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Today, over 150 million children are malnourished and this contributes to three million child deaths each year. Our new exhibition, featuring images from the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Liberia, shares the stories of the individuals behind these statistics.
Three award-winning photographers worked on the project and each brought their own distinct style and perspective to depict the issue of hunger in their own way.
The exhibition is on display at the More London Riverside development near Tower Bridge, London until the end of October 2019. However, if you can’t make it in person, or if you just can't wait to take a sneak peek, here are some of the images and stories from Liberia that will feature.
The exhibition is part of Concern’s Free From Hunger appeal. Money raised from the appeal will help ensure mothers and babies get the food, water, nutrition and healthcare they need to recover from malnourishment and stay strong and healthy in the long term. All donations received before 24 December will be matched pound for pound by the UK government, ensuring even more children get the nutritious food and healthcare they need to reach their full potential.
This matched funding will go towards Concern’s work to improve the health and nutrition of mothers and children under five in the Central African Republic, where poor nutrition has led to the country being ranked as the world’s hungriest. The country has one of the world’s highest rates of child mortality, ongoing conflict has severely affected the livelihoods and living conditions of over half of the population, and over a million people have been forced from their homes, severely affecting households’ livelihoods and access to food.
Fourteen years of devastating civil war in Liberia ended in 2003, leaving infrastructure destroyed and the economy shattered. The country was only starting to recover when it was hit by Ebola in 2014. The needs are enormous, with 51 per cent of the population living below the national poverty line.
Around a quarter of the population does not have access to adequate healthcare, and health facilities are limited in the nutrition services they can provide.
Concern-supported Mothers’ Groups are an effective way for mothers to exchange advice on prenatal maternal health, breastfeeding, nutrition and hygiene in the home. Cookery demonstrations show them how to prepare nutritious meals and diversify diets with vegetables and locally available fruit. The groups also attempt to address ingrained gender inequalities and support women to access savings and loans, giving them some protection in emergencies and enabling them to start building a livelihood.
Photographer Nora Lorek travelled to Liberia and said:
I wanted to create a series that would show the strength and resilience of the women we met in Liberia. I used the fabrics which feature so often in the women’s lives as backdrops for their portraits.
A grandmother of ten, Esther is Chairwoman of the Concern-supported Mothers’ Group in the village of Pay Chea. She is also a trained traditional midwife who has been retrained by Concern to refer pregnant women to the local health facility, as well as being a member of the local savings and loan association. She said:
Thanks to Concern, I have seen many good changes in the community. They gave the group seeds to cultivate in our vegetable gardens. We no longer drink water from the creek but collect clean water from a community pump. Very few people are now sick with diarrhoea. We are able to access money, which enables us to feed our children.
Twenty-five-year old Jimmy is a member of Wrobone Town Mothers’ Group and savings and loan association, set up with Concern’s support. She has two children – Orphelia and Oliket. When Jimmy’s father fell ill last year, she made use of the community savings and loan association, borrowing money to hire labourers to cultivate her family’s land. She was also able to start up a small business selling frozen food and even begin work on a new house. She purchased a bucket to collect safe drinking water from the pump installed by Concern in order to cut the risk of disease. Jimmy also benefited from training from the Mothers’ Group, learning about the importance of breastfeeding and other good health and hygiene practices. She said:
All that I have learned has been good. The children will grow up healthy and content.
When 18-year-old Naomi’s son John was only a month old, he started to become malnourished. Concern-trained community workers saw that Naomi was bottle feeding him and encouraged her to start breastfeeding instead. Now, in Naomi’s words, “he is healthy and full of life.”
As a member of a Concern Mothers’ Group, Naomi is also benefitting from lessons on other ways to ensure John stays healthy. She said:
The advice and help I have received from Concern is good. It makes me happy.
Thirty-eight-year old Muabon is a member of a local Mothers’ Group established by Concern. Because of the training she received, she was able to provide advice to another of the village mums, Naomi, after her baby boy became malnourished.
She said: “There were people in the community who told Naomi to bottle feed baby John. And there were others who encouraged her to only give breastmilk. I told her not to use the bottle. I knew it wasn’t good. Why did I want to help her? She is like my sister. I knew from the beginning that Naomi was not giving the child breastmilk."
But it wasn’t until Concern came and explained it to her and her family, and counselled them, that she changed her behaviour and accepted it. I’m glad she listened in the end. John is a big boy now. In this community, he is everyone’s baby!
40-year-old Pedamar, pictured with her eleven-year-old son Surprise, used to beg for food for her five children. She did not have a house of her own and lived temporarily with her mother and with friends. A few years ago, she joined a savings and loan association set up by Concern and was able to build a house for her family with the money she borrowed. She now runs a small business selling soap and fish and is also
Chairwoman of the local Mothers’ Group, set up by Concern, after being chosen by the women in the village.
I can hold my head high. I can go anywhere without feeling ashamed. I can feed my children and clothe them. I do not have to beg for help or food. I am free and my life is settled.
Forty-six-year-old Mary is a member of a Concern-supported savings and loan association and Mothers’ Group. Thanks to the training she has received in the Mothers’ Group, she is able to demonstrate how to cook a meal for a sick or malnourished child. These cookery demonstrations show mums how to prepare nutritious meals and diversify diets with vegetables and locally available fruit, like papaya, banana and pineapple. She said:
I learned the recipe that I cooked today from Concern. I have prepared the dish many times before for children in the village – they are growing up healthy. I feel good about teaching other women and seeing them repeat what they have learned.
When Handful’s son Israel (two) was 18 months old he weighed just 4.4 kg and was unable to walk because he was severely malnourished.
An infection that had developed after the birth of her first child meant Handful was unable to breastfeed any of her children so Israel wasn’t getting the nutrients he needed to develop properly. Concern staff immediately referred Israel to the nearest clinic for treatment. Concern also covered the cost of transportation to the clinic because Handful couldn’t afford the fare. She said:
I went back every week for them to monitor his health. He was treated for four months. After that, Israel started to walk and regain his weight. I feel so happy that he is much better