Last week, I commented on a LinkedIn post about food insecurity, prompting me to reflect on my own experiences and the undeniable severity of this problem. Among the many trips I've taken, one incident from late 2017 stands out. This area was so isolated that one female patient was brought to tears with her raw, emotional response: "This is the first time I have had medical care," Sadly, she was already in her mid-40s. But that's a story for another time.
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On this trip, our dedicated team had local support that provided transportation, security, housing, and food. However, when it came to meals, our provisions were meager, typically comprising of two servings per day consisting of rice, varied types of beans, and some form of flatbread. Seconds were nonexistent.
Toward the end of our time, an incident occurred that shook me to my core. During one of our meals, a woman abruptly entered our dining area, defying our host's wishes. Desperate and hungry, she went from table to table, pleading for food. Against our host's objections, I handed her my plate, hoping to offer some relief. What happened next broke my heart. Instead of eating the food, she gestured towards the door, and a little child, aged two or three, approached her. She painstakingly hand-fed the child until my plate was empty. When another person offered their plate, so that mom could eat, the severity of her situation became evident. Once again, she didn't eat but instead summoned another slightly older child from the door. She selflessly passed the food to this child as well. Overwhelmed with empathy, a third team member handed her his meal, which she finally consumed.
For the following two days, I surrendered my meals to her, feeling helpless and worried about how she would nourish herself and her children going forward. Unfortunately, in this country, there are no food banks or government programs to provide support. This haunting encounter opened my eyes to a painful reality: countless individuals, including innocent children, go hungry every day. Unfortunately, some of the diseases we encounter on our international missions often stem from the devastating effects of hunger, malnutrition, and limited access to proper care.
I'm uncertain about what I hope to achieve with this post. Perhaps it's simply about raising awareness regarding a crisis that directly impacts the very survival of humanity. While solving this issue may seem insurmountable, one thing is unequivocal: doing nothing is not the solution. This story embodies the power of a small act of kindness, creating a ripple effect. My gesture inspired others to follow suit. Perhaps that is the answer we've been seeking all along. We must collectively recognize the immense value of even the tiniest act of compassion. After all, we never truly know who's observing and how they may be moved to act.