Letter from Cindy and Les Morgan in Bangladesh
December 16, 2009
A tender embrace
Although Les and I returned to Bangladesh in September, it wasn't until late October that I finally completed my journey back to the country that has captured our hearts and been our home for the past twenty years. After flying 36 hours over the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent, we returned to our apartment in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. But it was not until six weeks later, when I traveled on a battered bus for yet another five hours north, out of the city, and wove my way into the heart of rural Bangladesh, that I finally felt the country receive me into its tender embrace.
With a stethoscope, otoscope and other medical essentials in my backpack, I jostled about in a rickshaw through fields of rice and over bamboo bridges for the final hour of my trek to reach the small village of Katolmari. As I moved deeper and deeper into the gentle silence of the countryside, coconut and date palms waved their delicate fronds to greet me. The warmth of the sun anointed me as sparkling, lily‑studded ponds welcomed me and evoked from me a reciprocating smile.
At Katolmari, among the patients awaiting me was 13‑month‑old Shahin. Cradled in his mother's arms and weighing only nine pounds, he was about the size of a three‑month‑old. Severely malnourished, he was unable to stand or even sit unassisted. Although his mother, Minara, had tried feeding him solid food, when he wouldn't eat it she gave him all she had left to offer, the milk her own body produced. After carefully examining Shahin, I prescribed medicines and supplements to correct his nutritional deficiencies and stimulate his appetite. I then taught Minara how to introduce solid foods into his diet and set up the community nurse to check on him at home.
On the eve of the year 2010, over a billion people in the world are undernourished; twenty million children suffer from acute severe malnutrition. In 2009, one million children died for the simple reason that they were not given enough food to eat. The earth produces ample food to feed everyone, and yet death from malnutrition is still commonplace in many parts of the world. In Bangladesh, forty‑one percent of the children under five years of age are underweight, a greater percentage than in Ethiopia, Uganda or Rwanda. Here, where one out of every five children with severe acute malnutrition dies, Shahin's life hangs in the balance.
I returned to Katolmari last week to see Shahin again. The treatment appears to be working, because he is now eating rice with lentils and has gained weight. He is much more responsive and engaging and even dances about on his two little legs when held upright. Minara is delighted!
Just as in Katolmari, I will soon begin training community nurses in other parts of the country to address malnutrition. By regularly weighing children in the surrounding villages, these nurses will be able to find and address early signs of inadequate weight gain in order to prevent malnutrition, especially severe cases like Shahin's. Through monitoring the weight of children and teaching mothers the basics of child nutrition, the Church of Bangladesh will help free many poor families from the oppression of malnutrition.
By leading me into the tender embrace of rural Bangladesh and allowing me to hold Shahin in my arms, God has reminded me why I am here. By ministering to malnourished children and their mothers, I join the Church of Bangladesh in bearing witness to Jesus' proclamation:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring
good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4:18,19
Please join me in praying for Shahin, and for all who hunger. Come, Lord Jesus!
Cynthia L. Morgan, MD, MPH
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Mission Co‑Worker / Bangladesh
The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 124