Living, Without Food

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Source: UNICEF.

The conditions in Somalia are a hell on earth, with some four million people starving, including 800,000 children. I want to help, in any way I can. I want to understand how this happened and why.

From The Pump Handle:

These horrific conditions exist in Somalia’s Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions. Much of the rest of the country, as well as neighboring parts of Ethiopia and Kenya, are experiencing food emergencies. This BBC story includes a map of the affected area and a few numbers: 10.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 25% of Somalia’s 7.5 million population are displaced.

Aid groups face multiple challenges in their efforts to feed so many malnourished and starving people.

What happens during starvation?

…the energy accumulations are in the form of caloric values of grams of lipids (fats), proteins and glucose. During longterm exercise or starvation, glycogen stores are depleted. The body begins to transform stored fatty acids into molecules called ketone bodies which are then used as an alternative to glucose as an energy source for the brain.

How long can you live without food? It depends, of course, upon your body type. Mathematicians modeled this and found that there is a wide range from about 50 to 90 days, as long as you have water.

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There is a ray of hope: The clocking is ticking and something as simple as Plumpy’Sup arriving this week can save Somalia’s future.

From The Pump Handle:

On NPR’s Shots blog, Whitney Blair Wyckoff takes a closer look at the food the WFP is airlifting into Mogadishu. Yesterday’s shipment, the first since famine was declared, features Plumpy’Sup, a peanut-based paste that supplies protein, vitamins, and minerals in packets of around 500 calories each. The packets don’t require refrigeration, have a long shelf life, and can be eaten straight out of the pouch.

Comments

  1. #1 Janice in Toronto
    July 29, 2011

    The diagram is just peachy if you happen to be a man.

    Is there a diagram for women?

    Just asking…

  2. #2 Jeff
    July 29, 2011

    Good point, highlighting the general underrepresentation of women’s health in the scientific and medical literature – a topic for another day.

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