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Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Forgotten

Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

The other day I woke up and it was just one of those days when nothing went quite right. The air conditioning was not working and our refrigerator was completely on the fritz. My son, who is perpetually teething or just being "picky" would not eat and my usually sweet daughter was acting like the spawn of Freddy Krueger.

It was NOT a good day.

A mother walks twenty miles with her children in her arms. Her husband has died and both she and her youngest daughter have already been raped while on their journey to seek refuge. She is too numb to hurt, she just knows she needs to find water and get her children some food. She has heard that if she makes it to a refugee camp just a little further away, they can find shelter and sustenance and maybe she and her children can make it through this.

Already on the journey they have seen too many frail bodies that have not made it to the destination. The mother averts her eyes and pushes her children, whose blistered feet bleed as they walk mile after mile, just a little further. The sight of blood provides some comfort, because if they can bleed doesn't that mean they are still alive? Her arms grow heavy from the weight of her two youngest boys in her arms as she continues along.

She is tired.

Work was a bitch today. After a busy day of meetings, some good, some not so good, I am ready to sit back with a glass of wine after spending a few hours playing with the kids. The refrigerator repairman came in and told me that it would cost $500 to fix it.

I cringe, especially since the air conditioning breaking at the exact time makes this extremely inconvenient - and yes - financially painful. It's not like I can pick to choose one thing over the other though, right? I mean, what do I ignore, the refrigerator or the air conditioning? As I pull my sticky shirt away from my skin, its clear that there isn't really a choice. Oh, and I need to hit Costco this weekend.

We need more paper towels.

We are so thirsty. There is no water. My third youngest son grew more weak and could not walk anymore. He fell to the ground a few miles back. I could not revive him. I could not hear him breathing, but I needed to keep moving with the others.

He is gone.

I hope he is with God.

We walk towards where we have been told there is some water and food. I can't lose another.

By the time I am done with the conference calls and can go start cooking dinner, I realize that I am tired. Pizza again, I think, as I pick up the phone and call our local pizza joint. Heck, we'll even throw some breadsticks in, just to mix it up. Gosh, is that enough food? Let me throw on a salad too.

That should be enough, I think.

We are at the camp. We have traveled so far, but there is no water. There is no food. There is nowhere to bathe. There are just so many people, all hoping that they would find their hope for survival here. But we may be too late.

Only three of my six children are still with me. I had to choose some miles back which ones I thought could make the journey with me. I could not lift my eldest daughter. My arms can only hold so much.

My heart can't hold anymore.

There are no tears anymore. There is no water in me, anywhere. I am crying a river inside my heart but how can you cry when you have not had water in so, so long? We keep praying that the rains will come, but they do not.

I have lost three of my children.

I am praying that we can get more food and water at the camps.

My husband and I had a great conversation about how we might contribute more to the world. There are several domestic programs we want to support, but we definitely want to make sure it all makes sense when we do our taxes, so we can claim the right deductions. We should definitely help some international programs as well. Let me look into my company's corporate matching program.

I'll get around to it. Gosh, I hope I still remember tomorrow.

It's going to be a busy day and I have been so stressed.

Do people not know how we cry? Can they hear the choked breaths of my children as they breath their last breaths?

If they know, why won't anyone help save us?

If I can save my three remaining children, that should be enough, I think. It's the only thing I pray for now.

As you know if you have been reading my last few posts, I went to the Social Good Summit to learn more about how we can influence change through the use of social media.

During one of sessions on Day 1, I was actually able to watch my cousin-in-law, Dr. Raj Shah, the Administrator for USAID speak about the crisis in the Horn of Africa. He had recently been to the Refugee Camps in Dadaab.

There was a slide you can see on the picture he is sitting in front of. Sadly, he said that the situation was all too familiar for him. The UN estimates 750,000 people are at risk of dying in Horn of Africa if more immediate, aggressive measures are not taken.

"We're on the cusp of a huge amount of deaths in East Africa - it doesn't have to be this way, " says Shah. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the current drought in the Horn of Africa are the worst in six decades.


In the picture above, Dr. Shah explained how the mother in the picture was helping her child to eat. The child was so weak that in order to be fed, it had to be done via a nasal tube.

The mother sits next to her child and tries to feed her son. You look at this picture and think to yourself "Is it too late?"

God, I hope for that child, it is not.

What Dr. Shah went on to explain was that earlier that day, that mother had already lost another child.

If you look closely at the bed, he is wrapped up in a sheet on the right side of the bed.

There is a dead child on that bed.

Too. Late.

That picture was up there for a few minutes, but when our eyes stopped focusing on Dr. Shah and the image of the mother and the son, when he pointed out the baby on the bed, there was an audible gasp and then just the sound of silence.

What can you say?

This is happening today. And its so bad that so many will die. The ones who will suffer the most are women and children.

We must not forget these children. Some of us already have. But they are no different than out own children, except perhaps that they are not born in a developed country and they will never have the opportunities that so many of our own will have.

But the opportunity to breathe, drink water and eat seem pretty basic, right?

The opportunity to NOT have to choose which child you allow to die today seems pretty basic, right?

Please look at that picture again and say that you won't accept this.

Please don't accept this.



Anna See said...

Oh Kiran, so true, so needed, so painful. Thank you for this post.

Ruth J said...

wow, so well written. that was beautiful. you are a very talented writer.

Peg said...

Great post. Your trip up to NY obviously had a huge impact. Well done :)

admin said...

Important topic already

admin said...

Good work

Kathy's Klothesline said...

My heart hurts for that mother. I cannot imagine her dispair.

Morgan said...

New follower of your blog! This post is so eye-opening. We can get caught up in ourselves and forget that there are people out there with far worse problems than we've ever known. Hope you'll follow me back at


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