The following was written last night, on day 4 of the Bolivia bloggers trip in Cochabamba.
Tonight I got an email from a colleague with a note from Charles Owubah, World Vision’s regional leader in East Africa. All I could thinks was this: my mind has been consumed with the people we’ve met here in Bolivia. Now I’m reminded of the 11.5 million people there affected by the drought.
Charles tells the story of one of them: Atabo.
“Yesterday I was in Lokori, Turkana East, in North Eastern Kenya where I met Atabo Ekaale. Atabo is one-year-old but looks like six months old because he has almost nothing to eat. His mother, Lorenyi, is desperate because she wants her son to live and go to school. I saw many mothers like Lorenyi,” writes Charles.
I have a 15-month-old son. He’s loud and delightful and eats more than my three-year-old girl. I can’t imagine not being able to answer his cries for food.
Atabo is one of 457 children who had to come to the World Vision run Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition clinic in desperate need.
“I am troubled by what I saw,” continues Charles. “It is unacceptable to have such a number of emaciated children in one place.”
Lucia and Pablo's kitchen. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Esther.
In Bolivia today, I was also troubled by what I saw. We met Lucia, a mother struggling to feed her children. Six-month-old Nellie clung to her but welcomed us with a broad smile.
The family farms their small plot of land, but all they get is potatoes and some jalapenos, which they sell in the market to get meat, perhaps every few months. I won’t complain again about boring meals at our house.
World Vision has barely just started working in Lucia’s community. Nearly 3,000 children – including Lucia’s – are waiting to be sponsored.
Contrast this community to the one our Bolivia bloggers team saw yesterday where World Vision has been working for years and 3,200 children are sponsored.
Charles wrote about World Vision working to get into new places in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya to respond to needs of affected refugees and people fleeing drought. And he noted the difference he’s seen where World Vision has been working for years – the same thing I was doing in Bolivia.
Charles holds one-year-old Atabo. ©2011 World Vision
“Less than an hour’s drive from the place where I found Atabo and many other children that are wasting for lack of food to eat is Morulem,” explains Charles. Because of World Vision’s work in the area, “The 2,300 farmers in here, together with their families, do not need food aid and their children are healthy.”
“Droughts will always be with us, but truly children do not have to die,” says Charles.
Why? Because where World Vision has been working for years to help communities develop sustainable ways for children to lead healthy lives. Children like Atabo and Nellie may be a world apart from one another, but the same at heart.
I walked away from Lucia’s home today with that same hope. And a question -- now that I know, what do I do?
I can pray. I can tell their story. I can call on others to come alongside World Vision in their communities.
When we asked Lucia’s husband what he hopes for now that World Vision is in his community, he said, “I hope they will help me to provide for my family.”
I can be a part of answering the prayers of parents in Bolivia and in East Africa.
Read more posts from the Bolivia bloggers team.
Read more on the World Vision blog about the drought in East Africa.