Surviving the Drought
by Jamie Malewska, Marketing Coordinator
Abelina is a 1-year-old baby girl who is being raised by her parents in Angola. Like many families there, Abelina’s parents rely on their small family farm for food and their livelihood. For the past three years, the rainy season has been short and weak, producing very little moisture. Harvests are drying out and food is becoming more and more scarce in little Abelina’s home. This year, her family’s reserves are running low, and crops once again are failing. Her parents had to make the difficult decision to start skipping meals and eating smaller portions, hoping their remaining food will outlast the drought in Angola.
Because Abelina is in the toddler stage, her body is going through rapid changes and needs nutrition to develop properly. She was not getting enough nutrition at home, and her parents helplessly watched as she rapidly began to lose weight and develop a fever. They had no money to pay for a doctor and not enough food to give to her little body to help her recover.
The drought in Angola has lasted for over 3 years and continues to drive food insecurity for close to 1.58 million people according to OCHA. Though farmers are severely impacted, almost no one is immune to the effects of the famine. Weaker harvests result in rising food prices, and as a country that relies 100% on wheat imports, the Russia-Ukraine war adds an additional heavy burden onto this already collapsing food system. Desperate times like these result in families skipping meals and reducing portion sizes just like Abelina’s did. This type of food rationing can be detrimental to the health of growing babies and toddlers. Many will develop Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
Severe Acute Malnutrition
Classic signs of SAM include visible and severe weight loss, swelling due to increased water retention, and if left untreated, cognitive decline and even death. These more severe impacts are more likely to happen to babies and toddlers who are in key stages of brain development and growth. As the drought in Angola and the war continues, SAM cases will continue to climb. OCHA predicts that in this year alone, over 400,000 Angolan children will be acutely malnourished. The majority of those impacted will be under five years old. Surviving the drought will be a significant challenge for this vulnerable population, and unfortunately, more droughts in Angola are predicted to come.
How We Are Helping
Despite the growing challenges, there is hope! We are adapting and expanding our programs to address the needs in Angola and save more babies and toddlers by:
- Providing health screenings to babies and toddlers in remote areas to catch malnutrition before it turns into SAM
- Feeding parents at the clinics so they keep their babies in the clinic until they are healthy enough to be released
- Treating moderate malnutrition at the community level by providing therapeutic food to families before their children become severely malnourished