N´djamena — Pau Gasol, Silver Medalist at the 2012 Olympics, the two-time NBA champion and a UNICEF Spain Ambassador since 2003, visited in the last days several areas in the Kanem region, in Chad, where thousands of families are affected by the nutritional crisis in the Sahel.
After seeing firsthand the work of UNICEF with 71 partners and affected communities, Pau ended his trip to Chad noting that "thanks to everyone's help many lives are being saved, only in Chad half of the children affected have been treated for malnutrition, but we must not forget that in the whole Sahel region there's still hundreds of thousands of children who need this treatment, we have to keep the work and momentum going".
UNICEF has reached more than 335,000 children with nutritional treatment in the Sahel region so far this year. The goal is to reach 700,000 in the coming months to address the consequences of this crisis affecting 18 million people in nine countries in this African region.
The crisis has its causes in extreme poverty, drought, rising food prices and conflicts.
While in Chad, Pau Gasol spent three days in the capital, N'Djamena, and three days in Kanem, where he saw UNICEF projects in Mao and Miouh, a small village where a feeding center has been opened, a water well has been installed, schools are supported by training teachers and supplies are distributed. I addition, hygiene habits are promoted while providing supplies and practical information to prevent diseases such as cholera.
"It is very important to reach places like Miouh, where families have problems that could not be addressed without the support of organizations like UNICEF," said UNICEF Ambassador. As an example of the scope of support, he referred to one of the girls he has met on this trip "Fatime, treated for malnutrition at a treatment center in Mao. She lives 60 kilometers away from the center, in a village in the middle of the sand, without roads, but thanks to a network supported by UNICEF and other organizations, is now recovering. Stories like this are repeated. "
In Mao, Pau also visited a UNICEF program aimed to promote hygiene habits among children. He refereed a football game and made sure that the children washed their hands after finishing, since this practice prevents deadly diseases. In the same school, he shared a few hours with children attending 'resit' courses for pupils who have failed to complete the course due to the nutritional crisis.
Besides FAO and WFP, he also visited a wadi, oasis-like area in which the implementation of a simple system of irrigation and seed distribution contributes to the survival of thousands of families.
In N'Djamena, Pau Gasol met with ministers of the Government of Chad to share the idea that sport is "an exceptional tool for the promotion of values, for the development of children and to contribute to the development of their countries." While attending an
event organized by UNICEF, the Government of Chad and the basketball federation and league, Pau delivered this message and joined several youth teams matches.
Chad is the fourth country Pau has visited as a UNICEF Ambassador. The first trip was in 2005 to South Africa to see projects related to the fight against AIDS in children, the same in Angola in 2007. His third trip was in 2010 to Ethiopia where the basketball player decided to engage personally through the Pau Project, that supports Schools for Africa, an initiative of UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Hamburg Society, to promote education for all. Pau's Project has been reflected in a documentary produced by laSexta. Since its launch in 2010, Pau's Project has led to the following:
12,000 children living in remote areas could return to school thanks to the construction or distribution of supplies to 80 alternative classrooms located in 32 different areas.
Training 160 teachers for working at early childhood centers about creating learning materials and methods, and support and care of children.
Acquisition and distribution of education kits and teaching teachers to use them.
Training for 15,000 parents.
Renovation of 11 early education centers and the construction and equipping of 21.
Apart from its direct link to the project in Ethiopia, Pau's Project has promoted campaigns and initiatives for child survival and development, particularly in support of UNICEF nutrition and health programs for preventing malnutrition and also humanitarian crises such as the Horn of Africa (2011) and the Sahel (2012). Pau Gasol is working at UNICEF initiatives in Spain and the United States, where he lives.
For more information about the work of Pau Gasol with UNICEF: