"Save the Children" -- and then what?

This one’s probably been bandied about in the past, but I figure what with the holidays and all, might as well raise the topic again.

Someone was telling me about how her church has rallied to support a member who’s going to take 3,000 boxes of food (some particular mix of lentils/grain designed for children) to Sierra Leone in January.

My friend related that the population there is so desperate that women are stealing food sent to feed their babies. The women are starving. They’re letting their babies die. Mothers don’t even bother naming their children until they’re 3 years old, because so few of them live that long.

I haven’t verified that these statements are true, but for the sake of argument will accept them as given.

I’m baffled.

I applaud the emotion that leads people to want to help, absolutely. I think that’s one of our best qualities as human beings.

But anyone who’s raised a pet KNOWS that the bigger they get, the more they eat.

Does supporting babies (but not their parents) really make any sense?

What sense does it make to increase the population by keeping babies alive?
Who’s going to feed these kids once they aren’t little and cute anymore?

And is there anything we really CAN do to help these people? Is there a way to actually decrease their suffering? Because I’d love to get behind that.

You hear more about emergency measures like feeding starving babies precisely because the most public fundraising campaigns are for emergencies, because of the urgency and because they are the ones that get the massive public response.

Very few aid agencies will be just feeding the babies - they might not go into detail in their emergency appeals but if you look into what they’re doing, this will usually be combined with long-term, preventive measures, as far as circumstances will permit - vocational training, nutritional education and small business loans for the mothers, campaigning and lobbying on a local and international level on related issues.

In the worst war zone, refugee camp situations there might not be much more going on than emergency feeding programmes, but in this day and age the aid organisations usually have a medium/long term post-emergency strategy aimed at equipping the people with skills and knowledge for improved self-sufficiency so that they are not rendered helpless in future emergencies.

That’s really good to read.

Because, honestly, I was irked at the idea of blaming these mothers for “stealing” their babies’ food. I don’t see babies as being more worthy than their parents.
Guess the aid agencies can’t win for losing - on the one hand, they’ve got to reach the people who respond to appeals on behalf of children; and OTOH, there are grumps like me who are offended by that campaign approach and want to know how the bigger problems are being addressed.

Not to mention that if these women are nursing, it makes sense for them to “steal” the food, as they need it to make food for their babies!

But yeah, as to the larger question, I’ve often wondered it myself. I know lots of food pantries here in the US get pretty lean by June, as all the holiday donations are long gone, and it’s not sexy to hold a food drive in the summertime. And honestly, I try to remember to donate just as much if not more then, but I’m not sure I always succeed.

Blood drives sometimes have to turn people away during times of crisis, there are so many volunteers, but then when there’s no big disaster in the news, they’re desperate for donors; people in the hospital still need blood, but people forget that donation is still required.

The problem is, people need to be reminded and/or nagged to donate stuff. Like with any advertising, emotional appeals are a great way to get people to take out their wallets.

And people are biologically wired to want to care for infants, even if they’re not theirs. Watch people in a store get twitchy when a baby cries. They may dress up their annoyance in talk about rude parents and bratty kids, but fundamentally and unconsciously, they don’t feel good when they hear crying because it releases stress hormones in 98% of adults within hearing distance. Blood pressure and heart rate go up, and adrenaline causes that, “Arrrgh! Must. Do. SOMETHING!!!” feeling that most of us don’t like. We want to make that feeling go away, whether it’s by donating lentils or putting social pressure on parents to comfort their children.

But absolutely, whether considering donating to a local food pantry or an overseas Save the Pagan Babies effort, the ethical and mindful donor will check supporting documentation to see that they have a solid foundation in place and that underlying support structures are being put in place as well as palliative measures.

My problem with the whole “Feed the Children” campaign is that it’s always for some third world country. What’s wrong with the system that helps those people but ignores the starving families living here in the United States? (Or if you’re Canandian, I’m sure you’re as puzzled as to why your countrymen are left to struggle while resources are being donated to help folks in another hemisphere)

We have local food pantries and soup kitchens. Also, the U.S. is a country where even the poor people have color TVs. It’s hard to be poor, but it’s harder to be Sierra Leone poor.

I would sooner ship over condoms or support sex ed initiatives in poor areas than feed the babies who will have babies of their own in 12-13 years that now need to be fed themselves.

I watched a CNN report recently about an impoverished couple in Mexico living in an illegal shanty town erected on a former beauty spot in a National Park.

The husband grew crops that Quote Nobody wanted UnQuote (So why grow them?)and earned only ninety dollars a week.

Their shanty apparently had no water or power(Except that illegal power hookups were very much in evidence.) and the reporter seemed to be making a case for their being morally entitled to emigrate to the U.S.

And I must admit that I did have a degree of sympathy for them.

That is until the woman revealed that they had SIX,yes SIX children.

It beggars belief,they are complaining about how hard things are for them so what do they do?

Bring even more mouths that they cant feed into the world.

No doubt that if they WERE allowed to emigrate north they’d suddenly have an attack of responsibility and feed the kids they already have.
Or would they with an improved lifestyle go out and have another five,six or seven kids and then bemoan the lot of their being members of the urban poor.

This is a problem that I have seen generally throughout many third world countries,not just Mexico.

They’re not deprived because of bad luck or because the West is more efficient in industry or agriculture but because of their own sheer irresponsibility.

They’re not "developing"nations,they haven’t developed over the last two thousand years and seem unlikely to develop in the next two thousand judging by their outlook on life generally which is "grab whatever I can for me personally and dont worry about your society as a whole,any surplus wether in food or money then eat it or spend it now and dont worry about any potential problems in the future and of course just keep having children without prior thought,if we cant feed them then they’ll either die(plenty more where they came from)or Western aid will take care of them.
My Ghast is well and truly Flabbered!

I remember, when I myself was a child, being a bit bothered by campaigns to save the children, feed the children, help the children, donate to the children… What about the adults? I thought. Doesn’t anybody care about them? Is that what I have to look forward to: when I grow up, nobody will care whether I live or die?

As I grew older, I came to understand the reasoning behind such appeals. For one thing, we’re psychologically wired to want to take care of children and to feel nurturing toward them. And for another thing, while adults may bear some of the responsibility for their own situations, there’s no question that children are in the circumstances they are in through no fault of their own.

The difference is, pets are fed and supported by their owners no matter how old they get. People are supposed to become productive members of society.

In areas that are not overpopulated, the more kids you have, the better off you are, once they become old enough to work in the fields or help with the hunting and gathering. The “Stop having babies—there are too many mouths to feed already” mentality, while it makes a certain sense in many areas today, is not one that came naturally through most of human history.

I agree with you. I have always thought that it would be a better option or a better addtion to the help they are getting. But a lot of people don’t seem to see this.

This is exactly right. It’s easy for us rich westerners to tell the silly little foreigners to stop having babies, but unless you’re prepared to spend billions of your own $ to give that particular country a workforce that can generate enough wealth to support an elderly population, then you’ll have to invoke Godwin and advocate a widespread cull of anyone too old to feed themselves. Babies are a Third World 401K. Not a good one, but it’s the best that’s available.

I am fairly sure that the description is somewhat exaggerated to tug the heartstrings: who’s going to cook and distribute the food to the kids? The lentils and whatnot will I’m sure go to the mothers as well, if not even primarily, to allow them to feed themselves and suckle their kids, as well as giving solids to the older kids.

(Alternatively, you can save the children until you have a full set, then trade them with your friends!)

Taking as the first point"Us rich Westerners",our wealth wasn’t given to us on a plate by someone,we built it up ourselves over the centuries,sometimes in not very hospitible places.
It wasn’t just good luck on our part,it was by our own efforts.

As to spending billions of our own dollars on supporting the elderly I would quite happily go for that option in return for the feckless,irresponsible foreigners having only those children that they can afford to support themselves.

At the moment we are spending billions on supporting those children who otherwise wouldn’t be there in the first place to support the elderly
(does it really take a family of twelve adults to support two old people?Do they really eat that much?)

Who of course become old people in their turn increasing the problem.
Another thing that I dont understand is that I always thought that people close to starving to death became infertile, plus wouldn’t have the surplus energy to waste on such a superflous activity as lovemaking when finding food is the priority.

That is breaking down in a lot of the third world. I read an article recently on China/Korea and India where the current generation is seeing less “obligation” to their parents. Global trade is making it less acceptable to have your four year old work in a factory - which delays the amount of time until your children become contributing - and extends the amount of time you need to put resources you don’t have into them. These pressures are combining to change birth rates in parts of India (China has had birthrates changed due to mandate, and Koreans have traditionally had smaller families to start with - nor is South Korea a third world nation - they are just in the discussion because they have a long tradition of taking care of parents that is starting to break down).

Mexico (and much of Central/South America) has heavy Catholicism on top of economic pressures to have children - and a “macho” culture that translates lots of children into male virility. Parts of Africa have the Catholic “no birth control” thing happening as well.

…like Africa, Asia, South America…

I’ll buy your condom remark, but not this one

A great deal of “our” wealth is the result of luck, natural resources, timing, ingenuity by a few exceptional individuals, and exploitation of LOTS of people.

We take it as a birthright.

I would offer the following:

Similar to the way the developing nations exploit their children (note the commonest reason for them having children they can’t afford is that it’s their 401K)?

There is plenty of exploitation blame to go around, I suspect…

Most national wealth creation is tied to two things: Lucky enough to have great natural resources or lucky enough to have a populace smart enough to exploit something effectively. Or both.

Another reason for a high birth rate is a high mortality rate. In countries like the one I live in, older people say “un hijo no es nada” - one child is nothing - because it used to be so common for children to die in infancy.

Once a population is more educated and/or affluent the birth rate goes right down.