I should have seen my road to Damascus moment approaching. I’d been warned.
“Looking into the eyes of someone dying of hunger becomes a disease of the soul,” Volli Carucci of the United Nations World Food Program told me on my first day in Ethiopia.
A disease of the soul? I had received an overdose of medical admonishments during my many years of covering Africa for the Wall Street Journal: Get your yellow fever shot. Don’t forget the malaria pills. Beware bilharzia in standing water. Avoid the meningitis season. Be cautious in the cholera zones. But never before had I been warned about my soul. Now where, I wondered dubiously, could I get a shot or pill for that?
We were on a top floor of the WFP’s building in Addis Ababa in the spring of 2003, looking out on a country ravaged by an epic famine.
Roger Thurow is senior fellow on global agriculture and food policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He is the author of The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change (PublicAffairs).