Editor’s note: Abby Metty will be in Kenya with World Vision March 25-April 8.
John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors. Right now I’m reading his classic, The Grapes of Wrath, about the migration of farmers in the 1930s from the Midwest to California and the downward spiral of poverty they endured along the way. A central theme of the novel is hunger. It focuses around one family and their search for work and food in increasingly desperate conditions.
He writes, “How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him — he has known a fear beyond every other.”
Over and over again as I read this book, I want to feel safe in the assumption that this happened in the wake of the Great Depression and be glad that all that is behind us now — that the “fear beyond every other” is a distant and conquered one.
But I’m headed to rural Kenya this week to cover this very same story, in 2011. It’s a modern time with an ancient story — stories of families who go for days between meals, whose children are listless and frail from malnourishment. Some of these families have lost a child, a parent, or a dear friend because they couldn’t get the food they needed.
Rising global food prices since 2008 have put a strain on families in rural areas to purchase staples like wheat, corn, and soy. Compounding this strain is a severe drought in Kenya for the past several months that limits the crops that hungry families can grow.
On this trip, I’m not sure what I’ll see and who I’ll meet. I know that the situation is bad, and predictions are that hunger will only worsen in the Horn of Africa in the coming months. In preparing for this trip, I’m beginning to feel the same anger and sense of injustice Steinbeck communicates in his story from decades earlier, in a country far from Kenya, but centered on families who aren’t so different.
Stay tuned for a reflection from Abby’s trip when she returns later in April. And watch this video on the drought in Kenya.
Read more posts on hunger.