Monday, January 17, 2011

It sometimes gets to me

I've seen my fair share of hard luck cases. People whose families have sent them away thinking they were possessed, victims of polio, war, starvation and inexplicable diseases and preventable conditions. It's an integral part of traveling to these countries where life is cheap and short.

In the Dogon region of Mali 2.5 years ago - a baby girl, about 1 year old likely with cholera and likely died soon after she was brought to the 'toubab' or white person for healing. There was nothing I could do but say that I'm sorry but there was nothing I could do.

In Mopti, Mali, 9 years ago. Sitting having my breakfast of bread and warmed milk at a roadside cafe while groups of young boys sent away by their families to earn their keep were begging, not for scraps, but for the oil that is left on a finished plate of eggs.

And now in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The struggles of some here is unimaginable. Many left their homelands during the famine of 1984 or subsequent droughts and moved to the city to make their way. Illiterate, unskilled and unable to cope with the pace of the city they live on the streets under burlap USAID sacs. Sometimes you can't tell their is a mass of bodies around a corner because it just looks like a pile of garbage. Old people with no possible source of income, the pensions of Ethiopia aren't the best, often blind and usually widowed and infirm.

Then comes the polio victims - bodies contorted in unspeakable ways by a childhood illness that is 100% preventable by vaccination. There is no welfare or healthcare or often even families to deal with them.

This is my reality right now. It's a downer of a post but it isn't all just happy tourism in third world countries. I give. I give a lot. Yesterday I gave a massive amount, as in a 1 birr bill which is approximately 6 cents, to as many of the invalids as I passed. I gave about 30 bills in 2 hours. Sure it is only $2 and I lose more than that a day at home. But I can't give more to each person or it will encourage begging to only whites (or faranjis) and will not make those in need look to their own countrymen for help.

There is nothing 'we' can do until the corruption ends on both sides - that of the local government and the overhead-bloated NGOs and aid organization. How much do you think WorldVision spends on their ads every Sunday morning? Enough to help 1000 people here perhaps.

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