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In the aftermath of World War I, British activist Eglantyne Jebb, determined to aid the young survivors in neighboring war-torn Vienna, Austria, founded the Save the Children Fund in England in 1919.

The new organization immediately began pressing for the safeguards of children to be internationally recognized. In 1923, Jebb wrote the Children’s Charter, which eventually served as the foundation for an international treaty called the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. It has been ratified by all but two countries, the United States and Somalia.

The British Save the Children initiative was mimicked in 1932 by American philanthropists to aid children suffering the consequences of the Great Depression. John Voris established Save the Children U.S. in New York.

World War II further spread the work of Save the Children overseas to aid youngsters in England, France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Finland.

In the 1980s, a new crisis emerged that gradually started to affect millions of children around the world. This time, it was not a world war or a stock market crash, but HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Besides responding to emergencies and developing a variety of education, health and entrepreneurship programs, Save the Children entered the AIDS battle overseas to promote the care and support of those affected and to address prevention, particularly among high-risk youth.

The organization’s HIV/AIDS program — “Scaling up HIV/AIDS interventions Through Expanded Partnerships” (STEPs) — began in Malawi, in southern Africa in 1995. The strategy has since been replicated in three African countries — Ethiopia, Mozambique and Uganda — and in Haiti. STEPs works by creating self-run village AIDS communities that benefit orphans and caregivers. Caregivers learn to take emotional, educational and financial care of children orphaned because of AIDS. At the same time, the organization’s staff trains villagers to assist the chronically ill and to promote prevention.

Other HIV prevention programs are operating in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Georgia, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam.

PEPFAR-funded work

The U.S. government has awarded Save the Children about $28 million to fight the virus overseas. The money comes from the Bush administration’s five-year $15 billion President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

With PEPFAR funding, Save the Children works in Ethiopia and Mozambique in a direct contractual relationship with the U.S. government. In Haiti, Uganda and Vietnam, Save the Children receives money as a sub-partner of other entities that have received money from PEPFAR, such as World Vision and Pact.

Save the Children will spend about 82 percent of the total awarded by PEPFAR, or $23 million, in Ethiopia, where the organization works in two main areas. One is prevention, following the “Abstinence,” “Be Faithful” and “correct and consistent Condom use,” or the so-called ABC approach, for high-risk groups. The other is caring for children orphaned because of AIDS and offering counseling, testing, support and care for people who are HIV-positive.

One of Save the Children’s main projects in Ethiopia is the High Risk Corridor Initiative (HRCI) , a care and prevention program that predates PEPFAR but that has been funded by it since 2005. The HRCI initiative targets transport workers, commercial sex workers and other vulnerable groups along 24 towns in Ethiopia’s main trade route between Addis Ababa, the capital, and the neighboring country of Djibouti on the Red Sea. In that area, Save the Children teaches a combination of abstinence and fidelity messages in schools and other settings. The project promotes condoms among high-risk groups such as commercial sex workers and their clients.

In 2005, it was estimated that AIDS had left more than 744,000 children orphaned in Ethiopia and about 510,000 in Mozambique.

In Ethiopia, Save the Children, together with key partners such as CARE and World Vision, reaches out to orphans in six regions. The organization intervenes to provide orphans and other vulnerable children with uniforms and other school supplies to enable them to study. Other efforts include legal aid to protect children’s property rights and to protect individuals from abuse and young girls from sexual exploitation. Caregivers are helped through community-managed savings and credits groups to undertake long-term child-friendly care of orphans in their communities. By the end of 2006, the target is to reach 100,000 orphans and 16,500 caregivers.

In Mozambique, Save the Children follows a similar program as in Ethiopia in six provinces. Caregivers are trained to make sure orphans go to school and have access to education support, and also to provide psychosocial support. In 2005, Save the Children provided services to more than 40,000 orphans and vulnerable children, and more than 8,000 people were trained to take care of the children. This year the goal is to serve 60,000 orphans and to train 4,000 caregivers.

Under the lead of other organizations, Save the Children assists as a sub-partner in care and prevention activities in Uganda, Haiti and Vietnam.

In fiscal 2005, Save the Children reported $397 million in operating revenue. Funds spent for HIV/AIDS programs have significantly increased in the past three years. While in fiscal 2003, Save the Children’s HIV/AIDS programs were allocated $4.4 million in funds, the amount grew to $18.2 million for fiscal 2005. PEPFAR support is one of the reasons for the increase, said Eileen Burke, a Save the Children spokeswoman.

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