Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Do you remember Live Aid?

I do. In 1985 I sat and watched Live Aid with my dad. I was 8 but I still have vivid memories of the pictures of starving children that were broadcast. Children with tummies bloated from malnutrition and skeletal limbs. To this day, the song Who's Gonna Drive You Home by The Cars immediately conjures up images of children lying on the dry, dusty ground. Not playing, just lying there with sunken eyes. So thin you could see their ribs and pelvic bones. I can remember asking my dad why these children weren't swatting away the flies that kept landing on their eyes and faces...because they're too weak princess he replied.

I now have my own children, 2 boys with healthy appetites for food and for life. We have a well-stocked fridge, the luxury of fresh fruit and vegetables whenever we want them and clean water on tap (literally).

I'm fiercely protective of my boys. I'd do anything for them, as I'm sure most mothers would. But I just can't imagine being forced to walk for weeks, through blistering heat, with no shelter, just to reach food and water. But that's exactly what thousands of mothers are having to do, right now, in East Africa.

On the Save the Children website there is a photograph of two brothers. They're probably not that different in ages from my two boys. But these brothers have traveled hundreds of miles in search of food and water. The tears running down their faces tell of the relief they feel at finally arriving at the Save the Children programme site and of the pain they've endured to get there.

I can't bear to imagine a situation where my 5 year old would have to carry his younger brother miles to safety, to food, to water. It breaks my heart, not just as a mother but as a decent human being. Hearing of 6 week old babies suffering from malnutrition in East Africa shocked me. How can a 6 week old baby be malnourished? Only too easily if their mothers are not receiving sufficient nourishment themselves and sacrificing what meagre rations they do have to feed their older, starving children. And that's what's prompted me to write this post.

"in Somalia malnutrition rates have reached 30 per cent in some areas, making East Africa one of the hungriest places on earth." Save the Children

Let me introduce you to some people. This is Umi with her mum Amina:
Per-Anders Pettersson/Save the Children
At 3 months old, Umi weighs just 3.7lbs. My youngest son weighed double that at birth. Umi has been sick since birth with diarrhoea. Amina lost all her livestock because of the drought and her 2 older children are malnourished. The drought forced Amina to migrate away from the rest of her family and she has not seen her family members for four months. She now fears that her children might die because of the drought.

This is Rahow:
Colin Crowley/Save the Children
Two months ago Rahow started vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea and a fever. He was very weak and his family were advised to take him to the Save the Children programme site. Thankfully, they did and Rahow was treated and given nutritious food. He's now gaining weight and is doing really well. Hopefully, Rahow will continue to grow and thrive. But other children may not be so lucky.

Chronic malnutrition can have a devastating effect on children, resulting in them failing to grow to their full genetic potential, both mentally and physically. There is a critical window for a child's optimal physical and mental growth and development. It starts from when a child is still in its mother's womb and stretches through its first two years of life. If we can intervene during this period to counter the effects of malnutrition, the harm it causes can be reversed. But if the opportunity is missed, the child will never make up the difference in growth and development, and will be adversely affected for the rest of his/her life.

Save the Children are doing an amazing job working within these communities, treating malnourished children and pregnant and breastfeeding women, and distributing food and water. But over 7 million people in East Africa still need help and Save the Children urgently need donations to reach more families. Just £25 can buy 10 days of treatment for five children with malnutrition. £50 can provide safe drinking water for almost 800 people. £100 can buy 4 family hygiene kits to prevent the spread of disease.

Please help Save the Children help children like Umi and Rahow by donating now. I have.

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