Children’s charity faces $4m funding crunch

SOS Children’s Villages runs 25 villages for children, some of which have been damaged by fighting

A children’s charity has appealed to Arab donors to help fill a EUR3.5m ($4.4m) funding shortfall for a campaign offering emergency aid to Palestinians.

SOS Children’s Villages, which cares for orphaned and abandoned children, said its resources have been stretched to breaking point by ongoing conflicts in Gaza, Palestine and Syria, which have destroyed existing facilities.

“We really are in financial crisis,” said Nicole Nassar, managing director, Gulf area office, SOS Children’s Villages International. “We have long-term programmes for children so we need long-term funding and commitment.”

SOS Children’s Villages provide homes and support for children with no parents to look after them. The EUR3.5m appeal would help fund basic primary healthcare, an emergency care centre, support for extended families and staffing for one year for the organisation’s Palestine emergency response initiative.

The charity takes care of more than 2,100 children at three locations in Palestine and supports some 2,000 families in the territories. More than 2,150 Palestinians died in the recent 50-day conflict with Israel and much of Gaza’s vital infrastructure was destroyed.

“In our Rafah children’s village in Gaza, the children were locked in, they couldn’t go out because of all the fighting,” said Nassar. “The youth house there is also damaged.”

Across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the charity runs 25 villages, each housing between 100 to 130 children. There are 14,000 children in the region in their direct care.

In Syria, the charity saw one of its two children’s villages evacuated for lack of safety. Children from the Aleppo village had to move to SOS’ Damascus village, where staff are coping with twice the village’s normal capacity. The organisation is planning to rebuild the village when hostilities end, said Nassar.

SOS Children’s Villages operates in nine countries across Middle East and North Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Sudan and Syria. The charity takes children into its villages as a last resort, preferring to support vulnerable families where possible.

SOS’ Gulf office also recently signed an agreement with the Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation (AMAF), UAE, to advise and provide training for Dubai’s first orphanage – Family Village, due to open in 2015. The charity will train ‘mothers’ – its name for long-term residential staff – to deal with often traumatised children, starting in December.

“The worst thing that can happen is the children come into a family setting and the mother quits the job,” said Nassar. “Our mission is that children are in loving families and have a stable home.”

Globally, the charity helps children in 134 countries through children’s villages, family support programmes and education, health and emergency initiatives.

Photo credit: SOS Children’s Villages International