A few weeks ago, our friend Emile, a Congolese refugee, attended one of my mission trip meetings to help prepare a team headed to Rwanda for what they will see and experience in the Kiziba Refugee Camp.
As part of our time together, I interviewed Emile, who spent ~15 years living in Kiziba. Among other things, I asked him what refugees in the camp eat.
He proceeded to rattle off what every individual receives from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR):
- 12 kg of maize
- 3 kg of beans
- 900 g of cooking oil
To put this in perspective, in a typical week, I leave the grocery store with my trunk filled with plastic grocery sacks and Trader Joe bags containing a variety of food, including fresh produce. Yet, the food listed above (which is supposed to last a refugee for one month) wouldn't even fill up half my trunk. In fact, you can fit it all into one plastic grocery sack.
And there's certainly no diversity in the UN food rations. Emile ate the same thing, every day for 15 years in the camp.
There's also certainly no fresh produce found in the UN food rations.
To help address this problem, youth in the camp have joined forces to grow food to supplement the UN rations. The problem is, there's not much available land in Kiziba. How can there be when every ounce of it's needed to house the Congolese refugees who call this place home?
The garden is, therefore, small. It's meager harvest is reserved for the most vulnerable in the camp – children and elderly.
So families have found another way of dealing with this problem: Having babies. You see, every individual in a refugee camp receives the same food ration, regardless of how old they are. That means a newborn baby – who can eat nothing provided by the UN – still receives a full food ration. As a result, having a baby temporarily puts a family ahead of the food curve. For as long as mom can breastfeed the baby, a family essentially gets an extra food ration to share between them.
Of course, as soon as the baby is weaned, the family is even further behind. The cycle of food scarcity continues.
This is unjust – on every level.
Unfortunately, I don't know how to solve this problem. I wish I did.
What I do know is that when Jesus told Peter to “Feed my sheep”, I don't think he was only talking about doing so on a spiritual level.
Maybe that means that we, too, should take seriously the problems of food scarcity and actually figure out how to feed Jesus' sheep.
Linking up today with Spirit of the Poor: Feed Your Neighbor.