22/11/2016 07:02 GMT | Updated 23/11/2017 05:12 GMT

Our Duty To Children Must Not Be Forgotten

In the wake of several political shockwaves and amid ongoing global crises, it can feel that the world faces a future more uncertain than ever before. But as we chart a course through these turbulent times, there are some things that remain certain, and which we can all agree on.

Sunday 20th November marks Universal Children's Day, and it is a moment to remind ourselves of that truth. On this day in 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted - setting into international law a set of inalienable rights common to every child, regardless of their circumstances.

Each year, millions of children are born into the world, every single one with unique potential. Sadly - and all too easily - the potential of each child can be supressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination.

In challenging times like these, we should work doubly hard to tackle those challenges, and uphold children's rights to lead happy and healthy lives. Across the world, we can draw strength and inspiration today from examples of those who are doing just that.

In a somewhat forgotten crisis in east Africa, children are fleeing civil war in Burundi, having lost contact with family members or worse, witnessed their murder. They are arriving in refugee camps in Tanzania, traumatised, injured, and very much alone.

The refugees there have been left with nothing - and yet from them, we can learn so much about how to treat one another, and to ensure that children are looked after no matter what.

Through projects set up by the children's charity Plan International UK, families in the refugee camps in Tanzania are becoming 'foster families', taking in and caring for orphaned and abandoned children.

Twelve-year-old Ines, who has found shelter with a foster family in Tanzania, is one such child.

"In Burundi people are always fighting," she says. "I made it to the border with Tanzania, and I met another family that were fleeing the violence. Since I was all alone, they became my new family.

"My foster mom takes care of me, and doesn't shout at me. It's calm and I feel safe here."

In other parts of the world, too, people are going above and beyond to ensure children are kept safe. Fleeing an unrelenting war in Syria, desperate families are making journeys to neighbouring countries and to Europe, where we are seeing the continent's worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Those children who survive the perilous journey arrive traumatised, physically exhausted and disturbed. Once they settle in safer territory, they will continue to suffer the impact of displacement - on their health, education and wellbeing.

As well as shelter, food, medical services, education, and water and sanitation, these children urgently require psychological support and places to learn and play, where they can come to terms with the horrors they have seen and lived through.

Twelve year-old Abdel-Rahman fled from Syria to Egypt, where he and his family have been receiving support from Plan International.

"When we arrived in Egypt," he says, "people smiled at us and treated us in a good way. Then we went to the place where we were going to stay, and only then I felt safe and was able to sleep deeply."

Plan International's work has its roots in another time of great upheaval, the 1930s. Having seen first-hand the plight of children orphaned during the Spanish Civil War, British journalist John Langdon-Davies was determined to help.

Langdon-Davies wanted to provide not only food, shelter, and education to the children but also a sense that someone, somewhere, was thinking about them as an individual.

The scheme asked British people to donate one shilling a day to provide a child with food and shelter, and just as importantly, asked them to write letters and send photos to the child to show them that somewhere, someone cared about them. This was the beginning of what we now call child sponsorship, which helps to improve the lives of children in fifty countries.

The nature of work that Plan International does has, of course, changed over time, but the need to care for vulnerable children remains at the heart of what we do. As we look ahead to more difficult times to come, it's important to be guided by our fundamental duty to children.

To learn more about Plan International UK, please visit

To sponsor a child with Plan International UK, please visit