A Picture of Health 22nd April, 2016
Whether you are a parent with your own little ones to worry about, a teacher who cares for their charges or are just in possession of an excellent memory, you will know that children will catch whatever is going.
Now in Britain, for the most part, that means runny noses, scraped knees and the odd bout of chicken pox or head lice. There’s no argument that these kinds of childhood experiences are unpleasant, uncomfortable and at times ‘unbearable’. But we don’t know how lucky we are.
In other corners of the world, children are suffering far more than the bumps and bruises so familiar to our playgrounds. Yet, it is these children who are continually forgotten - or worse, intentionally overlooked. With mumbles of “charity starts at home” and “our kids need things too”, it is evident where the majority’s priorities lie.
Walls stay up even in the wake of horrifying images in the media; pictures of distraught and deceased children, desperate to escape a war they played no part in.
Take a moment, though, and really think about what it is these children go through.
Caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites. The recent water crisis in Syria (as highlighted by Unicef in 2015) meant children and adults were contracting acute diarrhoea from contaminated water - their only option. This is the choice children and parents have to make on a daily basis; die of thirst or risk severe water-borne illness.
A horrible viral infection of the liver, Hepatitis A brings about fever, joint and muscle pain, nausea and diarrhoea. Severe infections can even cause jaundice, itchiness and internal swelling. Unlike the antibiotic relief we might get for other infections, there is no cure for Hepatitis A. In rare instances, where complications occur, liver failure is a risk.
Hyperthermia & Hypothermia
The extreme temperatures in desert regions like Africa and Asia can have serious health implications. In the hot, dry summer months bodies can react with hyperthermia and other heat-related illnesses. Then, during the cold winter months, especially at night, hypothermia can set in. Suffering for all seasons.
Malnutrition & Dehydration
Without the luxury of grocery stores and plentiful farms, children go without. Of course, parents and aid workers will do what they can with what they have, but many children go through agonising malnutrition. Adding insult to injury is the lack of clean water, or any water, which means those who know the dangers and choose not to drink suffer dehydration and subsequent illnesses.
For vulnerable children dealing with the constant fear of death, war and other evils, every day is a mental and emotional battle, as well as a physical struggle. And with no end to conflict and suffering in sight, these pressures are sustained and growing. This can lead to depression, even in the younger children, as well as throughout their teens and adulthood.
As with any dirty, unsanitary and unsafe surrounding, infection is a risk for many of the children we work with. Bacterial infection from dirty living quarters or contaminated water is compounded by the lack - and absence - of vital medicines. Not just painful - infections of wounds sustained through anything from militant attacks to child labour can cause sepsis and death.
And what happens when a desperate family pleads to save the life of their sick and injured child? Desperate measures. For those in need of a last resort, amputation is often the answer, whilst others lose limbs and more in initial attacks. More than the loss of an arm or leg, though, these children lose their independence, and even their already-limited prospects, becoming more of a target.
And these are but a snapshot of what babies, toddlers and minors are going through each and every day in war-torn regions like Syria.
So next time your little angel suffers from sniffles, thank your stars and think of the children who are in pain, dying and without hope for medicine or treatment. Spare a thought for the volunteers who go to these places and help mend broken babies. Support Islamic Help and its campaigns; let’s go out of our way to do something.