Quoted from Dispatches from the edge, Anderson Cooper.
Following takes place in Maradi, Niger,where starvation issues are the worst in the world, but sidetracking like terror issues and clear-ups after natural disasters are preventing attention and need from getting into the country, thousands of children dead are not enough, ‘we’ need political upheavals to really bring the world to attention. ‘I’ is journalist, AC in a hospital, intensive care ward, set up by Doctors Without Borders.
“The next morning when we come back to the intensive ward, Habu’s bed is empty. It’s been some fifteen hours since we first met him. His mother is nowhere to be seen.
I find Dr. Tectonidis and ask him what happened. He doesn’t remember who Habu is, but when I show him the empty bed, he checks the chart.
“He died this morning,” he says, reading the nurse’s notes. “They transfused him, but he was probably infected with something. They often come with malaria and bacterial infection. I knew yesterday he wouldn’t make it. We tried. I gave him the blood—that was the one chance he had. And he made it through the night, but he gave up.”
Overall, only about 5 percent of the children the doctors treat here end up dying, but in the intensive ward, there are two or three a day.
“There are some surprises,” Dr. Tectonidis says. “Those are harder because we’re a bit upset when it happens. But most of them we can tell. Then there are the miracles. We think that they’re going to go and they make it. The worst ones are the ones we think are going to be okay and they drop suddenly. But the ones that we know, what can we do?” “Don’t you get overwhelmed?” I ask, already knowing the answer.
“We can’t think too much about one of them,” Dr Tectonidis says, waving a hand. “The little kids they go easy. One in four of them. They estimate something like 200000 children under 5 die a year here. And in a year like this, it’s probably much more.
“I tell the nurses, ‘if you get attached and you want to cry, fine—but go somewhere else. Go hide.’ If you cry in front of the mothers, what good is that? It’s not a sign of sympathy. It makes the other mothers worried. They start wondering. ‘What’s going to happen to my kid?’ You cant’ do that; its not fair. They look up to you like a God. You’re the one chance they have. Only 50 people died here last month. We saved about 15000. You can’t stop for one death. The mothers understand. They don’t expect sympathy, they expect you to try your best. They don’t expect you to cry for them. That’s not your job.”
“will he make it?” I ask.
The doctor doesn’t answer. Here, they treat the worst cases first. That’s what TV wants as well. The illest, the greatest in need. It’s a sad selection process that happens in your head.
“That child’s bad, but I think we can find worse,” I say to myself, deciding whose suffering merits time on TV. You tell yourself it’s okay, that your motives are good—at the moment you might even believe it. But later alone, lying on bed, you go over the day and feel like a fraud. Each child’s story is worthy of telling. There shouldn’t be a sliding scale of death. The weight of it is crushing.
They die, I live. It’s such a thin line to cross. Money makes the difference. If you have it, you can always survive, always find a place to stay, something to eat. For the first few days in Maradi, I’m not even hungry. It’s not just the heat, the dust. I’ve become disgusted with myself. My body fat, my health, my minor aches and pains. I brought with me a bagful of food—cans of tuna and Power bars—but the thought of eating anything makes me want to throw up. That changes of course. After a couple of days I forget why I’m depriving myself.
They die, I live. It’s the way of the world, the way it’s been. I used to think that some good would come out of my stories, that someone might be moved to act because of what I’d reported. I’m not sure I believe that anymore. One place improves, another falls apart. The map keeps changing; its impossible to keep up. No matter how well I write, how truthful my tales, I can’t do anything to save the lives of the children here, now.
It’s a really inspirational book. After finishing, I’ll write more on my views.