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Real Hunger is No Game

I received an email from my son, Mujaahid, today. He and his family are still living in the small mountain village that we called home for three years. This village was recently subjected to a months long blockade, which I wrote about in my “From the Front”series here at Yemen Journey. Things are back to normal, and apparently moving forward. Mujaahid told me that electricity lines are being brought in, so the village’s power will no longer be available at the whim of a few antiquated generators and a few Houthi rebels who have the ability, from time to time, to stop shipments of diesel from entering the village.

Damaaj, seen from a nearby mountaintop

This is a great blessing in a lot of ways, for those who can afford the lines and the burden of an extra monthly bill. Mujaahid, at this time, cannot, but he is patient, and we will see what happens in the future. He’d like to get a washing machine and maybe a small refrigerator eventually as well, to make things easier for his wife, who does all the washing by hand, just as we did when we lived there.

Mujaahid also told me that the baby, Yasmeen, has been sick with vomiting and diarrhea for a week. The local clinic prescribed I.V’s, but she isn’t getting better, so they are trying to get together the money to take her to a nearby town for treatment. When I read this, my heart fell, as it always does when I am reminded of just how far away they are, and how little I can do for them besides pray and pass on their story so that others can join their prayers to mine. Truly powerful…and included in my prayers always is the plea that Mujaahid and his family will be reunited with us, and our family will be whole again.

Baby Yasmeen's little hand

With all of this on my mind, I checked my email, and saw that there is a new movie out called “Hunger Games.” I don’t watch television or movies, so this one will remain a mystery to me, but the title made me think. I would never, after my experiences in Yemen, have thought to pair those two words together. Not only is real hunger never a game, but I fear that the truth of hunger may lose some of its power through casual repetition.

We had times in Yemen where all we had to eat was salad, sometimes made up of lettuce and radishes. When things were looking up, we were able to add bread to that. At times we ate rice and very little else- maybe some onions and potatoes. We ate chicken once every few months even in good times, and red meat only when gifted with it by neighbors. This is not a call for pity, or to call attention to any hardships we faced; rather, it is to make the point that even in the worst of those times, our state was nothing compared to that of many of the people of Yemen who lived around us. The little children we saw begging at bus stops or digging through trash. The old men leaning on their canes, cardboard spread out before them to gather charity from passersby. The toothless old women going door to door asking for bread. Entire families huddled under overpasses, all their material possessions in a small pile near them.

These are the faces of hunger.

“Aid workers call hunger in Yemen the country’s “silent emergency”. With the third highest rates of malnutrition in the world, worse than anywhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, generations of Yemeni children grow up stunted, physically and mentally less than their potential. A third of the country, over seven million people, struggle daily to afford enough food to lead a healthy and productive life, with many parents pulling their children out of school so they can help at home,” according to an article at the news blog The Casbah.

A third of the country. To these children, hunger is certainly no game.

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