Women share experiences to raise awareness of hunger, poverty in Africa

By Gus Bode

One SIUC student was ready to jump on a plane to Africa after listening to a panel Tuesday night about poverty and hunger in the continent.

Matthew Bowie, a senior from Kildeer studying photojournalism, said it was difficult to believe what he heard and saw at the forum.

“What I heard tonight left me in shock, complete and utter shock,” Bowie said. “After coming to something like this, I want to go to the bank, take out all my money, fly to Africa and do anything I can to help.”

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The Carbondale branch of the American Association of University Women and International Programs and Services co-sponsored the forum to bring awareness to the worldwide problem, especially in Africa.

Two of the three panelists were from Africa while the other lived there for two years. Each speaker identified different aspects of poverty and hunger. Their goal is to get local citizens to help suffering women and children globally.

Edith Ng’oma, a graduate student from Zambia studying rehabilitation counseling, presented the audience with a video about the poverty struggles young children deal with in Zambia.

Ng’oma said some families believe they are blessed if they eat one meal a day. She also said many households are run by children beginning at the age of eight due to their parents dying of AIDS. After their parents die, children do not go to school because they support their younger brothers and sisters.

Stella Iwuagu, a panelist and a graduate student from Nigeria studying health education, discussed how children in Africa are almost like an endangered species.

“For a child to survive through childhood is a miracle,” Iwuagu said.

She explained how African mothers do not have access to health care or welfare and cannot afford medicine for their children. Iwuagu then set out plastic cups full of a rice substance derived from tapioca in Africa. She mixed it with water and said families in Nigeria eat it as their meal three times a day. If they have beans, it’s considered fortunate.

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Ella Lacey, a member of AAUW and a panelist, discussed her two-year stint in Malawi as a member of the Peace Corps. She said people in Malawi do not taste food.

“Food is food to them,” Lacey said. “It isn’t good or bad. I found myself in a lot of problems because I was waiting for them to tell me if food was good or not”

Lilia Uili, a senior from Dekalb studying English, said the speakers got her attention in the worldwide problem.

“I thought it was awesome,” Uili said. “They were very informative and offered real life experiences. It really made me want to be active in the fight. I wish more people would have come for such an important global issue.”

Brandon LaChance can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 252 or at

[email protected]

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