October 16th, 2012
10:05 AM ET
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Peter Biro is a writer and photographer for the International Rescue Committee. He reports on refugee and humanitarian issues in Southeast/Central Asia and Africa.

The heat inside the small medical clinic is stifling. An occasional breeze from an open window provides the only relief. A dozen lethargic children, their ribs exposed and twig-like arms outstretched, lay on beds covered by mosquito nets.

I accompany Keita Cheick Oumar, a doctor with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), as he checks on patients in a health clinic located in the densely populated Kati district, near the Malian capital of Bamako. Kati district has been hard hit by Mali’s deepening hunger crisis and as elsewhere in the country the crisis is having an especially devastating impact on children.

Dr. Oumar kneels in front of Jabadjie, a ghost of a child whose loose skin sags over a skeletal frame. She is 16 months old and weighs only a little over nine pounds. In addition to being severely malnourished, Jabadjie is suffering from pneumonia and anemia that have ravaged her weakened immune system.

Jabadjie was rushed to the clinic after she was found by IRC volunteers who travel throughout Kati district to identify malnourished children and inform villagers about the help available at the health clinic.

“If she had stayed in the village, she would have died for sure,” Dr. Oumar says.

He instructs Jabadjie’s mother, who has come to the clinic with her daughter, on how to feed the girl nutritionally fortified peanut paste.

Although malnutrition is not unknown in Mali - in the past decade, the country has faced three droughts which all led to major food shortages - this year the country has struggled to cope with a prolonged drought and food crisis that is affecting large areas of the Sahel region of West Africa. The crisis has been made worse by a spreading internal conflict.

Islamist militant groups with ties to Al Qaeda control about two-thirds of Mali after hijacking a secular rebellion by Turaeg nomads in the north at the start of this year and seizing more territory in the wake of a March 22 military coup, which toppled the president based in Bamako.

More than 320,000 Malians have fled the north in search of food or safety, 200,000 of them seeking sanctuary in neighboring Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. The remaining 120,000 are internally displaced.

Jabadjie’s mother, Masaran Diarra, explains that food in her village ran out months ago.

“We are farmers and normally grow peanuts and millet, but we have nothing to eat now,” she says. “I have five children to feed and one more on the way.”

Two weeks after being admitted to the clinic, Jabadjie seems to be out of danger. Although still shockingly thin, her protein levels are up and the edema, a swelling caused by the build-up of fluid beneath the skin, has disappeared.

An hour’s drive south of the Bamako, in the village of Diallakoroba, I meet a group of farmers. They take me to a small hut used to store grain. Lamine Samaké, a 50-year-old father of eight, shines a flashlight through a small window. The hut is empty.

“This time last year it was almost full with millet,” he tells me. “We have used up all of our reserves and won’t have any millet until the next harvest in January or February.”

In the meantime, Samaké says, three families comprising some 30 people will have to survive on a small quantity of corn and, money permitting, the occasional serving of fried fish.

“It won’t be enough,” he adds, shaking his head. “The months ahead will be very hard.”

Despite the vast need, international aid efforts in Mali have been hampered by political chaos and uncertainty, and in the conflict-ridden north, by Islamic extremists who have prevented outsiders from operating in the region. However, IRC staff members who are natives of the north have managed to deliver vital aid to displaced people.

“They’ve restored water access in many areas and are working to prime wells and water points,” says Tasha Gill, who directs the IRC’s programs in Mali.

These intrepid aid workers are distributing water purification kits and conducting hygiene promotion campaigns. Still, many people continue to lack clean water, putting them at high risk of cholera.

The Malian people I meet express sadness and disbelief over the severity and rapidity of the humanitarian crisis in a country long viewed as stable.

“It’s a difficult time for everyone, but especially the children,” says Gill. “We’re doing our best to serve the needs of the Malians and help them get through these multiple crises.”

On World Food Day, people are coming together from all over the globe to end hunger. Take action in your community and around the world. by visiting WorldFoodDayUSA.org and Facebook to see what's happening near you.


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Filed under: Disaster • Drought • Environment • Food Politics • Human Rights • Hunger • Water • World Food Day

soundoff (71 Responses)
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    October 21, 2012 at 3:43 am |
  4. Compassion Heals

    There is a lot we can do to help others, including those in our own country. Get a big box for your office and ask for food donations to feed hungry children who are impoverished. 'tis the season. Take it to your local shelter. Or write them a check for $20.00. These programs need the funding.

    October 18, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Get a Grip on Reality

      Thank God for a caring, genuine person on here who puts others first and doesn't blame the poor little victims ! Bless you.

      October 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  5. Nice...

    You can't legislate population control, but you can fund programs that fight poverty and provide birth control.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Get a Grip on Reality

      How old are you? What a stupid comment!

      It's immaterial how many children they have – you CAN'T stop a drought! Since you haven't grasped it, you're a stonesthrow away from being in the same boat if your 'Dust Bowl' droughts keep going'

      You – apology for a human being – damn NORMAL families because of natural disasters?????? What YOU need is a dose of war or starvation to teach you a little respect for your fellow man AND a little humility! You make me sick -- these are babies!
      Mind you, you Americans have murdered 53 MILLION of your own babies by abortion so you wouldn't understand decency!

      October 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Dearypie

      @nice...Your handle doesn't describe your comment. Compassion for others is what makes us human. Hell even animals have been know to show this quality! Birth control doesn't help families facing droughts. Aid helps people facing droughts.

      October 21, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  6. Nice...

    Half the country only care about human lives BEFORE they are born.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Get a Grip on Reality

      Some people are selfish; some are sociopaths; some are ignorant and uneducated; some are callous -- how does it feel to be all FOURf them?

      October 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  7. Nice...

    I'm all for green energy, but bio fuels take A LOT of natural resources to grow... WATER for one.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  8. Nice...

    Many countries have exhausted their natural resources which has lead to famine.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  9. motherearth

    ..If you can't feed the children,then why do you have more?? oh yeah the usa and other countries will give them free of charge and healthcare and food ..etc..
    dont we have people in the USA that are hungry also? and also need of healthcare?
    i say let them die.it's your own fault that you have 5 kids knowing you cant feed them.. DIE DIE DIE

    October 18, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  10. :P nun ya stalkers

    Just drop hot pockets from a plane in foreign countries.... *PROBLEM SOLVED* ("hot pocket") ;D

    October 17, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Nice...

      I'm surprised you didn't say, let the child die for one day he could be a democrat. I'll bet you go to church every Sunday with you gun in your glove box, don't you.

      God Greed Guns: The GOP Way of Life

      October 18, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  11. KBW

    The adults evidently have enough food to create enough energy to reproduce, so they are not hungry. Hungry is when you do not have excess energy. Fix the males or females until people take parenting classes and you have solved a 60 year problem. I feel very sorry for the kids because they aren't even a thought of the act.

    October 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Nice...

      I agree. Birth Control prevents poverty and Education saves lives.

      October 18, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Nice...

      Parenting programs will be cut under Romney.

      October 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  12. Bobby Jo

    I know this won't fix everything but how about, in the developed countries, we look at how we are using food (potatoes for chips, fries) and maybe find a solution in better food managment?

    October 17, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • notanObamite

      @ Bobby sounds like a great idea however some countries refuse to accept our food shipments because the USA 's food production is contaminated with GMO (Genetically Modified) and BT ("Bt"acillus thuringiensis )foods. That is why the rate of obesity, autism and cancer is soaring in the states. They are starving to death and our food is killing us.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  13. brown

    Shameful the state of human compassion!

    October 17, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Nice...

      Tell half the country to put the "Us" back in Jesus and think of others for a change.

      October 18, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  14. Bob

    We Have starving Children in the US, That SHOULD come first instead of sending millions of Dollars over seas to other Countries......Or stop having kids when you know you cant feed them...........Hello....

    October 17, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Bobby Jo

      "Starving" children in developed countries would rather have cell phone minutes than buy lunch

      October 17, 2012 at 10:26 am |
      • Bob

        Maybe we can sent them Food stamps to.....MOVE TO WERE The FOOD IS......

        October 17, 2012 at 10:48 am |
        • Nice...

          Karma is going to catch up with Bob.

          October 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
        • Shooting those who shoot without thinking...

          What was the highest grade level you completed?

          October 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
        • Shooting those who shoot without thinking...

          I was asking Bob: Did you complete high school? If not, you really should.

          October 18, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
      • Compassion Heals

        I don't agree.

        October 18, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Flo

      Children in the U.S are not as bad as the children in Mali....those children need food more than us right now!

      October 17, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • notanObamite

      That is Bulls%^&. We have the Food Stamp President. No one starves in the USA when was the last time CNN showed starving and dying elderly people on the streets? NEVER. Want to know what poor is? Go to Haiti and munch out on those delicious mud cookies. You can thank faith based organizations and local food banks, that service the people that cannot get food stamps from the Food Stamp President

      October 18, 2012 at 10:54 am |
      • Nice...

        You better get on your knees and pray that bad times don't befall you or a family member.

        October 18, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
      • Shooting those who shoot without thinking...

        Yeah! People who have been laid off to please corporate investors should die of starvation! They don't deserve food stamps even though they paid into the system to get them.

        October 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
      • Shooting those who shoot without thinking...

        notanObamite: Are you even human? Most human have at least one ounce of compassion in their beings.

        October 18, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Nice...

      Yes, Bob, because American children are more important. How about if we do both?

      October 18, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  15. brandonkbyrne

    As close relatives run out of meals they do nervous things. They offer their creatures, they decrease the amount and quality of the meals, moms and dads set off to look for execute, children begin asking, children move to the locations in disappointment.More than 18 million people across European and Main African-american are suffering from a meals issues. This is a fact.
    18 million people are hungry and, along with aid organizations and their nations, are looking for solutions to provide themselves. This is the relative to the population of the condition of Florida or the combined population of Al, Colorado and The condition of the state of tennessee. 18 million people.

    October 17, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  16. dark matter

    enough ,,,your sacrifice are useless look the govt. billion of dollar are wasting to made a weapon to killed the human ,, why are you need to save that people ?

    October 17, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • Bob

      Sounds Like a title of a I.Q. cd.............

      October 17, 2012 at 9:18 am |
      • Shooting those who shoot without thinking...

        You sound like someone who has happily lived life in a bubble.

        October 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  17. dark matter

    useless that people to help much better you died in hungry than to war its pain,,,,look are all giant country creating many powerful weapon to destroy the human ,,,now what is the serve of your help to that people i think useless,,,,human are always prepring a war...who is the enemy ? the human?? big mistake human are our enemy ,,,the alien is our enemy because the target of the alien is to erase or destroy the race of humanity,,,,but many govt.are continue to keep this animal,,,wake up people

    October 17, 2012 at 7:49 am |
  18. larry5

    The American EPA put the kid's corn in someone's gas tank. When everyone from Gore, to scientists, to engineers, to the UN to famine experts told the EPA that putting any corn in gas tanks was bad for the economy, the food supply and the automobiles what did the EPA do to show that they don't answer to anyone except Obama. They upped the percentage of corn for each fill up. That's where this kid's corn went. No one messes with the EPA.

    October 17, 2012 at 6:16 am |
    • Matthew

      Corn in gas tanks has been around a lot longer then the Obama Admin.

      Just saying you should say they answer to nobody be the president, saying Obama is not accurate.

      October 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
      • Shooting those who shoot without thinking...

        No one disputes that, including the Obama Administration.

        October 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • notanObamite

      @ Larry, you forgot to mention our "Trade Deal Obligations" which accounts for 28% of our corn exports. Those obligations HAVE to be met. So, with 28% of our corn going to fulfill trade agreements AND 46% going to fuel, the remaining be scraps that the people will fight over. I am sure preferential treatment will be given to those on food assistance programs that are not elderly or disabled. that is how our country operates. Backassward

      October 18, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • What does the EPA stand for?

      The EPA: Environmental Protection Agency. Think about what that means.... hmmmmm.... could it be they are tasked with, I don't know... Protecting the Environment for People and Other Living Things? Ever see coal ash pollution? Why don't you Google that. Ever see a mountain top blown off to get to coal? Why don't you Google that. And while you're at it, Google Fracking and poisioning underground wells by shooting chemicals and huge amounts of water deep beneath the earth which causes siesmic activity (fracturing of rock). Hmmm? Why don't you hurry and do that, so we can have an intelligent conversation about the EPA.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
      • What does the EPA stand for?

        I'm sure someone here will come off with some retarded remark about the president's green energy policy. Waiting....

        October 18, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  19. Rafaelle Sotto

    Since i was a little boy, 40 years ago, every year I have seen these kind of problems, how long it will take to realize that if you cannot feed them, don't have them, year after year the same cry, when it will stop? I speak the truth, like it or not.

    October 16, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Linda Ardizzone

      Rafaelle Sotto: I agree that it is frustrating for people in this situation to continue to have children but if they cannot afford to eat how can they afford contraception? Or do you think that abstinence is realistic? That will never happen.

      October 17, 2012 at 12:55 am |
      • Shooting those who shoot without thinking...

        True. They cannot afford contraception, even if it were widely available, and programs that help people are underfunded. Programs that help starving people and programs that provide contraception and educate people in this country will be obsolete if Governor Romney comes into power. He has already said so.

        October 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm |

    @anna...karma happens..you will see.

    October 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Shooting those who shoot without thinking...

      Karma gets 'em every time.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  21. anna

    Get them to stop breeding and perhaps they will have enough food then.

    October 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Holly

      That was not a very clever remark. You realize they are so poor they can't even do safe abortions without critically injuring themselves? True, if they didn't have as many mouths to feed it would be easier, but only to a degree, it's not exactly going to give them a relentless supply of food if that's what you think will happen.

      October 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • anthony

      ya know i dont really believe in religious stuff. but with remarks like that I have to wish there is a hell in the next life for people like you. you could just as easily have been born into poverty. the kids didnt ask for this. you are pathetic.

      October 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm |

        im with you in this one, what a pathetic human being.

        October 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
      • anna

        I hope you are sending money over there to help them.

        October 17, 2012 at 10:33 am |
      • Angie

        Anthony, maybe you are closer to God in your heart than you realize. Your comment shows not only wisdom but compassion. I believe in the person of Jesus and Heaven, and I also have to believe that there is a better place someday for those poor kids, because the Hellish existance they face in this world could not be all there is. There is a love in this universe that will ultimately overcome all evil. Jesus claimed to be this source of life. He was humble, real, and most holy.Faith, hope, and love, my friend.

        October 18, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • Bobby Jo

      There are a lot of people "breeding" in developed countries who shouldn't be, even if they can feed their offspring. What about the teenagers, the druggies, the idiots? How can we legislate who can have children and who can't?

      October 17, 2012 at 10:30 am |
      • Nice...

        Birth Control. Education.

        October 18, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Jessica A

      Think before you type, please. Thanks. Have a great day!

      October 17, 2012 at 11:09 am |
      • KBW

        He is thinking. Reproduction is an action to bring about a child. When this action is stopped there will not be be any poor children of this magnitude again.
        Take all the depoprevara in the world and put it in the fresh water. Stop the mass production of children who are starved because of finances, beaten because of neglect, used as soldiers by the ignorant, raped because of the mentally perverted. Children know not what they do, but adults have been using them as disposable worth for centuries; ie the selling of daughters for marriage or to brothels.
        Make it all stop!

        October 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
        • notanObamite

          Why not let all the elderly starve too? I say let's start with making "your family" disappear since you are so eager to end the existance of others. Deprevera causes cancer and infertility why not cut off your uuh testicles if you have any, that would be a small contribution to ending world hunger. That sounds like a great solution to me

          October 18, 2012 at 10:41 am |
      • notanObamite

        well stated AMEN!

        October 18, 2012 at 10:42 am |
        • Shooting those who shoot without thinking...

          Many elderly men and women do go to bed hungry. They are part of the unemployable that cannot find work. They are unemployable because companies will not hire older people. They will starve if Governor Romney becomes President, because he will cut funding to all programs that help the hungry. Donations to charitable organizations are down as well, so if you were not born with a silver spoon in your mouth or are educated and can beat the system, you're doomed.

          October 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • notanObamite

      Spoken like true eugenicist. The USA just may have to face food shortages also. Your view of humanity is as small as your mind

      October 18, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • notanObamite

      If you are so concerned with over population why don't you take a long walk off of a short bridge

      October 18, 2012 at 10:44 am |
      • Nice...

        You are not a humanist, if you are telling people to take a long walk off a short bridge. And birth control / education programs need funding.

        October 18, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Shooting those who shoot without thinking...

      Anna, even during the Black Plague, people procreated. It's what people do, especially when they are at survival level.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
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