Safeguard Your Children’s Health
◻ Is the main problem in low-income groups
◻ Kills one child a minute in Latin America
◻ Killed 12 million children under one year in 1978
◻ Opens wide the door to disease
WHAT causes malnutrition? What are some other enemies of a child’s health? How are they related? What can you do to safeguard the health of your children against them?
Multiple Causes of Malnutrition
One basic cause of inadequate nourishment is, of course, economic. A recent UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) report on one country stated, “40 percent of the people are undernourished simply because they cannot afford to buy enough food.”
On the other hand, the same report observed that the 12 million children under one year of age who died in 1978 from malnutrition in developing countries “could have been saved if only 5 percent of the $400 billion spent annually on the purchases of weapons had been spent on the purchase of food to supplement their diet.” The words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, reportedly spoken in 1953, are still true today: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed. . . . This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending . . . the hopes of its children.”
At the same time, it must be kept in mind that malnutrition does not always imply a lack of food. Millions are undernourished because their diet too often includes food of little nutritional value, so-called junk food. The child appears well fed and healthy but may suffer from a protein or vitamin deficiency. Therefore, it could be said that undernourishment results from not having enough of the right food at the right time.
Parental neglect is also a serious factor. Such neglect could stem from unemployment, an oversized family, or simply an indifferent attitude on the part of the parents. In many cases, mothers are obliged to leave smaller children at home under the care of an older, but inexperienced, child, while they work outside the home to provide the basic necessities for the family. Or young children may simply be abandoned. It is reported of one South American city: ‘An average of 100 children under three years are abandoned each month.’
It has been stated, too, that “malnutrition opens wide the door to disease.” A sickly child often is unable to digest food properly, even when it is available. And a major cause of disease is the lack of a safe water supply. Without it, ‘dirt accumulates, germs breed, and flies spread diarrheal disease, which, when linked with malnutrition, is the single most common source of sickness and death among children of the developing world,’ says UNICEF. The World Health Organization estimated that the problem of infectious disease could be reduced worldwide by 80 percent if every family on earth had access to safe water supplies and sanitation. A dream, you say? Well, a report by UNICEF claims that ‘proper community water supplies and sanitation could be provided for all by 1990 for just $9 billion a year,’ whereas ‘the industrialized world spends over $100 billion a year just on alcoholic drinks.’ The resources are available. But will society use them in a way that results in the greatest good?
In spite of tremendous odds, well-meaning groups have taken steps to bring relief to those suffering from malnutrition. In 1976, the General Assembly of the United Nations resolved that 1979 be designated the International Year of the Child. An all-out effort was to be made to bring to the fore, worldwide, the terrible plight of the millions of undernourished children. Even though much was done, it is admitted that the results were insignificant compared with the needs of the children—so much so, it was stated, that, despite good intentions, it was all “no more than a reminder, an invitation.”
Irrespective of what others may have done, have you considered what you could do to safeguard your children’s health? Think for a moment about their food. If their diet is mainly one of white rice, manioc or fish, with few vegetables or fruits, or if they fill up with “junk” food, there is a possibility that they suffer from malnutrition. You can safeguard their health by providing them with a balanced diet, including regularly some of the following:
PROTEINS: meat, beans, eggs, milk and milk products
Vitamin A: cod-liver oil, liver, eggs
Vitamin B: meat, vegetables, whole wheat, unpolished rice
Vitamin C: citrus fruits, tomatoes
Vitamin D: fish, milk and milk products, eggs
Vitamin E: soybean oil, peanut oil
Vitamin H: cauliflower, carrots, spinach
Vitamin K: spinach, cabbage, tomatoes
(list is by no means complete)
Such a diet will help stave off malnutrition.
In order to supplement the family budget, could you grow a few vegetables or raise a few chickens in your own yard? Do not underestimate what can be grown on a small plot of ground. A single tomato plant has been known to produce over 100 tomatoes. You do not have any ground? It may be that you could rent some. The inspired proverb is encouraging: “He that is cultivating his own ground will have his sufficiency of bread.”—Prov. 28:19.
As a further safeguard, look at your water supply. Is it safe, free from pollution? Do not be deceived just because the water is crystal clear. Disease-spreading bacteria are invisible to the human eye. So, if you are not sure that your water is suitable for drinking, boil it for 10 minutes before using, then store in a covered container. Or, if toxic wastes are the problem, you may need to distill it or to use a filter designed for the purpose.
Moreover, a few precautions with regard to sanitation could mean the difference between sickness and health for your children. Unsanitary conditions attract flies, which transmit to food the filth and disease they pick up with their feet. So, as a safeguard, keep chickens and animals away from your water supply and from the house. Clean up their refuse regularly. Kitchen garbage, if not used as compost for fertilizer, should be disposed of properly. Screens on doors and windows will help to keep out flies and mosquitoes.
It may be that you are one of millions of people without proper sewage disposal. If this is true, safeguard your children’s health by installing a proper septic tank or, if this is not possible, be sure that all human wastes are buried or covered with quicklime. God considered this so important that he included it in his law to the nation of Israel, as a protection for their army when at war. The law stated: “A private place should be at your service outside the camp, and you must go out there. And a peg should be at your service along with your implements, and it must occur that when you squat outside, you must also dig a hole with it and turn and cover your excrement.” (Deut. 23:12, 13) This sanitary measure spared the Israelites from disease epidemics, which were a scourge to other armies.
Finally, do not overlook properly training your children to keep their bodies clean. A daily bath and a clean change of clothing contribute much to a child’s health and general well-being. Train your children to wash their hands after using the toilet and also before meals—no, not merely dipping hands in water, but washing thoroughly with soap and water and drying the hands on a clean towel.
The Real Solution
There is undoubtedly much that can be done to safeguard the health of children today. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that even if everyone did his share, all mankind, children as well as adults, would still be subject to sickness and eventual death. But the situation is not as hopeless as it might appear.
The day will come when all children will have enough to eat and clean water to drink. How? Not by human plans or efforts, no matter how sincere. But it will come by the hand of the One who created man and gave him the power to produce children. His purpose is to restore to this earth a paradise condition wherein “the earth itself will certainly give its produce” and, with proper distribution of food throughout the earth, “the meek ones will eat and be satisfied.” (Ps. 67:6; 22:26) That time is so near at hand that you and your children may well be living when those benefits begin. So, as you continue to safeguard your children’s health now, why not take time to learn of this real hope for the future? Jehovah’s Witnesses in your own neighborhood will be glad to help you to do so.
[Picture on page 13]
Grow a few vegetables or raise some chickens in your yard
[Pictures on page 14]
If your drinking water is unsuitable, you can boil it, distill it or use a filter
Keep animals away from your water supply and house
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Train children to wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, and also before meals