Our Brothers' Keepers: Inside Haiti's Child Hunger Crisis
CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti What if you had to go to school in stifling heat, do homework with little to no light, and try and focus when you're also starving?
Pritchard and Dana Adams have seen this firsthand working in Haiti for more than 30 years. As a part of Rehoboth Ministries, they oversee three Christian schools.
"We had children that were fainting in school because of the heat and coming with an empty stomach, and we had a burden for years to be able to feed them," Dana told CBN News.
"And we had a feeding program when we had 400 students at the main compound and we just prayed and prayed for the Lord to give a deliverance in some way," she said.
God answered their prayer in the form of CBN's Orphan's Promise, which provided funds to start a feeding program in two of their schools.
"The capacity that we're geared for this year is about 1,200 students a day; we have about 900 that we're feeding right now so we still have 300 to go," Pritchard said.
Five days a week, students eat a nutritious meal prepared by Haitian cooks at the Rehoboth Ministry schools.
"They're more alert. They're able to pay attention more, makes all the difference," said Dana.
Dr. Patricia Wolff, founder of Meds and Food for Kids, or MFK, also saw a need when she started coming to Haiti in 1988.
"We would come back the next time and the kids who you saw who were malnourished, were sick again, or sometimes they had died in the meantime," Wolff recalled.
After 15 years of medical mission volunteer work, Wolff decided to do something on a bigger scale.
"So in 2003 we started with a little hand grinder and we mixed together peanuts, powdered milk, sugar, oil and we gave the kids extra vitamins and minerals. We started that in a Methodist church school room," she told CBN News.
"We made, that year, about 100 kilograms a month and we treated 10 kids a month," she said. "It was like a miracle. All the kids who looked half dead, popped up within a week or two and were cured within 6 to 8 weeks."
In 2012, MFK built a new state-of-the-art facility with the capacity to feed 80,000 children, turning raw peanuts into life-saving products.
Those products include: Medika Mamba, for the severely malnourished, Plumpy Sup, for moderate malnutrition and as a prenatal supplement, as well as Vita Mamba, a school snack.
All of the MFK products are made in Haiti using local workers, and whenever possible, Haitian raw materials.
"What we need to do in Haiti is go beyond rescue; we need to rescue people who are likely to die and don't have enough nutritious food to eat," Wolf said.
"But that doesn't go anywhere unless you actually develop the country, ignite economic development and employ their parents so that the next child and the next child in that family are not also malnourished," she explained.
These products give desperate parents a way to fight their children's malnutrition and keep their families together.
"A really common reason why a child would be in an orphanage is because the parents can't feed them, not because there are no parents," Wolff said.
Haitian children from 6 months to 3 or 4 years old are the core group facing malnutrition. That's the age when their brains are developing. Without proper nutrition, they will never be as smart or healthy as they could be.
"We have to go with the kids because the kids are the future and they are the most likely to be damaged," Wolf said. "And we know how to fix it. We just have to put resources into it; we have to be determined to put resources into it."
MFK now exports products to other developing countries, with both UNICEF and the World Food Program as major customers.
Our Brothers' Keepers
Even with the organization's growth, Dr. Wolff says her work is far from over.
"The world really shouldn't be this way. The way I feel about it is, there are some people in the world, like the people born in North America or Europe who kind of won the lottery," she explained. "And they have the possibility of living, maximizing their potential in life."
"They can live a long life," she continued. "They can get an education, they have clean water, they have clean sewer, they have immunizations, they have medical care and even in the worst instance, when they don't have health insurance, they show up some place, someone takes care of them."
"It isn't happening here," Wolff said. "None of those things happen here and it's just an accident of the people in Haiti being born here. They don't have a lot of resources, they don't have a lot of infrastructure and they really have a hard time keeping their children alive."
"We are our brothers' keepers," she concluded. "And their children are our children."