Day 9: April 1

Hunger, Malnutrition and Starvation

This, from dedicated i-ACT follower Carole who has a medical background, will help us all understand the effects of what our Darfuri friends are experiencing. Hunger, Malnutrition and Starvation.

Hunger is ‘not enough food’ to satisfy body needs. It results in ravenous hunger, eating nearly anything available and lots of it. Eventually, the body adjusts but the appetite doesn’t.

Malnutrition results from lack of balanced food intake, which must include protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals; all of these are necessary to properly utilize food. When food is not readily available, the body is thrown off balance, which results in weight loss from the digestion of body fat first, then muscle, then vital organs to keep the body alive. Internally, there are adjustments made: vital organs survive upon foodstuffs which ordinarily could not be used.

The weight loss becomes extreme as malnutrition becomes starvation. The skin hangs on the body, the facial contours change with temple wasting as a giveaway sign. Hair begins to lose pigment, thin, and then fall out. The person becomes so weak that appetite is radically diminished: the effort to eat and the energy needed to digest exceed bodily strength. Lethargy, apathy and onset of opportunistic diseases (bacterial, parasitic) besiege the helpless system.

In closed circumstances, such as prison camps or punishment, death from starvation follows. In open circumstances, such as starving populations, disease usually kills first.

Worth mentioning here is Kwashiorkor, a disease of children caused by protein deficiency in malnutrition. Malnourished children eat whatever vegetables or roots they can find; protein is not available. Signs of this are orange hair, swollen bellies from liver disease, vomiting, diarrhea (which contains undigested food), ulcerated peeling skin and sloughing of tissue/development of ulcers throughout the digestive tract. Extreme pain is present. The ulcers are entry points for bacteria and death usually occurs from overwhelming infection.

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