Image: IHT -( By Michael Kamber for The New York Times)
“The rumble of engines, any engines, is the signal for the villagers here to flee, leaving behind smoldering pots of wild roots and leaves, a meager afternoon meal. Their haste was so great on a recent afternoon that they left something else behind — a little girl in a filthy white shirt. She wailed as she sat, utterly alone, struggling to stand, much less flee, on slender, uncertain legs.”
Lydia Polgreen – International Herald Tribune
The picture above in many ways sums up the tragedy that is the Central African Republic. This is a picture of a child that was left behind by the villagers who fled when they heard the sound of a UN convoy, having mistaken them for militia forces in the area.
When I was a kid in primary school (or elementary school for you Americans), I remember a couple of times waiting after school for my mother to come pick up my brothers and I, and being terrified that something had happened to her because she was at least a couple of hours late to pick us up. With this in mind, I cannot imagine what would be going on in the child’s mind as she has been abandoned. Looking at the picture, you can see that the little kid is obviously terrified and utterly helpless.
In addition to this, what if indeed the noise had turned out to be militia, what would have happened to the child? Would they have killed him? Would they have kidnapped him? Would they have simply left him there and let nature deal with him… if the parent(s) did not return?
The other tragic part of this story is the fact that the local populations in the region are no being terrorised by the militias that are using the Central African Republic to launch attacks in Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan. In addition, there are the homegrown rebels that the CAR government is fighting and these local populations are getting hit in the crossfire.
“We are living in the bush like animals,” Leontine Makanzi said. “Our children are dying. We are eating nothing. We have no security.”
This, according to the linked article is a direct quote from one of the villagers commenting on what like has become for many of these people. Hundreds of thousands face starvation, and about 50,000 have fled to refugee camps in Chad.
The most tragic part of this situation is summed up in this quote, in the article, by Sister Désirée who is a Burundian nun working at a Roman Catholic mission in Ndim, in northwest Central African Republic.
“It is as though the whole world has simply forgotten these people. I always ask myself, why does no one besides us come to help these people? But I find no answer.”
That I think is the biggest tragedy of this whole affair… and one day in the future, many of us will be haunted by the fact that in our lifetimes we ignored these and other such tragic situations around the world and instead flipped the channel to find out the latest on Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears.