War's deep scars. (voices).
We flew to Luanda, Angola's capital, and then to the remote provinces hardest hit by the war. We traveled on UN World Food Program planes, descending in tight, stomach-wrenching spirals to elude any stray gunfire. We first visited Kuito, among the most devastated towns on Earth, where not a single building stands unscathed and even the rubble is pockmarked by mortar fire. Many families have carved out shelters beneath the fragments of collapsed walls. I met women and children with limbs blown off by land mines, and saw orphaned kids caked in dust with swollen bellies and stick limbs. In Melanje, I visited a feeding center, and held a dying baby in my arms. I looked into the eyes of teenagers so stunted they seemed half their age, and I knew full well that I would soon return to a world of privilege and promise, while they faced only hardship and uncertainty.
How can one make sense of this? Since Angola's independence from ]Portugal in 1975, UNICEF told us, the government and rebel forces had been locked in a vicious civil war for control of Angola's rich natural resources, leaving millions of innocent victims. Despite a peace accord signed in April, the situation remains fragile. About 4 million people have been displaced, overcrowding the refugee camps we visited, where so many have died and the rest are barely surviving. But neither can they leave, because roads and fields are peppered with land mines. Almost a third of Angola's children are refugees; most have come under fire, or seen someone blown apart by a mine. One in three dies from a treatable disease by the age of 5.
My mother and I returned to Litchfield County. It had never looked so green, so impossibly clean.
Was I changed by what I saw? Imbued with a heightened sense of social responsibility, a renewed commitment to help? Yes. But, for now, I am able only to bear witness. I've seen how war has left millions of innocent people to suffer beyond comprehension. And for what? For oil, diamonds, greed, power? From our comfortable home in Connecticut, I can't stop wondering why.
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|Publication:||New York Times Upfront|
|Date:||Oct 18, 2002|
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