A small bag of flour.
A two-liter bottle of soda.
A pair of work boots.
Each of these weigh 5 pounds.
It will be Nala’s first birthday soon and yes, she only weighs five pounds.
Nala’s weak and malnourished body is what extreme poverty looks like in Somalia. Her desperate mother brought her to a health clinic, pleading for help. The minute Nala’s stick-thin arm was measured, it was confirmed that Nala was severely malnourished.
Somalia is experiencing a long-lasting drought, leaving fields barren and livestock dead. The result is that children like Nala are starving and horribly undernourished.
Malnutrition can be devastating for a child living in these conditions, especially one as young as Nala. Her growing body needs good food, and when deprived of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients for any length of time, her vital organs begin to shut down. Her brain doesn’t develop properly. And if she doesn’t receive the help she needs, she is vulnerable to disease, stunted growth, and even death.
We’ve all seen the photos of emaciated children, their tiny faces stretched thin with sad, and staring eyes. And the bloated bellies—a gruesome sign that a child is acutely malnourished.
It’s called a nutripacket, and every small, foil packet contains enough nutrients to restore a child like Nala to health. When taken daily over the course of three months, it can save a malnourished child’s life.
So what’s in this miracle cure?
Inside each foil packet is a peanut-based paste that is packed with a concentrated dose of life-saving minerals and nutrients. Everything a malnourished child needs is there, including folic acid, calcium, potassium, iron, and more. So when eaten daily, it gives a starving child a nutrient boost that takes them from near death to survival almost immediately.
You’ll hear this idiom more than anything else at my house. But I heard something this week that has convicted me of many things; most notably the way we speak.
But first let me assure you, I do feed my children … and they’re not starving.
I’m sure if they think hard enough, they’ll remember that they ate today. Many times. Their bellies are full, their eyes are bright and they’re able to move … not crippled over in pain from not having food in days … or weeks. They aren’t drinking fetid water from a hole in the ground that’s teeming with insects. Or pulling dry leaves from a nearby tree to stay alive.
No, they aren’t starving.
“You want to know how sick and hungry we are? Then let me show you the tombs of my two children.”
I quite literally gasped when I heard this.
My hand then covered my mouth … I felt sick … I couldn’t speak … tears filled my eyes.
The dad that uttered these horrifying words lives in a South Sudanese village. His name is Martin, and he has such a grieved stare in his eyes that I could barely stand to look at. His children were hungry. And he’d lost them because of it.
And when I think of these little ones … their tiny graves … and this father’s despair … I can’t help but feel completely distressed about it. And so I should.
I could have kept his children alive. But if only I knew …
If you’ve read this far I now have to tell you the rest of this story—his village is full of hungry children.
After wrestling with the guilt that I probably threw away enough food to have kept this man’s children alive, I realized something greater. That I owe him so much more than just my feelings.
I have to tell his story … and honor his children.
South Sudan is a mess right now. A young country that should still be bathing in the celebration of independence is instead caught in a web of raging violence … economic disaster … and dire food shortages. Poverty is tightening its grip and the poorest people can barely breathe.
Pushing my shopping cart hurriedly through the supermarket aisles, I paused briefly to glance at my watch.
Four-thirty. Great, I still had time to get what I needed and make my doctor’s appointment.
Weaving past carts filled with food, expertly avoiding strollers,
and randomly placed boxes, I barely slowed down to grab each item off the shelf and toss it in my cart. I was on a roll; a can of peanuts, lightly salted of course … a bag of washed potatoes … risotto rice … a bunch of fresh celery … a dozen free-range eggs … and the list went on.
Within ten minutes I’d finished my shopping, proudly looking at the pile of groceries that now spilled over the side of my cart. I’d checked off every item on my list, and managed to find a checkout aisle with less than four people waiting. I am the greatest shopper in the world.
Out of breath, I now stood impatiently in the checkout line, waiting to now unload everything that I’d just put in. Well, at least they would repack it for me. It was around the time I was contemplating whether I wanted the 2 for 1 candy bar offer that I thought of April. Not the month, but a little one-year-old girl I’d been reading about earlier that afternoon.
Before my frantic trip to the grocery store, I’d spent a few hours with little April. She lives with her mom in a small village in Myanmar. I wasn’t physically sitting with her, but reading her story it sure felt like it. I read about how this precious one had been sick for over six months. That’s half her life.
Her mother shared April’s story with a colleague of mine, and told of how hungry they both were. She earned enough to buy the very basics; rice, and a few vegetables every now and then. But they were never fresh, and something always had to be sacrificed in order to afford them. It was clearly April’s health.
I unpacked my cart, haphazardly placing each item on the belt as the checker scanned, and dropped them in a paper bag. My thoughts were not on whether my eggs were cracked, but firmly focused on April, and the dire situation she was in.
April and her mom had been screened for malnutrition, and the results were not good. In villages across Myanmar (and elsewhere in Asia and Africa), World Concern staff visit children like April and test them for malnutrition and other illnesses. It’s a free service, and the results (while often shocking) can save a child’s life.
I read about how April’s mom carried her to the mobile clinic, sitting quietly on a chair and waiting for the volunteer to call them. April did nothing but cry; not a wail or an impatient tear, but a whimper, as if there was simply nothing left to cry about. Her mom did everything she could to comfort April—making faces, singing, and bouncing her on her knee—nothing worked. So she sat there, totally defeated, and waited for her daughter’s name to be called.
When it was April’s turn to be seen, the nurse first weighed April in a sling, kind of like a hammock, recording her weight before moving onto the next, and most
important test. The nurse delicately threaded a paper tape around April’s upper arm. This measures the mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) and diagnoses the level of malnourishment according to a color scale—green is considered healthy, yellow shows that the child is malnourished, and red indicates severe and acute malnutrition.
April’s arm was in the red. And by a long way.
The cheerful grocery checker had almost finished packing my groceries, but at this stage all I could think about was April, and all I could hear was the beep … beep … beep … beep … of my food being scanned. Then I saw my total.
I quickly moved my eyes to my two bags of groceries. How is that $181.91?
Little April was starving, and here I am buying $181.91 worth of groceries. Her tiny immune system simply didn’t have the energy to keep on fighting, and so it was slowly giving up. She needed nutritious food, and quickly.
Thankfully, that’s exactly what World Concern is doing for hungry children in Myanmar and other communities like April’s. So after the clinic visit April’s mom was given an emergency food kit and told lovingly to come back when the basket was empty to receive more.
The basket they carried home that day was filled with locally-sourced, highly nutritious, fresh food—a bag of potatoes … nuts and beans … rice … fresh vegetables … free-range eggs—pretty much everything that I’d just bought.
And the cost of the emergency food kit? Only $22. I could feed 8 hungry children with what I just bought.
Collecting my receipt and trudging out to the car, I cringed at the abundance that was around me. Food was readily available. I had money to buy it. And I was about to visit my family doctor.
Later that evening I spoke with my son about April, and how we could give a hungry child basically everything I’d bought at the supermarket, for just $22.
My son is seven, and his response to me was exactly what ours should be:
Barefoot and dressed in filthy clothes, tiny Xay refused to leave his mother’s arms to play with the other children being evaluated for the Child Survival program. At 18 months old, Xay should be running, squealing, and playing with the other children. Instead, he was pale, thin, and listless. More critically, Xay is underweight, weak, and suffered from chronic diarrhea.
We measured his arm with a special band to determine his level of malnutrition. Xay’s arm measured 11cm, indicating he is severely malnourished.
For Xay’s mother, nothing is more important than saving her son – but she doesn’t have very many solutions. She knows the food she scavenges for in the woods outside her village in rural Laos each day isn’t enough. She knows her son is hungry and sick. She knows that without enough food, her beloved son could die.
With your help, this little guy can soon be eating healthy, gaining weight, and on his way to better health – in just a few short days.
A gift of $34 will provide nourishing, healthy food for Xay and others, rescuing them from the pain and sickness that comes with not having enough to eat. In addition, Xay’s mom and others will be able to participate in a special program where they learn how to grow and prepare locally available vegetables and other easily accessible foods, providing highly nutritious meals for their children. With these simple changes, 100% of children gain weight and show measurable improvement within 12 days.
Moms also learn the importance of good hygiene, safe drinking water, and using toilets to keep their children free from sickness and disease.
The best part is, they learn from other moms who are already successfully feeding and caring for their little ones – so each mom has support from a mentor right in her own village. This helps ensure kids keep gaining weight and growing strong.
With these vital tools and training, moms like Xay’s will be equipped to keep their sons and daughters healthy, ensuring they grow strong throughout their childhood.
“You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you…” (Joel 2:26)
Because of matching grants, your gift to feed a hungry child like Xay’s will TRIPLE, helping feed three children throughout their childhood.
When Meo was born, she was tiny and frail. And it wasn’t long before the newborn started getting sick with fevers and colds. Her mom, Lak, was terrified her baby would not survive her first year. She had watched so many children in her village die from sickness and malnourishment.
In this part of rural Laos, where Lak lives, one child in three is underweight and stunted. And many children do not survive until their fifth birthday. For generations, her family and others have struggled—not having enough food, no clean water, no doctor nearby if a child gets sick.
But when little Meo was 7 months old, hope and practical help came to her village. Her mom, Lak, joined a program where moms of babies and toddlers learn to keep their children healthy by practicing good hygiene and preparing nutritious, locally-accessible food. No delivery truck of food—just moms working together and sharing knowledge about how to care for and nurture their children. The change is dramatic.
Lak put everything she learned into practice, and within 12 days, she saw a dramatic improvement in Meo’s health. She started gaining weight right away, and has not been sick since. This chubby little one is well on her way to surviving her first year, and staying healthy throughout her childhood.
Here’s how the program works: In almost every village where we work there is at least one mom whose kids are healthy. Knowing that moms learn best from each other, this mom becomes the village trainer, teaching others what she’s done to help her children thrive.
Through this vital training, Lak and other moms learn practical tools, like incorporating nutritious vegetables into their child’s diet, and using every drop of the vitamin-rich water their rice is prepared in. They learn the importance of good hygiene and how to keep their children clean in order to prevent the spread of disease and sickness.
Lak was relieved and excited to learn how to improve her daughter’s health. “I’m thankful for this knowledge … simple steps we didn’t know before,” said a proud and happy Lak.
Your gift to help hungry families provides much more than food for today—you help ensure moms like Lak have the tools and resources so their children develop properly and grow healthy. That’s lasting change!
There’s a crisis brewing in the Sahel – a swath of dry land that cuts through Central Africa. The people who live in the Sahel are familiar with crisis. They face ongoing challenges – armed conflicts, drought, poverty and lack of resources.
It rarely rains in parts of the Sahel. Nevertheless, entire populations are dependent on rain-fed crops for survival. The rains this past season were less than average and sporadic. Crops failed, food prices soared, and now, the UN is alerting the world to a looming food crisis.
In Chad, where World Concern works with families displaced by the Darfur war and conflicts within Chad, a million and a half people are at risk of hunger. The UN estimates that 127,000 children under the age of 5 will be affected by severe acute malnutrition this year in Chad’s Sahel region.
The lean season—the period between harvests when families depend on stored food from the previous harvest—is expected to be the most severe in years.
World Concern’s programs in Chad provide families with farming tools, training and seeds to grow drought-resistant crops. Now is the time to respond to this growing crisis and help families survive the lean season, and prepare for the next harvest.