Former NG English teacher Dick Friss sent this to Clint Stewart (who has now been located in Salt Lake City), and Clint forwarded it to me. It is an opinion page article by Debbie DeVoe that appeared in the SF Chronicle today. Friss says: "Check out the writer! Last I knew she was living/working in Japan. Now in Nairobi, Kenya? If any of you know give her my best regards."
Act now to save the hungry
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
I've looked hunger in the face - or to be more exact, in the faces of hundreds of Ethiopian children. Due to consecutive failure of rains, farmers in many pockets of southern and eastern Ethiopia have no crop to harvest. Combined with a spiraling rise in food prices, thousands of families are now left with nothing to eat.
The Ethiopian government is taking action to address the impact of this year's drought by distributing emergency food rations and setting up feeding sites for malnourished children. But more help is urgently needed.
At one site I visited, 200 children were receiving therapeutic milk and treatment. In tents thrown up on church grounds, family members cradled their sick children who lay unmoving in their embrace. One mother pulled up the shirt of her young daughter to show me her matchstick-thin arms and jutting ribs. Another grandfather lovingly supported the back of his grandson's head as he fed the child sips of milk from a plastic syringe. The boy, who looked about 5, simply didn't have the energy to take in food any other way.
Through feedings every three hours, these children are incrementally regaining their health. Staff from Doctors Without Borders is on site to care for the most severely malnourished. Missionaries of Charity sisters are also preparing meals for the children's caregivers and distributing weekly rations to struggling families who so far have been able to stave off malnutrition. Each week though, the number of people arriving at this site and dozens of others like it continue to grow.
Many of the pockets most affected by drought this year are within some of Ethiopia's most productive agricultural regions. These poor farm families are made up of hard-working people who are usually able to grow enough food to meet their needs. Fighting to overcome considerable obstacles each season, sometimes they lose the battle.
In recent years, the Ethiopian government has made considerable progress increasing the country's agricultural capacity and assisting those most at risk of not having sufficient food. A program started in January 2005 coordinates the efforts of donor agencies and partners to provide supplemental food to 8 million of the neediest people. The hope is that with a few years of support, these families will be able to build sufficient household assets and food stores to weather future crises without tragic results.
This year, however, Ethiopia is shouldering the heavy burdens of another drought as food and fuel prices rise. The global food crisis is weighing other countries down as well, driving the need for massive food assistance worldwide in the short term, near term and long term.
Late Thursday evening, the U.S. Senate passed a supplemental appropriations bill that provides almost $1.9 billion in emergency food assistance and cash to respond to the hunger crisis worldwide. This amount is very generous, but longer term funding is also needed to increase overall agricultural production.
The U.S. government now must ensure that this emergency aid arrives where it is needed as quickly as possible. Any delay could have horrific consequences.
Debbie DeVoe, a former San Francisco resident who grew up in Walnut Creek, now serves as Catholic Relief Services' regional information officer for East Africa based in Nairobi, Kenya.
This article appeared on page B - 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle