Leaving Pakistan troubled and melancholy
After eight days in Pakistan’s flood-affected southern province of Sindh, I’m heading home.
I’m unusually melancholy. Despite the low number of reported deaths, I’m troubled by what I witnessed in Pakistan.
Grave doubts for Ramzan
I’m particularly haunted by the memory of a two-year old boy called Ramzan. When I met him he had spent fifteen days living on a baking
concrete floor, and had watery diarrhoea. As a result, Ramzan was
A doctor supported by Save the Children explained he had grave doubts for his chances of survival – diarrhoea is the number one killer of children under the age of five.
I’m not a father, but some of my closest friends have children Ramzan’s
age. I’ve spent time with their children, and know a well-nourished, healthy, happy toddler when I see one. Sadly that was not so for Ramzan.
Facing difficult questions
As much as it was distressing to see him suffer, I’m troubled by something else altogether. As I wrote this blog-post on a flight back to Australia somewhere over the Indian Ocean, it struck me. I felt guilt for having photographed Ramzan’s fight for survival.
Through the lens of my camera, I recall Ramzan looked at his mother Hajra, arms out stretched. It was a pleading look that said, “Please help me.”
The point is, I put myself in the middle of an intensely personal human
connection between a mother and her child. What business did I have being there to take that photograph?
To assuage my guilt I tell myself that, perhaps, the photograph will help tell the story of diarrhoea and dehydration’s devastating impact on children.
Ramzan’s fate remains a mystery
The problem is I’m left without knowing Ramzan’s fate. Moments after I took the photograph, he was rushed to hospital. Whether he survived remains a mystery.
I have uplifting memories too. I especially want to acknowledge the
amazing work of the local Pakistani Save the Children staff with whom I worked around the clock to get aid to vulnerable children and families. For security reasons I cannot refer to them by name, but I feel privileged to have worked alongside them, and to count them among my friends.
At a time when Pakistan is getting its share of bad press, it’s
important people know the flood-ravaged nation has a strong humanitarian
spirit. There’s no doubt the selfless acts of my Pakistani counterparts
have helped to save the lives of children.
Ramping up our response
So, what next for Save the Children in Pakistan? The aid effort
continues to ramp up. We’ve flexed our muscles and now aim to reach two
million people, one million of them children, with life saving aid in
the first six months.
What’s more, in partnership with the United Nation’s World Food Programme, we’ve embarked on the biggest distribution of food in the agency’s history.
Every month for at least the next three months, we will reach 85,000 families with high-energy biscuits, wheat flour, supplementary nutrient paste for malnourished children and cooking oil. It’s an enormous undertaking and one that helps to illustrate the scale of the crisis, and task ahead of us.
Our work gathers pace in Pakistan due to the support of the donor
community. Thanks to all those who have supported us so far. Rest
assured your donations have helped save the lives of children and
families in one of the world’s worst-ever flood disasters.