Last night I was watching a special news broadcast about the terrible famine in Africa. The most horrible part was the headline: 29,000 children under the age of 5 died of starvation in the last 3 months.
Twenty-nine thousand. That is an astounding number. All children, all under the age of 5 years old. That is 1/4...one quarter...of an entire generation, in terms of age. It's not something I can completely comprehend. The number alone...what about the children over the age of 5...how many of them are dead, dying, starving to death?
I was mesmerized by the pictures on the TV in front of me. The faces of the women...almost all of the adult refugess are women...and the children of all ages clustered around them...the hopelessness, the fear, and the grief on the women's faces, the pleading in the eyes of the younger children, and the emptiness on the faces of the older children who already know there is no life for them. I cried for those children and for their mothers.
The longer I watched, the more astonished I became. The camera roved over literally thousands of make-shift tents and huts being used as homes, it lingered on women lining up for what little food and water was being handed out by rescue workers, and it played gently upon the children of all ages...some who sat silently, others who tried to play with whatever ball or piece of a toy was near-by. Why was I astonished?
Because in all of that despair, the only DIRT was on the ground.
The women were dressed in the long dresses of their culture, all of which were neat and in one piece, and their hair was perfectly braided; the children, even those playing around on the ground, had clean faces, arms, and hands, and no matter how ragged their clothes were, they were also clean. The camera swung by many different tents, some with the occupants sitting inside, some were empty. The tents were clean, what few possessions the people had were all placed neatly on chairs or boxes, and if the owners were so lucky as to have a cot for a bed, it was spread nicely with a thin blanket. NO dirt, NO clutter. Amid all that fear and defeat, amid all that hunger, the refugees of Somalia were intent upon making their temporary...or permanent...homes a reflection of the kind of life they had once had...even as they knew they might never have that life again. Or indeed, life of any kind.
The camera left the refugee camp, and went to the borders where the rescue efforts of many different countries, the US included, were being stymied by members of the African Al-Qaeda who want to keep food and supplies away from the refugees. The fighting was horrible, especially considering why it was occurring in the first place. Many times men who inform the rescue people they are "friendlies" who will help deliver the supplies to the camps, merely turn them over to the Al-Qaeda troops who eat and use what they want, then wantonly destroy the rest. It is a crime against humanity, and little seems able to be done.
The camera swings back to one of the camps, and rests upon the face of a young woman who delivered her newborn son in the dirt along the heavily traveled road to this camp. She traveled this road alone, with no one to help in her pain and subsequent delivery. Her husband had been killed in the fighting she had fled. Now, her face is streaked with tears, but she holds this tiny infant, clad only in a piece of a thin...but clean...blanket, in gentle arms. I looked at them, and wondered how long this boychild would survive. Would it be weeks or months...or only days?
How can human beings do this to one another? How can genocide and starvation and the constant random killing and destruction of whole tribes, whole villages, be allowed to continue? What do we, the rational people, have to do to stop this? Or will we continue to be helpless in the face of the demented masses?
Last night I watched TV...last night I cried.
Until next time,
That's a wrap.