Basketball champion Pau Gasol says it’s possible to end malnutrition in the Sahel
Mao and N´Djamena, Chad, 27 August 2012 - Silver medalist at the 2012 Summer Olympics, two-time (United States) National Basketball Association champion and UNICEF Spain Ambassador Pau Gasol is in Chad to visit with children and families affected by the food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel.
In Chad, more than 127,000 children are at serious risk of severe malnutrition. They fight to survive in the midst of a crisis caused by prolonged drought and rising food prices.
With the inclusion of Senegal (UNICEF Humanitarian Action Update, June 2012 [pdf]), the crisis spans nine African countries throughout the Sahel belt and affects an estimated 18.7 million people.
Mr. Gasol is seeing firsthand the consequences of this crisis for children, and observing how UNICEF and its partners are working to save lives. So far this year, nearly 250,000 children under 5 with severe acute malnutrition have been treated in the Sahel.
“UNICEF started warning last year that this situation could happen and began to work on prevention and treatment”, he said. “But not all children in need across the Sahel have been reached. I’m in Chad to remind people that one million children are at risk in the Sahel because of the nutritional crisis and that it is possible to end malnutrition.”
While in Chad, Mr. Gasol is visiting some of the UNICEF-supported feeding and medical nutritional centres that are distributed throughout the region. Here, children are treated for malnutrition, and dedicated staff work to ensure they recover.
Mr. Gasol is also visiting UNICEF-supported schools, where staff and volunteers teach children about essential health practices, including hand-washing, that are necessary to stop the spread of deadly diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.
Mr. Gasol's commitment to children has not stopped growing since he was appointed UNICEF Spain Ambassador in 2003. After years participating in awareness campaigns and fundraising, in 2010, he decided to step up his involvement by establishing Pau’s Project. Pau’s Project began in Ethiopia and has been highlighted in a documentary produced by Spanish television channel laSexta.
Since its launch in 2010, Pau Project’s work for the right to education in Ethiopia has led to:
• The possibility for 12,000 children living in remote areas to return to school, thanks to the construction of or distribution of supplies to 80 alternative classrooms
• The training of 160 teachers to work at early childhood centres
• The acquisition and distribution of education kits, and teachers’ training for their use
• Training for 15,000 parents
• The renovation of 11 early education centres, and the construction and equipping of 21.
Pau’s Project has promoted various campaigns and initiatives for child survival and development, particularly in support of UNICEF nutrition and health programmes for preventing malnutrition, and for humanitarian crises such as those of the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.
Pau Gasol works on UNICEF initiatives in Spain and in the United States of America, where he currently lives.