My World’s Not Like Your World

I’ve been trying to think of an equivalent situation. Of how this would look in my world. Or is it my old world? I don’t know, maybe it’s just the world that kind of makes sense, sometimes.

I’d be living somewhere where I’d been affected by flood. Perhaps Queensland? I’d have children, one of which would be a baby. My partner would be earning a very basic salary, we’d be considered low income, hovering on or sometimes below the poverty line. Outside the front door of our apartment is flood damage. And what I mean by that, is it’s unsanitary, there’s a lingering smell, and a lot of debris.  I’d have to push my way through it every time I needed to get out to buy supplies.

We’d be struggling to pay for gas and electricity, and I’d be relying on shared facilities. I’d be unable to work because I was still breastfeeding and had other children to look after. I’d share the usual concerns of any breastfeeding mother. Was I making enough milk? Was it safe to use certain types of contraception or would it affect my milk supply? My biggest fear would be if my baby was getting ‘enough’. Is my baby putting on weight?

I would look for answers to these questions from the community nurse. And she would inform me that she shared my concerns. She would suggest that maybe my diet was inadequate and tell me she was worried I wasn’t producing enough milk. And that’s when she’d offer me a free sample of formula.

What I wouldn’t know is that my community nurse was receiving a kick-back from the formula providers. And I don’t mean in a sinister cash in the pocket way (although this has definitely been the case in the past). I mean that the community nurse was receiving a tens machine, a sonogram or a television for the waiting room – all supplied by companies that produce formula.

The exchange of the free sample has an eerily similar story to the exchange of a street drug deal. The first hit that begins as free, turns into a family loosing half of their income to support a fix. Your breast milk has dried up and now you’re dependent.

And this is where I have the problem finding the equivalent situation. There is none, because my world has clean water.

Jakarta does not.

It wouldn’t happen in my world because not only could formula never be as relatively expensive (there are families in Indonesia who spend half their monthly salaries on formula). But also, it would never be made with contaminated water, because my world has clean water, this world doesn’t.

You can understand how quickly you could begin to dilute your formula when it’s using half of your monthly income. Stretching it out just that little bit further. But can you imagine when the water in the formula is unsanitary because you don’t have the facilities to boil it or buy the clean stuff?

And this is when things go from bad, to catastrophic. The lack of nutritional value of the diluted formula, added with the lack of clean water, means dysentery and malnutrition are added to your already hellish experience.

I know this because I’ve seen it first hand. G and I were lucky enough to be able to help a family who were in this exact situation. Their 18 month old boy who weighed the same as our 5 month old daughter was suffering from dysentery and they came very close to losing him.

That was 12 years ago. Yesterday I read this article and realized that nothing has changed. Formula companies had just found better ways to infiltrate the system. Ways that probably help them sleep at night. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve used formula, but I’ve always had access to clean water. To give it to someone who doesn’t? I have no clue how you justify that in a boardroom.

I don’t know what the answer is in Indonesia, but I’m keen to do something that helps women who are struggling every day to obtain clean water.

One of my daily fixes when it comes to blog reading is a gorgeous woman in Australia called Beth McDonald. Beth has one of those blogs that has the perfect mix of beautiful words and pretty pictures. I’m sure many of you are already reading her blog, but if not, go over and check it out.

Beth is taking part in the Walk in Her Shoes Program through CARE Australia, she’s written about it here and I’ve decided to give it a go as well. 10,000 steps a day, for a week, to signify how far many women walk for water each day.

Anyone keen to join me? If you’re in Australia CARE will send you a pedometer, I’m off to purchase mine tomorrow so I can start practicing for the big week in March. If you’d like to join or donate – my page is here.


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  1. Thanks for alerting me to this cause Michelle.
    I walk every day so I may as well put it to social good.

  2. Anyone who has travelled in countries where you need to use bottles water all the time – even for cleaning your teeth – can relate to this. I recall seeing a child in Africa – clinging to his mother and whimpering. I used to work in Child Protection – and knew this child would die. Which is crazy when the solution is so obvious.

    Care Australia doesn’t reach us here in the UK but there are many opportunities for us Brits to join in the shouting about this.

    The best of luck to all walkers!

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