Kenneth Weiss, the Los Angeles Times journalist, has written part three of his exceptional five part series on the world's population explosion. Without question it is one of the finest pieces of journalism written in recent times about the 'hidden issue' of population. In "Beyond 7 Billion," he uses part three to examine hunger from his location in Dadaab, Kenya.
He opens this part at a hospital in the city when a starving child (above)is brought in for care. Weiss writes:
The boy was unconscious and convulsing when his aunt brought him to the hospital at Ifo camp, one of five massive camps in eastern Kenya filled with Somali refugees. The family had arrived months earlier after a nearly 300-mile journey across the desert.
Saad was suffering from pneumonia and chronic undernourishment — in particular, a protein deficiency known as kwashiorkor. The name derives from a West African term for "rejected one," a child pushed from his mother's breast to make way for a newborn.
Saad was 2½ years old. He weighed 18 pounds.
"This child has been sick a very long time," Dr. Ibtisam Salim said as she made her rounds in the hospital's stabilization center, a concrete building filled with emaciated children lying on squeaky metal beds.
She felt Saad's forehead and questioned his aunt, who was shooing away flies and using a soiled rag to wipe mucus from his oxygen and feeding tubes. The boy's mother was at home, tending to her seven other children.
Salim gently held up one of his feet, to show the swelling, a classic symptom of protein deficiency.
"Malnutrition opens up a very big window for infection," Salim said. "It destroys their defenses."
She heard a gasp and stiffened.
"Excuse me," she said, wheeling around on her heels and digging in her bag. She pulled out a stethoscope and held it to the boy's chest.
With the tips of three fingers, she began pumping rapidly on his frail torso.
Weiss then opens our eyes to the extent of world hunger:
-More people died of hunger every year than those who die of AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculous combined!
-Somalia, a nation of 10 million, has one of the highest birthrates in the world, averaging 6.4 children per woman. Runaway population growth, food scarcity and political strife have combined to cause a mass exodus. One-fourth of Somalis have fled their homes
-Forty percent of Somali children who reached the refugee camps in Dadaab were malnourished. Despite emergency feeding and medical treatment, many died within 24 hours
-Nearly 1 billion people are malnourished, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. At least 8 million die every year of hunger-related diarrhea, pneumonia and other illnesses .
-A child dies of hunger every 11 seconds.
-By mid century, global food production could simply be insufficient. There will be at least 2 billion more mouths to feed, and an expanding middle class will consume more grain-fed beef, pork and other meats.
-To meet the demand, the world's farmers will have to double their crop production by 2050, according to researchers' calculations.
-Most of Earth's best farmland is already under cultivation, and prime acreage is being lost every year to expanding cities and deserts, contamination from agricultural chemicals and other causes.
-Carving large new tracts of farmland out of the world's remaining forests and grasslands would exact a heavy toll, destroying wildlife and unleashing climate-warming gases now locked in soils and vegetation.
-Complicating the problem is that rivers and aquifers are running dry, and heat waves and droughts associated with global warming are withering crops. Pests and diseases
-Africa already is home to nearly 30% of the planet's chronically hungry. About 400 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1.25 a day, most of which is spent on food.
- a camp in Dadaab, people lined up to receive food are funneled through tunnels similar to cattle chutes. Through openings at various intervals, aid workers scoop wheat flour, cornmeal, dried peas, soy protein powder and salt into the refugees' gunnysacks. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
-When it opened in 1991, the camp complex in Dadaab was intended as a temporary shelter for 90,000 Somalis. It now holds the world's largest concentration of refugees: 472,000 and counting.
-On a blistering morning, more than 1,000 new arrivals massed outside the fence. Most had trudged through the desert for days or weeks.
-Guards bellowed at the mob with bullhorns and swatted men with switches to herd them into lines. Lone refugees were rare; the lines contained families of eight, 10 or more
-After some jostling and a sprint to the entrance, the refugees made their way through large tunnels similar to cattle chutes, fashioned from barbed wire, chain-link fencing and corrugated metal. Through openings at various intervals, aid workers scooped wheat flour, cornmeal, dried peas, soy protein powder and salt into the refugees' gunnysacks.
-Thousands of tons of food are distributed in these camps every year by the U.N.'s World Food Program and other aid organizations. The U.S. government pays most of the cost. Worldwide, the U.N. program feeds an average of 90 million people per year.
-In the village, the family travels four miles away to obtain water and carry it back four miles.
Weiss then returns us to the hospital where the malnourished child is fighting for his life.
At the hospital at Ifo camp in Dadaab, Dr. Salim used her fingers to spread Saad's upper and lower eyelids and shined a light into a pupil. Then she went back to work, compressing his chest.
Somali women covered head to toe in brightly colored scarves and dresses crowded around the bed.
A nurse squeezed through with a syringe of adrenaline.
"He's gasping," Salim said, tilting Saad's head back to open his airways.
The boy's aunt, with large frightened eyes, climbed onto the bed, squatting on her haunches. She poured water into his mouth from a red plastic cup.
"Mama, please, please, please ... Mama, please," Salim said, gently moving the woman's arm out of the way.
The doctor continued the chest compressions, faster now.
An assistant brought a hand-pumped respirator. Salim placed a clear plastic mask over the boy's nose and mouth and began squeezing the bag.
As she pumped air into his lungs, she handed her stethoscope to a nurse and said: "Listen — listen to the heart."
She watched as the nurse leaned over the child.
"Is there any heartbeat?"
The nurse met her gaze with a weary expression that left no doubt.
"There isn't," Salim said.
The doctor stepped away from the bed, leaned against the wall and silently wept.