Part IIX of the Descendent of the Hyena Series.
Text and Pictures Samuel Hauenstein Swan
Over centuries, many societies have come up with mechanisms that reduced seasonal hunger of its citizens. Transport networks, agricultural technologies, storage and information on surpluses and shortages of food crops in various parts of a country all ideal mitigate the impact of hunger and hopefully prevent starvation of its populations.
However, systems and technologies no matter how sophisticated and right meaning depend on solidarity on all levels. For Anti-hunger policies they need the resolution of the powerfull to enable the voices of the communities that are subjected to the massive destructive forces of seasonal hunger and its aggravating factors – poor health, lack of access to resources conflict and so for.
Examples of success as plenty: massive relief interventions, public works programme, agricultural extension workers, relaxation of taxes to stimulate trade and lower prices. Social arrangements to redistribute food, assets and relief from the rich to the poor exists on the national and international level. Humanitarian is on an upward trend with record budget of US$27.3 billion for global humanitarian assistance for 2016
The question of who is “deserving” of this help, remains a contested topic. Those in power accept a moral and legal duty to protect poor and powerless against the worst and often focus narrowly on the prevention of starvation death while neglecting other forms of hunger and malnutrition. The concepts of vulnerability have evolved over the past decades for sure. The same sharp but the ultimately false distinction between “starvation prevention” and “hunger prevention” prevails today. An especially poignant question as the number of displaced, conflict affects and climate change affected populations raise quicker than the funds available to respond. Is the global moral responsibility limited to starvation or the much higher sum of death and distress caused by annual cycles of hunger which is mostly ignored?
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Clémence is holding onto her soft toy Dalmatian Puppy, her mother gave her for Christmas. Children all over the world hold on to their cuddly toys for comfort in unfamiliar places. Clémence is no different.
I meet her and her mother, Anita, in the intensive nutrition unit of the pediatric hospital in Bangui, the Central African Republic. 29,250 children under 5 years suffering from acute malnutrition are admitted for therapeutic care. The principal referral centre of the capital is crowded with children that have fallen ill with the most severe and deadly form of malnutrition. There is little noise from these children: too ill to play, too weak to express discomfort.
At two and a half years old and 5.5 kg, Clémence is barely above the weight of a new born baby. I learned how she came here as her mother, Anita, props her up in her lap. A few weeks back she was a strong and joyful little child playing in the streets near her home. All changed when she caught malaria and lost appetite fighting the fever. Weakened by illness, she developed diarrhea and quickly lost weight to the point that her parents got very worried and brought her into the hospital, where they learned their child was suffering from severe malnutrition.
Severe malnutrition is one of the greatest challenges to child survival in the world today. Affecting 16 million children worldwide and responsible for up to two million child deaths each year, it is the most lethal form of malnutrition.
Clémence is clinging onto her Dalmatian toy when the nurse tries to move it to take the temperature. Her breathing is very quick and she seems to drift in and out of sleep. She is unable to move her head up and look around. Having worked with ACF for many years, the intensive nutrition units are the hardest, saddest places to visit. No child should ever fall ill with Severe malnutrition. It is the epitome of an unjust world: a place that produces more food that it can eat and has the knowledge to treat infections these children can no longer fight.
However, nutrition units are also places of hope. Last year 87% of children brought to our nutrition clinics in CAR recovered and returned home. ACF cured more than three million children around the world last year alone. Effective community treatment, equipped with products like therapeutic foods, reach children living in the most marginalised and conflict ridden areas of the world. Where the illness is extremely severe and complicated by infection as it was with Clémence, inpatient treatment with the supervision of ACF doctors and nurses around the clock is the only option. CAR has experienced high levels of violence that have devastated its health system and increased poverty, so only few referral centres are available.
Talking to Anita, a law student, she was hopeful that the treatment was working and there were some signs that her child was getting better. Trying to feed her was not easy, as Clémence was spilling much of the therapeutic milk and having difficulties even swallowing. Feeding ill children is a painfully slow and delicate process as any parents know. Here it is an act of desperation to save a child. My presence was not helping as Clémence was distracted. I left the hospital where Anita was hopeful that her daughter would gain weight and get back her appetite so they could return home. I felt hopeful that Clémence’s mother was right.
Arriving back in the UK I had some horrible, sad news from Central African Republic. Clémence died from severe malnutrition only days after I left her bedside. Her mum was doing her best. In a country that has high rates of illness, only few health care workers are at hand to help her to detect the early signs of malnutrition and get treatment. This Mother couldn’t prevent her baby from getting regular bouts of malaria or the diarrhea that followed and weakened her little girl, and led to the severe malnutrition. She is one case in about 700 malnutrition-related deaths per year in CAR.
We do save lives in our projects every day. Sadly we failed Clémence. Despite our best effort, too many children still do not make it through severe malnutrition. In 2015 Action Against Hunger treated 1,560,000 children: more than any previous year. We have to do even more. Anita, her story and pictures serve me as a reminder to raise awareness of the unspeakable injustices of malnutrition so many children in CAR and worldwide, battle with day in day out.
Action Against Hunger are part of a massive scale up and work with communities, donors and doctors to find children long before they are severely malnourished, to expand treatment into many more health centers in order for malnourished children to stand the best chance to be cured. Referral centers such as at the Bangui paediatric hospital partner with us to deal with overwhelming numbers of malnourished children.
Ongoing insecurity, high food prices, and major food deficits have pushed large numbers of already vulnerable people in South Sudan over the edge, leaving them struggling to meet their basic survival needs.
Powerful first voice video Link
all Video and photos: Guy Calaf for Action Against Hunger-USA
David Shields analyzed over a decade’s worth of front-page war photographs from The New York Times and came to a shocking conclusion: the photo-editing process of the “paper of record,” by way of pretty, heroic, and lavishly aesthetic image selection, pulls the wool over the eyes of its readers; Shields forces us to face not only the the media’s complicity in dubious and catastrophic military campaigns but our own as well. Photos taken from the front page of The New York Times and arranged thematically: Nature, Playground, Father, God, Pietà, Painting, Movie, Beauty, Love, Death, leads the reader to conclude “a chaotic world is ultimately under control,” link
At the same time Tim Parks asks in his review:
Is there any way out of this? Is there any way at all to represent war, even to ourselves, that would be free of this aestheticizing process? link
Hargeisa, Somaliland – Vast regions of Somaliland, the autonomous territory that declared independence from Somalia in 1991, but has not been internationally recognised, are enduring one of their harshest droughts in two decades.
As the wet seasons have grown increasingly erratic and the rainfall more sporadic over recent years, thousands of herding families across the remote coastal Awdal and Galbeed territories have been pushed into crisis. link
An aid worker recounts entering Madaya and discusses the power of the graphic visuals that have emerged
The Syrian town of Madaya, along the border with Lebanon, was pitch dark by the time aid workers arrived on Jan. 11. It took more than eight hours for their convoy to travel from Damascus; the town lacked electricity and it had begun to rain.
He took a picture and “just realized that for a very, very long time, we have been the only physical persons that have been there from outside, able to listen to their problems, able to listen to their suffering. It was very, very important, even if we didn’t really have the solutions to all of their problems,” link
Conflict is again on the rise after a major decrease following the end of the Cold War. Today’s wars kill and displace more people, and are harder to end than in years past. these are the top 10 conflicts to watch according to foreignpolicy.com :
1 Syria, Iraq, and the Islamic State 2. Ukraine 3. South Sudan 4. Nigeria 5. Somalia 6. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 7. Afghanistan 8. Yemen 9. Libya and the Sahel 10. Venezuela
The picture that emerges from this survey of conflicts is grim. There is, however, one glimmer of hope — the increasing fragmentation of the world also means that there is no overarching divide. Even if the deepening crisis between Russia and the West is unsettling Europe, the last remnants of the Cold War are disappearing as Cuba and the United States normalize their relations. Many conflicts can now be dealt with on their own merits, and the growing role of regional powers — while adding complexity and, in some cases, new antagonisms — also creates opportunities for more creative diplomacy. foreignpolicy.com
picture: Junior D. Kannah/AFP/Getty Images