By Alicia Doyle

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Pediatrician from Ventura provides care in Zambia and Malawi

Photo courtesy of Susanne Hall Lammot Susanne Hall Lammot examines a young girl named Janet in her "exam room" at the Mtendere Orphanage in Lumbadzi, Malawi, in July.

A doctor gives so children live

Thursday, November 1, 2007/Ventura County Star

Determined to save the lives of millions of children who die each year from malnutrition, pediatrician Susanne Hall Lammot spent five weeks in Africa, volunteering her time to make a difference.

"Every six seconds, a child dies needlessly somewhere in this world, of malnutrition and starvation. Yet there is enough food in the world to feed everyone," said the Ventura resident, who helped treat and feed children in the AIDS-ravaged regions of Zambia and Malawi, two of the poorest countries in the world.

Lammot went on the trip this summer as an ambassador for Nourish the Children, an organization that provides nutritious food to needy children and teaches families how to provide for themselves. "I was also there to oversee some of the medical issues these children are faced with in orphanages and in schools and to make recommendations for change," said Lammot, 66. "Our mission is to be a powerful force in saving children's lives."

To reach this goal, the organization receives donations of a food product called "VitaMeal." It is then distributed to youths by relief agencies that report frequently on the progress and health of the children. A scientifically formulated, nutrient-dense food, VitaMeal is ideally suited to meet the nutritional requirements of malnourished children, Lammot said.

"Additionally, we are teaching families reforestation, animal husbandry, irrigation, and how to raise their own crops much more efficiently so that they can become self-sufficient," she said.

"Children are being attracted to school because that is where the VitaMeal is served," she said. "In areas where this program is fully in effect, the school enrollment has quadrupled. We are nourishing not only their young bodies but also their minds."

A board-certified pediatrician, Lammot works — as "Dr. Hall" — part time in Ojai. She is president of the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Ventura and a member of the Los Angeles Pediatric Society and the Ventura Chamber of Commerce. She also is a member of the Ventura Yacht Club. "When I am not serving children, sailing is my love and my passion," said Lammot, whose son, Kevin Hall, represented the U.S., sailing in the Olympics in Athens in 2004, and participated in the America's Cup three times.

During her stay in Africa, Lammot volunteered in several locations, teaching basic physical diagnosis and simple approaches to problem solving. She also rendered care to children with HIV, many of whom are orphans because their parents died from the disease.

"In the villages and orphanages where we served VitaMeal, I evaluated children for chronic diseases, often made worse by HIV," she said.

Almost all children are growth-stunted from lack of proper food and very underweight. Those who had not yet received VitaMeal had protruding bellies and reddish hair — a sign of vitamin deficiencies — and often had swollen faces, hands and feet. Many had TB, skin infections, intestinal parasites, anemia and acute malaria, as well.

"Malnutrition not only makes children small, weak and unable to learn, it also renders them much more likely to acquire infections," Lammot said. "With proper nutrition, the devastation of chronic illness and subsequent death can often be averted. Once ill with HIV or any of the other diseases, the children respond much better to treatment if they also receive good nourishment."

They also learn much more in school and learn how to take care of themselves now and in the future.

"We are providing them with the opportunity to get out of this devastating cycle of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, despair and needless death."

Despite their illnesses and empty bellies, the children have huge hearts, Lammot said. "These joyful barefoot children would run up to us with outstretched arms, broad white smiles lighting up their dark faces, tattered clothing hanging off bony shoulders, and take us by the hand to dance with us, or show us what they had accomplished in school."

Her biggest accomplishment on the trip, she said, was instituting health-screening programs so each new child in the orphanage and each student entering school would be checked for conditions that could be treated or in some way ameliorated once diagnosed.

"I also did significant teaching about basic hygiene and dietary choices and tried to eliminate sugar cane from their daily diets."

She plans to go back in the next year to see how the programs she put in place have thrived and how they can be improved.

"I do not feel complete unless I am focused outside myself, making a difference for others," Lammot said. "I feel we are put on this Earth to make it a better place than we found it, one person/one child at a time."

— Call Susanne Hall Lammot at 888-888-3881; online, visit or

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