, which sets out the essential action needed to deliver on our ambition of ending preventable childhood pneumonia deaths by 2030.  

While world leaders plan to meet in Glasgow for COP26, our new evidence suggests that nearly half of all children worldwide live in countries at ‘extreme high’ risk of the impacts of climate change. The world’s window of opportunity to act on this is quickly closing, and commitments to climate action, finance, and children’s participation in decision-making remain dangerously inadequate. Unless global leaders scale up their ambition children’s rights will suffer and shared global prosperity will be under threat as the costs of responding to humanitarian crises resulting from extreme weather events increase.

Finally, I’m delighted to be sharing our new Future of Childhood report. Written in consultation with 447 children from across the UK, the report asks two questions – what do children want childhood to be like in 2040? And what could it be like in reality, if nothing changes? We also hear from professionals working in children’s policy, education and services, to understand what childhood is likely to be like in 2040. There are a lot of great initiatives already happening, which we can build on and learn from, but also a lot to change in order to achieve children’s vision – like funding for children’s mental health, preventing children experiencing climate anxiety, and preventing high rates of child poverty.