Sunday, July 30, 2006

Congo: Children Bear the Brunt of War

At the hospital here in the troubled province of North Kivu near the Rwandan border, where villages have been ravaged by war, the burden on children is on grim, daily display. One 2-year-old boy, Amuri, struggled to breathe on a hospital bed while doctors and nurses went through the motions — attaching one of the hospital’s scarce pulse-oximeters to his tiny index finger, placing an oxygen mask over his gasping mouth. But they knew it was too late.

A few moments later, Amuri’s eyes rolled back in his head, his chest stilled and he was dead.

"Bring something for us to wrap the boy," a nurse called out.

His mother, Maria Cheusi, realized that her son’s life had slipped away. He was the third child she would bury.

"Mama, mama," she cried, collapsing to her knees in a contorted pose. "My only son, my only son."
In this excrutialtingly painful to read New York Times article, Lydia Polgreen recounts the many ways in which war has ravaged the lives of young children in Congo.

There are direct consequences of war such as death. Then there are all these indirect consequences that lead to death, such frighteningly simple ones as lack of food, such as lack of infrastructure, lack of access to doctors and medicine, diseases that in any time other than wartime would be cured (malaria, diarrhea) becoming incurable and deadly. Then there is rape and the snatching of young children to fight in the war.

You just have to imagine the terror, the despair, the intense sadness, the untold physical pain and misery these children must feel day in and day out to make your eyes tear up. If you've ever heard a small child cry, you know how it feels - you want to pick her up, comfort her and make whatever it is that is making her sad go away.

Now imagine hearing such cries, cries that never seem to stop and knowing that you cannot do anything to comfort the children. Imagine being the mother or father getting ready to bury the third child in a row. Imagine being the mother or father and knowing that you are taking your child to a hospital that may not have the medicines or the doctors or quite simply the space to accomodate and treat your child.

Imagine being the doctor and knowing that even though a child is alive, there is nothing you can do to save it, from a simple condition such as diarrhea, from a disease that is curable in many other corners of the world but just not this one. Imagine being the doctor and having to say to the desperate mother that you cannot choose to take her child to the doctor because the ambulance is full and there is no space in the hospital.

Just imagine the despair of the child, the mother, the father, the doctor. And weep.

Crossposted on Project Child.

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