Chad: New York Times’ Journalist Nicholas Kristof visits Australian sponsorship project

New York Times journalist, Nicholas Kristof, visited World Vision Australia’s Loumia sponsorship project in Chad – a project that is nearing the end of its 15 year cycle. He was joined by World Vision US’s Johnny Cruz, where they met with beneficiaries and learnt about the impact sponsorship was having in these communities.

By Johnny Cruz, World Vision US

When Noris gave birth to her baby she was given some tragic medical advice, which ultimately cost her baby his life. She was told by a doctor that something was wrong with her breast milk and that she should not breastfeed her baby. Because of this, the child eventually became malnourished and later died.

Noris’ devastating experience underscores the myriad challenges facing women and children in Chad, home to the fourth worst child mortality rate in the world — 169 children out of 1,000 die before age 5.

Through World Vision, Australian sponsors are making a dramatic difference in the lives of women and children across many communities in Chad.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof joined young journalist Erin Luhmann on a visit to the Loumia sponsorship program in Chad as part of Kristof’s annual Win-A-Trip visit to Africa, which Luhmann won. The aim of the competition is to bring more awareness to the issues of global poverty and development.

World Vision Australia has had a program in Loumia since 1999, collaborating with the community of more than 36,000 residents through education, health programs, water projects, and child sponsorship.

“Before World Vision came here we had big health problems,” said Loumia resident Guengueng. “Women and children were not informed, and when a child got sick people waited too long to get treatment.”



Pleas for access to health care

Throughout Loumia and other communities in Chad, World Vision has significantly increased the overall health of children, measured through specific “child health indicators”. These include access to bed nets to prevent malaria, prenatal care, vaccination rates, and treatment for illnesses such as diarrhoea.

A group of mums in the Loumia project met with Nicholas, Erin, and World Vision staff to discuss the complex health challenges for women and children in the nation.

They cited lack of access to specific medications, vaccines, and medical care only available at an expensive hospital.

“When you don’t have the means, you get malaria, typhoid, or cholera,” said one mum. Another stated that it is nearly impossible to secure an X-ray, blood test, or other medical service, even if the situation is critical.

Quality health education is another major concern, which they say results in children suffering from illnesses that could be avoided through better hygiene and sanitation practices.

The complex effects of poverty and cultural factors around the role of women in Chad complicate the health situation. While many of the women understood the benefits of breastfeeding, they had to spend significant amounts of time away from their babies to secure food or income for their families.

Culturally, women are often the last people in the family to eat a meal, even if they are pregnant, leading to less food consumption and unhealthy pregnancies.

And in Noris’ case, poor medical advice contributed to the death of her child.

'Significantly improving child mortality rates is achievable'

World Vision has been committed to a long-term presence in the Loumia project and in other communities in Chad has been giving children an opportunity for a healthy and full life.

Because of this commitment, World Vision has trained 30 people to serve as “immunisers” throughout the Loumia project. Each immuniser has access to a bicycle and travels throughout the community providing immunisations to women and children who are unable to visit a clinic or hospital.

With the help of Australian supporters like you, World Vision has quadrupled the number of clean water access points, built latrines at local schools, provided medicines and vaccines to local clinics, and increased access to mosquito nets to reduce the incidence of malaria in this community.

World Vision collaborates with government, nurses and educators to teach Chadians about effective hygiene and sanitation practices.

John Scicchitano, national director of World Vision in Chad, says bettering the health situation for babies and young children is its highest priority. “Significantly improving child mortality rates is achievable,” says Scicchitano. “With nutrition, sanitation, education, and increased access to life-saving medicines and vaccines, we can save the lives of thousands of children.” Your support means that this is within reach.