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Images of starving Austrian children during World War I prompted Eglantyne Jebb to found Save the Children in Britain in 1919.

Jebb was so disturbed by these pictures that she shared them with the British public – not only to raise money, but to demonstrate that these children were the collateral damage of a brutal war. While the public viewed them as children of the enemy, the stark images cut through the harsh political rhetoric of the time to focus on mercy, not retribution.

Recognizing that children had rights as individuals, Eglantyne Jebb was the first person to draft a declaration of children’s rights, articulating the world’s duty to protect all children from harm. Save the Children holds in its DNA both the promotion of children’s rights and dignity as well as the commitment to bring to the world’s attention the plight of the most desperate.

In my 26 years with Save the Children, the highlight of my career has unquestionably been meeting with the children we work with, all around the world. The happy faces I’ve seen are a wonderful reminder of our commitment to ensuring children’s rights. But I’m reminded of the unjust realities still faced by too many children when I see faces filled with pain and hopelessness.

Seeing children suffering from malnutrition and extreme hunger is amongst the worst things I’ve witnessed. It is shameful that millions of children die every year because of malnutrition when globally we have enough nutritious food for all.

It often takes a crisis for the media to tell the story of children living with deprivation – such was the case with the siege of Madaya, Syria. And now, because of public outcry, humanitarian aid access has been granted. But in other situations equally as dire, there is no media story, no public outcry. Today Ethiopia is facing the worst drought and food crisis in generations – there are 10.1 million people in need of emergency food assistance and that number will only increase. Children are amongst the most vulnerable and hardest hit in emergency situations like this. We cannot wait for the media to be ready to share this story, we need to act now.

The images in our television spot are hard to look at. They are graphic, and they are upsetting to me. But the fact is that they reflect the daily situations faced by millions of children like Kayembe (the child featured), in countries like Ethiopia, Mali, Syria and others.

Save the Children works in 120 countries around the globe, ensuring children are protected wherever possible. We’ve done so for almost 100 years. But we have never, and cannot ever do it alone. We work alongside local partners – over 90% of our staff are from the countries in which we deliver our programs. We also work alongside our donors. With their support, we reached 55 million children directly in 2014 alone.

We need continued help to keep providing food, water, healthcare, education and dignity for children like Kayembe, all over the globe.

It is our hope that sharing this story will lead to greater public awareness and outcry over the suffering faced by children around the world. There is still so much to be done, and we need your help to do it.

Thank you for your support

Patricia Erb,
President & CEO


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Our television spot tells the story of Kayembe, from Mali.

Kayembe was brought to Tshiamala hospital by his aunt. She had walked for an hour and a half just to reach the hospital. Kayembe’s parents both died of HIV/AIDS, his mother passing only one month before this spot was filmed.

As Kayembe’s mother’s condition deteriorated, so did his. He lost weight and developed malnutrition. His aunt – his mother’s sister – began to care for them both, but with four children of her own, she was simply not able to look after everyone. Kayembe’s aunt and uncle are farmers and only generate a small income and it barely provides basic food like maize flour and rice.

For the month before he arrived at Tshiamala Hospital in Mali, Kayembe was suffering from a fever and diarrhoea. Once at Tshiamala, he was diagnosed with severe malnutrition and prescribed both antibiotics and Plumpy-nut®, a high energy food specifically formulated to rehabilitate severely malnourished children.

A few weeks after this diagnosis, Kayembe was discharged from the hospital, healthy and in recovery.

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Food Crises and Save the Children's Response: Our Work in Mali

Save the Children has been operating in Mali for more than 35 years, and has a close, co-operative relationship with both the government and local partner organizations. In 2012, the worst drought in living memory hit the Sahel region. That drought led to massive food shortages and ultimately, a food crisis. Save the Children’s presence in Mali during 2012 worked to provide children with the essentials of nutritious food, clean water, education, health care, and dignity.

A key Save the Children focus in Mali today remains the nutritional status of children under the age of five. We aim to reduce children’s illness and deaths due to malnutrition, by addressing its underlying causes. The Sahel region continues to be plagued by food insecurity today, a reality that is impacted by climate change. As such, Save the Children also aims to improve food security and the economic status of families in Mali, to help lift children out of poverty.

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Current Food Shortages And Emergencies Around the Globe

The world’s attention was grabbed in early January, 2016, when news about the siege in Madaya, Syria, made headlines all over the world. Graphic images of children starving prompted a public outcry, and humanitarian assistance was finally allowed into the town. Public outcry over looming food crises in other areas has yet to occur. Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries and where Kayembe is from, suffers from routine drought conditions and risks food crises on a regular basis.

Ethiopia is facing the worst drought in generations, partly due to El Nino-induced weather patterns. Over 10 million people are in need of emergency food assistance; 5.75 million children are at risk of hunger and we’re projecting more than 400,000 cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition in children in 2016, just like Kayembe.

The Ethiopian government is showing leadership but they cannot do it alone. Save the Children is on the ground in 101 out of 142 of the worst-affected districts providing support including clean water, medicine and nutrition supplements for children suffering from malnutrition.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Save the Children spending money on television advertisements?

Marketing is critical to growing the number of donors Save the Children has, and the amount of funds we raise both today and in the future. Save the Children’s goal is to reach even the most marginalized children and lift them up to a better future. To do this, it’s important for us to reach as many people as we can - people who want to part of the solution to global poverty. We use rigorous methods of evaluating the effectiveness of our marketing to ensure that our advertisements bring in more money (in the form of donations) than we spend on their production. Over the last 3 years 90.5% of Save the Children’s donation revenues have gone directly to Programs. Only 6.4% has been used for Fundraising, and 3.1% on Administration costs.

Save the Children takes its relationship with its donors seriously. They are not just sources of support, but are members of the Save the Children family. For Save the Children, this means that taking our donors on a journey through our organization, how and where we work, and who we work with, is of vital importance. As the world’s largest independent organization for children, we are committed to ensuring children realize the rights they are guaranteed under the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. Our mission of creating a world where every child has the right to survival, protection, development and participation is at the heart of all that we do. From the moment a donor first joins our family, we ensure they are up to date on our different programs and understand our organizational goals, focus, and values.

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Why are you showing such graphic, disturbing images?

Although we realize that these images may make people uncomfortable, Save the Children is committed to showing realistic depictions of the children we work with and their daily realities. We do not shy away from the issues faced by vulnerable children around the world. The situation Kayembe faced was very real, Patricia Erb, our President and CEO was in Mali and saw it first-hand. Situations equally grave are occurring around the world today. Knowing the worsening food crises that Ethiopia currently faces, and the food crisis affecting Syria, we need the support from Canadians to help us continue our work on the ground in both locations, and 120 countries around the globe.

The total extent of our work in any region of course cannot be presented in a 90-second clip, nor can the realities of any humanitarian crisis situation. What these images can do is portray the reality of the situations faced by some of the children, families and communities Save the Children works with. These images can also depict the severity of some of the situations and help us raise much-needed support that will allow us to keep working and helping children the world-over.

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Why does this spot portray Kayembe’s family and the people of Mali the way that you do?

Integrity, accountability and collaboration are three of Save the Children’s core values. You’ll note in the video that the health care workers shown interacting with Kaymbe are all local workers. Working in partnership with local organizations is of paramount importance to Save the Children – 90% of our staff are from the countries in which we deliver our programs. We often work specifically to help train local health care workers – since 2010 we’ve trained almost 500,000 health care workers around the globe. Save the Children is proud to work alongside local partners to help children, families and communities as they become empowered and find hope.

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The Canadian government keeps announcing funding for refugees from the Syria conflict. Why is Save the Children asking for money for another cause?

We recognize that much media attention has been focused on the situation in Syria. The Canadian government has been rallying support amongst Canadians to help this situation, both in the form of a donation matching fund for donations made between now and February 29, 2016, and its commitment to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada.

Save the Children has been on the ground in Syria and surrounding countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq) since before the conflict began. In fact, Save the Children is working in 120 countries around the world. The refugee crisis is grave and is certainly where much public attention is rightfully focused. However there are other, equally dire situations occurring in countries around the world, that Save the Children needs support for. There is a food crisis in Mali. The public’s attention was recently grabbed through the horrific images of children starving in Madaya, in Syria. There is a food crisis in Ethiopia that requires assistance, there are currently 10.1 million people requiring emergency food assistance and that number will only increase. These are just a few of the places where Save the Children is on the ground, working with local partners to ensure children are protected, wherever possible. So while the public’s attention may currently be on Syria, Save the Children is monitoring the globe for all instances of need.

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If I donate money in response to the television spot, will my money go to help Kayembe and the people of Mali?

Funds raised through the television spot will go to Save the Children’s LIFELINE program. LIFELINE gifts are put to use where they are most urgently needed, to help lift children in treacherous situations to safety. LIFELINE support helps us provide vulnerable children with access to life-saving medical care, clean water and nutritious food, safe shelter and protection.

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Is Kayembe a real person? Is that video footage real?

This video footage is real and was filmed in Mali at the Tshiamala Hospital where Kayembe was treated. Patricia Erb, Save the Children’s President & CEO was there and witnessed scenes like these first-hand. To hear more from her, please watch her video.

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Who is Save the Children?

Save the Children is the world's leading independent organization for children. Save the Children Canada is a member of Save the Children International, a network of 30 member organizations raising funds and operating programs domestically and internationally that focus on the issues of health and nutrition, education, child protection, livelihoods and food security, emergency relief and child rights governance.

The members of Save the Children International work together as a federation by pooling resources, establishing common positions on issues and carrying out joint projects.

We are committed to ensuring children realize the rights to which they are entitled under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

What are donations used for?

Save the Children uses a holistic approach to help achieve more for children, to use our resources in an efficient and sustainable way. Programs are delivered domestically and internationally that focus on the issues of health and nutrition, education, child protection, livelihoods and food security, emergency relief and child rights governance.

You can become a LIFELINE and help life a child in urgent need.

How many projects is Save the Children currently working on?

This number changes daily, so perhaps it makes more sense to say in 2014, we reached over 55 million children directly (51% girls, 49% boys), in 120 countries, through our, and our partners’, work.

Do you offer Education and Advocating programs for the public?

Not at this time. Save the Children aims to ensure that countries and communities where we work invest effectively and enough to fulfil all children’s rights. We do this by campaigning with children and other organisations, and working with governments.

For more questions about Save the Children, please click here.

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