The Desperation of the Vulnerable

In Kristin Phillip’s article entitled Hunger, Healing, and Citizenship in Central Tanzania a “local legend” is quoted regarding the stress and shame of not being able to provide for the family. The narration tells of a mother that is unable to provided food for her children. The first day, she was able to find fruit, but it was not enough. The second day, she could find nothing and went home and told her children she had found potatoes. Tricked, the children played happily outside as they waited for their mother to finish dinner. Upon realizing that the pot was simply filled with stones, the children went to look for their mother, whom they found hanged in her bedroom.

It is not as uncommon as we would wish that the heads of households in financial crisis succumb to suicide. Farmers during famines are among the most common of this tragedy. The role of being a mother is extremely stressful, even under comfortable circumstances. In the cases of severe poverty, malnutrition, poor health, and social crisis, the stress becomes exponential. It is unimaginable to many of us in the developed world what a woman must go through when she knows she cannot feed and protect her children. Even if some food is found, like in the narration, not all food is equally nutritious. Some areas, where there is a cash crop, such as rice, children are malnourished and can developed serious illness. For example, Vitamin A deficiency in many impoverished populations. Food is not enough. A balanced diet is necessary.

In certain cases, food, no matter what kind, has little effect, as in the case of diarrheal disease. The issue is not the lack of food, it is the inability of the body to absorb the nutrients from it. The food passes through, as if not at all, until proper treatment can be issued.This can cause extreme distress for a mother who many not understand why the little food they have is not enough.

2 thoughts on “The Desperation of the Vulnerable

  1. Thank you for your post this week. Sometimes just telling a simple story can drive home a point so much better then ones filled with just restating facts and statistics. As a mother I cannot imagine the pain or the shame in not being able to provide for my family. There was a quote in this week reading that really stood out for me. “Hunger is the worst. It’s even worse than war. War you can run from. But hunger…where will you go”. Pg 8 I tried to answer that question but I could not. Where do you go? Who do you turn to when everyone else is in the some boat as you? As I stated before sometimes telling a story can make people feel a story or a situation then just reading it. So Thank You

  2. The picture you found so perfectly captures this idea of being tricked and hung instead of being given food. It is a sad story of a sad reality that this group of Africans face, It is sad to think of people going without food, when we gorge ourselves on excess, It is sad to think that the poeple who produce the food are the ones that go without, Kind of like food passing through the body but not getting any of the nutrients.

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