Border formalities are always the same, but this time it was unusually relaxing. I was enjoying the feeling of the sun’s warmth while casually talking to the two friendly border guards as they took down our motorcycle details. Once they were finished we were directed to a small concrete hut around the back of large concrete shell of a building that once might have been plans for a customs and immigration hall. After speaking with the immigration lady and obtaining our three month visa we were directed to a customs office, on the other side of the dirt road in the middle of a grassy paddock filled with goats. Everything went really easy, with lots of laughs, we even managed to exchange the last of our Kenyan shillings with a surprisingly great exchange rate.
We left the small village with a huge smile our faces and a bladder pressing to be released and rode towards Sipi Falls where we plan to spend the night. I started to search for a nice place to pull over and do my business behind a bush. The road wrapped itself around Mount Elgon, with steep banks on each side of the road, peeing just seemed too hard! Eventually I found a spot. Just as I started to slow down a police truck turned the corner and stopped right where I wanted to stop. As I passed, I noticed the back of the truck was loaded up with more army people who looked as if they were going rebel hunting. I wasn’t going to stop now, that’s for sure. When I did eventually find another place, I got off my bike and waited as there were a couple of children just hanging around watching me. I couldn’t hold it in any longer and took off down the bank in search of some privacy.
The narrow road, twisted around the mountain led us higher and higher, until we eventually switched over to the other side of the mountain and Uganda opened out in front of us. It was so beautiful with the green mountainous foreground and the flat swampy plains in the distance. Excited by the view and the technical driving down slippery muddy slopes, across small but deep mud puddles and balancing on the dry mounds between the muddy ruts, I was in heaven. Occasionally the road was so bad the locals had set up road blocks using trucks and sticks to try to collect money from the users to fix the road. But with little traffic, I could hardly imagine they would ever collect enough. They all lifted their barriers for us, and only once did they try to get us to pay. Secretly, I didn’t want them to fix the road! I was enjoying myself too much!
Parking my bike on the side of the road, we climb up a steep bank to a small wooden shack. I peer into the gloomy candle less interior and spot packet of glucose biscuits and ask the man for two bottles of cold coke. Mike and I sit outside on a small wooden bench under the veranda. We can feel, the energy slowly returning with some food and sugary drink. The bikes are soon surrounded by children in hot pink school uniforms. Mike makes funny faces and does things behind my back to make them all laugh. Three kids are more adventurous and come right up to us, watching with their huge eyes and big bellies.
I couldn’t believe these kids were hungry with all the fruit and vegetables they grew on this mountain. On TV you are shown images of starving children all over Africa and organisations asking for a dollar a day to help feed and clothe the children. Confused by what I was seeing before me and the imagery I grew up with I had to do some more digging. I discovered only 0.3% of population of sub-Sahara is actually starving. That equates to three in every thousand. Surprising isn’t it? These children standing before me are not actually starving they are just lacking protein or are in desperate need of some worming pills (These are not affordable for families to purchase). But this is in fact the technical term of hunger as I have quoted below.
World hunger refers to the second definition, aggregated to the world level. The related technical term (in this case operationalized in medicine) is malnutrition.
Malnutrition is a general term that indicates a lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health (Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia).
There are two basic types of malnutrition. The first and most important is protein-energy malnutrition–the lack of enough protein (from meat and other sources) and food that provides energy (measured in calories) which all of the basic food groups provide. This is the type of malnutrition that is referred to when world hunger is discussed. The second type of malnutrition, also very important, is micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiency. This is not the type of malnutrition that is referred to when world hunger is discussed, though it is certainly very important.” Taken directly from the world hunger website – click here
It was something for me to take in and think about while I was riding. Up until now I had only seen a small hand full of children who are technically hungry and had been wondering when I was going to start seeing them as the TV commercials demonstrated. We rode on and arrived at our destination, hungry (but not that kind!) tired and in desperate need of a hot shower. I drifted off to sleep with thoughts of world hunger floating around my head and what it actually means, on the ground here in Uganda.