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Old perish from hunger as young struggle
Alex Doukas, Baptist Press
July 29, 2010
3 MIN READ TIME

Old perish from hunger as young struggle

Old perish from hunger as young struggle
Alex Doukas, Baptist Press
July 29, 2010

WEST AFRICA — They

volunteered to die.

The elderly men and women in

this famine-wracked West African community knew there was simply not enough

food to go around. Unwilling to watch their families starve to death, some made

a choice: They would not eat so that their children and grandchildren might

live. Some have already wasted away and perished — the price, they believed, of

preserving the future.

The babies, of course, did

not volunteer to die, and their mothers were trying desperately to save them.

As local government officials handed out pans of grain, the women swarmed the

site, knowing there was not enough for everyone. They pressed into each other

under the blistering sun, their infants tied to their backs.

“Three babies died that day

from suffocation and heat,” said Kate Gibbs*, a Southern Baptist field partner

for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development

organization. “I cried.”

Kate and her husband Todd

live among a people in crisis. These nomadic herders usually sell animals to

buy food for their families, but a harsh drought has wrecked their livelihoods.

“Daily, we feel the effects

of the dust blowing across the arid fields,” Gibbs said. “The people all tell

us that the dust blows like that this year because there is no grass to hold

it. That also means no grass for the animals to eat.”

As the animals grow thin and

feeble from hunger, the price they fetch at market plummets. At the same time,

the drought has caused food prices to soar. This deadly combination means

starvation for the people, who are already contending with chronic

malnutrition.

The Gibbses’ hearts broke as

the local people spoke of their hunger, and in some cases, showed up at the

Gibbses’ doorstep pleading for food to feed their families. Something had to be

done.

The Gibbses decided on a

food relief program for their community. They worked with local leaders to

identify the neediest families, who would receive a series of food shipments

hauled in on donkey carts. They also planned a de-worming program to kill

nutrition-robbing parasites in the stomachs of the people and their animals.

“Since food security is an

ongoing issue, we hope to help them make the most out of the food that they are

able to obtain,” Gibbs said.

Through Baptist Global

Response, money was allocated from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund to

purchase grain, rice and powdered milk for distribution. When the supplies

began to arrive for the first distribution, the local people were so hungry

they could not keep to the schedule the Gibbses set.

“The distribution was moved

ahead three days, because when the people heard that the food was in the

storage room at the distribution point, they begged to get it,” Gibbs said.

*Named changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Doukas is

an international correspondent for Baptist Global Response.)

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