For the last nine days, I’ve been going to refugee camps where an overwhelming percentage of them go without proper nutrition, especially the children–during crucial development years. But, I’m going to now whine about my diet during this trip. I can’t take it anymore.
For breakfast, at around 7:30am, I eat a granola bar (140 calories), a dry fruit bar (50 calories), and I drink some water (0 calories). I brought these tiny sugar-free Red Bulls (5 calories) because, well, I just need it. We then head to the camp. At the camp, we walk and carry heavy bags in pounding heat. I drink as much water as is practical.
At some point, we take a break and head to the camp restaurant and get ourselves a luke-warm soda (200 calories). Yes, Coke and Pepsi make it all the way out to a remote refugee camp in Eastern Chad. They don’t have diet soda in the camp, though. After the soda, back to work, doing what we have to do around the camp.
Feeling pretty exhausted, we head back to the village, where we stay at the UNHCR compound–a drive of about thirty minutes.
Back at the compound, after washing up and putting things away and checking e-mail, it’s already about 5:30pm and time to eat something, but I’m not excited about it. Today it was a bag of tuna (80 calories), some nuts (300 calories), and a little bag of spicy Corn Nuts (110 calories). I could not finish the bag of tuna. I’m pretty much fed up with all the bags of stuff I have. I’ve been out here for nine days.
Some of the kids in the camp have been here for over seven years. As with any group of people that has been in a place for a while, there are different economic classes in the camp. There are a few that can afford to pay for meat and some variety of vegetables and fruit. That said, for the average kid, he’s been eating the same food that is given out once a month as a part of their rations. Ask them what they miss from Darfur, and many will say milk, meat, fruit from their trees, and spices. You see lots of orange hair, a sign of malnutrition. A doctor I spoke with during a past visit told me that these rations keep them alive, but they are not meant to be a long-term diet.
After a few days out here, I start talking about what my first meal back will be. I’m thinking fish tacos, rice, beans, and guacamole. I’m not sure how much weight I’ve lost so far, but I am way, way under my usual intake of calories. While writing this, I lose concentration and have to restart a few times; my brain is not used to operating under such low energy. My total today, if you were not doing the math, is 885 calories. I go back home soon, and I go back to eating way, way more.