A Child's Search for Food

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Turkana's Dry Terrain Turkana's Dry Terrain Photo by DJ Bwakali

In his eyes, there was sadness, but his face was excited as he pulled ahead of two other children and ran towards the kitchen area. In his tiny right hand, was a small plastic tin that still bore the brown remnants of the previous day’s food.

Moments later, Ejoka left the kitchen area with nothing in his tin but the brown remnants. The left over porridge that he had hoped to get was already over. On this bright Thursday afternoon, Ejoka’s plight was anything but bright. Equally glum was the mood of the Red Cross volunteers when they saw Ejoka and many children like him going without food.

Linda and the others had come face to face with hunger and they were finding it increasingly difficult to deal with the situation. Staring desperately at them during meal times, were the weary faces of dozens of children. After dinner, the hungry children would descend on the leftovers, their small hands grabbing whatever morsel of food they could.

Though seasoned in disaster relieve, the Red Cross volunteers never got used these heart-wrenching scenes. They put on brave faces as they were distributing food but inside, they were agonizing greatly. Though many children benefited from this food distribution, many more went back to their dilapidated homes with hunger pangs still wrangling and rumbling within.

Ejoka was a favorite of many of the volunteers. Said Linda of this likeable kid, “Ejoka always has a ready smile. Unfortunately, his eyes always have a sad look.” This sad look owed its existence to nurture and nature. The personable child had been brought up to believe that essential as it was, food was a rare commodity that had to be desperately searched for, fought for and even stolen.

His parents’ brutal death had left him the troubled ten years of his life as his only weapon of survival. They also left him two younger twin sisters aged five years and a nine month old baby. Inevitably, the infant died only a month after its parents’ demise. The cause of death had been severe malnutrition. Fending for his twin sisters and himself was no mean task for Ejoka. Searching for food in this foodless land was a near impossible task for a mere child.

Whenever lady luck brought him some food, it would be responsibly and hungrily shared with his siblings.

Hungry and weary, volunteers trudged back to their truck. They too had run out of food to distribute. It was lunchtime, and the scorching heat was baking them into walking zombies. Although their own food was inside the truck, none of them felt like eating.

So they sat in the truck’s shadow and listened as their leader addressed them, “the harsh realities of this place call on us all to…” his short speech was cut short by loud shouts.

“Thief! Thief! Catch him!”

A blanket of silence enveloped everyone as they all turned to see the thief. Running towards the truck as fast as his tiny legs could carry him was Ejoka. The running was awkward as his tiny hands were tightly clutching a mug of orange juice and a big piece of ugali. Unfortunately, he stumbled and fell, spilling the tiny commodity into the parched ground.

The silence of the watching volunteers was broken by Linda, “Oh my God!” she exclaimed as she ran towards Ejoka. “I was taking the food to my sisters,” he cried hysterically.

The unbearable heat was forgotten as the volunteers beheld the sad sight in front of them.

 

Their feelings were summed up in the barely audible words of Linda, “I think we, the people of the world, are the thieves. We have robbed Ejoka of his childhood and basic right to food.”     

DJ Bwakali

Words can inspire action and change the world

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