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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Horn of Africa: Therapeutic Food Makes the Difference for Starving Children

At latest count, over 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are in deadly serious need of help. Over a third of these people are in Ethiopia, where we have long worked with families to bring clean water and prosperity to their villages.

It’s an overwhelming crisis. As nearly impossible as it is for us to imagine, this huge number is made up of real mothers, fathers, little boys, little girls, and babies. To get a sense of this, picture the Ethiopian district of Alle Woreda.

Alle Woreda saw so little rain this year that their summertime harvests simply didn’t come. Life here before the drought was not easy to begin with. It’s a place where fighting between different tribes (typically over scarce resources like water, which we are working with the people to make accessible for all), has put people out of their homes. Many in Alle Woreda have been living under plastic sheets that we provided as temporary shelters during the fighting, and they have no back-up supply of food.

Now over 20,000 people in this district—and 15,000 of them children—are badly malnourished and very afraid. Their livestock are dying in droves. Malaria and typhoid are claiming many lives—normally they might be strong enough to weather an infection, but in their weakened state, they succumb easily to these diseases.

Right now we are tending to children who are living in an emergency center. These children are currently unable to eat regular food to get needed nutrients and instead need ready-to-use therapeutic food that allows the rapid weight gain that can mean the difference between life and death. They’ll need to have this special food for several months.

Believe us—and bear with us, as you may find this to be such a statement of the obvious as to be insulting—the parents of these children intensely want their children to survive. Many, many others want the same thing and they will not have their wish granted. We need to make sure there are as few parents in the second category as is humanly possible. That’s all we know.

We know that our supporters agree, but bluntly speaking, our call for help needs a bigger response. We need to do more and we can’t without help.

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