What’s It Like To Live Off Refugee Rations? | AJ+

What’s It Like To Live Off Refugee Rations? | AJ+

It's just one of the many lovely
encounters I've had with food. "Yara what are you eating?" But for one week, I tried eating like a refugee. I attempted what's called the Ration Challenge. That means I lived off the same food rations handed out to Syrian refugees by an Australian NGO and observed the effects it had on my body. It was actually really hard. "Brain just hurts." "I was constipated." "Very lethargic." "I can't even talk." And at times, How did I get involved in this? Well, at AJ+,
we cover the refugee crisis closely. They've been on this road since September. And although I've even made videos about refugees, I've always felt disconnected from their struggles. So when my coworker Christina suggested
I take the Ration Challenge, I thought maybe, perhaps, possibly, I'd catch the tiniest glimpse of
what they go through every single day. The food rations were sent to me in a package. "Guess what this is Yara." I sense lentils. Before I unboxed it though, I thought I'd get some tips from people
who had already completed the challenge, which raises money to pass out the exact
same food rations to Syrian refugees. What am I getting myself into? You're getting yourself into a week of … You're gonna be hungry. You're gonna be tired. You will never feel full or satisfied. And with that, I got to opening the box. I'm supposed to eat whatever's in this box. That included: sardines, red lentils,
dried chickpeas, oil, red kidney beans, and rice. And some extra rice and flour
that I had to supply myself. Altogether, the instructions said the meals contained
a little over 1,700 calories per day. But something was noticeably absent. "I wonder how much salt and pepper I can use … … salt and pepper … … salt … … salt and pepper … … salt and pepper … "They didn't give you any salt or pepper in here?" There were recipes for a number of dishes
like falafel and hummus. But the ingredients were so limited. "Seriously, like, how much falafel
can you make with this?" "Like, three falafels?" "One very large …" And I wanted to make sure I got a little bit
of everything in every meal. "This has to last me through the week." "This is like having my own cooking show." "Oh my God, that looks … not great." So, I basically made one dish with slight variations and ate it every single day for lunch and dinner. And when I ran out of lentils, I added in a can of kidney beans that I'd saved for the end. Breakfast was basically two thin slices of
flatbread that I made in one batch. As I started my first day, I talked to Karen. She's part of the campaign. "The physical and mental toll that
it takes on your body in a week – you'll see it in a few days' time – is huge. It makes you really angry and
frustrated and unable to concentrate. For refugees, you can't walk away from this. This is their everyday." Day 1 looked like this: … which progressed into … And then … Over the course of the week,
I got a number of headaches. I had trouble thinking and working. My roommate told me I looked kind of pale. I regularly felt exhausted and sometimes cold. I also noticed changes in my personality. "I'm becoming more direct, less polite." The instructions came back to haunt me. it says. "What does that smell? It smells vinegary." – "What is that?" "Cinnamon donut." "These images of Fettuccine Alfredo …" "What is that?" – "What you have?" "Oh, it's just some leftovers." It was kind of like what Karen said. "If you're living on this kind of diet, which is
basically carbohydrates and oil, you're getting just enough calorie intake,
but you're not getting any fresh food, you're not getting nutrients. You're not getting all of the things that, you know,
are meant to boost the human body." So I asked Martin McDonald, a nutritionist. The diet that you followed was by any
stretch of the imagination not particularly healthy. Martin told me my symptoms were
caused by a number of factors. I was exhausted because I wasn't getting enough calories for someone of my weight, height and age. I need about 2,100 calories a day but was getting 1,700. "I have a call with someone in a few minutes.
I don't have enough energy." It didn't help that vitamins and proteins
were lacking too. – "Yes, there's half a dismembered
sardine inside of this rice." But why couldn't I concentrate at work? "Concentration, brain function, can be heavily
related to things like dehydration." But I thought I drank plenty of
water throughout the challenge. "Even though you had some access to water, you don't have salt or potassium
to help you retain some of that water." Ultimately, I learned one of the
biggest flaws in my diet was "You probably were getting between
a fifth and a sixth as much iron as you would need." Iron deficiency is actually the most common
nutritional deficiency in the world. And for growing children, it's a serious health risk. Your body uses iron to make red blood cells. But what happens when you don't
have enough iron to make them? You could develop For kids and infants, anemia
weakens their immune system making them way more susceptible
to disease and infection. and it can permanently impair a
child's mental development. That's a terrifying prospect when you consider that half the world's twenty 22.5 million refugees are children. 2016 study revealed something shocking at one of the UN's largest camps for Syrian refugees in Jordan: Nearly 50% of children suffered
from some kind of anemia. And it's not just among Syrian refugees. Anemia is thought to affect one in three children worldwide. Refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia have some of the highest rates of anemia in the world. Refugees across the world
are not eating exactly what I ate This is, after all, one specific food ration passed out
by one specific Australian NGO. Refugees might combine them with other
ingredients they have access to. But they also might not have access to anything at all. But there are some basic realities. Refugee diets are usually lacking
in fresh produce and meats. If you're a refugee in a pinch, you'll probably have to
eat a food ration at some point. And those food rations are nowhere near ideal. You can survive off them, but your body will be hurting. It all reminded me of something I was told earlier. "I was able to do this challenge, and I always had in the back of my mind, like, 'This is only for seven days. I can get through this.'" Refugees live this life for days, months and years.
I only ate like them for a week. I didn't have to worry about shelter, weathering the sub-zero temperatures of the winter in my tent. I didn't have to worry about contracting a disease, the psychological trauma of fleeing a war, looking after kids, trying to find a job
to make some extra money on the side so I might – just might – be able to procure a tiny
amount of meat or fresh produce. I was uncomfortable, but I was privileged in a way refugees are not. So, when you hear about families
fleeing their homes in Iraq, in Syria, in Sudan, in Eritrea, in Myanmar, in Afghanistan try to keep this in the back of your mind: "When you struggle with something yourself so much, you start to understand someone else's pain –
when you actually put yourself in their shoes. And you can look away from a video or you can forget about a political argument or a discussion that you may have had, but when everything about what you're eating and drinking and doing in your life has to do with that, The Ration Challenge really put things into perspective for me, but just one note: It's not a way to simulate the experience of a refugee, and I would never frame it that way
because there's no comparison. But for me at least, it was an opportunity
to learn about some of the basic realities that refugees face on a daily basis. So if you have any friends or family who might not be fully aware of some of those realities, send this video over to them and see what they think.

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50 thoughts on “What’s It Like To Live Off Refugee Rations? | AJ+

  1. If you did fundraising you could add spices, salt and small veg to the pack. I doing the challenge now

  2. Ironic. The "refugees" that have infiltrated my apt bld eat better than anyone. Free access, boxes of food delivered weekly, islamic relief, family center… Veterans, well not so much.

  3. I've eaten food that Jewish people eat and I felt a little good. The food had no salt, but, I delt with it, plus, I had to eat a loaf of bread in three days with unsalted sticky bread and vegetables, I got full for several hours a day. I went through Anemia.

  4. hi i saw some of your video about your family first i want to ask you why you video has been suppurated by qtari tv Al jazeera ?you know iranian not okay with Arabs country's Saudi Arabia is a first persian enemy in the world ? you know they kill millions of iranian about 1400 years till now ?secound one why you dont make the film about your secound country USA and find out why they change iranian regim mohammad reza shah

  5. So you pay for refugee food and then they use the money to make more meals, why don't they just give the meals to the refugees directly?

  6. Instead of complaining why not fix the crisis? That means stopping the spread of Islam which is what caused this crisis.

  7. I got to work with The Act For Peace on a trip for school that only 6 people were asked to go so I was really lucky.

  8. You don't know that refugees are used to this, no sugar, no caffeine, no spices, things like that so when someone who is used to all the sugar, spices, caffeine and eats things like refuges eat they get sick. This video is kinda misleading.

  9. In real life, these rations are not the sole source of food for refugees but rather the core part of it. Except for the really bad cases.

  10. This video relieve my trauma of being starved everyday and cant eat anything. Now i am living in city and i swear i am working so hard for getting big income and still eating cheap but nutrition. I studied finance economy and business and that's not enough. Refugees are at least getting food, but i used live in commies when i was kid for one year less, all work labor hard and not getting food, and it's traumatized me enough to be scraping every opportunities i had and spending less what i see worthless.

  11. OK OK OK so you don't like the free food that is being handed out, let's scrap not completely and give each person the FLAT CASH value of the food provided to them by taxpayers. so that would be around $4 USD weekly, now you can go and spend $2 on salt and $2 on pepper. see how that tastes. PS every fast food place has salt and pepper packages

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