Alex Doukas

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Old perish from hunger as young struggle to survive

WEST AFRICA (BP)--They volunteered to die.       The elderly men and women in this famine-wracked West African community knew there was simply not enough food to go around. Unwilling to watch their families starve to death, some made a choice: They would not eat so that their children and grandchildren might live. Some have already wasted away and perished -- the price, they believed, of preserving the future.       The babies, of course, did not volunteer to die, and their mothers were trying desperately to save them. As local government officials handed out pans of grain, the women swarmed the site, knowing there was not enough for everyone. They pressed into each other under the blistering sun, their infants tied to their backs.       "Three babies died that day from suffocation and heat," said Kate Gibbs*, a Southern Baptist field partner for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization. "I cried."       Kate and her husband Todd live among a people in crisis. These nomadic herders usually sell animals to buy food for their families, but a harsh drought has wrecked their livelihoods. Each time they visited the people, the watering holes had less and less water in them.       "Daily, we feel the effects of the dust blowing across the arid fields," Gibbs said. "The people all tell us that the dust blows like that this year because there is no grass to hold it. That also means no grass for the animals to eat."