Yes…. Baba Douglas, Mama was a little annoyed with a memory.
Baba Douglas had overheard the conversations between his wife and Mama Sikovia. One time when he came back from the city, he carried two paper bags. In each was meat, milk, rice, eggs and vegetables. He hid one in the bush before he went home. After the mid-day meal, he excused himself and walked out. He picked the paper he had hidden.
Seconds later he was standing outside Mama Sikovia’s door. He knocked softly. Mama let him in, then sat on the bed. Baba Douglas sat on her left, a few inches from her. Sikovia was asleep.
“From what I have been hearing,” he whispered. “You have been having a difficult time getting food,” Mama was silent. He moved closer to Mama. Mama moved a few inches away. He moved closer. Mama moved again. He moved. Mama could not move any further, she had reached the edge of the bed. She would have stood, but she was weak, bored and tired.
“I have brought you this.” He removed the items one by one and placed them on the left. Mama felt something pull and tag in her stomach. He lifted his hand, placed it on her shoulder. Mama sat still. He moved his hand down towards her chest. Mama folded her hands across her breasts.
“Do not be foolish,” he whispered, “Baba is gone, you are going to die,” he moved his hands from her chest to her knee and pulled her dress up. “Do you want to die? I know how much your relatives in the city despise you,” he paused then, “word goes around, you know.” Mama did not want to die, but she also knew there were many ways of getting out of trouble…. other than sex. There was no simple solution for drought and famine, but….
She pushed his hand away, looked behind and hoped Sikovia does not wake up and see the food. Children can make people do things they would never have dreamt of.
Baba Douglas put the food back into the paper bag, “You are going to die, both of you,” leaving the door ajar, he walked towards Aholibah’s compound.
Most of the villagers had moved to other towns to stay with relatives. Mama Sikovia had nowhere to go. Her relatives and friends thought she was poor because she was lazy. She wasn’t. She had a big shamba, a shamba that always produced good crops. She made sure the same relatives had a share of her harvest every season. There was no harvest, then, and she became the enemy again…. and they still thought she was foolish and lazy because she lived in the village…. this made her feel ashamed and very scared.
You may be polite, you may be generous, you may make people smile, but one day you get unlucky and the world crashes you. How did she miss the step on firm ground and fall through the cracks…. go under? How does someone fall from much…. to nothing? She knew that moving to any relative’s house would be like jumping from a bed of rocks to a bed of k apple. Thorns were more painful than death. She was used to death now. In death, there was peace, but who would take care of her daughter. She sighed, and placed her head gently on her arm.
|My first reaction to my father’s pain was one that surprised and disturbed me a great deal…. |
anger and resentment towards God….
I never would have expected it….
I am more than somewhat embarrassed and actually sad to have to tell you what I said to God, I actually told him….
“I know everyone has to die, but if you let Dad suffer horribly….
I’ll never forgive you….
because I know you can prevent it if you want to”….
Fortunately, my father never went through the long suffering….
the anticipation of which brought on my outburst to God….
But it did leave me with a problem….
I needed to know why God permits suffering….
There was obviously something about the nature of God that I didn’t understand….
~ Musings about God.com ~
Every time she took a walk around the village, there was fresh soil…. graves. No one knew when the people in the graves died except the ones close to the dead. The villagers were tired of asking. The ones that died lately had died quietly and were buried quietly, wrapped in a sheet of cloth, no ceremony, no coffins. The ones without close relatives, the ones with small shambas, the ones with little wages…. the ones from minority clans, died first…. and the first victims of starvation were children. Mama noticed. Many graves were small. She also knew that some had died from simple infections because the body’s immune system was too weak to fight disease. Others died in their houses, and their bodies would disintegrate undiscovered if it were not for the stench.
|When you try your best, but you don’t succeed…. |
When you get what you want, but not what you need….
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep….
Stuck in reverse….
And the tears come streaming down your face….
When you lose something you can’t replace….
When you love someone, but it goes to waste….
Could it be worse?
~ I’ll fix you ~
~ Coldplay ~
‘The world is not kind’, she thought. She remembered her neighbour who wept for many days after giving birth.
Mama had found her staring at her baby blankly, tears flowing down her cheeks. Her husband was beside her. The husband had been dead for more than two days.
“Why even?” the neighbour wailed. “What is this child for? He will bring sorrow and sadness in this home? He will die.”
Mama was silent. Tears welled up her eyes.
“How will I feed him?” she looked at her underweight child. “I can’t even feed myself?”
A few days later, a good Samaritan decided to take some porridge to the new mother’s house. She knocked on the door. There was no answer. She knocked again. Silence. She pushed the door and peeped. The new mother was missing. The kind soul sat on the thin mattress on the floor and held the baby in her arms. The baby was thin and underweight. She waited. The sun set a little further, and she knew baby was nobody’s baby.
The baby lived. He was given a name, Simon. Simon was everybody’s baby. His story touched people’s hearts. Most humans wait for bad things to happen, so that they can start doing good. Many villagers visited the good Samaritan, with food for the baby. Everybody wanted to be in that story, of the child who survived miraculously.
|Close to a billion people…. |
one-eighth of the world’s population….
Still live in hunger….
Each year 2 million children die through malnutrition….
This is happening at a time when doctors in Britain….
are warning of the spread of obesity….
We are eating too much while others starve….
~ Jonathan Snacks ~
Mama and Sikovia’s situation, was just another starvation story. Feeding them would never make anyone popular or famous. It would not be a hero story…. They were forgotten. Mama never questioned God and never forgot to pray.
Trembling, she dragged herself slowly, away from the door. Sikovia saw Mama tremble and threw one more piece of firewood onto the fire, like Mama did for Baba. Ashes rose into the air. “Sikovia, come. Open the door and call out. Maybe someone will hear you.” Many people, having suffered so much, never try to save themselves when they are near death…. but Mama wanted to live, live for Sikovia and Baba. Baba should come back to a home he was used to, a home with a wife. Love gave Mama the little strength to live.
“Sikovia, open the door.”
Sikovia shook her head. “The dogs”
“Listen…. they are not barking. They are no longer here.” Mama stretched her hand slowly, held her small leg and pushed her gently towards the door. “They have followed the others, for meat.”
|When we are shown scenes of starving children in Africa…. |
with a call for us to do something to help them….
the underlying ideological message is something like….
“Don’t think, don’t politicize, forget about the true causes of their poverty….
Just act, contribute money,” ….
So that you will not have to think!
~ Slavoj Zizek ~
“Meat.” Sikovia loved meat. She opened the door and let out a shrill. No one turned to see where it came from. Maybe, they thought a child was just being a nuisance…. or playful…. but why would they think that? The children no longer left the house much. They even stopped going to school. There was not enough food to carry to school. They did not have enough strength to play anymore. It was very difficult for hungry children to learn, worse still, impossible for children who did not eat enough, to walk to school. Why would anyone think, this one child, was playing?
Mama Sikovia, through the crack of the door, saw the crowd of people disappear. People cannot give forever; they get tired eventually. The dogs turned. “The dogs are back,” She whispered. Sikovia closed the door. Mama Sikovia closed her eyes. ‘Where is Millicent?’ she wondered…. ‘and Fabirisina?’ What she did not know was, they both thought…. Or should I say, they decided to think, she had moved to another village to stay with her relatives. None of them confirmed. It was easier to think that the relatives were helping.
|It’s not the job of government to help the poor…. |
The church is the mechanism that God put on earth to help the poor….
~ Rich Mullins ~
Two hours later, someone opened the door slowly and peeped. “My God!” she whispered as she pushed the door wider and rushed towards Mama Sikovia. The door hit Sikovia lightly as she jumped back. Sofia tripped and almost fell on Mama. Sikovia stared at the two women. Sofia knelt beside Mama and touched her forehead gently. Mama opened her eyes and closed them again slowly.
|God has a guardian angel for everyone…. |
we only have to be patient and wait….
If you have faith in God, everything will be alright…
~ Berina Ogega ~
Sofia rushed out and ran towards Millicent’s hut. She knocked urgently. She was still knocking when an impatient Millicent opened the door. The last knock was on Millicent’s face.
“What is….?” She stopped when she saw the panic on Sofia’s face.
“Give me water!” she entered the hut, looking around. “Mama Sikovia!” she said pointing.
Millicent froze in her tracks. “Mama Sikovia! Mama Sikovia is around?”
|If you can’t feed a hundred people…. |
then feed just one.
~ Mother Teresa ~
Sofia found a cup and fetched some water from the pot. Millicent ran after her with a bottle of milk. They turned Mama over, lifted her to a half sitting position and supported her head. The rays of light from the door fell on her eyes. She whimpered and shut them. Millicent closed the door and opened the window. The house smelt stale. Using a spoon, they fed her with the water and milk alternately. If Sofia was able to save the whole village, she would.
The images of Millicent’s dead cow flashed through her owner’s mind. ‘I should have slaughtered that cow!’ she muttered to herself. She wanted to cry.
“The dogs were tagging at my bag, the one with the meat,” Sofia began. “They came out of nowhere. I lifted the bag up and attempted to kick them. My son bent to pick a stone,” she lifted the spoon up to Mama’s mouth. “They ran back here. After reaching home, my son and I decided to come back and catch the dogs, for a meal, that is when I decided to check what they were barking at, and I saw you.”
Millicent shook her head. She had not imagined the extent to which hunger had hit the villagers. She was anti-social. The food that her husband brought from the city, plus, the relief food, she was fine.
“Where are the dogs now?” Mama Sikovia asked.
“You don’t want to know,” Sofia stood as she heard footsteps approaching the hut.
|There are ways to get there…. |
If you care enough for the living….
Make a little space….
Make a better place….
Heal the world….
Make it a better place….
For you and for me and the entire human race….
There are people dying….
If you care enough for the living….
Make a better place….
For you and for me….
And the dream we were conceived in….
Will reveal a joyful face….
And the world we once believed in….
Will shine again in grace
~ Michael Jackson ~
At the door was Sofia’s son, the medicine man, and the donkey.
Millicent and Sofia wiped Mama Sikovia clean as the rest waited outside. Mama Sikovia was placed on the donkey. Sikovia cried.
“I will be back,” she assured her daughter. “I am going to bring Baba,” The word Baba was the sun that lit the little girl’s heart. She sniffed and wiped the tears with the back of her hand. Sofia locked the house and carried Sikovia. Millicent gave the remaining milk to Sikovia and looked at Mama as they faded away. She did not know what to say. She smiled at Sofia, turned and walked slowly to her hut.
A happy Sikovia opened the bottle of milk and took a sip as they walked towards Sofia’s home. There, she would join her temporary brother, Simon and many lucky children.
|Across the world millions of children suffer from starvation and malnutrition…. |
This is caused by mismanagement and corruption….
There is also lack of accountability in government programs….
Half of the families in the society experience struggle to find food….
And also experience chronic hunger….
Sometimes paying the bills must come before buying food.
~ Aljazeera English ~
~ You Tube ~
Lights will guide you home….
And ignite your bones….
And I will try to fix you
~ Coldplay ~
When Baba heard from the other patients that the relief food had been delivered to the village, he was relieved and knew his family was not going to die. He was stronger now and had added weight. The meals in the hospital that were supplied by donors were excellent. Every patient that was discharged was given a bag of the excellent food to carry home. Baba longed to go home. He wished to take this sweet food to his family. He thought, staring at the mabati (iron sheets), his hands at the back of his head.
It took all his will not to cry out loud when Mama was brought in. Men don’t cry you know. Men who cry, are weak, they said. Tears welled up his eyes. He kept very still, for he knew, any movement, would get them running down the side of his face to the ear. It was taboo, that is what they were told, during the thousand meetings held in the village. Initiation, from babies, then boys, then men. An invisible knife cut deep through his heart. Did Sikovia die? His heart bled.
The tears dried up. He closed his eyes. He imagined Sikovia wrapped in a sheet of cloth, Mama burying her, alone, in a shallow grave. He turned slowly and looked at Mama who seemed asleep. He was a little relieved, it would give him time to grieve before he got courage to ask about Sikovia. Brave enough to listen to how her daughter suffered before she let her soul free.
“We got a spare bed!” one of the nurses shouted. “Someone has been discharged.”
Mama was wheeled away. Baba sighed. Mama was alive. They had each other.
Two days later, a weak Mama opened her eyes, looked around and asked for Baba.
Baba had seen patients die as soon as they arrived at the hospital. Others died a few days after because their body organs had failed and could not digest or absorb any food. So when the nurse came in and walked towards his bed, he almost told her not to give him the news, but a man has to be brave, is it not? He breathed in deeply and held his breathe….
“Your wife wants to see you,” the nurse whispered. Baba was speechless. He nodded, sat and stared hard at the floor. He walked to his wife and sat by her side, she was on the drip.
“How are you?” he spoke softly. “I am so sorry,” he said.
“It is alright,” Mama smiled weakly, “we were saved.”
So many questions ran through Baba’s mind. ‘Who was saved? His wife and his daughter or his wife and the villagers?’ He opened his mouth to ask, but words failed him. His head dropped.
Mama wondered why Baba was miserable. Then it hit her. She placed her hand on Baba’s.
“Shhhh, I know,” Baba said looking away.
“Sikovia is fine,” Baba’s heart missed a beat. “She is with Sofia.”
Baba, forgetting that he was still a patient, rushed out of the ward and ran towards the gate. The gate was locked. He shook it vigorously shouting “My daughter is alive. Open the gate!” Tears rolled down his cheeks, he did not care. If a man is not allowed to express his feelings, then he must be an animal.
Thinking that the daughter was standing outside the gate, the guards decided to open. There was no one. “This man is hallucinating,” the confused guards whispered. “He is mad.”
Baba continued shaking the gate. Then rushed to the small office and quickly told his story. They were amazed. In spite of their fatigue, they found this funny. They laughed, asked Baba to calm down and sent him to get the discharge sheet. Baba ran to the ward and was informed he had two days to go. After pacing up and down outside the ward for about an hour, he calmed down. He entered Mama’s ward and sat beside her.
More than 50 hours later, Baba was riding on a donkey to the village. He passed outside his house, it was okay. Dark clouds were gathering up in the sky. ‘It should rain already,’ Baba thought, as the donkey trotted towards Sofia’s house.
Sikovia was throwing pieces of paper and small sticks into the fire when Sofia entered the hut with a sufuria of water and beans. The house was full of smoke from the smoldering paper and sticks.
“Sikovia,” Sofia startled her. She turned rubbing her eyes, coughing. “That is bad.”
Sikovia walked out for fresh air. She took a deep breath and rubbed her tearing eyes. She had not tickled Simon that day. “Where is Simon?” she murmured looking around. At first Sikovia did not recognize Baba. Then it was Baba. She jumped up and down with joy and ran.
“Baba!” heads turned.
An excited Baba lifted Sikovia, threw her up into the air, then caught her. He held her tight and swung her round until they were both a little bit dizzy. He looked around and notice Sikovia was not alone. He waved hallo to all the children, they waved back. Baba was here, the young ones longed for their parents. Some would never come back.
Sofia placed the beans on the fire and went to see what the screaming was about. She was very happy to see Baba. Baba was kind to everyone, always kind. Everyone loved him. They shook hands.
“Come with me,” Baba said. Sofia locked the door of the hut and followed Baba to where he had left the donkey. Baba opened the bag of food and gave a packed of biscuits to the medicine man then gave Sofia the rest of the food. The medicine man left.
With Sikovia following him around, Baba took another packet of biscuits and fed the children. He watched Mama Sikovia cook as he played with the young ones. He ate and left. He visited and helped Sofia with the chores, every day. He brought with him all the relief food, until Mama came home.
I know what you are thinking. No, nothing happened between Baba and Sofia. Baba and Sofia were good people.
We were created with a purpose, that is why we are alive. That is why the human race still exists. Suffering will come, but God will never let us suffer forever. He is a God of love…. and that is why the rains came.
|12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” 13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” ~ 1 Kings 17: 12-16 ~|
Art by: Berina Ogega
HUNGER AND STARVATION
Hunger is an urgent need for food or a specific nutrient. It is also the uncomfortable feeling that results from lack of food. In biological terms, hunger is a condition where the calories consumed, are less than the energy needed to perform light physical activity, and where you cannot maintain a particular weight at a certain height. When hungry, our stomach muscles become tighter which is known as hunger pangs. These contractions are triggered by a hormone known as ghrelin hormone, which causes an empty sensation in the stomach.
Acute hunger, is when you are underfed over a certain period of time. It is the most extreme form and arises as a result of crises like drought, wars and disasters.
Persistent hunger refers to long-term undernourishment where the body absorbs less food than it needs. Usually as a result of poverty.
Hidden hunger is a form of persistent hunger that results from an unbalanced diet. The consequences are visible over a long period of time. It can lead to serious diseases such as marasmus and kwashiorkor, poor physical and mental development and even death.
Marasmus is a condition affecting children that is caused by a diet lacking mainly in calories.
Kwashiorkor also affects children and is as a result of a protein-poor diet. It is characterized by progress in growth.
Malnutrition results from shortages, excesses or imbalances in the consumption of nutrients in food.
Food insecurity occurs when people are at risk or worried about not being able to meet their preferred food in terms of calories as well as nutritional value.
Reasons why you are always hungry
- Not eating enough protein.
- Not sleeping enough.
- Consumption of too many refined carbs.
- Diet is low in fat.
- Not drinking enough water
- Diet lacks fibre.
- Eating while distracted.
- Lots of exercise.
- Drinking too much alcohol.
Appetite stimulants are medications or supplements that increase appetite by increasing hunger. This might be their medical purpose or a side effect. These medications are useful to cancer patients, those with psychological disorders and the aging who may be suffering from weight loss to increase their appetite.
Menopause results in hormonal imbalances in the body. Ghrelin hormone which creates a feeling of hunger and leptin hormone which makes people feel full, are affected. If more ghrelin hormone is produced, individuals tend to be in a constant state of hunger.
Stress, which can be physical or psychological, increases appetite. This is because stress increases cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is a hormone which controls hunger and food cravings for specific foods such as sweets.
Poverty is one of the leading causes of starvation as individuals lack enough money to buy food as well as to acquire possessions such as land or the farming materials needed to produce their own food.
Starvation is the result of a severe or total lack of nutrients needed for sustaining life. The basic cause of starvation is an imbalance between energy intake and energy use by the body.
Starvation mode is a situation where body reactions slow down because a person is not eating enough or is not getting enough energy from the food eaten. It is a brain system that protects an individual against starvation.
Refeeding syndrome is a condition that develops when someone who is starved or severely malnourished begins to eat again. This is because of the sudden reintroduction of glucose or sugar into the body. It can cause death due to abnormal heart rhythms leading to heart failure. Other risks of the syndrome include confusion, coma and convulsions/seizures.
During treatment for starvation, victims should be given small sips of water mixed with glucose at regular intervals. Fruit juices are also recommended. Later, food can be given gradually in small quantities. They should also get plenty of rest and be kept warm.
Starvation can be a result of medical causes as well as circumstance.
Medical causes include conditions like anorexia nervosa, which is an intense fear of gaining weight and the way in which they regard weight, where an individual eats food that is too little to get enough nutrients from.
Bulimia nervosa where an individual overeats then proceeds to force himself or herself to vomit preventing the body from absorbing enough nutrients.
Comas also cause starvation as patients are fed intravenously (through an IV tube) and this may limit the quantity of nutrients they get compared to when they consume food.
Gastrointestinal, diseases of the digestive passage, may cause damage therefore preventing some nutrients from being absorbed, gradually causing malnutrition.
Strike and Fasting.
Circumstantial causes may be intentional or natural. An individual may go on a hunger strike or fast excessively hence intentionally starve themselves.
These include famine and drought caused by climate changes resulting in an inadequate amount of food being harvested from the fields. This prevents people from getting enough food to survive causing them to starve to death.
Floods cause poor harvests as crops die from taking in too much water as well as from being uprooted by moving water. Floods may also cause landslides which carry away planted crops and cover others which were planted, hence destroying them.
Another cause of starvation is war. Wars cause fear hence preventing people from cultivating their fields to produce food or transfer any produced food to the market to be sold. This results in food becoming scarce. People may also be displaced from their homes becoming refugees who have to depend on the goodwill of others for their survival. Unlimited security during times of war may cause market instability causing food prices to be very high.
Symptoms and effects of starvation
Inanition refers to the symptoms and effects of starvation. These include:
- Catabolysis is the process of the body breaking down its own muscles and other tissues, in order to keep vital systems such as the nervous system and heart muscles functioning.
- Loss of weight as a result of reduction in muscle mass resulting in fatigue, faintness, dizziness and feeling sluggish.
- Vital organs such as the heart and lungs shrink slowing down the heart rate and causing low blood pressure. There is also bone density loss resulting in fragile bones which can break easily.
- Atrophy (wasting away) of the stomach which weakens the feeling of hunger. Hunger is controlled by the small volume of the stomach, causing one to feel less and less hungry as time passes.
- Decreased ability to digest food because of lack of digestive acid production, may cause chronic diarrhoea and constipation resulting in discomfort and pain.
- Individuals may have anaemia due to low iron content in the body. This leads to reduced oxygen flow to body organs thereby causing fatigue.
- Poor immunity due to lack of vitamins and minerals of inadequate of the same, which are important in the production of antibodies to fight illnesses. This increases chances of becoming ill higher.
- Victims of starvation are often too weak to sense thirst and therefore become dehydrated. This results in wasting away of muscles and dry, cracked skin which causes movement to be painful.
- Fluid may accumulate in body tissues and cavities as a result of protein deficiency. This causes some parts of the body to swell.
- In females, menstruation stops due to low production of the o estrogen hormone, and a low body fat percentage. It can also cause infertility and miscarriage.
Psychological effects of starvation
- People may exhibit apathy which is the lack of interest, motivation or concern for themselves or those around them. They may neglect themselves in ways such as not caring about their appearance and hygiene.
- Individuals may become withdrawn and isolated from other members of society either from the lack of energy to interact with others or from feeling judged or ashamed of their situation.
- Hunger causes irritability where people become sensitive to noise and other petty irritations making them aggressive and argumentative. There is also difficulty in mental concentration since the victims become obsessed with thoughts of food.
- Hunger decreases self-consciousness and increases the act of doing something without thinking twice, hence increasing the willingness to take risks and make poor decisions. People may steal or become violent as they become more desperate to get food by any means. Eventually the personality becomes so morally corrupted that mothers may go so far as to steal from their children.
- Parents may become moody and depressed when unable to provide for their children. The children in turn become less social, have lower concentration levels and more behavioural issues and experience sleeping and eating disorders. Maternal depression during pregnancy impacts the physical and mental development of the child.
- Poor mood can result from poor eating habits. The drop in mood can then lead to a loss of appetite causing a vicious cycle. The person can be in a constant state of moodiness.
- In the final stages of starvation, just before death, adults may experience mental disorders such as hallucinations, anxiety, trauma, stress and dementia.
Starvation can be prevented by:
- Poverty reduction through creation of employment opportunities, ensuring more people are earning an income to enable them buy food.
- Political stability reduces chances of war. War prevents food production and creates unstable markets causing high food prices.
- Providing food aid to hunger-stricken areas through donations and fundraisers as well as establishing soup kitchens and food banks to feed the hungry.
It is an eternal obligation towards the human being, not to let him suffer from hunger when one has the chance of coming to his assistance.
~ Simon Weil ~
Article by: Tracy Moraa
Bachelor of Arts (Psychology)