By DR. JULIA NEWTON-HOWES
Could you tell a mother like Bophu to wait a year before you can help her provide her daughters with healthy, nutritious food all year around?
No, nor could I. But we might have to.
Bophu and her husband Lojeuw live in the remote mountains of northern Laos with their two daughters – two-year-old Teuyu* and Dupeu* who is less than a month old.
Foreign aid is helping them and other families around the world to lift themselves out of poverty and to give their daughters a chance at a life that we take for granted for our children.
My work as CEO of CARE Australia has brought me into the homes of families living in developing countries like Malawi, Timor-Leste and Myanmar.
This week, I’m in Laos visiting families like Bophu and Lojeuw’s who only have rice soup to feed their little girls.
They spend every day harvesting rice and collecting food from the forest that surrounds their one-room home. For a period of up to four months every year however, they completely run out of rice and money and depend on relatives to share their food.
As the Government prepares for the 2013 budget on May 14, I’m asking both sides of the political divide to remember the millions of families like Bophu’s who are counting on us.
CARE Australia has begun helping Bophu and Lojeuw to harvest and sell galangal (similar to ginger) and cardamom, grow vegetables close to home and to access livestock banks, which will help improve their nutrition and increase income.
They have already received materials to build a fuel efficient stove to speed up cooking time and reduce the amount of wood needed to cook, which will save Bophu time collecting firewood. The stove will have a chimney to take smoke out of their home and allow them to boil water for drinking, which will improve their health.
Just a few months ago, the Government ripped $375 million from the foreign aid program to help meet asylum seeker costs here in Australia. These cuts are already having a negative impact on the lives of thousands of women, girls and their families in countries across the globe. For instance funding committed to projects that worked to eliminate violence against women in Cambodia and maternal health in the Philippines and Cambodia has been cut and deferred.