Malnutrition: A Great Tragedy of Human Existence Happening Now
I remember my first visual awareness of hunger, malnutrition and starvation from my youth. It was a weekend in Houston, and like most American middle-class families, we were watching TV in the family room. I was maybe 10 years old. Mom sat in her recliner and I on the floor with a bean bag chair, a popular furniture pastime from the 70s.
The show we watched was either 60 Minutes or 20/20. We loved watching these news programs as a family, oftentimes aghast by whatever story we witnessed in real time. This night was no different. This time the show brought to light the real struggle of the famine in regions of Africa. At this time, I believe it was about Ethiopia.
This story really drew me in. I was so shocked at what was brought to my awareness that particular weekend. Starvation was a real thing, not just something my parents used to manipulate their children into cleaning everything from their plates. I was a good eater, so I never had an issue with cleaning my plate! I ate it all! But, that’s a subject for a different blog post!
I sat watching the video stream of starving children with their starving parents. The poor women, trying to breastfeed their children while they themselves were starving to death. It disturbed me in my soul.
I could not, for the life of me, understand why anyone could possibly die of starvation on Earth. This haunted me. My mother remembers me asking questions about why this was happening. She said she remembers me asking why weren’t people helping, and why would any nation starve to death like this, and where are all the helpers?
Even as a small child, I knew we needed to look for those that help. Those that sacrifice so others may be brought relief. It was so devastating for me to see this. I exclaimed that I was going to do something about it when I grew up.
Funny thing childhood vows turn out to be. I knew my entire life I would work in Africa for the children. I didn’t know when, how or where. I did know my personal why. I knew I would help the starving children in the world because I had no choice. I had to do something to help.
When I made my first trip as a nonprofit to South Africa in early 2020, I knew I needed to be strong. What I noticed about the children where we work is how small they are, relatively speaking to our children here in the U.S.
When I met some of the children, especially an 11-year old girl who had been orphaned since she was 4 years old, put her hand in mine, it was so small. Small like a 5-year old here in the U.S. This is very common in many places on Earth. And, shouldn’t be.
Right now, according to the UN and World Bank, 165 million children suffer from such malnutrition, they are stunted in their growth. Out of that number, over 45.4 million of those children are “wasting”. Some of these children will succumb to malnutrition and not survive.
As a matter of fact, a child dies every 5 seconds due to starvation. Three quarters of the world’s starving children live in Sub-Saharan Africa, and happens to be one of the areas we work. As I’ve been writing this and now you’re reading this, dozens of young children have starved to death. Just let that sink in.
The fact is, children are starving all over the world. This just has to end in our lifetime. Although great effort by many large agencies, other nonprofits and NGOs have made an impact, there is much more work to do.
What makes us different is we work WITH our communities, not FOR those communities. Working together solves many problems, ensures sustainability, empowers the community members and gives hope to all, where there once was despair.
We are receiving such amazing news with our first farming initiative in Somerset, South Africa. For the first time ever, the children are eating a plateful of vegetables with their daily meal. Typically, food is scarce, and when it is available, there are no vegetables or produce. Meals consist of starch. This is typical in developing nations. The plates are filled with rice, corn, potatoes and other starchy vegetables. After 40 years of this diet, most develop type 2 diabetes, which goes untreated and suffering ensues from a poor diet into adulthood. Through working with each community to develop our farming initiative, we are able to provide a nourishing meal every day that will change the trajectory of those children’s lives.
In Peru, our communities are suffering even more due to the lockdown. Covid has presented a multitude of issue for our villages and we want to provide more relief. The food cost has doubled and the cost of gas has also risen greatly, stretching our dollars too thin. We are developing strategies to improve the community farm and expanding the farm to include what Moms House will need to provide lunch for the children.
Although I knew we would work with orphans and vulnerable children, I didn’t realize the basic need of food would present such a big issue. Until more sustainable solutions are provided and operated we are here and will remain in service to the children who need us.