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Saturday, March 14, 2015

A baby dies every single hour in Swaziland. Can eggs help?




On Monday, March 9th the front page headline of a National newspaper claimed that “Over 8,860 babies die in 11-months”, and for anyone reading that with a smart phone or calculator nearby you can do the math to see that more than 26 babies die every day in Swaziland. That is shocking.

The article went on to explain, “At least 8,860 infants have died in the past 11-months.  This figure is based on the Infant Morality Rate (IMR) of 54.82 as per American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 2014 Country Health Ratings.  IMR refers to the number of children under a year old who die in a given population per thousand.  It is an indicator used to measure the health and well being of a nation.”

Swaziland has the 5th highest IMR in the world, only topped by Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

99% of all Childhood Mortality is found in developing nations and it is estimated that 60%-80% of all of those deaths are directly related to low birth weight.*

You can go to the link below and research this yourself, but let me explain this in layman’s terms (or Janine’s terms) how I interpret this based only on my personal observations and experience in Swaziland over the past 10 years.

First, those numbers, based on the CIA, are calculated on a ratio to live births in the country. Therefore, it would be safe to assume that they don’t include babies who die on the side of the river, in pit latrines, who are burned to death by their parents or die of malnutrition at home because their mother was too poor to take them to a hospital.  The number is much higher, I promise you, but undocumented. I am glad to get that off my chest.

Next, while there are other factors that lead to low birth weight, a malnourished mother is at the top of the causes.  I have seen hundreds of women who are in the labor ward at the hospital who hardly look 6-months pregnant, let alone ready to deliver a full term baby.  Women living in the rural communities are living on pap (a porridge made strictly from ground maize/corn, similar to grits, but without the butter or salt).  These young mothers are starving, their babies are starving (and dying) and the other children who are living in the homestead are suffering in the same way, but somehow they dodged becoming a Childhood Mortality statistic.

We are told that 65% of all Swazi’s depend on International Food Aid for one meal a day.  In much of the country the only meal a child will receive in a day is their school lunch, which is provided by the government from Monday to Thursday.  Friday to Monday are very long, hungry days.

Heart for Africa is trying to do our part in helping feed Orphaned and Vulnerable children through our rural church partners.  We currently feed 3,500 children every week and provide 74,000+ hot meals every month.  We distribute Feed My Starving Children “Manna Pack’s” along with ground maize from Project Canaan to the churches every two weeks.  But the churches are being stretched by more and more hungry children, and so are we.

Here is where this story gets hopeful.  Ian and I will be flying to Canada on March 22nd at the invitation of the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC - www.eggfarmers.ca).  We will be speaking at their Annual General Meeting and sharing with the Canadian egg farmers, and the Canadian population through media about the plight of the children of Swaziland (both born and unborn).  The EFC has signed a partnership agreement with Heart for Africa to fund, build, support and provide training for an Egg Farm on Project Canaan that will provide thousands of hardboiled eggs each and every day that we will then distribute to the children in our rural feeding projects.

“Once complete, the Egg Farm will provide fresh eggs for all the children living on the Project Canaan Farm, and also help thousands of people in the community by providing a high quality, locally produced protein, that’s essential for human growth and development.”  Tim Lambert, CEO Egg Farmers of Canada.

Providing eggs isn’t going to solve the Infant Mortality Rate of Swaziland overnight, but over time, eggs can play a significant role in increasing the County Health Rating and I do believe that they will save many lives and increase the health of thousands of children. In the meantime, we will do our part by saving the babies that we can, and providing for them with the support of our friends.

Live from Swaziland … I want to Get Crackin’ (and make breakfast).

Janine

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