Sitting in front of a therapeutic Stabilization Center in Kanem, Western Chad, one-year-old Adam smiles weakly as his mother Hawa cradles him. Determined to save her son, Hawa traveled five days by camel in the burning heat to bring him to the nearest health center. His whole body swollen with edema, Adam was in an advanced stage of acute malnutrition, a condition that can be deadly if left untreated.
“Adam started to have a fever,” Hawa explains, “The fever got worse and worse and he stopped eating. The health promoters who visited our village told me about the center, and I decided to bring him here. It’s not easy to travel so far and leave the family behind, but I did not think twice about it. I just want him to be healthy again.”
Since arriving at the Action Against Hunger-supported Stabilization Center, Adam has received around-the-clock treatment and medical care. “The swelling has disappeared and he is getting better now. He is still very weak but I am glad he is eating again,” says Hawa.
Times are difficult for nomadic herders like Hawa and her family. Erratic rainfall has led to unusually poor harvests and a shortage of animal pasture. Tens of thousands of families have already been pushed into hunger because they cannot access or afford food. This forgotten corner of the world faces a looming humanitarian catastrophe.
“Everyone is hungry. Parents, neighbors, even our cattle are dying from hunger,” Hawa explains. “But when it hits our children it is simply too much. We need support.”
However, with the world’s attention turned elsewhere, these vulnerable families are left to fend for themselves. Action Against Hunger, one of only two humanitarian organizations working in the area, has launched an emergency response to treat malnourished children and prevent the situation from deteriorating. But needs are great, and assistance to help the hardest-hit families find alternative sources of income is urgently needed.
“We need food for our children and ourselves. My husband has left to search for work; all he needs is a job to be able to earn some money. I would like to work too. I’ve always wanted to have my own business but need a loan to turn it into reality. I would like to buy a pasta making machine. I’d buy flour, make pasta and sell it, and then with the money earned, I’d be able to feed my children,” says Hawa.
The devastating food crisis has not crushed the aspirations of families like Hawa’s in Chad, but a coordinated international response to help these families has yet to arrive. A surge in immediate assistance for malnourished children coupled with longer-term agricultural and income-generating programs could prevent the current situation from escalating and help avert future crises.