A CORK nurse, who started a hospital in India after saving a young girl from starvation, will walk barefoot through his hometown next week to raise awareness of malnutrition.
Paddy McMahon, from Meelin, will complete a 13km walk on Monday to mark International Women’s Day and raise awareness of malnutrition in poverty-stricken communities in India.
The North Cork man will don a suit, minus his shoes and socks, to reflect the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 across the world.
Mr McMahon founded the Mothers First organisation in 2004 after finding a child dying of malnutrition in the northern city of Varanasi in India. Since its foundation, it has delivered life-saving food and medicine to thousands of malnourished pregnant mothers and children.
“I got lost in a slum area in India when I found Kiva,” he said.
“She was skin and bones and too weak to open her eyes. I knew she needed immediate help, so I took her to a private hospital nearby. She had been just days away from dying.”
Luckily, the two-year-old survived. However, Mr McMahon knew there were countless more lives to save.
“After visiting that hospital, we started a kind of enterprise by renting 10 beds from the doctor.”
The project continued for 10 years before opening up to the wider community.
“We saw how mothers were pregnant but severely malnourished. That was when we started working on a preventative level by breaking the cycle of malnutrition — 40% of babies in India are born malnourished. Now Covid-19 has pushed 135m people into severe food insecurity.”
The Barefoot Paddy event will be live-streamed on Facebook from 9.30am on March 8, with progress updates of the walk and a closing ceremony in Meelin.
The public is invited to participate in a 6km virtual walk (or 7,800 steps) within their 5km radius. They are also being asked to sign an online petition calling for a co-ordinated international response to the hunger crisis here.