On the 25th of April, 2015, an earthquake measuring M7.9 occurred in Nepal, with over 4000* people killed and an unknown number injured or missing.Handle With Care International has created a specific appeal running to specifically help raise money to be provisioned for care efforts in the region utilising our partner on the ground in Nepal, The Britain-Nepal Medical Trust.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of Cassava, besides being able to grow where other crops won’t – is its versatility; it can be roasted, cooked on coals like a potato, fried into chips, boiled or shredded to act as a rice substitute to name a few methods. If you’re from a Western Country, chances are you’ve actually probably tried Cassava yourself, in a dessert, or possibly “bubble tea” – but you probably wouldn’t have known it as Cassava… you’ll probably know of it as Tapioca.
Cassava is pretty bland in flavour on its own, and I’ve tried it a number of ways, prepared by locals using traditional methods. My personal preference is to eat it fried, however it does tend to suck the moisture out of your mouth a bit, so having a bottle of water on hand is always good (or in my case, a cup of locally grown and brewed black coffee).It is important to note though, that Cassava does have one draw back… and it’s a pretty serious one. The Cassava root contains cyanide, a deadly poison. While other common foods also contain cyanide, such as almonds – people generally don’t consume the volume of, say almonds, as they do Cassava – especially in a remote area where you can’t grow much else.
“The most alarming example of this trend is 262 ppm in one brand of cassava chips. A child weighing 20 kg would need to eat 40g to 270g of these chips to reach the lethal dose – potentially that’s just one bag of chips.”
– Monash University study into Cassava based products establishing a growing foothold in the Australian health food market
The levels of cyanide can be reduced by correct preparation, but where a particular food is a staple due to financial and agricultural limitations and eaten for practically every meal, even cooked as safely as possible, there are bound to be some side effects from ‘bulk consumption’. In this instance, Cassava’s cyanogenic properties can cause iodine deficiencies within the communities. The World Health Organisation has stated that “Serious iodine deficiency during pregnancy can result in stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, and congenital abnormalities such as cretinism, a grave, irreversible form of mental retardation…”. Iodine deficiency can cause impaired thyroid hormone synthesis and/or thyroid enlargement; causing the formation of large goitres. Thankfully, this draw back can be reduced, if not removed entirely by the simple addition of Iodized Salt to the meal-preparation process, instead of regular salt. This replenishes the body with Iodine that the Cassava may have removed.
Cassava is an amazing, versatile food that sustains as many as 800 Million people world wide. It also causes great damage to impoverished communities when health issues start to appear due to Iodine deficiency. Proper education and supplementing the diet with ingredients such as iodized salt will help ensure that impoverished communities are able to utilise the benefits of Cassava while offsetting the potential negative health issues related to Cassava.
Aaron and Halimah have suffered more than many parents. For over 9 years, Halimah cared for her sick parent with diabetes, who eventually passed away, but the cost of treatment over a long period of time left a large debt. In order to pay the debt, Halimah became a migrant worker in 2008 in Saudi Arabia. Aaron, (her husband) also went to Saudi Arabia in 2011. In 2012, Aaron and Halimah returned to Indonesia to prepare Anwaf for elementary school.
Access to doctors and medicine is something that people in the western world often take for granted. A visit to the slums as part of a medical team for Handle With Care International really puts things in perspective.
The medical team are part of a local clinic called Rumah Sehat Madani, which works on the ground with Handle With Care International to provide mobile medical clinics, visiting urban slum areas with doctors, nurses and pharmacists to minister to those for whom medical aid is often out of reach. Residents are given a full medical check-up and appropriate medical treatments - ranging from vitamin supplements to asthma medications and antibiotics.