News & Current Affairs

August 25, 2008

Diary: Sierra Leone slum clinic

Diary: Sierra Leone slum clinic

Courtesy BBC

Fatmata with her one-year-old twins Kadija and Fatima who are on the Kroo Bay clinic malnutrition programme

Staff at a clinic in the coastal slum of Kroo Bay, in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, are keeping a diary of their working lives for the BBC News website.

Here, Adama Gondor, who runs the clinic, talks about the challenges of its malnutrition programme and renovation works on the clinic building.

Every Friday we distribute a corn-soya blend with oil and sugar mixed in for making porridge.

Every Wednesday we distribute plumpy nut – a peanut-based paste with all the nutrients a malnourished child needs, which comes from the World Food Programme.

We started more than three months ago and have now started to discharge our first patients.

First we had 60 in the programme, now we have 102. When we discharge we admit new ones.

[Parents] beg me not to discharge their children, they need the food for survival

We’re often low on food. I think we didn’t expect to find so many malnourished children.

It is because everything is expensive now. People cannot afford to buy food and the nutritional status of people has dropped.

If a mother who is breast-feeding is not eating properly, how can she have a healthy baby?

The plumpy nut is for severely malnourished children and at the moment we have 17 children who fall into that category.

Every day now, food prices is all people talk about.

It is poverty and rising food prices that are making people suffer here in Kroo Bay.

View of Kroo Bay

We are seeing many more cases of malnutrition – even though the children we treat are gaining weight from the food we give them.

We only discharge them when they are 85% of their ideal weight for three consecutive weeks.

It is difficult to discharge the children because the parents often get upset, they want the food which is a real supplement to what they can afford, they have come to rely on it.

They beg me not to discharge their children, they need the food for survival.

I try and explain that their children are no longer dangerously malnourished and other children need the food, and they leave sad and sluggishly.

It is so hard to discharge them, children here are vulnerable, they need good food.


About a month ago, reconstruction work in the clinic started. It is very exciting.

We are really happy knowing that in four or five months we will have a new, extended clinic.

Reconstruction work at the Kroo Bay clinic.

The clinic is being extended and fixed

Now we are getting three wards and an under-fives area. In the wards we’ll be able to admit patients for up to 72 hours.

The construction workers have just completed the foundations. On top of the new wards they’ll put an extra floor which will be my staff quarters, meaning I can always be on call for serious cases.

So far all the work is in the hall and although it is loud and dusty, it is not bothering us because we really want the clinic to change and be clean and hygienic.

The work is being done by Save the Children in collaboration with Concern, and I want to say thank you to all the people who have donated.

We really appreciate them sharing their earnings. We sincerely hope they’ll continue helping us – once the clinic is finished we’ll need drugs and equipment.

The Kroo Bay clinic staff

The Kroo Bay clinic staff are keeping a joint diary

Save the Children is running an interactive website where Kroo Bay residents answer questions about their lives. Visitors will be able to access 360-degree images of the site, and catch up with the latest news from the slum through regular “webisodes”.

August 23, 2008

N Korea ‘develops special noodle’

N Korea ‘develops special noodle’

A bowl of noodles (file image)

North Korea does not produce enough food to feed its population

North Korean scientists have developed a new kind of noodle that delays feelings of hunger, a Japan-based pro-Pyongyang newspaper has reported.

The noodles were made from corn and soybeans, the Choson Shinbo said.

They left people feeling fuller longer and represented a technological breakthrough, the newspaper said.

North Korea is dependent on foreign food aid. Last month the UN warned  that residents were experiencing their worst food shortages in a decade.

But the communist country remains reluctant to allow experts to fully assess the scale of the problem or give them adequate access to deliver aid.

UN warnings

According to the newspaper, which is seen as closely linked to the Pyongyang leadership, the new noodles have twice as much protein and fives times as much fat as ordinary noodles.

“When you consume ordinary noodles (made from wheat or corn), you may soon feel your stomach empty. But this soybean noodle delays such a feeling of hunger,” it said on its website.

The noodles would be available soon across North Korea, the newspaper said.

An estimated one million people starved to death in North Korea in the late 1990s after natural disasters and government mismanagement devastated the country’s economy.

In July, the World Food Programme warned that six million people were in urgent need of food aid, following severe flooding last year.

Most households had cut their food intake and more people are scavenging for wild foods, WFP assessors found.

August 14, 2008

Philippine displaced begin return

Philippine displaced begin return

A family sit at an evacuation centre in Pikit town on 13 August 2008

Tens of thousands of families were forced to leave their homes

Troops defused a bomb at a bus station in the southern Philippines, as people displaced by fighting between troops and Muslim rebels began to return home.

About 160,000 villagers fled violence which began in early August, after a deal expanding a Muslim autonomous zone was blocked.

Separatist rebels then occupied several villages in North Cotabato province, triggering a military assault.

Operations ended a day ago, and troops are encouraging families to return.

“We expect a considerable number of people to return home today. Since late Wednesday they were slowly going back, we are assuring them of their safety,” an army spokesman, Lt-Col Julieto Ando, was quoted as saying.

But many people still feared for the lives and were reluctant to return, aid agencies said.

Early on Thursday, security personnel defused a bomb planted at a bus station at Kidapawan town in the center of the province.

A military spokesman said it was probably a retaliatory measure by the retreating rebels.

‘Tainted relationship’

A boy salvages belongings from the ashes of his home in Takepan, North Cotabato province, on Tuesday, after it was razed by retreating rebels

The violence began when a deal that would have expanded an existing Muslim autonomous zone in the south fell apart.

The agreement had angered many Christian communities, who appealed to the Supreme Court to block it pending further hearings.

Several hundred guerrillas from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) then occupied 15 villages in North Cotabato – next to the autonomous zone.

The action triggered military air strikes and artillery assaults. At least two soldiers and more than two dozen rebels were killed.

Some of the tens of thousands of families who fled the fighting are now beginning to make their way back.


“The security situation has improved but it will probably take a bit of time before people feel secure enough to return home en masse,” Stephen Anderson, country director for the World Food Programme (WFP), told Reuters news agency.

“We have to be looking ahead to people having to potentially rebuild their lives – a lot of houses, villages have been destroyed.”

One local resident, whose house was looted, told the French news agency AFP that ties between Muslim and Christian communities would have to be rebuilt.

“The relationship has been tainted but our brother Muslims agreed we can rebuild it for the sake of our children.”

MILF rebels have been fighting for greater autonomy in the southern Philippines for almost four decades.

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