Day 9: Aug 9, 2008

Hungry, Dependent, Stuck

FD ceral barrel 2.JPG We spent seven days straight in Camp Oure Cassoni and not once did we see a person or a family eating. When asked what they had eaten that day, many replied, just tea. Yet we have seen women carrying jugs of water from stations to their homes daily. We have seen two different groups of women breaking rocks, mixing mortar and building a school, block by block. We have seen children playing sports. But not once did we see anyone replenishing their energy with food.

Many people didn’t need to be asked about the food situation, the just told us. Although they might be registered many have to share with refugees, who after one year, are not registered. One man said they use to get one bag of food for four people, now they get one bag for six. Another woman explained that she gets 3 bowls of food per month for her and her two orphaned grandchildren. Many people trade some of their rations for a vegetable or piece of meat. Also, if they have animals, they need to give them some food too.

line for sorghum.JPGBesides oil, WFP only distributes grains, beans, sugar, and salt. This month there was no soap. WFP and UNHCR aim to distribute 2100 calories per person, per day, but over the past few months they have reached between 1800 and 2000. Here in their warehouse, they only have 2-3 months worth of food left, and with the price of food rising, rations have been cut. You can watch what Husna receives in the video for today. We carefully estimated that Husna, and each family member, eat 1017 calories a day, if they don’t share or trade any of it. Except for the sorghum, she could carry all her food for the month for a family of 5 in two hands. When was the last time you used one small basket for shopping for a month?

This is not enough food, nor enough variety to gain adequate nutrition for an adult or a child. Three pounds of beans is what I cook for one week for two people, and that might only last 4 or 5 days. The flour-like substance they usually form into some sort of gummy substance, probably mixed with the sugar and the salt to give it some sort of taste. I cannot remember the last meal I cooked without spices, herbs, or garlic.

Those of us who are used to variety of grocery stores, or farmer’s markets, what would we do with these rations? How would we cope with these ingredients? What would you make? How would your energy level be? How many years could you eat this same thing?

This is a population of farmers who for generations have been able to sustain themselves from their land. Now they are dependent on what is given to them and in a desert environment, and within a camp, where their natural lifestyle of planting and harvesting is not allowed or possible. Dependency: a word that has a negative connotation in Western culture, and especially in the United States. Grow up, get an education, build a life for yourself, do well by your family. But above even the culture pressure, how would you feel if your life depended upon handouts and donations. Would you be proud? Would you have a high level of self worth? I know for me personally, I would feel horrible. And after each month that I had to line up to receive my rations, I feel would worse and worse inside, and more and more angry at the situation.

When we thank a family for sharing their story, their response is filled with gratitude for listening to them, and sharing their story. They believe that after hearing their story, you and I will do more. Not because we could ever feel what they feel, but because their words describe the what we would feel if we were in their shoes.

We are all humans, and all share the same basic emotions. Right now we need to take a moment to reach into our hearts and imagine what it would be like to be hungry, dependent, and stuck.

This compassion will be what drives our action to help the people of Oure Cassoni.

in peace,

4 replies on “Hungry, Dependent, Stuck”

ktj, we have been following along with the blog posts, the writings, the photos. i’ve wanted to comment, but the words don’t come. my heart goes out to these people. i want to thank both you and gabriel for making this so real to all of us. for showing us, and sharing the stories. for opening up our hearts. you are changing lives….not only there, but here…as we sit in the comfort of our own homes. you have passed the torch of awareness and compassion to us…now it’s our turn to keep it going and pass it on!
god bless you all.
– anush

Greetings Anush!

We are here to spread the voice and stories of the refugees to compassionate people like yourself. I hope that you will stay strong and continue to pass the torch of awareness, and action, forward so that one day we can all say, we stopped a genocide.

Peace, ktj

Hi Katie-Jay,
I read your post right before preparing tonight’s dinner. I looked around my kitchen at all the abundance, a full pantry, a shelf full of spices, a refrigerator with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and tried to imagine what it must be like for a woman in the camps deciding what to serve her family. How does one enjoy a meal that is just like all the others, and much worse, try to decide if enough will be left at the end of the month to even eat at all? How tragic that people who were once self-sustaining are now forced through no fault of their own to wait in food lines for meager rations. I’ll be donating to the WFP whenever I can, and I have been posting the athlete’s profiles and referring people to this website so they can understand how desperate the situation really is. I’m so glad that you and Gabriel are there to hear their stories and pass them on.
Take Care,

Dear Diane,

I have no idea how they make it through the month. I think all of us who participated in the 100 day Fast got a sense of what one day without food might be like, but I think another challenge would be to eat the same thing, over and over, for five years. I know at one point or another I would feel like giving up out of discouragement. What you can give, whenever, is helping the people of the world, always know that!

Peace be with you, ktj

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