I have a guest post today from Action Aid Australia talking about children and poverty in East Africa.
It is devastating to think how much we give our own children, and feel guilty about not getting them a treat after school or the newest flashiest toy when there are children who aren't even able to drink clean water. Please take the time to read this.
If you have young children at school, one of the items on their curriculum is likely to be learning the food pyramid. Teachers will guide students as to what foods are good for you and how many servings and portions you need of each food type to stay fit and healthy. Your child’s primary school might even have its own food garden. Understanding that food is an important element to health and well being, and then enjoying those foods, is part of the day to day lives of children in the western world.
And as mothers, we are generally aware of and able to give our children the food and nutrients that they need. Sure, we might pop the odd treat in their lunch box and struggle with the grocery bills from time to time, but we are able to provide them with the food they need to grow up strong and healthy.
Cross over to developing countries –more specifically the East African nations that are currently affected by drought and famine – and the picture is significantly different. Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti are currently experiencing the worst drought in 60 years, the result of which is a devastating food crisis. 13.3 million people have been affected – 4.14 million of those are children.
The drought has caused a severe lack of food and water, and the UN estimates that in Somalia alone 750,000 people are at risk of death. In times of drought and crisis, the sad reality is that women and children are often the most vulnerable. 80% of Somali refugees are women and children.
With a lack of food and water, many of the affected children are severely malnourished. Children are not getting the nutrients, protein and energy that they need not only to survive, but to grow and develop. Inadequate health services and unsafe water and sanitation compound the problem.
While malnutrition adversely affects all ages, children are the most vulnerable. During those vital developmental years, proper nourishment and essential nutrients help children to grow and develop. With little to no access to these nutrients, their mental and physical development can be stunted.
Can you imagine if the circumference of your child’s upper arm was that of a 20c coin? That is one of the signs of severe acute malnutrition. Other telling signs are swelling in the feet and or face. Worse, when children are malnourished they are more susceptible to disease. Measles, malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia are rife in refugee camps and throughout the affected areas.
It’s hard to comprehend the enormity of the problem and the number of people and children that are suffering and at risk of death in East Africa. But there are things that can be done. Aid work and donations are vital in helping providing emergency food, water and medical supplies, but also in helping to implement training and education to ensure that sustainable food policies and farming methods are adopted in the region.
There are a number of ways to help. When you sponsor a child in an affected country, for example, you help not only provide the food, nutrients, water and health supplies needed to ensure their healthy development, but those funds go towards educating not only the child but their community on farming and other food practices. This will allow them to sustain their livelihoods and protect them from experiencing a food crisis of this magnitude again.
When you sponsor a child, you help give them the food and nutrients that they are robbed of – the nutrients and food that are a right of all children around the world.
How can you help?