Terre des Hommes: A Half Century Long Aspiration for a Safer World for Children

Right around the world, Terre des Hommes are a driving force for child safety. As they turn 50, we spoke to them about their work.

Describing a 60-year long contribution and commitment to children around the world is not a simple task to wrap up.

However, Anne-Sophie Ledermann, Press Officer Terre des Hommes’ (TDH), the largest Swiss organization for helping children, sat with Youth Time to speak about their work and the broadening of their programs. 

In addition, she also shares a few success stories and how they adapted their initiatives in an unstable global environment caused by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Ledermann shares the inspirational idea behind the organisation’s existence, by going back to 1960, when Edmond Kaiser founded the organisation. 

“He founded the organisation after finding out about the misery of 1.2 million people living in deplorable conditions in the camps of Algeria. 

“Kaiser founded the organisation as a movement to provide immediate help to children in need.”

Although it stemmed from the conditions in Algeria, Kaiser’s vision beat borders with TDH’s health, protection and emergency programs reaching over four million children and members of their communities in nearly 40 countries, during 2019.


Digging into Key Initiatives

Inspired every day by children’s smiles, Terre des Hommes has three main working areas: maternal and child health, migration, and access to justice.

One of TDH’s priorities is to ensure that children and their mothers benefit from proper healthcare, Ledermann goes on.

“To fulfil our broader mission to improve access to medical care, water and sanitation in the most underprivileged communities worldwide, we call on innovation and digital health tools”.

Terre de Hommes protects children and youth affected by migration whether it is voluntary or forced.

“We raise awareness of the related risks while considering the opportunities migration can offer these children. 

“We work to ensure they are treated with equity and dignity and fulfil their right to be protected along all stages of their migration path.”

Nearly one million children are currently deprived of liberty.

“Most frequently they are detained for having committed minor offences, although custody should be a last resort. 

“TDH encourages a restorative approach. We are committed to change practices to ensure that each child has access to a justice that is respecting their rights and adapted to their circumstances and needs.”


Between Improvements and Challenges

Terre Des Hommes focuses on the areas of maternal and child health, children and young people in migration and access to justice. Ledermann digs into how this is going so far.

She recalls that for the last 30 years, the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by 196 countries, have had a big impact, so they can witness significant improvements in children’s lives.

“Today, more children receive quality care, more children have access to food and education, and their psychosocial well-being is more considered.”

However, she continues, the current situation is serious; the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are very dangerous for children.

“With little or no schooling, they are more exposed to child labour, sexual exploitation, early marriage, and domestic violence. 

“Without access to digital technology, one third of the world’s children are at risk of having to drop out of school because of school’s closures, which has also increased social exclusion and food insecurity since many families used to rely on school to provide at least one meal a day for their child.”

According to her, even though the situation of children has improved overall, they will have to be more committed than ever in the coming years and strengthen their interventions on the field.


The Ability to Adapt

In an unstable global environment, Ledermann goes on, they continually adapt to their working methods.

“Our protection projects today go beyond safeguarding children; we give them the means to decide and make choices about themselves based on their personal aspirations.”

Terre des Hommes_1.jpg
Helping Hand: Terres des Hommes assisting on a humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh

Today, TDH helps over four million children and members of their communities in almost 40 countries around the world.


Highlighting Success Stories

The following success stories are a substantial proof of Terre des Hommes’ ability to adapt and thrive:


First World Congress on Justice for Children

In 2009, TDH organised the first world congress on juvenile justice in Lima, Peru. 

One hundred states, religious and community justice professionals meet to debate and share best practices in protecting children in conflict with the law.

The second congress is in Geneva in 2015 and third in Paris in 2018. The next World Congress will be on Justice with Children and is organised virtually in the autumn of 2021.


Innovation Through Digital Health 

In 2014, TDH developed a digital health tool called “IeDA” (Integrated e-Diagnostic Approach): it is a tablet-based tool that helps medical staff to make more accurate diagnoses on children under the age of five. 

Today, it is deployed in 67% of all health centres in Burkina Faso. 

Thousands of health professionals use it to run between 200,000 and 300,000 consultations each month. IeDA is also implemented in two health districts in Mali and in Niger and will soon be deployed in Jharkhand State, India.


Training of Birth Attendants in Remote Areas

In rural areas suffering from deep and chronic poverty, access to basic health services, in particular perinatal care, is of serious concern. 

Through the SIMESON project (Simulation of Essential Skills in Obstetrical and Neonatal care), we train midwives and health workers of 245 health centres in Mali, Nepal, and Bangladesh to make sustainable improvements to the quality of care provided at birth in isolated areas.


Child Protection Hub

In 2015, TDH created a platform that empowers and connects child protection actors to learn, advocate and collaborate. 

Today, 1,200 professionals are part of that community and have had a positive impact on the lives of over 500.000 children and their families.

To stay informed about their activities, you can subscribe to their newsletters or follow them on social networks: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, and LinkedIn.

Please click here to see the Terre des Hommes digital library.

Photos: Terre des Hommes

Read another inspiring article here:

Reykjavik Dialogue: Renewing Activism to End Violence Against Women

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