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21 Days for World Hunger – Day 4: The Nameless Hungry

21 Days for World Hunger – Day 4: The Nameless Hungry

Today is Day 4. Wow. This 21 Days for World Hunger is really tossing me about. It’s going so painstakingly slow yet so headspinningly fast.I was really feeling it, this morning, the anxiety of taking on such a monumental task. It’s hard enough to cut the calories but putting out a post a day on top of my normal schedule is really really challenging. I was griping to my husband this morning saying, “I have too much on my plate.” He responded, “Except for food.” How true that is.


My focus remains on Ethiopia today. Dr. Anteneh Roba, Ethiopia born and raised, now resides in the US and practices medicine. He is the President and one of the founders of International Fund for Africa (IFA), a nonprofit working tirelessly to help women, children, and families in Ethiopia. Learn more about IFA from my Day 3 post.

You’ll see on the chart below from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) Statistical Pocketbook World Food and Ag that while Ethiopia has decreased the prevalence of undernourished to nearly half of what it was in 1999-2001 (I’d like to think that IFA played a role in that success), it is still ranked as one of the top twenty countries (#11) with the highest prevalence of undernourished.



The Mom, The Boys, and The Heavy Load

Photo by Dr. Roba: A mother and her two boys

During one of his travels to Northern Ethiopia, Dr. Roba encountered a mother and her two sons carrying wood to a market. The wood, chopped by hand from the few trees that remain standing in the region, was going to be sold to buy food.

This mother and her children were hungry.

They had walked for miles in arid hot conditions with no protection from the sun. Two of them had no shoes. Dark skin painted white with dust. The loads were heavy. The one little guy on the left, as you can see by the photo, looks worn, tattered like his jacket, for his tender years of eight. He’s skinny in those oversized pants, and his neck looks like it’s bearing an incredible weight. The load is too heavy for such a small frame. Will he have back problems before he’s a teenager? Does he already?

They had not eaten for two days.

When asked how much they would get for the wood, Dr. Roba was told they would earn enough change to buy one cup of corn. One cup of corn to share among three people. Three people who hadn’t eaten in two days. Can you in any possible way imagine this type of adversity? Can you imagine yourself having the fortitude to carry on during such hardship?

This is a test of human resiliency.

Dr. Roba and his traveling companions, Seble Nebiyeloul, IFA’s Vice President and co-founder, and Gregory Goodman, a medical student in Boston, emptied their pockets and gave the mom all they had, “which by our measures would be a pittance”, stated Dr. Roba.

She dropped to the ground in fatigue and gratitude crying out of sheer joy, because they had just given her the equivalent of two years worth of chopping, carrying and selling stacks of wood.

The Little Girl and Her Baby Brother

Photograph by Dr. Roba: A little girl and her baby brother

The above photograph, also taken by Dr. Roba, tells another Ethiopian story of a little girl no older than ten. She is carrying her baby brother on her back on a long stretch of arid, dusty, road. Affect between her face and the baby’s face is starkly different. Do you see it? The relaxed face of the baby (is there a smile hidden behind that blue fabric?) speaks volumes about his innocence. The girl, on the other hand, appears troubled. Maybe it’s because those tiny legs have to carry a burden much heavier than a 20 pound baby. The furrow on her forehead partnered with deep-set eyes tells a story of hardship. Dust has smothered any hint of a smile, because when you’re ten years old and you have to walk for miles in the heat with a baby on your back, there’s little to feel happy about.

This photo was taken several years ago. Now, I wonder if she’s still alive. If the baby survived. Mostly, I wonder how does a person make it through a day?

Do you remember being eight or ten? Do you have a ten-year-old in your life? That little girl in the photograph went from birth to adult, bypassing any semblance of childhood.

Dr. Roba shared his thoughts about these and other encounters he’s had with starving people:

If you think those pictures were powerful, try being there seeing it unfold, live, in front of you. I stood there scratching my head wondering if we all are supposed to be on the same planet. 

A few days before I took this picture I was in Houston treating patients with diabetes and heart disease that were 300 to 400 pounds, and then I was in a forgotten land whose people might as well be on Mars for all anyone else cares.

It is so surreal. 

And on this Day 4

I don’t know the names of those people discussed above. And I realize when there are no names, there is a disconnect. As long as we continue to see the suffering as nameless, we can remain in a contented detachment from their pain.

I am more motivated than ever to reach out and help bring connection to the world. There are 795 million people in our shared planet who are hungry. All of these people have names. They have dreams. Aspirations. Love for their families. Beating hearts. I wonder if they have hope.

Here is a reality check: The money you recently spent on that new pair of shoes, the fancy shirt, a new fluffy bathroom rug, your iPhone, your child’s birthday party, dinner out, your dry cleaning, or even that double triple mocha extra cream with pixie dust latte that you buy each morning could potentially be equal to the amount needed to feed one person for weeks, months, possibly a year. Many Americans eat more food in one day than what one starving mother and her two children eat in a week.

Despite the inane complaints I’ve made during this souljourn, I am easily reminded of the privilege of having many daily comforts including a solid roof over my head, a yummy, squishy bed, and the knowledge there is an ample supply of food available to me – even if I choose not to eat it at this time.

These nameless hungry may never know the pleasure of enough. Enough food. Enough comfort. Enough clothes. Enough security. Enough money. Enough trust. Enough is enough.

Is it possible to appreciate one’s good fortune in the absence of comparison or do we need to know hardships – vicarious or otherwise – in order to know gratitude?

My Daily Intake for Day 4
Today I weighed in at 117


I ate my two Brazil nuts this morning at 11:00 to try to decrease the time between waking and eating my one meal today. I chewed very slowly and still, they vanished in about 90 seconds. About 2:00 PM someone offered me a fresh plum right from his tree. Me and all my hungry parts unanimously accepted and gobbled it right up.

Today’s Recipe is adapted from IFA’s Sustainable School Health and Nutrition Program:
Red Beans with Rice and Collard Greens 


3 Cups cooked small red beans (I soaked the beans last night)
~cook the beans with 2 tsp salt, 1 TBSP chili powder, 2 tsp cardamom
1 green chili pepper chopped (I took a wax pepper from the garden)
1/2 large red onion
2 medium tomatoes (from the garden)
2-3 TBSP Avocado or Olive oil (replacing Soybean oil)
1/2 teaspoon each of cardamom, sweet basil, coriander and Lippia adoensis (Koseret)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 TBSP finely chopped ginger
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt to taste
3 Cups cooked brown rice
2-3 Cups spinach (used in place of collard greens)


  • Heat a small amount of oil in pan
  • Sauté the onion for a few minutes then add a small amount of garlic and tomato stirring continuously (instead, I added raw tomato on top at the end)
  • Add turmeric powder and cook gently
  • Add green chilli pepper and cook for 5-10 mins
  • Add the remaining garlic, ginger and water and cook for a couple of mins
  • Add cooked red beans and mix together
  • Add the remaining spices and salt and simmer for a couple of mins
  • Finally mix the cooked rice into the above ingredients
  • In a separate pan, use the rest of the oil (adding water if you run out) to sauté the spinach and place on the side or combine with the other food

Tomorrow I take the day off from blogging. I’ll report back in on Day 6 with food intake information.


“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”
  ~Mahatma Gandhi

“It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
  ~Mother Teresa

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”
~Nelson Mandela


To read other posts in this series, click click click the links. Please share your comments!

Day 1:    The Food Justice Diet
Day 2:    Alarming and Curious Statistics
Day 3:    Finish Your Plate, There are Children Starving in Ethiopia
Day 4:    The Nameless Hungry
Days 5-6:  “Where Does She Get Her Protein??”
Day 7:    One Small NGO Making a Big Impact in Ethiopia
Day 8:    The Language of Hunger
Day 9:    Plenty of Soy Solutions in Latin America
Days 10-11: Can Small-scale farming feed the world?
Day 12: Why Organic Farming?
Days 13-14: The Have and Have-Nots of Southeast Asia
Day 15: Have You Eaten Today?
Day 16: Hunger in America
Days 17 & 18: Hunger’s Dirty Little Secret
Day 19: Eat Plants
Day 20: Watch This, Read That
Day 21: The Power of Activism


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