Photos and Text Samuel Hauenstein Swan – www.sambronx-photo.com
Part X of the Descendent of the Hyena Series. Full Story
Food aid has traditionally been the dominant form of assistance to people suffering from hunger. In the past decade, however, support in the form of cash transfers has become increasingly popular as an alternative to food aid, especially in Africa. The advantages of cash are many. Cash gives people more choices to the recipient than food, enabling them to meet a range of food and non-food needs, including health expenses, clothing, and – even in emergency situations – the purchase of livestock and other critical assets needed to build livelihoods. Herds small to big not only provide food directly, but they also guarantee an income flow, can act as a store of value enhancing risk-bearing capacity, and often have an inherent value linked to the status they confer to their owners. Farmers like Zara ideally invest there harvest surplus profit to gain animals which the resell if they face financial hardship, such as an illness, prolonged food deficit etc.
The nomadic communities around where Zara lives had once abundant and diverse herds. The “dry” years of the late 1980s and the first decade of the 21st century severely reduced the numbers and composition of the animals. Trying to recover in the aftermath of severe droughts is a long and tough process: buying young and healthy animals is beyond the means of all but the wealthiest. Losing their strong camels signifies diminishes the ability to move from place to place in search of water and pasture. In turns that result in heightened conflict between the villages and the nomads as the prolonged presence of animals and humans around limited water-points leads to increasing overgrazing, deforestation, and disputes over the usage of extensive plains.
Almost all evidence available highlighting positive effects of cash transfers, on livestock and inputs. The impacts on savings, ownership of animals were consistent highlighting positive results of giving distressed communities cash on hand at times of seasonal hunger.
Cash also has ‘multiplier effects’ in the economy: spending cash transfers will generate income and employment for others that not got the cash directly. Capital can help farmers protect their belongings and their production systems. prevent distress sales of animals and livelihood stimulate local food economies.
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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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Part II of the Descendent of the Hyena Story.
Photo and Text: Samuel Hauenstein Swan – www.SamBronx-Photo.com
The few months after harvest in September, are comfortable for the community of Guidan Koura. Food is readily available. The water holes are replenished and full. The time of plenty is short-lived
Zara’s husband is missing, from the picture, he is coming only for the short rainy season to help with the agricultural season and harvest. they all know there will not be sufficient work or food for all and he is leaving for the rest of the year to work in the faraway coastal countries the rest of the year.
Soon the supplies reduce, the mothers have to think of the months to come and start to ration. Orientate their thoughts to the long months ahead. Survival to Zara’s family will depend on her forward thinking and her ability to balance her household economy and care duties as a mother.
2005 was a terrible year the harvest was small, no one in the village had much grain. The social fabric of the community began to unravel; neighbours hid food from each other, knowing that dividing food into even smaller portions would mean starvation for all. Hunger drove them all mad. It was then when Zara’s big sister fell ill and died; she left two daughters to look after. With no food in the home and two more mouths to feed her second born boy fell behind. He too died during the 2005 hunger season.
Zara now calls three daughters and two boys, one born in 2007 her children.
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.
World Children Day
Today it is World Children Day lets give them what they most deserve dignity!
Behind each growing up child stands a loving mother, parents and the broader community, to give them the means to succeed.
Often I hear development for good change is about boosting agricultural technology, maximising value chain beyond the farm gate, better cash or food yields, etc. While I do not doubt any of these development focuses, first of all it is about sharing dignity throughout society. This must start with the weakest in society children.
This mother in Malawi told me how she has to struggle to manage her triple tasks: working on one of the large commercial tobacco farms for cash, tending to her plot of land for food and looking after her children’s needs.
Much of the commercial farmers produce nonfood items or maize destined for expert and getting foreign currency into its economy. This mother is no exception paid poorly the cash she earns is mostly drained for expenses such as transport, housing, schooling, health, and food. What she pays for full-time agrarian about is not nearly sufficent to feed the family. She as many smallholders has to cultivate on steep hillsides and other marginal lands, often with inadequate soil and water conservation, to substitute her purchased food from the mear day labor.
When her little boy fell ill with diarrhea, she had to make the impossible desition to drop either her wage labor or neglect her plot or both to tend her child and bring him to hospital. What should be the happy end to a worrying childhood disease quick moves on to the next concern, now she has missed a day at the commercial farm; her boss might have fired her meaning she lost her income.
Investing in peoples lives not merely a functioning of economic outcomes that results in growing exports and fancier technologies, but most of all must change the balance of social justice, hegemony and leading to dignity for all. No child should grow up in a household and community that is exploited to the great good of a few pushing the dignity of many in to second place
While choices in the political world are painted in shades of grey, the consequences of those decisions are often irreversibly black and white: the joy of a healthy childhood and family or the violence of poverty and hunger. Conceiving of and the implementing mechanisms to transfer control over peoples lives from the powerful actors to the families themselves is no small goal: above the technical obstacles, voluntary giving away dominance is not something that human beings do well. Development, defined as “good change (Robert Chambers)” must strive for nothing less than a real will for justice accessible at all levels even where it is in direct conflicts with the will to power and the few that hold this power.
A nostalgic look at the crisis in South Sudan by photographer Ugo Borga has spent the last 15 years in Africa, the Middle East and Europe documenting places devastated by war. In March, he traveled to South Sudan to cover the ongoing conflict that’s been plaguing the country since officially declaring its independence from Sudan in 2011. link