Bioethics Blogs

The Limits of Rations and Cash for Food Programs: Food Related Illness in The Gihembe Refugee Camp by Emily A. Lynch

An elderly woman, whom I will call Mama Solange, walks the narrow, muddy pathway between her home and the neighbors compound in the refugee camp. She takes me for a humanitarian aid worker, or perhaps just for someone new to direct her complaints. Cupping maize in her outstretched hands, she looks at me, shakes her head silently and spits to the ground at her feet. Stretching her arms outward, away from her chest, she raises her hands high up in the air, and names God. A small crowd is gathering as she continues to cry out, and it is unclear if Mama Solange is blaming the heavens for the poor quality maize she holds in her hands and shows me, or if she is asking God to hold someone accountable for her allotted food and corresponding illnesses, or if she is pleading for urgent help. One fast fluid movement later, she freezes and stares at the audience in front of her and then re-creates the sounds of explosive, gassy diarrhea. Her gestures are punctuated as she tucks her stomach in, crouching now at her knees and swaying her hips, she spits at the earth in front of us.

Her movements intensify and she grows louder, recycling the original physical repetition: her outstretched arms to the skies and God; her hands filled with maize kernels; then into a posture emulating intestinal distress and sickness. The surrounding young children applaud and giggle, giddy from Mama Solange’s bold bodily performance to a non-camp resident and her narration of the perilous food rations.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.