Tagged: malnutrition

Starved for attention

I didn’t post here yesterday because I was hard at work writing up a piece about Call the Midwife for Bitch Magazine’s blog. If you’re interested, you can read it here.

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Nine children die every minute because their diet lacks essential nutrients. They will continue to do so unless food aid changes. Visit the Doctors Without Borders website for more information.

Today is World Food Day.

There’s always something when it comes to children and food.

They can be unbearably picky. They can be greedy. They can miraculously survive on different combinations of white flour, sugar and food coloring for months and months on end.

I’m thinking about this today because my son hasn’t been feeling well.  On Wednesday he threw up in the morning, and then again in the afternoon.  He went to sleep early, and seemed okay when he woke up, but then he was upchucking all over again the next day. He’s stopped throwing up now, but he still says he feels sick. He refuses dinner yesterday night, choosing instead to languish on the couch while we all watched Lars von Trier’s not really that child appropriate  Melacholia.

When it comes to throwing up, I always worry.  He was born 12 weeks premature, which is notoriously hard on the digestive system. He was so small, just two little pounds. He had terrible acid reflux as a baby, making digestion and burping very painful. It’s been years since then, but whenever he catches a stomach bug, it brings back those memories.

It makes me obsess about food.

He’s small, and I worry that he’s losing weight. After he stopped throwing up and eased back into regular food, I bought peanut butter ice cream, and protein shakes. I scrambled some eggs with half-and-half, and took him out for French fries and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich soaked in butter. And then I worried that I shouldn’t be letting him eat meat because what if he gets E.coli? Or mad cow disease? Or salmonella?

But then I have a reality check.

In 2011, almost 7 million children under the age of five died, most from conditions that were preventable or treatable with access to simple and affordable interventions. A full third of childhood deaths are related to malnutrition.

Malnutrition is a cycle. Women who don’t get enough to eat give birth to malnourished children, and the cycle continues. Furthermore, men tend to have more access to food than women, and women are the ones who are look after the children in most settings.

Not having enough food is mostly prevalent in Sub Saharan African and Southeast Asia. In the US, we don’t worry really about malnutrition.

The number one killer of children in this country is accidents.  That’s a whole other level of worry. You can put a helmet on your child, or make sure you keep an eye on him when he’s on the monkey bars. You can buy a great car seat, and put a fence up around the pool. There are lots of things you can do to keep your child safe, and they probably won’t die from an accident.

But malnutrition? That’s a whole other ballgame.

There are 20 million young children around the world don’t have enough to eat or don’t have access to clean water; and for every child who is sick, there is a mother experiencing a personal crisis. Before I had a child, I couldn’t really understand this. But I’ve seen my baby with no fat on his little body, eyes sunken, bum like two deflated balloons. I’m haunted by it, but I know that the chances of us revisiting those days is slim.

My kind of maternal anxiety is a luxury.