Rescue at Sea


2016 was the deadliest year on record for those crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Right now, children are fleeing bullets, poverty, persecution and the growing impact of climate change, only to drown in European waters. In 2016, Save the Children was able to rescue 435 children at sea because of the generosity of supporters like you. This year, Save the Children’s ship, the Vos Hestia, is once again operating out of its port in Sicily — fully equipped to save the lives of innocent migrants and refugees.

It is with deep regret that we have been forced to pause our Search and Rescue operation in the Mediterranean, as a result of issues raised by the Libyan Navy, which pose uncertainty for our response. Reports of the Libyan Navy's intention to control the International waters, in which Save the Children searches for stricken vessels and rescues those at risk of drowning, is of great concern when considering the safety and security of our staff, ship and ability to carry out rescue missions effectively. The Vos Hestia remains on standby and ready to respond, once vital safety and security assurances are in place.


Each and every day, children are fleeing for their lives after seeing their homes destroyed and their loved ones killed. Others are starved out of their homelands due to drought and conflict. These children have been largely ignored by the world and are struggling to survive. On the move for weeks at a time, they are tired, sick, hungry and desperate for help. Many end up on dangerously overcrowded boats bound for Europe. It’s a terrible risk, but there’s often no other choice if these children hope to live.

Last year alone, more than 5,000 people, many of them children, escaped the horrors of war, only to drown in the Mediterranean Sea. One of these children is 5-year old Amena.* Now safe with her family and far from harm, it’s hard to imagine that she was recently saved from certain death at sea. Watch Amena’s dramatic rescue, and learn how you can help give forgotten and desperate children like Amena the chance to grow up healthy, learning and safe

Right now, a child just like Amena is climbing aboard a dangerous, overcrowded boat to cross the Mediterranean. Will you help save a child from drowning at sea?

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*Child’s name changed for protection.


Last year, more than 362,000 people risked their lives to reach Europe by sea. Across the Middle East and Africa, violence, oppression, hunger and extreme poverty have shown no signs of slowing down — forcing thousands of girls and boys to embark in terrifying journeys through the Mediterranean water.

To respond to such circumstances Save the Children began a search-and-rescue operation to protect refugees and migrants struggling to cross the Mediterranean.

In April of this year, we relaunched our search-and-rescue operation, and since then we've rescued over 4,200 people, including 550 children. Through the course of this year, we aim to save 9,300 more.

But our work doesn’t stop on board the ship. Our team on the Vos Hestia works in close cooperation with our child protection teams in Italy to ensure they are prepared to receive and follow up on the most vulnerable children and offer the right support to victims of child trafficking.

Children are in desperate need right now, most of them sailing alone. With your support of our Child Refugee Crisis Relief Fund, our search and rescue ship can help save their lives at sea.

Read the Factsheet

Search and Rescue ship on the water Refugee boy stares at the water after being rescued Search and Rescue mission child and adult infographic

Almost 90% of children traveling are doing so unaccompanied and are extremely vulnerable to trafficking, abuse and exploitation1

"Children are children, first and foremost. Whatever they are fleeing from, they have the right to be safe," — Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children.

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