Daughter watches mother starve

So often we casually say we are hungry, but ten-year-old Consolate Niyokwizera knows the true meaning of the word.

On a good day, she might be able to have one meal of sweet potatoes or cassava bread, if her mother goes to work in the fields, but many days often pass when she doesn’t eat at all and goes to sleep after drinking just water.

I cry to my mother - I ask her why she gave birth to me with no food to eat.

Consolate lives with her mother, Liberathe Rirabkina, and her four siblings in Lampia village, Karusi, in the north east of Burundi – about three hours drive from the capital Bujumbura. Consolate's father left in search of work for food and never returned. Her mother does odd jobs for villagers in the community, but rarely makes enough money to feed her family.

“When there is enough food we share but when there isn’t enough my mother gives up eating,” Consolate explained. Though Consolate and her siblings are glad of the food, they feel guilty that their mother goes hungry – their enjoyment is at her expense.

We try to tell her to share but she doesn’t, which makes me sad.

Consolate would like to be a doctor when she grows up. She attends school and wants to work hard but she cannot concentrate because she is always hungry and the school is far away so she uses up most of her energy walking there and is exhausted by the time she arrives. The same applies in the evening.

“When I come home I am tired and hungry so I can’t do homework - I get a headache and go dizzy,” she said. But her mother is even weaker.

For Consolate and her family, the greatest need is merely the support and resources to enable them to grow enough food. “I think we could be happy if we had three meals a day to eat.”