Shelter from the storm

Viva’s growing reputation as a specialist in protecting children in emergency situations has led us to supporting partners to deliver training in Malawi and Mozambique this year following the devastation of Cyclone Idai.

Kezia M’Clelland writes about the impact of this work.

“After the cyclone we were very traumatised; the buildings were severely damaged and the students were traumatised. We didn’t know how to deal with these situations.” (Teacher, Dondo, Mozambique)

In March 2019, Cyclone Idai, one of the most severe storms ever experienced in Africa wrought devastation in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Across the region, at least 1,300 people died and over 2.2 million people were affected. Homes, schools and health services were damaged or destroyed in floods, and risk of diseases such as cholera increased rapidly.

Children were particularly vulnerable in this context, as many lost family members or loved ones, were out of school, or were relocated to crowded shared spaces when their homes were damaged or destroyed.

In this context, risks of violence and abuse increased, as well as risks of child labour and early marriage where families’ livelihoods were destroyed.

Through Viva’s ongoing partnership with Integral Alliance, we have been able to support agencies responding on the ground to provide a greater level of support to children affected by Cyclone Idai.

In May, I travelled to Malawi to deliver child protection in emergencies training to 26 participants from 11 organisations responding to the emergency there, including representatives from Integral, World Renew, World Relief and Tearfund UK.

The training enabled participants to understand and identify best practice in ensuring that child protection is fully integrated into their work. One participant said: “I didn’t realise that child protection could be integrated in all kinds of programming. It’s been an eye-opener. Now this can impact all our programmes.”

Viva is also part of a year-long education in emergencies response in Mozambique.

The project, led by Food for the Hungry (FH), seeks to rehabilitate nine schools which were damaged by the Cyclone, and to support 422 teachers and 17,846 children.

Viva has developed a training curriculum for teachers to ensure that they are equipped to offer psychosocial support to children, integrate child protection, ensure that all children are included in education, and work effectively with parents and communities to keep children safe.

Viva is training FH’s local team to be able to go and deliver the four training modules to teachers in the nine schools. In a recent visit to one of the schools, I was really encouraged to hear one of the newly-trained teachers speak about the impact of the training on the way they are able to support and engage with children who are struggling.

The teacher (right) told me: “The training came and increased my knowledge of how to deal with children who are in difficulties. I’m so thankful for all we discussed in these days and we hope the next two modules will bring more content.

“Before the second module we had a child who is 13 years old – she was not coming often to school, maybe only two days in a week. After the training, I called her and tried to find out why she is not in school. She said that it was because of the distance, as she lives far from the school – and sometimes they don’t get dinner at home.

“I tried to talk to her and help her to know that even if she doesn’t get food at home she should still come to school, as someone at school might be able to help her.

“I said that when we have difficulties we can work together to find a way through them.

We connected her with an organisation who provide support to girls, and now she is always in school every day.”

Beyond this cyclone, or the Syria and Lebanon refugee context in which we’ve been involved in recent years, Viva is concerned about the larger, global picture of responding to children in emergency situations.

We have been increasingly able to link international standards and good practice by developing tools which are relevant and easy to use for local partners on the ground, through our online toolkit.

We have also participated in the Global Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action and worked on redrafting the 2019 version of the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action by finding ways to include the voices of our local partners in this process. I was privileged to attend the launch of these new Standards last week.

Viva’s collaborative model means we are naturally positioned to partner with Integral Alliance, FH and other organisations to be able to extend our child-focused work into situations where children are extremely vulnerable – and to see a genuine impact on the lives of some of the world’s most at-risk children.

Kezia M’Clelland is Viva’s Children in Emergencies Specialist


Top photo credit: Denis Onyodi, IFRC/DRK/Climate Centre