The village of hunger
In August, JAM’s Founder and Group CEO Peter Pretorius travelled to Angola as one of his many annual trips to JAM’s programme countries in Africa. On his return to Head Office, at an extraordinary public address to staff, Peter told a story of a community he had visited.
While visiting the Ganda Malnutrition Clinic, which JAM supports by supplying lifesaving therapeutic formula for children, Peter was told about a village called Tchilima – where countless children had died from starvation. Incensed and desperate to help, Peter and a team travelled to the remote village in Ganda Municipality, Benguela Province, Angola.
Following a six-hour long journey along eroded roads, cattle and motorbike paths deep into the Angola bush they arrived at Tchilima. The sight of thin children without the energy to move, failed crops and dying livestock, confronted Peter. The joyful sound of children’s laughter that is typical of the rural communities JAM works with was gone, and had been replaced by silence and sense of helplessness.
After spending time talking to the women of the village, a disturbing trend began to emerge, and Peter realised that the struggles of this community were worse than he feared. Distressed by the testimonies of hunger, struggle and death, Peter asked a group of 30 women to raise their hands and show by the count of their fingers how many children they had lost to hunger and starvation.
The actions of the women would shock even Peter, who has travelled and worked all across Africa. At first, some woman raised two fingers, others four, some six fingers and then, horrifically, two raised ten fingers.
The plight of Tchilima has moved Peter. While JAM was not feeding children in this village before, two weeks after his visit, JAM is now supplying vital nutritional food to the children there. Despite, the undoubted success of JAM’s programmes in Africa over the past 30 years, the story of Tchilima is proof that the struggle against hunger is far from over in Africa.