Photo and Text: Samuel Hauenstein Swan – www.SamBronx-Photo.com
We ask the elder in the villages about his daily routine in the growing season. “my wife and I get up at about five o’clock in the morning,” he begins, and head out right away to the fields, to beat the heat that is building up very quickly. We try to get most of the farm work – which is at that time of the year mostly weeding and ensure the soil is not to compact around the base of the plants, so the rain gets to the roots quickly – before one o’clock n the afternoon.
By the time we reach home, it is nearly two it is we have our first meal.
During the months where we have the most work on the farms, we also have the least reserves in the kitchen. We often have just that lunch meal, and in the evening we make some tea with sugar.
These hunger season meals lack both in quantity and quality. It is often just as much that a headache is going but never as much that we feel full. During this month of the year, it is only porridge we dilute with much water and give a bit of tasing by adding wild leaves and hot spices.
“Hunger in the village and the region has to do with poverty and secondary with rains.” Zara’s neighbours explain: ”the rain permit only one harvest. The better off villages have the low grounds close to the river and with fertile soil to make most of the few spots of rain. The others have the fields that are higher and on slopes where the water runs off, and the most fertile ground is missing. These areas give little and even in good years are sufficient to feed the family. They also have no surplus to bring to the markets and gain cash to purchase food later in the season. Once their stocks are empty Zara, and families like hers must hope for occasional work in exchange for a meal.
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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.
By Samuel Hauenstein Swan
“I came to listen and learn from you responding to the needs of mothers, fathers and their children in Yemen,” said Rory Stewart MP, UK Minister of State for International Development. This was back in January, Now that the United Nation has announced that there is a Famine looming in Yemen will the United Kondome act on what the minister heard. Priorities what is morally the right thing to do over economic gains from selling arms that are used in this war?
Nearly three hundred delegates participated in the civil society conference on Yemen organised by Action Against Hunger with six other NGOs delivering assistance to civilians affected by the conflict. Donor officials, government representatives, UN delegates and development practitioners, followed the call by Yemeni civil society and aid agencies working in Yemen, to urgently discuss humanitarian challenges and possible options for scaling up humanitarian response.Delegate urged officials to do everything in their power to stop the vicious campaign in Yemen that has cost tens of thousands of lives and left a country in ruins. With some of the biggest powers complicit in the tragedy by supporting armies on all sides. Support that comes with huge economic gains
Nearly three hundred delegates participated in the civil society conference on Yemen organised by Action Against Hunger with six other NGOs delivering assistance to civilians affected by the conflict. Donor officials, government representatives, UN delegates and development practitioners, followed the call by Yemeni civil society and aid agencies working in Yemen, to urgently discuss humanitarian challenges and possible options for scaling up humanitarian response.
Delegate urged politicians and officials to do everything in their power to stop the vicious campaign in Yemen that has cost tens of thousands of lives and left a country in ruins. With some of the biggest powers complicit in the tragedy by supporting armies on all sides. A support that comes with huge economic gains for wealthy nations and their arms industries.
The conference participants urged stakeholders to revert current tactics and instead invest in peace. Yet, even if negotiations progress it is likely that the crisis will continue. There was an urgent call therefore for donors to increase funding and address the overwhelming needs spelt out in the Humanitarian Response Plan. The conference heard from Yemeni local NGO partners how an aerial campaign has left much of the infrastructure in rubbles and created a climate of fear whereby civilians no longer dare to seek assistance in hospitals, public buildings or schools for fear of these being targeted. Food and economic activities have collapsed, the central bank has no cash to pay public sector workers, and parents have no means to care for their children.
The systematic embargo imposed and enforced by regional and global their global allies mainly the UK and the US, in a country greatly dependent on food imports, triggered high commodity prices resulting in a profound deterioration of the nutritional situation, and hundreds of thousands of lives are at risk. An estimated 1.5 million children have fallen ill with acute malnutrition – 370,000 of whom are suffering from its most severe form. One of the leading causes of civilian deaths in Yemen’s conflict are mothers and children dying due to lack of routine health and nutrition services and lack of safe drinking water.
In the midst of violence Action Against Hunger’s team on the ground has scaled up its programmes, reaching an increasing number of children with nutrition stabilisation centres in four governorates. Our teams are running mobile clinics in the worst affected areas where health post and hospitals have stopped functioning. We are not the only international organisation to do so; nonetheless what is clear to us and other aid agencies operating in these dangerous conditions is that there is a need to increase the humanitarian capacity and diplomatic commitment on the ground.
We heard and praised the courage of the Dutch and Swedish representatives to conduct official visits to Sana’a, the principal city in North Yemen. Civil Society invites more diplomatic dialogue to explain to regional and local leaders the humanitarian principals and reach a diplomatic consensus on the engagement of aid agency and aid delivery with Yemen’s leaders.
The only UK official visiting Yemen in years is Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP and former Secretary of State for International Development who shared his thoughts with the participants. He summarised what he saw with the following lines: “Yemen is not starving, Yemen is being starved”. He concluded by suggesting that the UK’s inconsistent policies towards Yemen could be transformed into a force for good: “The UK can play a leading role in finding political solutions to the conflict in Yemen and to address the humanitarian crisis.”
The conference concluded with four direct calls to actions:
The international community and in particular the United Kingdom should redouble its efforts to reinvigorate the peace process, stop fueling the conflict with arms sales and press for meaningful inclusion of civil society voices at all levels to ensure any deal reached is understood and supported especially inside Yemen.
Political will must be found and implemented at all levels to ease restrictions on the flow of goods into and around the country. The cranes for Hodeidah port should be allowed into the country, commercial airspace should be reopened, and approval processes for the movement of humanitarian goods and personnel should be streamlined.
The Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan needs to be fully funded. 2016 ended with an unacceptable shortfall of 40% of the needed resources. Funding needs to be flexible and responsive to the challenges of the ground and longer-term development needs.
Donors and governments should engage inside Yemen as well as with regional governments to increase their understanding of the realities of delivering humanitarian assistance but also allow them to build the relationships needed to apply diplomatic pressure in support of the humanitarian response and international humanitarian law.
The conference was a loud call to action. The many contributions throughout the day were a show of unity among humanitarian organisations and local civil society for donors and governments to raise their game and stand by the victims of this war.
Rory Stewart MP, UK Minister of State for International Development, asked to hear more about the challenges faced by the humanitarian sector and how UK Aid particular and the British Government as a whole could assist and inconsistent policies could be resolved. Conference participants spoke about the many innovative solutions that they are implementing and proposing. Rory Stewart said he will have the opportunity to bring the outcome of this meeting to his counterparts in Spring 2017 when donors and governments will meet to discuss Yemen and the looming Famine. Conference participants expressed their hope that besides a generous pledge and support for humanitarian action, the high-level Spring meeting will renew political will for a process to end one of the four most deadly conflicts worldwide.
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
A malnourished child lies in a bed waiting to receive treatment at a therapeutic feeding center in a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, on January 24, 2016. This child is one of millions of people across countries mired in conflict like Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, gripped by hunger, struggling to survive with little help from the outside world.
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
In 2009 Stefano De Luigi shot a series of works based on the Kenyan drought, specifically within the Turkana region in northwest Kenya. Stefano, uses the drought as a lens through which to examine climate change more widely. follow link to interview and pictures in the vice magazine.
The problem of widespread undernutrition: Around 165 million pre school children suffer from chronic undernutrition. Because of inadequate food intake, repeated infection or both they fail to grow at the same rate as healthy, well-fed children.
In 2004, 2008 and 2012, the Copenhagen Consensus Centre held a series of global conferences. At each, an expert panel, including four Nobel Laureates, looked at twelve major global challenges, deliberating the question: “If you had $75 billion for worthwhile causes, where should you start?” read more
BENTIU, SOUTH SUDAN – MAY 2014: An Internally displaced girl stares at a severely malnourished government soldier, Jay Thiep, who was found unconscious near the airport when he was brought to the clinic at the base of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in Bentiu, South Sudan, May 6, 2014. Thiep was thought to have been hiding without food for roughly three weeks in the bush following a retreat of government soldiers from Bentiu. Roughly twenty-five thousand IDPs live at the UNMISS base in Bentiu, and one million Southern Sudanese have been displaced from their homes since the start of the civil war in December 2013, pitting ethnic Nu’er against Dinka. Because of continued fighting, many have been unable to plant crops to harvest the next season, and aid organizations have been unable to preposition food in anticipation of the rainy season. According to the United Nations official coordinating humanitarian aid in South Sudan, if the civil war doesn’t stop, and the country does not receive international aid, South Sudan will face the worst starvation in Africa since the 1980s, when hundreds of thousands of people died in Ethiopia’s famine. see more Photograph by Lynsey Addario/Reportage by Getty Image
The portraits in this post were taken to to support my friend Lauren Bush Lauren’s charity, FEED Projects. Lauren and I dreamt up a concept for the shoot over coffee. We would capture portraits of FEED’s celebrity ambassadors and influencers in a studio setting that felt classic, natural, and share a moment of intimacy between friends or business partners. It would be the first major advertising campaign effort for FEED, and although grassroots, the final images would live in a lot of major places, including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, and Elle, just to name a few.
Wondering why you should care about a conference on nutrition? We’ll explain…
On November 19, ministers from 193 countries will meet in Rome for the first time in 22 years to look at ways to tackle malnutrition.
At the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), they’ll be asked to adopt two documents: the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action on Nutrition.
Progress in tackling malnutrition since the first ICN in 1992 has been weak and patchy because of inadequate commitment and leadership, financial constraints, weak human and institutional capacities, the depletion of natural resources exacerbated by climate change, and a lack of appropriate accountability mechanisms.
The good news is that today the world is much wealthier than it was 22 years ago, and the knowledge of what works and what action is needed is far more advanced. As momentum on nutrition builds internationally, this conference presents an historic once-in-a-generation opportunity for strong political commitments that could help end child hunger.
Read more: link
During the New York Times ‘Food for Tomorrow’ conference, Mark Bittman shares some of his thoughts in this video. He says, “The slogan should not be ‘let’s feed the world’, but ‘let’s end poverty’. That may not be profitable. But this isn’t about the business of agriculture, it’s about justice and political power.”
In an effort to reach hundreds of thousands of starving and malnourished people in South Sudan, the first air drops by the International Red Cross in nearly two decades took place in Leer on July 5. Thousands of people waited in the hot sun for emergency food supplies and seed. NBC NEWS
Since fighting broke out in mid-December between rival army factions in South Sudan, plunging the new country into widespread conflict pitting communities against one another, thousands, perhaps as many as 30,000 people, have died; 1.5 million have been forced from their homes and around four million require humanitarian assistance, with food insecurity the main concern. Link
A South Sudanese child displaced by the fighting in Malakal, and suffering from malnutrition, cries as he is washed by a nurse at a feeding center run by Medicins sans Frontiers (MSF) in Kodok, Fashoda county, on May 28, 2014. (Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)
Fighting breeds hunger.
In South Sudan, thousands have been killed in political and ethnic fighting since December. The fighting has disrupted much of daily life and left nearly 7 million at risk of hunger and 3.7 million facing starvation, according to the United Nations. Last week, Peter Biro of the International Rescue Committee visited the northern town of Ganyliel, South Sudan. Link
This series on the Action Against Hunger Webbed, has been developed off the back of a Trip I posed on this blog earlier I travel across the region to determine how many children are malnourished and how many of those are able to access treatment. We walked house-to-house visiting families, to find out what barriers mothers face and what solutions could work. See the resulting pictures and video by following this link as well as full report following here. All material
Copyright S Hauenstein Swan
West Pokot, at the edge of the Rift Valley in Kenya, is a vast county where luscious green mountains meet scorched savanna. Action Against Hunger and the Kenyan Ministry of Health are supporting families with malnourished children across the county, as well as addressing some of the difficulties they face in accessing treatment. Photo by: Samuel Hauenstein Swan link
“What shall we have for dinner? Such a simple question has grown to have a very complicated answer. We can eat almost anything nature has to offer, but deciding what we should eat stirs anxiety.”
Michael Pollan is professor of journalism at Berkeley
COLOMBIA – NOVEMBER 2007: A father displays the body of his dead son in his arms. Fighting in the area meant that the child could not be evacuated from the village for medical treatment, so died of hunger and diarrhea. The presence of the different active armed groups within local communities is one of the main reasons for the displacement of civilians. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Edit by Getty Images)
When her small twins Ousseina and Alassane got thinner and thinner, their mother Zali brought them to the local health centre in the small village of Grado in Niger. Both twins were suffering from severe acute malnutrition, which can be fatal if left untreated. Photo Copyright S.Hauenstein Swan
Sebastian Rich has covered every major war and conflict of the past 30 years. He has been wounded several times, kidnapped and held hostage while on assignment as a photographer and television cameraman.
Children in Conflict, an exhibition at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., is showcasing a selection of images from Rich’s career alongside a new body of work produced for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The new collection illustrates the plight of Afghan refugees in the Jalozai refugee camp in Pakistan.
A terribly malnourished Afghan baby boy in a UNICEF Therapeutic feeding center in Herat, Afghanistan. His fate is unknown to me. link
For the first time in a decade, the number of children suffering from hunger and malnutrition has risen, threatening the substantial progress made in child health and education in the developing world.
Some photographers and journalists have a very absolute point of view that you never interfere, because your job is as an observer and you can do the most good by remaining one. I decided a long time ago that I had to do what I could live with in terms of my own conscience, so when it felt appropriate to try to do something, I would. There are certain situations you struggle with. We’re interfering with a situation by our very presence, and that automatically changes the dynamic. At one point, I was photographing a woman carrying her son into a feeding centre. He was extremely malnourished, and I was photographing her as she walked along. All of a sudden, these Sudanese people started directing her for the photos. They had her sit down and were indicating how she should hold her child. I ran to get a translator, and said, “Tell her to take her child to the feeding centre. She should not be stopping because I’m taking a photograph.”
Another time, there was a family sitting under a tree just outside the feeding centre, about 10 feet away. But they couldn’t walk, they were so emaciated. And there was a group of photographers all around them. I took a few pictures, but then I walked into the feeding centre and asked a nurse, “Is there anything you can do for this family?”
I’ve been in situations where it’s been a hard call, though. On one occasion, a group of photographers went into an abandoned refugee camp and found a massacre site. There were some children who had survived. There were two baby twins in a hut: I tried to get one child to take my hand and realised it had been chopped off. We didn’t know how long they had been there. And it’s in the middle of a civil war, so you’re not sure how safe things are.
Myself and another photographer wanted to take the kids out of there in the car. Several of the other people didn’t think it was safe, in case we got stopped at a checkpoint, and they wanted to get back for their deadlines. In the end, we didn’t take the children. We found the Red Cross and reported the situation to them, but I found that another photographer went there the next day and found another child who was a survivor. To this day I think that I didn’t necessarily do the right thing.
I do believe that our main contribution is trying to get the story understood. And sometimes, when you think you’re helping, you’re actually making a situation worse. But, for me, you try to do what you can live with.