‘Horrific 24 hours’: young children lose mother in Med

Refugees and migrants among the survivors of a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea rescued by Save the Children team members, Nov 3, 2016.Our team rescue a Syrian girl earlier this month

Two very young children whose mother died on the crossing from North Africa to Europe were among more than 100 other people saved by our search and rescue ship last Thursday.

Disaster when two boats capsized

The two children who lost their mother have no other relatives with them. They are now being cared for by our on-board child protection teams, who work closely with the Italian authorities.

People said prayers on board for their mother.

Thursday’s rescue came less than 24 hours after another operation, in which only 29 people were pulled alive from the water. That’s out of at least 270 – which is the number of people that survivors told us were on two dinghies.

“There are no words”

Late on Wednesday, our team spotted two women who had been out at sea for hours.

Roger Alonso, our team leader on our ship, the Vos Hestia, said: “There are no words to describe the horrific events we’ve witnessed over the past 24 hours.”

“We’ve seen a mother in utter shock, unable to speak after losing her baby. Two young children have witnessed their mother die in unspeakable circumstances.

“These mothers left Africa with their children and hopes of a better future – it cost them their lives.

“Our team is now doing everything they can to provide support to these children, including giving psychological care.”

Protect children, not borders

Alonso continued: “This needless loss of life highlights the perverse impact of current EU policy, which is focused on protecting borders, rather than providing to refugees and migrants, especially those most vulnerable, legal and safe ways to reach sanctuary in our countries.”

We are calling for the EU to provide safe and legal routes into Europe.

This includes resettlement, humanitarian visas and other forms of humanitarian admissions.

This should help to ensure minimum standards of protection, especially for children.

Frightening chances of survival

So far, 2016 has been the deadliest year on record for those crossing the Mediterranean.

If the number of causalities from the latest shipwreck is confirmed, more than 4,100 people will have died trying to make it to Europe from North Africa.

The journey is now so dangerous that for every 47 people who survive, one is expected to die while trying to make the crossing.

We can’t give up

Our search and rescue team has savedmore than 1,300 people, including more than 200 children.

We’re continuing to conduct lifesaving operations to help prevent more people losing their lives at sea.

Donate to our Rescue at Sea appeal.

Interested? Read more:

Leave a Reply


  • Fiona Atkinson

    Is it possible to support/sponsor/mentor these two children in some way? I already contribute to Save the Children but would like to be involved in something more direct.

  • Hello Fiona,

    Thank you so much for your post and for the support that you show to us, that’s fantastic. Whilst unfortunately we cannot allocate donations or sponsorship to specific children, I did want to reassure you that they will be being helped through the wider appeal. If you wanted to have a chat about other ways you can help, you can always give us a call too, on 020 7012 6400.

    Thanks again for your support.

  • Karine

    Hi I am a mum and a lawyer from London and I want to help these 2 orphans. Can I sponsor them? I am happy to help in any way I can. Who can I get in touch with? Thank you. Karine

  • Hi Karine,

    Thank you for your comment. It’s so lovely that you want to help. Unfortunately we don’t have a child sponsorship programme as we help whole communities rather than individuals. There are lots of ways to help our work though. You can find out more about how to get involved here: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/get-involved or if you’d like to discuss how you can help, please call 020 7012 6400 or email supporter.care@savethechildren.org.uk.

    Best wishes,


  • Lisa Bradley

    Would it be possible to alter the heading of this article and to add a full title instead of seems ‘a catchy heading’, this poor family and the mother?
    Please forgive me for being sensitive, but it is the first thing that struck me about how you had presented the story.
    Kind regards

  • Hi Lisa, thanks for your feedback. I’ll pass your comments on. Best wishes, Sarah

  • Good post, keep