Last week, my daughter had her birthday. She turned eight, and we celebrated by showering her with love and affection, whipping up a big pancake breakfast, and festooning her with toys and cards.
It was such a lovely day, celebrating yet another milestone with my eldest daughter.
But it was a little bittersweet for me, as I had just finished reading this New York Times story about a seven-year-old girl called Amal.
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Amal will never celebrate her 8th birthday. A citizen of Yemen, a country that is in the grips of a Saudi Arabian-influence famine, Amal was photographed for the NY Times in a piece designed to draw attention to the horrific humanitarian crisis.
In the photos, it was clear that Amal was dying of starvation. Her haunted eyes fell into sunken cheeks, and her ribcage protruded. Be warned: the images are shocking and devastating. But they are important, because the Western world is largely ignoring Yemen.
The country has been plunged into famine after Saudi Arabia launched a war there in 2015. More than one million Yemenis have since believed to have been infected with cholera, which the World Health Organisation has called “the worst cholera outbreak in the world.”
The country is in dire need of attention and support.
A few days after Amal’s photo was published in the Times, she died. It wasn’t peaceful. She was wracked with pain, and sent home from a hospital that could do no more to help her; and, they needed the bed for new patients.
“My heart is broken,” her mother, Mariam, wept to the journalist over the phone.
There I was, celebrating my vibrant, healthy daughter, while Mariam was mourning the loss of her sick, starving child of the same age.
Nothing separates us as mothers, except for sheer luck. I am lucky enough to be in Australia, where my kids were born into a country of 25 million people that boasts healthcare, food security and economic prosperity. She is unlucky enough to live in Yemen, a country of 25 million people, where literally more than half of its residents are currently starving to death.
To help, visit CARE Australia and join their efforts: “We are doing everything possible,” they pledge, “to ensure children and families have something to eat by distributing food and cash, often in hard-to-reach areas.”