When they brought Moussa over and laid him in my arms, my heart stopped for a minute. He was barely breathing and was so frail, I was afraid he might die as I held him. Though he was more than two months old, his arms and legs were tiny and frail and his breathing was labored. Here in a small village outside Diema in the West African nation of Mali, I saw what the face of hunger in the latest food crisis in Africa really looks like. It is the face of Moussa.
Moussa’s mother, just 18, brought him over to us when she saw the Save the Children car drive up. He had been identified that day by a health worker trained by Save the Children and now we needed to get him to the town for help. Moussa and his mom were bundled into the car and they sped away to the center in Diema, about 10 kilometers away, where Save the Children-trained staff were there to help him and food and medicine was available from other partners like UNICEF.
At the center, Moussa received treatment for malnutrition and medicine (I later found he also has a respiratory infection) and within days he was doing much better. Moussa is one of the lucky ones. All over West Africa, kids are dying because they don’t have enough food to eat. And many of those dying are very young children like Moussa. The drought last harvest in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso has tipped families into crisis as food stocks from what they grow– meager to begin with due to lack of rain–run out. Prices in the market are far too high for poor families, so they go for days with just thin porridge to eat.
Mali was a tough place to be a kid before the crisis hit, with one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. Now it is becoming unbearable for kids. To help, Save the Children hosted Fastathon 2012 to support children who are going hungry every day. Nearly 1000 supporters pledged to skip a snack, miss a meal or fast for the full 24 hours to show solidarity with families in West Africa who are facing this hunger crisis and to raise funds for our relief efforts in the Sahel.
Even though the event is over, you can learn about Fastathon 2012 and our effort to make hunger history. For children like Moussa across the Sahel, help can’t come soon enough.