Lessons from Laos
Laos is still suffering the effects of the Indochina War. Unexploded bombs claim hundreds of innocent lives a year and 37% of the land is contaminated. This prevents access to agricultural land and puts major constraints on efforts to reduce poverty – keeping many Lao people poor, sick, uneducated and less employable. Consequently, the high child malnutrition rate is a key factor that perpetuates poverty.
In 2011, SOS Children set up an intensive nutritional programme to treat severely malnourished children in the deprived area of Samneua. Two-year-old Thao (photo, above) weighed less than 8kg when he joined the programme. After first being treated for worms, Thao received a healthy balanced diet, vitamin supplements and vaccinations. He stayed for five months before returning to his family. Every three months he goes back to SOS Children’s Village Samneua for a check-up. We also help his mother to pay for healthy food and vitamin supplements. At his latest check-up, Thao was healthy and developing normally for his age.
The value of health education
The SOS medical centre Samneua provides first aid, healthcare for pregnant women and vaccinations for young children. As well as workshops on healthy eating, cookery lessons and sanitary education for the parents of children like Thao, we teach families about practical, affordable steps they can take to prevent future malnutrition.
Feeding an appetite for learning
When the drought in East Africa left two schools in Marsabit, Kenya unable to buy food to feed their students, SOS Children helped out with emergency rations. A girls’ school with 420 pupils, and boys’ school with 650 pupils, were both hit hard when the students’ parents, mostly pastoralists who had lost their livestock, were unable to pay their fees. Both schools received enough food via our family strengthening programme to tide them over for a single term – just long enough to get their finances and food stocks back in order while the children continued their education.
Mr Njogi, Head Teacher of the boys’ school, could rebuild the school food stocks, start to repay his debts and increase school attendance. “This programme is a big relief to us,” he said. SOS Children also supplied his school with two 20,000-litre water tanks while the school constructed guttering for rain to flow off the roofs into the tanks. With the tanks ready for the next rainy season, the children of Marsabit will once again have enough to eat and will not have to worry about their learning being interrupted.