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The Way to Stop an Unfolding Food Crisis for Children

The Way to Stop an Unfolding Food Crisis for Children

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Published by willem van cotthem

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Published by: willem van cotthem on Dec 23, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Which way would you go to stop an unfolding food crisis forchildren?
By Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem
University of Ghent
BelgiumDrought and Desertification Consultant
Then you know that UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake “
called today on the global community to take action to prevent one million children in the Sahel region of West and Central  Africa from becoming severely malnourished.
He said
We must begin at once to fill the pipelinewith life-sustaining supplies to the region before it is too late
.” and “
underscored the urgency to act 
before the ‘lean season’ when food runs out due to inadequate rain or poor harvests, which can start 
as early as March in some of the countries across the Sahelian belt.
 I fully agree that UNICEF and its partners must be prepared to get sufficient amounts of ready-to-usetherapeutic foods to treat severe acute malnutrition. I also agree on
each child has the right to survive,to thrive and to contribute to their societies.
we must not fail them
! Nice children in the Sahara desert getting healthier food with vitamins and micronutrients
thanks to UNICEF’s family gardens (Photo WVC)
However, the real question is if the best way of solving the problem of child malnutrition is gettingsufficient therapeutic foods to intervene when the need increases.Or, could it be that a well-prepared programme of vegetable and fruit production by the Sahelianfamilies themselves is a better cure?One may doubt about the feasibility of such a programme, but knowing that UNICEF itself was
successful with its own “
Family gardens project for the Sahrawis families in the Sahara desert of Algeria
“, there can’
t be any doubt anymore. If family gardens, school gardens and hospital gardenscan be productive in the desert, they can certainly be in the Sahel, where a better rainfall offers morechances to use the minimum of water needed.Many families in the Sahara desert avoid malnutrition of their children by producing freshvegetables and fruits in their small UNICEF garden (Photo WVC)It should not be extremely difficult to accept that it is better to produce fresh food and fruits for thechildren in the threatened countries of the Sahel (like everywhere on this world!) than to have to spend billions of dollars at purchasing therapeutic foods for children already malnourished.
Yes, “
we must not fail them
“, and we will surely not fail them by offering them chances to take care of 
their own family gardens and school gardens.In the drylands, there are ten thousands of successful small gardens. We have the necessary knowledge
and technical skills to duplicate these “best practices” wherever we want, even in the desert.
Whowould still hesitate to take initiatives to graduall
y “submerge” the Sahel with small fa
mily gardens andschool gardens?If there is a pipeline to be filled, it should be filled with the necessary materials to create familygardens and school gardens.
Shall we continue to appeal on “solidarity” for raisin
g billions of dollars for responding to thesuccessive crisis periods in the drylands? Or shall we, once and for all, spend a minor part of thatmoney on enabling sustainable food production by the local people themselves?

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