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South Asia Replaces Africa As Largest Recipient Of NGO Attention

The Hindu

May 1, 2006

By Ramya Kannan

India and the rest of South Asia have replaced Africa as the largest beneficiary of the attention of international NGOs in child care, Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive, Save the Children Fund U.K., said in Chennai recently.

The spate of recent calamities in the region, what with the Gujarat earthquake, the tsunami and series of earthquakes that followed, has left vast trails of destruction in the countries of this region. This has upped the volume of assistance and the number of players in the area, Ms.Whitbread explains.

"Africa used to be the largest recipient of international assistance. But the tsunami turned that. Also things have been particularly grim for Asia in the recent years." South Asia, as a region, is by far one of the biggest recipients of assistance today. While some organisations kept only to emergency response post disaster, there were a large number of NGOs that are also focussing on long-term development strategies to rebuild communities.

Save the Children Fund has been working in the tsunami-affected regions, commencing by participating in the massive relief operations after December 25, 2004. This has since extended to a commitment to work for at least five years in India, prioritising "the rights of children? our raison d'etre."

'Safe zones' were first established in the community, in the temporary shelters, so children could get back to regular life, and as Ms.Whitbread says, "to augment the child's natural coping mechanism." Reviving the early childhood care centres (anganwadis) and getting children back to school are top on the Save the Children India agenda.

Right through, the agency has been working closely with the local communities, state and central governments, whether is it to do with building temporary or permanent shelters or facilitating vocational rehabilitation in tsunami hit areas.

Tsunami work

While tsunami work will be a significant part of the organisation's activities in India, it will continue to work towards eliminating child labour, improving child mortality, promoting community foster care of destitute orphan children, education for all and launching HIV awareness campaigns, Ms.Whitbread says.

Child mortality has remained outrageously high for the last 20 years. "It is unacceptable that a child is dying every three seconds from poverty and curable diseases. This has to be tackled in the next 10 years, for we simply cannot go on maintaining the same rate."

"We will also ensure that the 35 million 'out-of-school' children in India find their way into schools. This, though it requires a lot of effort, is entirely do-able."

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