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Reporters on the Job

• INTO AFRICA: The Monitor's Danna Harman knows the many elements of hunger in Africa: bad weather cycles, government corruption, sickly children. She has seen hunger in many of the places she's been. But as she set out to report "At the Heart of Hunger," (page 1) Danna wanted to get at something more: who the people affected by hunger really are.

"I was hoping to find – and did – well-rounded people. A lot of times, when you see people who are hungry, that's all you know about them. But even people who are hungry have other story lines."

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Many of the people Danna met in her travels through Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique were surprised when she went beyond asking them about the ache in their stomach. And it was then they opened up.

"There are other issues in their lives," Danna says. "The sorrow of hunger isn't just that they are hungry, but that a woman who sets the table has the cups and saucers, but doesn't have the food to put in them, or how a man feels who can't provide for his child."

Children, Danna says, are active participants in families' efforts to sustain themselves. At a swamp that straddles Angola and Zambia, she saw kids as young as 6 years old crossing over in canoes, often carrying items they will try to barter – some flour, say, for a couple of fish.

The little ones' responsibilities touched Danna, but she noticed that, like children everywhere, they tend to find some joy in whatever they do. A few kids were diving for roots in the swamp. "That was kind of a fun moment, even if it was related to survival," she says. "They had a good attitude and saw the adventure in it."

Travel through village after village with the same problems was sometimes daunting. But the individual stories stand out. At one food distribution center, Danna met a woman who looked weak and thin. Danna started talking with her, and took note of her beads. "She told me they were her prized possession, because they made her feel pretty."

– Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor