KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
By Katherine Crabtree
Are hungry people the same everywhere?
This is one of the main questions I wanted to think about in Uganda. Not that I really think that hunger in Uganda is the same as in the US, but there’s got to be some overlap. Hence the venn diagram.
It may seem simple, but I think that if you’re a doctor in a place like Uganda or working in a low-resource setting in the US, you start to distill problems down to basic needs: food, shelter, water.
Clearly, a patient without food will have worse health than the patient with plenty of it. But when you start to think about the “why,” the reasons that a patient doesn’t have adequate access to food, it gets so much more complicated. Really, food couldn’t be a LESS basic need.
What you do you really need to have food security? Work is a good place to start. To get work you need education, but to get that you need a government that supports adequate public schooling. And even if that is in place, you need to come from a family that has the luxury of allowing you to finish your education rather than sending you to work.
OK, maybe education is too much to ask, but you can get some work that doesn’t require education. Still you need fair pay, protection of your rights as a worker, and protection from a harmful working environment. If your work, or your means of obtaining food, is of greater detriment to your health than the benefit you get from being able to buy yourself food, you might as well go hungry, or stop working.
Now you’ve stopped working and have no education, so as a doctor I say forget it, I’ll just give you food and you’ll be fine. When we surveyed patients at our homeless clinic in Sacramento, it turned out that even when patients had access to free food from pantries, they didn’t have better scores on a food insecurity survey than patients who weren’t using pantries at all. Just the food isn’t enough–you need somewhere to cook it, somewhere to store it, and to know how to prepare it in a healthy way, or else you might as well not have gotten the food in the first place. You’ll still be a hungry person.
Does this answer the question? Are hungry people the same everywhere? Surely not when there are so many points at which the path toward (or more optimistically, away from) hunger can diverge.
Katherine Crabtree is a recent graduate from medical school at UC Davis School of Medicine. In April-May, Katherine participated in a 4-week internship with KIHEFO in Kabale, Uganda, focusing on food security and nutrition via the Child Family Health International (CFHI) partnership.
Read more about her experiences in Uganda – click here.
Inspired to get involved with KIHEFO? Please visit our official website – click here.