To see a child starving... a visit to the South

Trip Start Feb 12, 2006
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Trip End May 12, 2008


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Monday, March 12, 2007

To see a child starving... a visit to the South of Madagascar


Life is built on our experiences, the things we see and do, and recently our lives have been changed by what we have seen... people starving. A little girl, who is 4 years old, yet looks half that, a little girl who is too weak to walk or brush away the flies on her face. Her ribs are visible through her skin, her belly is protruding unnaturally and her arms and legs bone thin. Her hair is orange from vitamin deficiency and the expression on her face, the look in her eyes seems so empty and distant. Everyone has seen images of starving children, we say "that's sad" and turn the channel. But to see starving people in one's presence is overwhelming. It's incomprehensible that there are people with nothing to eat; whose only option is clay dirt mixed with water and cactus to fill their belly a little and stave off the hunger pangs.

In late December and mid-January we had the opportunity to visit the South of Madagascar on a reconnaissance trip with our counterpart organization, who is working with several other NGOs to provide food aid. Food insecurity is a reoccurring problem in this arid part of the country, yet this year many factors combined to make it even more devastating.

While visiting rural communes we drove through a dusty town and saw our Peace Corps friend standing on the side of the road. The people in his town are hungry and for some reason didn't qualify for food aid. His friends and neighbors are selling their possessions- their pots, dishes, etc to buy food. Schools are half empty because children are too hungry & weak to learn. For a few, water is distributed through a lottery system and for most sold at prices to high to afford. Farmers are burning the thorns off of cactus to feed their livestock and themselves. We saw the wells they dig, the scarce & dirty water they drink and their sandy fields. Later when we visited in January the fields of corn had started to sprout after some rains came, but the insects are destroying them- yet another obstacle.

We've heard that food distribution has been going on for at least 15 years in this part of the country, which should make one realize the necessity of proactive approaches rather than yearly reactive ones. The people of this region are known to be tough and are accustomed to hungry seasons, yet I can't help but wonder if this land is not meant to be inhabited year round.

As you sit down to dinner remember that there truly are starving people around the world and be thankful for all the abundance that you are blessed with. On our second trip it started to pour down rain and we watched in delight from under an awning as kids skipped and dashed about carrying buckets with gigantic smiles on their faces collecting the rainwater. The chore of fetching water was completely gone; there was pure bliss in gathering this liquid gold.
 
Take care,
Jenny & Aaron
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