Dr Niamh On The Plum Tree

Childhood Imagination Sows Seeds of Future Brilliance

Malnourished children do not cry…

This week, as G8 leaders sit down together at Camp David, those of us concerned about environmental issues and the effects of Climate Change on the world’s poorest of the poor, hope media attention will not be focussed on what our current leaders are wearing or eating, or which pop group has been flown in for their entertainment. Many careers are built on starring in these meetings; many a fat-cat becomes fatter on prestige. People eat well, dress well; a political summit such as this costs fortunes to host and brings much celebrity to participants. The G8 summit is political rock ‘n’ roll.

Down to business: a new food security initiative is expected from these glamorous decision-makers. Let’s hope this is the story that emerges: the crisis facing the Sahel region where people are facing chronic malnutrition.

In Niger last year 300,000 children were treated for severe malnutrition. And that figure was garnered before the onset of the so-called ‘hungry season.’  The hungry season has come early due to, among other things, the depletion of life-sustaining herds and crop failure as a result of extended drought.

UNICEF estimates that across the Sahel, one million children under the age of five will need life-saving aid. Once again, Africa is facing catastrophe. What this means in real terms is a whole generation of children will have their physical and mental development irreparably damaged due to not having enough to eat. Please remember this G8 leaders as you tuck into the finest imported foods prepared by the finest of chefs.

Starvation and drought is a silent earthquake, a secret plague that happens in Sahel year on year. Some years, such as this, the situation is worse than others.

The consequences of chronic malnutrition for young children are terrifying. Apart from the risk of early death, child-hood immunity is greatly reduced. Niger is already a high risk area in that disease is rife. If a child survives, growth might be stunted, cognition impaired. Hunger steals away a child’s opportunity for education: the one empowerment for future citizens to make their way in the world and become successful contributors to society. How can a starving child concentrate in the class-room? S/he becomes too sick and tired to go to school, too weak to learn, having fed the evening before on bitter leaves or millet shavings usually fed to animals.

To make matters worse, neighbouring country Mali is at Civil war. Refugees are pouring across the borders into an already starving, food insecure area.

Are we listening? Do we care? Or are we as a globe suffering from ‘compassion fatigue? Malnourished children do not cry out; they die in silence.

I promised I would keep Plum Tree followers updated and in the loop as to Doug’s endeavours to set up a successful food security programme in Niger. This week, landing in the midst of the situation, he is developing the beginnings of a field logistics strategy, building his team, and discovering as much background as possible. He will use a research method known as PA (Participatory Action). More about this later…

I have gleaned this info so far, but the Internet connection where he is, is awful, and Doug has no time for chat. He is hitting the ground running. But if I know Doug, he is calm in the midst of urgency and a magician in emergency.

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About Dr Niamh

When I was a little girl (a very, very long time ago), I used to love learning new, really big words like ‘discombobulate’. As I grew, my love of words grew too, until I loved them so much, I could not stop writing them down. One day, as I was scribbling a particular word, a very peculiar thing happened. The word shouted at me, “Stop! Don’t put me there!” As you can imagine, I was shocked and nearly fell off my chair. When I recovered somewhat, I said to the word, “Could you stop shouting, please? I am not used to it.” Can you guess what happened next? No! I thought not. The word said, “I might be small, but I will misbehave if you do not use me properly. I will not tell the story you would like me to tell. I will say something entirely different!” I dropped my pen. I hoped that by dropping my pen, the word would stop talking. Alas! It did not. It carried on chitterchobbling, even after the ink had dried. I was in a pickle. I could not allow my words to run away with my story, now could I? I don’t know about you, but when this sort of thing happens, there is only one thing left to do if you prefer not to spend your time arguing. “Very well,” said I. “I will do as you ask if you will just be quiet and allow me to concentrate.” Since that day, I have been paying special attention to every word I invite into my stories. After all, a story should say exactly what it means to say and not be led astray. With love from Dr. Niamh, Ph.D in Learning Through The Imagination and Founder of Dr Niamh Children's Books. www.drniamhchildrensbooks.com

11 comments on “Malnourished children do not cry…

  1. Darlene Steelman
    May 18, 2012

    Gosh… how awful. I’m glad there are people like Doug in the world…

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      May 18, 2012

      Thank You, Darlene…so am I!

      Like

  2. April Thomas
    May 18, 2012

    God bless you and your husband. 🙂

    Like

  3. theserialfrozenlinearblog
    May 18, 2012

    It’s harrowing Niamh, the intimate picture you draw of the extreme suffering that goes with malnutrition, especially among children. The post makes me wish that our leaders were in fact ‘erstwhile’ rather than earnestly hypocritical about looking the other way. To an appalling degree, humanity does that too much anyway but it’s heartening here to know that Doug is perfectly focussed and practical. I’m grateful for the despair registering in my gut, finally.

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      May 18, 2012

      I should not be sarcastic. I will change the term ‘erstwhile’ and choose another. Lol.

      Like

  4. Betty Dravis
    May 18, 2012

    Every time I see or read about poor hungry children, whether overseas or in our own country (yes, there are hungry children here too), I feel outrage and even hatred for politicians who could do so much more, if they really wanted to.

    Thank God for volunteers like Doug who really care what happens to children and everyone in the world. Thanks for all you do, Niamh and Doug.

    Thanks for sharing this article and keeping us in the loop.

    Hugs – Betty Dravis

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      May 18, 2012

      Thank you as always, Betty. I know how angry it can make us. We channel that anger into action.

      Like

  5. Sarah
    May 19, 2012

    Thank you for your post. Children are very close to my heart. I’m reblogging this on my blog. Also please keep me updated on Doug. If you could share any of your research about him and this topic with me that would be great! Blessings!

    Like

  6. Sarah
    May 19, 2012

    Reblogged this on Sarah's Scrumptious Stanzas and commented:
    Great post about children in Africa. Good read! Raise your awareness of the horrors going on in the world around us. Wake up! ❤

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      May 19, 2012

      Thank You for reblogging my post on an emergency in Niger. It is my intention to keep people up to date on how Doug fares from an insider’s perspective of setting up a food security programme. I used to work with husband, Doug, in Africa until side-affects from a bout of malaria left my long-term health affected. Thank You for your help in raising awareness…

      Like

  7. Patricia Tilton
    May 20, 2012

    Thank you for the update. A heart wrenching post. I just don’t get G-8 when it comes to starvation. They have the power to make things happen and make it a priority. I liked your question “Is the globe suffering from compassion fatigue?” I have wondered about that so many times. I support a number of programs like Unicef. We are a global community — how can we go to bed at night knowing such tragedy exists and do nothing. I am grateful for people like Doug and you! I am eager to hear all updates.

    Like

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This entry was posted on May 18, 2012 by in Special Projects and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .
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