World Food Day: Bringing a child back from malnutrition
October 16th, 2012
11:45 AM ET
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Peter Biro is a writer and photographer for the International Rescue Committee. He reports on refugee and humanitarian issues in Southeast/Central Asia and Africa.

A week after Mohammed was born, he was abandoned by his parents and left in the care of an aunt who was already struggling to raise nine children.

“Milk is expensive and it is very hard to feed them all,” the aunt, Assetou Diallo, said as she sat in front of her home, a one-room shack next to a busy dirt road on the outskirts of the Malian capital of Bamako.

This year has been particularly difficult, the 35-year-old said. The drought killed the family’s modest crops, grown in a small garden nest to the house, and the price of food has skyrocketed.

In June, Mohammed and Assetou’s youngest daughter Mariam, began showing signs of severe malnutrition. Although he was 18 months old, Mohammed weighed a mere 12 pounds—less than half of what a healthy baby boy his age should weigh.

The children were brought to an International Rescue Committee-supported health clinic where they were immediately placed on an emergency feeding program consisting of milk and peanut paste fortified with minerals and vitamins. Mohammed and Mariam were also treated for malaria and pneumonia. After two month’s treatment, the children gained 4.5 pounds.

“Their lives were in real danger,” said the IRC’s Dr. Abdourhamane Soumana, who helped treat the children. “Severe malnutrition of this kind can also severely affect a child's intellectual development.”

Millions of children in Mali and the Sahel region of West Africa are believed to be physically and intellectually stunted as a result of poor diet and malnutrition over many years.

Overall, the United Nations estimates that some 18 million people in the Sahel do not get enough to eat on a daily basis, a situation that has been exacerbated by political insecurity and three severe droughts in the region since 2005.

Assetou Diallo has now learned to identify early signs of malnutrition. She feeds her youngest children fortified peanut paste and tries as best she can to give them vegetables. But the root problem is, as it often is, poverty. Assetou’s husband is an unemployed carpenter and the family lives on handouts from caring neighbors.

“If I get a little bit of money I buy charcoal that I then resell in the market,” she says. “But it’s never enough.”

Tasha Gill, who runs the IRC’s programs in Mali, says that initiatives like the health clinic’s feeding program can save lives on a short term emergency basis but that they need to be complemented by long-term sustained efforts.

“Looking to the future we are planning programs that will help families to survive the immediate crisis but also better weather future emergencies,” she said. “Programs that help people start businesses and teach economic skills are essential so that parents don’t have to choose between food, school and health care, but can provide the basics for their children to grow in safety and dignity.”

Read - World Food Day: Crisis in Mali and Easy ways to help

On World Food Day, people are coming together from all over the globe to end hunger. Take action in your community and around the world. by visiting WorldFoodDayUSA.org and Facebook to see what's happening near you.

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Witnesses to Hunger: A portrait of food insecurity in America

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"A time of record need" for food insecure

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- Celebrity chefs pitching in

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Eric Ripert - Feeding the needy with fancy fish

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"Feed the world's children. This, we should be able to do."

Catch up on all Eatocracy coverage of hunger and food deserts

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Filed under: Disaster • Drought • Food Politics • Hunger • World Food Day


soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. yoloD

    UNFORTUNATELY THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WITHOUT ENOUGH FOOD AND THE ONES THAT WILL BREED THE MOST...BECAUSE THE CYCLE OF BEING POOR IS AMAZINGLY A DISGRACE...

    October 16, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  2. Bob

    Charities and NGO's killed off African farming and small business, because they give away food and necessities for free. That makes it extremely difficult to farm and try to sell your food, or to start a retail shop that provides basics. No businesses = no jobs = continued poverty.

    October 16, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  3. Mr.Chef Man

    starving children should be of no concern.

    As a owner and chef of a resturant,I've seen that you need to PAY for your food.NO free handouts.

    These hungry people should learn to farm or fish,or get a job and buy some yummy food.Then there would be no hunger.I'd be hungry too if I just sat around all day on the ground like these 'people'.But I go out and get myself some food.These 'people' should do the same.

    October 16, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • sabatino

      IF YOU HAD READ THE ARTICLE, YOU WOULD HAVE FOUND OUT THAT THEY HAD A "DROUGHT" THAT IS WHY THEY DID NOT HAVE CROPS" YOU DISGUST ME, LET'S HOPE YOU DON'T FIND YOURSELF WITHOUT A JOB!!! YOU MAY BE SITTING HIGH NOW, BUT YOU BETTER PRAY YOU DON'T FALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      October 17, 2012 at 1:26 am |
      • Jerv

        Pretty much everyone has learned to ignore this troll. Please do not feed it.

        October 17, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • t

      so u think they don't want to work? Very funny
      u should find out the truth

      October 18, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  4. Tim34

    The last thing they need is more food. That will only encourage them to have more children. Rats will have more offspring if there is abundant food. They need some kind of birth control or rather they should be sterilized. That is a win win solution for everyone.

    October 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  5. M@x

    I remember being in Africa and learning quickly not to guess a child's age. It is weird to look at somebody and think they are 12, but find out they are really 17 because malnutrition stunted their growth.

    If we really want to stop malnutrition better farming practices need to be TAUGHT to the 3rd world. Drip irrigation, crop rotations, and other techniques would improve the ability to grow food where it is needed most.

    October 16, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • kiara

      well i think that black people should unite together and become one take apart of them show each other what we can do for each and every person i'm talking about getting out eduacation,personality,food,and most of all care and without care there would be no love .that is why we exsit on this plant we can unite with who we are i think that all COLORS should come together as one in one big community CELEBRATION like ordinary people

      YOURS TRULY
      KIARA ANDERSON
      P.S I REPERCENT 6TH GRADE MIDDLE SCHOOL OF DYSART ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

      October 16, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  6. gail

    Does the woman and others like her have access to birth control? I don't understand why women keep having children when they don't have the means to provide the basic necessities of life. We keep sending food and clothing to these improverished nations when perhaps we should be sending birth control to them instead.

    October 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • dangstar

      Most likely not. Women in 3rd world countries often don't have access to, or even know about, birth control. The concept of family planning is foreign to them. Further, their husbands may not give them any choice.

      October 16, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • relmfoxdale

      Giving her birth control now doesn't solve the problem of the existing children, one of whom is a niece.

      October 16, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Tom

      The women have no choice in a muslim third world culture.

      October 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • M@x

      It's not always that simple. Children are like a retirement plan in many 3rd world countries. The more children that I have, the more that are likely to survive (just playing the odds), which leaves more people people able to care for me in my old age.

      October 16, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Kublai Khan

      We have seen the future, and it is us. The proposals of certain politicians, if enacted, ensure that women in the United States will find contraception difficult or expensive to come by. If you work for certain companies or corporations or entities, you might find that your insurance doesn't help.

      So when we ask why they live that way, remember that there is a very active force(s) here working to duplicate that lot for women.

      October 16, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • sabatino

      Thank God somebody does have children and they don't dispose of them like they are trash. "DO NOT SPITE CHILDREN AND OLDER PEOPLE" You should get a life, you are not sending "SQUAT" We are all brothers and sisters, regardless of race, creed or color. You need to Pray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      October 17, 2012 at 1:31 am |
  7. KJM

    I work a regular 9-5 job at a bank. I also work odd jobs every weekend wherever I can find. 60 or more hours a week. And I barely make enough for the basics. I cant afford food after I pay my bills. I get 94 dollars a month in food stamps. Do you think that is enough to feed two people for an entire month?? No. But I make it work. Its sad that even people with jobs that literally work their asses off make less than some people on welfare. Some people dont abuse the system. I have food stamps because I need them. If it was just me I wouldnt care. But I would rather die than to see my son hungry. I really feel for these people. I know the situations are on two complete different sides of the spectrum but I know what it feels like to feel helpless. To look at your child and say "Sorry, dude. I cant buy that." It sucks. And any program that is of benifit to the children should be funded! Children are helpless in the equation. They have no choice and should be protected.

    October 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • ElDestroyer

      KJM: I think you're doing good. Keep on doing what you are doing.

      October 16, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • sabatino

      "HAT'S OFF TO KJM, THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PEOPLE LIKE YOU" MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS YOU AND YOURS AND KEEP YOU IN HIS CARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      October 17, 2012 at 1:34 am |
  8. DOT

    coupons, cheaper grocery stores, and not purchasing items of convenience can stretch a food budget.

    October 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • DOT

      sorry this comment was meant for the $30 a week food stamp challenge article.

      October 16, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  9. drunkin mom

    We have this in America, but it's because welfare sucking minorities feed their kids nothing but happy meals & kool-aid.

    October 16, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • mdwesterngrl

      go away biitch. your momma in the double wide is calling!

      October 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
      • Tom

        Go and hit the 7/11 with your ebt card parasite.

        October 16, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • ElDestroyer

      The majority of welfare recipients are white.

      October 16, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
      • Tom

        Not if you look at racial percentages.

        October 16, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
      • ronnniereagan

        EID – blacks actually have twice the number of welfare recipients per capita as anyone else which by the way is how you properly evaluate the numbers. You may not know what per capita means, unfortunately. It means blacks are at least TWICE as likely to be on welfare as any other demographic.

        October 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
        • sabatino

          I AM CAUCASIAN AND MIXED, I WORK FOR THE PUBLIC WELFARE, "DON'T GET IT TWISTED, THERE ARE MORE WHITES ON "WELFARE" THAN THERE ARE "BLACKS". "THEY JUST DON'T TALK ABOUT IT"

          October 17, 2012 at 1:36 am |
  10. Ellen

    @Aubrie that sounds sounds like an amazing thing! I would love to see that expand to those area's thatneed it but i worry how they will tend to those animals. I believe they suffer from droubts and famine, how shall they feed and hydrate the animals. It'd be amazing if there was a way to make it work.

    October 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Emily

      http://www.heifer.org/

      October 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  11. Aubrie

    Can't remember the name, but there is an organization that with it's fund raising proceeds, purchases livestock animals for poor families.... Chickens, which in turn provide eggs to eat or sell, sheep to provide milk and wool for clothes and sale, goats for milk and cheese, cows, etc. It's a wonderful program. Would love to see it expand and grow and help more people like this to be more self sufficient.

    October 16, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Lisa

      Really, Aubrie? Does this organization also provide feed /water for those livestock animals , fencing to keep them from wandering off and land to graze on etc., ? Alot to be considered here, would be great though.

      October 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
      • Emily

        Actually, Lisa, yes they do. You should try reading up on the organization. http://www.heifer.org

        October 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
      • Pam

        Heifer International does not provide animals that are unsuited to their environment. They provide training along with the animals, and the best part is the passing on the gift. The recipients of Heifer's gifts will in turn pass on offspring of their original cow/ducks/bees/chickens/water buffalo/pig etc to others in need in their community. For a person to go from being without hope to giving hope to another is incredibly empowering. Many of those who have been helped go on to help others far beyond their initial commitment.

        October 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
        • ronnniereagan

          It might make more sense to distribute birth control than ducks, cows, and chickens.

          October 16, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
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