Born on the run – fleeing north from Nigeria
Chisom’s and Nalani’s story begins with their mother, Ivie. Ivie grew up in Nigeria, where even going to school was a difficult venture, and university was only a dream. When her father, a local politician, ran into trouble, however, the challenges became unbearable. Four men kidnapped her father from their home. While there, they attempted to rape Ivie.
Recently married, and fearing for her life, she and her husband fled north. After a gruelling, month-long journey, they arrived in Libya. At first, things went well. It was there that Ivie gave birth to her son, Chisom. But the situation rapidly worsened as the civil war flared up.
Believing the family had hidden wealth, local gunmen demanded money. When threats did not work, they imprisoned the entire family, separating Ivie from both her husband and Chisom. As the threats and assaults escalated, Ivie miraculously recovered her child and escaped. Fearing the worst and heavily pregnant once more, Ivie made the difficult decision to flee further, to Italy.
In 2015, over 120,000 migrants like Ivie have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy. The estimated number of people who have died en route is nearly 3,000.
“Since the beginning of this year, more than 11,200 children have arrived in Italy. The deteriorating situation in Libya has led to a surge in their numbers. Children arriving in the last months describe Libya as a land of guns, violence, and constant threats.”
Giovanna Di Benedetto,
Save the Children Italy
Risking it all – coming to Europe
One step ahead of the gunmen, Ivie’s husband feared dead, and with Libya plunging into a new round of violence, Ivie and Chisom managed to scrape together the money for a place on a smuggler’s boat. She relates what happened next: “I scrambled onto the boat with Chisom. It was already overloaded with hundreds of refugees. You couldn’t move because the people were packed so closely together. We were at sea for 15 hours, and with no food or water. I was scared. My baby was scared. Me and Chisom both started to vomit.”
Arrival in Italy was chaotic, but soon Ivie began to feel she was in safe hands. She was greeted by Save the Children, who operate at ports and first reception centers across Sicily. Save the Children meets nearly all refugee and migrant children upon arrival. Their job is to assess and address the immediate state of the children, including any specific health or psychological needs they may have. They can also help get mothers back on their feet.
In Ivie’s case, she not only had a three-year-old who needed support, she also had another baby on the way. Save the Children was able to get Ivie to a hospital, where she gave birth to her daughter Nalani, and they arranged for supplies and clothes for the children.
Helping refugee children and families in Italy
Since 2008, Save the Children Italy has been assisting migrant families like Ivie’s throughout Italy, with services like urban drop-in centers where families can access showers, clothes, food, medical support and legal advice. They also work with authorities to help with family reunification, and to ensure that children have a safe place to stay for the long term.
In southern Italy, Save the Children monitors reception standards and provides capacity-building support for officials. They also offer direct child protection services at disembarkation points, ports and reception centers. Trained personnel work to address the various needs of children and families, and ensure they are aware of their legal rights.
One way in which C&A and C&A Foundation help is by supporting “mobile units” with a 200,000 EUR grant. These Mobile units move among the various arrival points, providing ”child friendly spaces” for vulnerable children. In this way, Save the Children teams can easily set up and run activities designed to support children and their families in their recovery from their trauma. Children are encouraged to express their feelings, process their experiences and play.
“Children and mothers are particularly vulnerable in emergencies and crisis situations. We are very pleased that we have – with both C&A and C&A Foundation – found passionate and engaged partners that care for the lives of the millions of mothers and their families struggling to survive in conflicts, crises and disasters. Together we will be able to make a difference.”
Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children International
C&A’s partnership: “Mothers Make The Difference”
For over 170 years, family-owned C&A has been putting people and planet first. C&A takes a long-term view, believing that perseverance in the pursuit of the common good always pays off. One way how C&A lives up to that vision is the multi-year partnership with Save the Children called “Mothers Make the Difference”.
Leslie Johnston, Executive Director C&A Foundation, describes the thinking behind the project: “We believe that mothers make the difference to their families and to their communities. By focusing our partnership on mothers in crisis situations, as well as by helping them to better handle future crises, we can contribute to creating strong children and strong families."
Ivie is definitely feeling stronger. She has still not been able to locate her husband or contact her family in Nigeria. But she knows that she and her two children are safe. “The Italians have treated me well. They gave me food and water. They gave my baby clothes. I am happy in Italy. My son is happy, too. He speaks a little Italian now. Here, he is free.”
The mobile units that helped Ivie are only one part of an ambitious arrangement under which Save the Children receives up to 3 million EUR per year from C&A and C&A Foundation.
You too make a difference. Click here to donate www.savethechildren.de/canda, or just go into any C&A store for information on how you can support C&A and Save the Children – the world’s leading independent organization for children – in helping children and families in dire need.
Partners in caring
C&A and C&A Foundation provide Save the Children with financial support of up to 3 million EUR annually, as part of a multi-year alliance to support millions of mothers and their children who are coping with humanitarian crises worldwide. For example:
- To help refugees on their way to north Europe, the C&A Foundation provided Save the Children in Serbia with seed funding of EUR 50,000 in 2015.
- Following the devastation caused by Cyclone Komen in July 2015, the C&A Foundation donated 40,000 EUR to help set up medical and refugee camps for flood victims in India.
- In the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, the C&A Foundation donated USD 200,000 to more quickly reach vulnerable children and families with humanitarian aid.
Working on the front lines of crisis
Giovanna Di Benedetto, 43, is the Media Officer for Save the Children Italy. Every day, people ask her about migrants and refugees. Here are some of her answers.
Where do children arriving in Europe come from?
Most came from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and other sub-Saharan countries to Libya to try the sea crossing.
What have the conditions on their journeys been like?
The children have been through long journeys, facing deprivation and violence, torture, abuse or exploitation by adults and people smugglers.
Are many of the children injured, and what assistance do they receive?
Illness and injury are frequent, and Save the Children works with local authorities to quickly refer cases for appropriate medical assistance.
How long do refugees stay in the camps?
Accompanied children move with their families to first reception facilities for families throughout Italy. There, they can apply for asylum.
What about unaccompanied children?
By Italian law, unaccompanied children receive a permit to stay, and are taken to special, child-only first-reception facilities.
Is it easy to connect with these children and mothers?
Yes. We work to reinforce the individual identity and resilience of each child. Most respond very well.
What can you say about C&A Foundation’s support?
I’ve seen how the mobile units help children to recover a sense of normalcy. Staff are specifically trained in post-trauma interventions designed to activate a child’s innate resilience. C&A Foundation’s support has been instrumental in setting up this program.