Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Basankusu: The Hunger Games

They call them the hungry months. Food is in short supply. In June and July and even into August, I see a steady rise in mothers bringing their malnourished children to my centre. The children become lethargic and often lose interest in everything ... including food. The mothers exhaust themselves trying to feed these little ones, and finally give in to them.

One little boy arrived weighing 11 lb (5 kg) at 2 years old. He was so thin we named him ‘Skeleton’. His eyes were sunken into his face and three little lines appeared each side of his mouth, so it looked like he was wearing a mask. He would only eat meat – and, each day when he arrived, would let out a huge roar until he got it. 

He didn’t like milk and he certainly didn’t like the porridge we gave him, but we insisted until he ate it. The porridge is an essential part of all the children’s diet. It’s made from ground corn (maize), peanuts, soya milk (which we make ourselves), sugar, milk-powder and vegetable oil. The volunteers persevered and after two weeks the mask disappeared and he was suddenly transformed into a normal looking little boy. He’s not out of the woods yet – but he’s made a good start.

Little ‘Skeleton’ is one of 22 children receiving treatment this month. Next month the number could exceed 50 children – some of them so severely malnourished that they will need hospital treatment. We’ve treated 380 children in the past 12 months alone. This year only 2 children have died from complications, after waiting too long before seeking help. The seriousness of the condition of all the children is a constant worry to us.


With the coming of summer, it would be easy to forget these unfortunate children who are struggling to get back onto the road to good health, especially during these ‘hungry months’. I depend on your donations to run my centre. Please send a donation now and perhaps before you go on your summer holiday.

The hungry months end in August when the edible caterpillars appear on Basankusu’s trees. 

Unfortunately, malnutrition never leaves us completely.

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