Thunder Bay

Ramadan fast raises $15K for Thunder Bay's RFDA

The chief of internal medicine at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre has raised $15,000 to help the Regional Food Distribution Association bring more fresh fruits and vegetables to northern children.

Thunder Bay doctor says he sees diseases such as scurvy in northwestern Ontario

A lack of fresh fruits and vegetables has contributed to nutrient deficiencies that one doctor in Thunder Bay says he's seeing in northwestern Ontario. (CBC)

One local doctor in Thunder Bay, Ont. has used his month-long fast of Ramadan to raise more than $15,000 for the Regional Food Distribution Association.

Dr. Zaki Ahmed said he wanted to draw attention to the problems of poor nutrition and malnutrition in the north after seeing patients afflicted with diseases such as scurvy, which is caused by vitamin C deficiency.

"It was a very difficult diagnosis to make because none of us had ever seen this before, and we have physicians that have trained everywhere from Russia, to Africa, to Pakistan to India — everywhere," he said.

"Even in the most impoverished areas of the world, we don't see scurvy. Whereas we've seen that in northwestern Ontario," he added.

Doctors here have also seen patients afflicted with a condition called kwashiorkor, Ahmed said.

"Those are the kids you see on TV from Africa with poor skin and brittle hair and the large bellies, mostly because of malnutrition. Those are the things we've seen in northwestern Ontario."

Muslims are encouraged to practice charity during Ramadan, and Ahmed wanted to try and keep some of that charity in the region, he said.

He chose to support the RFDA because of its efforts to bring fresh fruits and vegetables, back yard vegetable gardens and community gardens to remote communities, he added.

Contributions from US, Europe, Pakistan

Contributions poured in from friends in Thunder Bay, the United States, Europe, and Pakistan.

The $15,000 is a "drop in the ocean," in terms of what's needed to solve nutrition problems in the north, Ahmed said.

But he said he hopes his efforts have raised awareness of how severe those problems are.

RFDA executive director Volker Kromm told CBC News he was excited by Ahmed's initiative. 

"It's hard not to be moved by his commitment to helping children and communities that are suffering from this blight of poverty," Kromm said.