Something inside me just gave up today. I don’t know why. I can guess, but I’m not sure. After being completely healthy for nearly seven weeks my body decided to break down. I understand, from others, that this is completely normal. Our digestive systems struggle and fight to keep a stiff upper lip for about six weeks and then they just stop trying. In essence they say, ‘right, I can see how it’s going to be. I’ve done my best to keep you from being sick but I’m tired and now you’re going to get what’s coming to you.’ And what’s coming is usually either vomiting or diarrhoea – both if you’re very lucky. However, I think my body had another reason.
Yesterday, my friend Mike and I were sitting outside having dinner and he told me about his day. He had been working on a nutrition programme to which a Sudanese woman had been bringing in her baby. The baby had been doing well but that day the woman also brought in her seven year old – a girl so malnourished that the nutritionist immediately referred her to the clinic. The clinic was miles away so Mike drove them there, dropped them off and went back to the nutrition programme. Later that night Mike and the nutritionist went back to the clinic to check on things. The girl was dead - wrapped in a sheet - and the mother needed a ride back to the IDP camp with her healthy baby and her dead daughter. Mike drove them.
The story was appalling but it didn’t surprise me. In the short time I’ve been here two of our staff had children die and one had a brother killed in the fighting. People die – they die because of the war, or because of food – or the lack of it, or because the environment is harsh. Life here is full of the appalling but not surprising. And the knowledge of these things should make us lay down our forks and sit down in the dust and put ashes on our heads. But it doesn’t. We hear these things and in the midst of, and in spite of, this knowledge we go right on eating and drinking and living. Maybe because we don’t know what else to do. Or maybe because of the lack of alternatives.
However, I think that at times like this our bodies sometimes reject what our minds readily accept. I think mine couldn’t both digest three meals a day and the knowledge that a few miles away there are seven year olds dying of hunger. So it stopped. I can’t say that I blame it.