Saturday, October 20, 2012

Children During and After an Economic Crisis

I’ve been receiving email and messages lately regarding the issue of kids and how an economic crisis can affect them. This would also apply to other long term SHTF events where daily life is disrupted and changes for the worse. 

I am drawing here from my own personal experience in Argentina during and after the crisis and also what was happening to others at that time. Besides that, I have gathered information over the years regarding what happened in other places during other long term disasters. Using that information I can boil it down to three main problems that specifically affect a child and you should prepare to deal with them.

 The importance of food goes without saying. The most extreme case of such a problem would be starving to death. This does happen every day and its still a problem in some of the poorest provinces of Argentina. It’s a slow process. Children are often born already with malnutrition because their parents are poorly fed themselves. The child eats little since the parents cant afford to feed them properly. Sometimes its just one meal a day, sometimes it is none. For millions of children in Argentina, the meal they receive at school is the only meal they can count on. Eating at home is a hit or miss deal and varies from one day to another depending if the parent (or one of the older brothers) managed to make some money. These children slowly become thinner and thinner, in many cases ten or twenty pounds below the minimum weight for their age and built. If the problem isn’t resolved, the consequence is death.
Almost as dramatic is the problem suffered by millions of children that do survive, but because of an insufficient and meager diet they don’t get to grow up properly. They are smaller and immunologically weaker than they would have been if fed properly. Also, children that fail to receive the minerals and vitamins needed will have a noticeably lower IQ. 

Maybe for the majority of the population during an extreme financial crisis, the problem isn’t so much starving but affording quality and nutritious food. Many will be able to afford pasta, rice and other staples, but the problem will be affording meats and other fresh food of high nutritional value. Meat in particular gets expensive when wages are low and inflation is high. You try looking for cheaper alternatives, in the case of Argentina, that used to be pork and chicken, but even those became a luxury a clear minority could afford to put on the table on regular basis.

 It’s a known fact that as poverty spreads, so do diseases. There’s less money for proper hygiene, proper medical care, clothing and heating. You cant afford a better place to live in or to fix that humidity problem you have in the house, there´s mold, children get sick… 

As diseases become more of a problem across society, even if you are somewhat better off you are not protected entirely from it. You touch the same shopping cart the sick guy did, you breathe in the same air, your kids go to the same school. Children will simply get sick, more than they used to. In many cases, diseases that were believed to be eradicated will come back. Children and senior citizens are the most vulnerable social group.

 Even though parents may try, its impossible to shield a child completely from the events around them. Just watching the news or talking with neighbors or among parents means conversations can be overheard. Even if careful, the stress is brought into the home by parents themselves. The daily struggle to make ends meet, a bad day at the office, some crime related incident, it all undermines the confidence and feeling of security and safety a child needs to develop. The good news is that children are more resistant to stress than adults. In many ways they don’t feel as much anguish at the loss of wealth or social status and can enjoy the little things much easier than adults. With proper support and care a child will still develop well emotionally speaking.

What to do?

*Food being as important as it is you hopefully understand that a 3-6 month food supply should be one of your top priorities. Keep in mind that pasta and rice, while cheap, are a good source of carbohydrates but poor of protein. Adults and especially kids need meat, they need the proteins and fatty acids meat provides so to stock up on canned meats, beef, pork, chicken and tuna. Remember that the more it resembles actual meat, the better. Example. Spam may keep you alive but its not as healthy as canned beef or tuna. Tuna and fish in general has heavy metals so don’t just buy tuna. Balance your supplies with variety. Remember to store what you eat. Try out and see what your kids like. 

*Besides a first aid kid, have a supply of medication and know how and when to use them. Learn what to do if your child has flu, how to lower a high fever, what medications you can use, ibuprofen or paracetamol, how to lower a childs fever with baths. Of great importance, do get antibiotics and learn to tell when a child needs them, learn what antibiotics fight which type of infection and when is it that you should take them. Without antibiotics, my kids and myself would have died several times in the last decade.
These medicines aren’t typical first aid kit content but they are still just as important, or maybe even more so.

*Prevention is paramount. Keeping your hands clean and washing them often could be a matter of life or death if diseases are widespread. 

*Try not talking about things that may scare or worry a child. Don’t let them watch the news if murders have become a common occurrence. Talk to them a lot and make sure they tell you their fears and concerns.

*Whatever quality time you can spend with your family will work towards reducing the amount of felt stress and anguish for both yourself and your children. It can be hard sometimes with a tight budget and dangerous streets, but children appreciate even the smallest of gestures like making a drawing together or reading them a book in bed before falling asleep. 



Anonymous said...

lentils, beans, chickpeas and nuts are a cheap source of protein that is easily overlooked.

Anonymous said...

Great article, i don't have kids myself, but have a young nephew i love dearly.

Also, i just wanted to say that your english dramatically improved since you left Argentina :)!

English not being my first language, i can relate how hard it is to become so fluent in another language than your own.

Don Williams said...

1) Anon at 5:10 pm is correct.

Legumes (beans) have a different type of protein than grains (maize, wheat) but the two food sources together provide almost a complete protein source, especially if supplemented with a small amount of meat. My father was an orphan during the US Great Depression and always had a preference for the plain, austere diet he was fed in childhood ( pinto beans, corn bread, potatoes fried in lard) with
tomatoes, green beans etc for vitamins. (plus hot peppers to add a little flavor).

2) In the American South, they used to have problems with pellegra -- a severe vitamin B3 deficiency. This was due to eating a diet heavy with corn (hominy)but failing to cook the corn with wood ashes (lye) to free up the niacin , as the native American Indians had done.

Anonymous said...

Hi FerFal,

Where do you buy antibiotics and how do you store them when the electricity dies?

Brass said...

FerFal probably speaks English more correctly than most Americans.

Saponaria said...

I'm also trying to store vitamins and minerals that are in particular hard to get adequately with diet for my children. For us that means we are storing lots of vitamin C, Magnesium and Vit D for the winter. We won't have a lot of issue getting fresh vegetables in our garden here. But in times of stress, whether mental or physical our bodies use up Vit C fast.

Anonymous said...

Most antibiotics don't require a fridge to be stored, exception made for syrups and injections once they are reconstituted.