Frontline Stories

Elyse Rarely has Breakfast

Elyse comes from a poor family that is finding it hard to get enough food every day. Elyse rarely has breakfast because there is not enough food for him.

Elyse is a 3 years and 10 months old boy who lives in Gitega province of Burundi. His mother, Alice, finds it hard to put food on the table. To earn a daily living, she works for others, so often by tilling the land, she says.

She doesn’t have any land to farm on to sustain the family, except for a small piece of land where the family has a shelter, she continues.

When she gets a chance to work for others, she is paid 1,500 Burundi Franc (about HK$7.8) a day, sometimes less. If an employer is not generous enough to pay the regular daily salary (1,500 Burundi Franc), Alice may get only 500 Burundi Franc, which is approximately HK$2.6.

Elyse’s situation is similar to many other children of his community: parents are living in excessive poverty and cannot provide enough food for their children.

Gitega province where Elyse lives is one of the most populated provinces of Burundi. The general population census of 2008 showed that, it had a population density of 365 inhabitants per km². Some communes even went beyond and reached 471 inhabitants per km².

Alice’s daily routine is to wake up early in the morning, carry Elyse on her back, then pick up a hoe on her shoulder and begin to look for work. Since she does not have enough food to feed her children with, she always tries to get a hunger killer – a piece of sweet potato wrapped in banana leaves – for her son, and sometimes lucky enough she may find an avocado.

Alice knows that, this is not enough for her son, especially at his age when Elyse needs nutritious food to grow up well. Yet, this little snack can stop her child from crying and let her work.

Elyse rarely eats meat or eggs; his mother doesn’t remember when his son might have eaten egg or meat. When she receives her salary, the first thing she buys is food that can fill Elyse’s empty stomach.

Most of the time, sweet potatoes are bought because they are cheaper in the area. Though Elyse, likes to eat beans and vegetables, he always eat sweet potatoes only, because beans or vegetables are too expensive that they cannot afford.

Alice wishes she would have small livestock like chickens or rabbits to raise and she would be able to respond to family emergencies. She could sell a chicken in order to bring her children to a health facility if her children fall ill; and she could feed her children with eggs for a balanced diet, she explains.

Another big wish of this mother would be seeing her children going to school and graduate. Alice hopes someone could help her live her dreams.

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