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Children’s Aid Direct

Name Children's Aid Direct    
Address Crown House, 6-8 Crown Street, Reading RG31 2SE, UK Executive director Nick Thompson

0044 118 958 4000

HQ Staff 49
Fax 0044 118 958 1230 Expats overseas 31
Web site National staff 455
Year formed 1990 Annual budget £6.9m


By Jeremy Shoham

Distributing CSB, Tajikistan supplementary feeding programme.

I recently interviewed Tim Bainbridge (Technical Support Advisor / Programme Support Manager) and Dr Ephrem Emru (Health Advisor) from Children's Aid Direct for the Field Exchange agency profile slot. Tim has worked in Children's Aid Direct for over four years while Ephrem is a relatively 'new boy' with only three months experience in the organisation. Both their jobs involve supporting the development of proposals and providing technical support for project staff.

Children's Aid Direct mission statement is to provide immediate and lasting support to children and their carers affected by conflict, poverty and disasters.

Children's Aid Direct was started by a group of highly motivated individuals who established a UK organisation Feed the Children affiliated to the US organisation of the same name. The agency's first humanitarian response was in Romania and Bulgaria where it delivered food, medical supplies and clothes to hundreds of children suffering from years of neglect and abuse in institutions. In its first year of operation it delivered over £1m worth of aid.

As the agency grew so did the scope of work the agency undertook and in 1996 the decision was taken to become fully independent and change its name to Children's Aid Direct. The focus of its work continued to be children and their communities, with a particular emphasis on addressing their longer-term needs as well as immediate needs from the outset of an intervention.

Burundi women's group, cultivating group farm; women become engaged in the group through their children being registered in the supplementary feeding programme.

Children's Aid Direct presently works in Former Yugoslavian Republic (FYR) of Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Albania, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, DPRK (North Korea), Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.

Although Children's Aid Direct tends to get involved in countries on the back of emergency events it adopts as much of a development approach as possible, e.g. work through government ministries and community institutions. "The agency will stay in a country for as long as it can make a positive impact, which may mean long after the acute emergency is over" Tim explained. In some situations, like in Tajikistan, Children's Aid Direct is not drawn in through an emergency event, but through its experience of working in similar situations. In other situations Children's Aid Direct may be invited into a country. This happened in the DPRK when the government actually approached Children's Aid Direct to help with child focussed programmes.

In the event of an emergency Children's Aid Direct will aim to send out a multi-sectoral team (emergency managers, health and food security specialist) to make an assessment. They will however only recommend that the agency get involved when it is apparent that a programme will "add value to the situation" Tim emphasised. For example: "Children's Aid Direct had a watching brief for Afghanistan for 2-3 years and stayed out because it was felt that under the prevailing political system it would not be possible to have a significant impact on the lives of children and their carers." Furthermore, becoming engaged in Afghanistan at the time would divert limited resources away from other programmes. However as a result of the recent changes in the political landscape of Afghanistan and the associated improvements in access Children's Aid Direct has now started a programme in the North East of the country.

The agency's main project work in the emergency nutrition sector is supplementary feeding. Children's Aid Direct does not currently implement therapeutic feeding programmes. Ephrem explained how Children's Aid Direct supplementary feeding programmes work closely with therapeutic feeding programmes implemented by other agencies, e.g. acutely malnourished children from the supplementary feeding programme are referred to therapeutic feeding centres and once discharged are referred back to the supplementary feeding programme.

Nutrition training for women with children in the supplementary feeding programme.

Ephrem talked about some of the difficulties that Children's Aid Direct face in implementing supplementary feeding programmes. All too common problems faced by field staff are: the provision of an effective general ration is delayed, the food basket is inadequate or there are difficulties in the general ration distribution networks. This means that the Children's Aid Direct SFP ends up operating in a context of inadequate food security. The result is that children discharged from the SFP need to be re-admitted within a short period of time. This happened in Tajikistan where the local authorities were responsible for identifying eligible households for the general ration but the system did not target families of malnourished children. Children's Aid Direct is currently trying to get round this by lobbying WFP to use the Children's Aid Direct SFP targeting criteria so that all in receipt of a SFP ration also get a WFP general ration. Inadequate general rations were also a problem in Burundi where WFP had pipeline difficulties which were beyond their control.

Another problem faced during SFP implementation is that as Children's Aid Direct do not currently implement therapeutic feeding programmes they have to refer mothers with severely malnourished children elsewhere. The issue here is that many mothers do not comply with the referral, usually because they cannot afford the time to sit in a 24 hour Therapeutic Feeding centre when they have so many other responsibilities at home. In Tajikistan where this was a problem programme staff offered nutritional advice to mothers so that at least they could provide some appropriate care for severely malnourished children. This recurrent issue is making Children's Aid Direct seriously consider developing capacity to implement community based therapeutic feeding (CBTF). Children's Aid Direct is currently consulting other agencies to collaborate in building up this capacity. Ephrem anticipates that one of the potential difficulties of CBTF may be the expense of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) and that it may be more appropriate to find locally produced therapeutic foods that can be used. However, Ephrem's experience in Darfur of CBTF with another agency was that it works and that mortality rates were actually lower than in traditional TFCs.

Mixing CSB, Tajikistan supplementary feeding programme.

Tim explained how Children's Aid Direct has also implemented a variety of food security programmes over the past ten years. These have included provision of seeds, tools and fertilisers (Liberia, S. Leone, Tajikistan), micro-credit schemes (Azerbaijan), livestock re-stocking (Burundi and Liberia) and advocacy for land distribution to displaced women in Burundi. The Burundi programme involved organising large groups of displaced women to lobby the local administration to give them land.

Though the programme successfully enabled women to gain greater access to land, it was not possible to clearly ascertain whether this came about because of the collective bargaining power of the women or because they had the backing of an International Non- Governmental Organisation.

The re-stocking programme in Burundi was also deemed to be successful although in a number of cases the cost of providing secure housing was greater than the cost of the animals themselves.

Tim explained that like other agencies it is often difficult to get suitably qualified and experienced nutrition and food security staff but that now Children's Aid Direct mainly recruit (successfully) through the internet, e.g. ReliefWeb and DevNetJobs.

Tim sees one of the main strengths of Children's Aid Direct as being an organisation that can accommodate debate and disagreement. There is a culture that people can hold different views and yet still reach consensus. It is implicitly understood that no-one is right all the time and that experiences of staff from different country programmes can be invaluable. Tim also acknowledged that the relative youth of the agency could be a disadvantage. As Children's Aid Direct lacks the profile of the longer established agencies it may well make it harder to get funding for proposals. However, at the same time 'youth' can be an advantage in that the institution has not become 'set in its ways', with vested interests backing particular project portfolios. There is still enormous flexibility and adaptability. Children's Aid Direct is also keen to learn and has a full evaluation programme involving internal staff and external consultants. Looking at the wide array of projects that Children's Aid Direct has been involved in during its existence there can be little doubt that it is an agency unafraid to try new things and learn lessons through experience.

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Reference this page

Jeremy Shoham (). Children’s Aid Direct. Field Exchange 15, April 2002. p20.



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