June is National Dairy Month. There are many ways to celebrate. You can thank your local dairy farmers or attend events. It’s also time to think outside the carton and look to the importance of milk overseas too.
Milk “does a body good” and it’s also saving lives in countries facing war and famine. UNICEF, the children’s branch of the United Nations, provides therapeutic milk in treatment centers for severe malnutrition.
In South Sudan and Central African Republic, war has forced many families from their homes. These are families that were already living in poverty, but now have lost everything. They may even walk for days to find some sense of safety, maybe in a refugee camp, a church, or a UN compound. Food is hard to find under these extreme conditions.
Small children are most vulnerable because lack of food causes severe malnutrition. UNICEF and other aid agencies are the only things that can save them. Treatment centers are set up and small children are provided therapeutic milk, which is easy to digest. Milk and foods like Plumpy’Nut are among the first choices used to save the children. These nutrient-rich foods can help them come back from the malnutrition.
In South Sudan over one million people have been displaced since fighting began late last year between the government and opposition forces. UNICEF works with partner agencies on the ground to distribute therapeutic milk to children in treatment centers.
It is a race against time. Malnutrition can cause lasting physical and mental damage, or worse, if left untreated. Funding is a huge problem as UNICEF and other agencies rely on voluntary donations. They are facing increasing emergencies given all the conflicts. They don’t have the funds to keep up. The war in Syria is one of the largest humanitarian emergencies we have ever seen. This conflict added on to the wars in Africa is a tremendous strain on humanitarian operations.
We have seen tough times before and come through. After the Second World War, children overseas thought the English word for milk was UNICEF. That is because of all the cups of milk they were able to get because of the generosity of Americans who were willing to rescue them from hunger.
That is a great tradition to remember for National Dairy Month as we face a summer where famine is threatening children in Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria.
For more information please visit UNICEF USA.