Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A sudden death in the family

What would you do if you were starving? How far would you go to put food into your mouth? Would you cheat? Steal?

What if your children were crying with hunger and there was no other way to help them?

In Northern Uganda last week, a young woman tried to fend for herself and her children, aged 7, 5, 3 and six months by stealing cassava from a garden.

Cassava is a plant from which we, in the developed world, get tapioca, but in places like Northern Uganda it is a vital staple, producing more food energy per unit of land than any other crop. Its leaves are eaten as a vegetable, providing vitamins and protein, and the tuber is like a nutritionally superior potato. All in all, a plant like this would be of great value to a desperate mother and her children.

Unfortunately, she was caught. And in a place where food is at a premium and many are dying daily of starvation and malnutrition, her defence met with little sympathy. Those who caught her meted out swift and exacting justice: they beat her until she was dead.

Her young children were left with no-one to care for them except their grandmother who is 87 years old and blind. In a world where, too often, only the strong survive, these children will be at a disadvantage before the struggle even begins. The hopelessness moves on to a new generation.

Our representative in Northern Uganda, George Amoli, will be doing what he can to keep an eye on this family. He’ll try, as far as he can, to ensure they don’t miss out when food is distributed. Hopefully, we can help by providing the children with sponsors, people who will pledge a small amount of money monthly.

Sponsored children are fed and clothed, given access to medical care and are able to go to school, thereby getting the education and qualifications they need to end the cycle of poverty.

£22 a month doesn’t seem a lot to most people in the developed world. In Northern Uganda, it can literally be the difference between life and death.

If you do not wish to pledge a regular amount but would like to help this family and others who, like them, have been affected by the worst drought in East Africa in 60 years, you can donate via World In Need’s drought relief fund at www.justgiving.com/droughtrelief

Together, we can make a difference.

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