SOS Emergency Appeals
What Emergency Relief does SOS Children do?
SOS Children's role in helping with the growing Sahel 2012 Emergency is again turning the spotlight on our extraordinary work in Africa. SOS Children is a very big international charity with long term projects in around 125 countries. About 60% of the work of SOS is providing long term care and education for those most in need: children who do not even have parents there to try to help them (much of this is funded by people who sponsor a child). About 40% of SOS Children's work is in providing other programmes: schools, hospitals, family strengthening (anti-abandonment) programmes and emergency relief. A lot of this is preventative and local: trying to help strengthen families where they are to reduce the challenges of dealing with food distribution and hygiene in huge refugee camps.
Why does SOS Children get involved in Emergency Relief?
Other charities are specialised in Emergency Relief and are specialist in flying emergency equipment around the world, finding bodies under rubble and distributing large quantities of food or blankets very fast.
SOS Children is specialised in orphans not disasters. However often when disaster strikes SOS is present on the ground already.This was the case for example for the Asian Tsunami emergency, and for the Kashmir Earthquakes. It is also true in the Gaza strip, for many famines and many refugee crises. SOS Children is already in place so often because the same places which have problems with orphaned children are places very vulnerable to natural disaster: where infrastructure has little reserve and people live close to the edge.
Where we are present we always help, using all of our facilities and staff in place. This gives a huge advantage both in speed (we have often been helping with our own local trucks for weeks while certain others struggle in a local port to try to get tax exemption on their imported 4x4s...) and in local knowledge since we have 98% local staff in all our different locations. When ensuring child safety and dealing with local political challenges a starting point of already being there is a huge help (and it also helps that locals we work with know we won't leave on the next plane out after the TV cameras have gone). Stories often circulate after disasters of child traffickers and others out to exploit the confusion: being there and knowing who is who proves invaluable for us.
Trust is important too. When the Kashmir government made us temporary guardian of all unaccompanied children after the Earthquake, they did so in the knowledge that we had been in the area for decades and even had had two set of commemorative stamps by the post office (one to mark 25 years and one to mark 30 years in Pakistan).
Aside from local knowledge, what else does SOS offer in emergencies?
Although we do not typically get involved in major logistical operations or major rebuilding operations, we do have considerable skills and experience which are valuable. Our work in such emergencies is incredibly important, with high impact especially for the children affected and we greatly appreciate :
First, everywhere we work we have local government approval as custodians of children. We have checked local staff who can take on unaccompanied children.
Secondly, we have a lot of experience dealing with child trauma and bereavement. We tend to end up running support centres where children can get over the stress of a natural disaster or conflict and ensure that they fare as well as possible.
Thirdly, we also tend to end up running family tracing programs where children (often young with incomplete knowledge) have been separated from their families by abduction as child soldiers or natural disaster.
Fourthly, our local roots mean we often are very good at spotting what other people miss in emergency provisions: post tsunami our team on the ground went around the refugee camps and spotted that on average each family had more than a year of dried foodstuffs but didn't have any fresh fruit or veg, so we were only providing fresh food whilst piles of dried food from others grew higher and higher, in the mountains of Kashmir we were the ones with the tents best suited to the high altitude freezing weather and especially things related to children such as nappies when conflict isolates families with no washing facilities for extended periods.