Save the Children in Sierra Leone

As world leaders at the G8 go back and forth over how to tackle issues affecting the poor, Anna Kari writes from Sierra Leone on the real impact the food crisis is having on families in Africa:

I have now spend almost 6 months working in a slum called Kroo Bay for Save the Children’s ‘This is Kroo Bay’ website (www.savethechildren.org.uk/kroobay).

I share the job with fellow photojournalist Guilhem Alandry of filming, photographing and interviewing people in Kroo Bay. We have lots of fun moments, but unfortunately also lots of sad ones. This is the poorest place on earth, where 1 out of 4 children will die before they reach the age of 5 and we have seen both babies and mothers die.

We are now coming to the beginning of the proper rainy season, when it’s damp, humid and cold. Everyone gets colds and diarrhoea. But this year, in addition to the usual problems, people are also really struggling with the rise in food prices – the little money they make just doesn’t go very far anymore.

Last week was one of the bad weeks, where almost everyone we regularly work with was having problems with money and food. Sunkari who we have followed since the start had run out of money to continue selling rice as she says ‘we ate the profit’. The rice would stand around all day and her children would beg her to give it to them. Elizabeth was so stressed about feeding her five grandchildren that she felt sick.

Then I went to see Fatu who we feature in the latest webisode. Fatu was extremely distraught; her husband Alusine was inside their tiny shack, on the floor getting IV fluids. He had been fine that morning, but had started having diarrhea and vomiting and within two hours he was unconscious.

A neighbour who is a nurse had brought the IV fluids to rehydrate him and Alusine was already much better. As I left, the nurse assured me he would continue treating him and that Alusine would be fine. That same week the woman who I see selling roasted cassava next to the clinic also contracted diarrhoea and vomiting. She was also treated at home, but unfortunately she died leaving a one-year-old baby girl behind.

Save the Children are working to alleviate the problems diarrhoea is causing in this community; last month they trained 50 Blue flag volunteers (called that because, once trained, they fly blue flags from their roof tops so the community know where they live).

These volunteers are trained to recognise and treat early stages of diarrhoea with oral rehydration salts. Anyone can make oral rehydration salts from normal salt, sugar and water – but they don’t know how. The volunteers were also trained to recognise more serious cases of diarrhoea and how essential it is to refer people to a clinic. Save the Children are also campaigning on the food prices, and encouraging people in the UK to join the campaign by signing up to their broccoli tree here.

Anna Kari, Kroobay, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Save the Children is calling on the G8 to stick to their Gleneagles promise to commit an extra $25 billion for Africa ($50 billion worldwide) by 2010. In addition, further measures are needed due to the current crisis including:

– Support and fund the UN Task Force on Global Food Security Crisis and ensure donors address nutrition issues as well as food security. This is an opportunity to develop proposals for tackling the international system for dealing with malnutrition, described in a recent Lancet series as ‘dysfunctional and fragmented’.
– Support the development and expansion of social protection programmes, focused on the needs of the poorest and most food insecure families.
– A swift response to the increased humanitarian needs arising from increases in food prices and droughts in Ethiopia and in the West Africa Sahel region. Save the Children is appealing for $20 million to help around 900,000 people, including 325,000 children, who are bearing the brunt of the food crisis in Ethiopia.

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