Karen State, Burma
By Saw Takkaw

When IDP mothers at this IDP site (inside Burma) were asked what additional support they needed, the reply was quick and unanimous: “Please, our children need more food.” In an area where several IDP children were recently identified and treated for severe malnutrition and anemia, it was a pragmatic choice.

With the help of a Karen National Union (KNU) administrative official, a local medic, and a teacher (who is also an IDP), these children did in fact receive a shipment of yellow beans, cooking oil, canned milk, and fish the very next day! The KNU official also suggested that we purchase cookies for the children. When I asked, “Why should we buy them cookies? Don’t they need protein?” He replied:

“I remember when I was a boy. My family lost everything. I had one shirt and one pair of shorts. We were very hungry. I know them (IDP children). I know what it is like. We should give them just a few cookies.”

Yes, we live in a world of multiple realities.

It is both humbling and shameful to know that just a few cookies can make a fractured child feel special again – human again.

As the food is distributed, smiles light up on the faces of the IDP mothers and children. Suddenly, our team feels a deep sense of accomplishment, but then a group of fourteen IDPs approaches us. They are responding to a call I made earlier to aid any sick among the IDP group. Some have malaria. Some hold crying babies that have ear infections. Some of the older people complain about dizziness, atrophy, and fatigue. We also learn that “village abortions” (through the use of massage or natural medicines) have been occurring at the site. It seems that some of the mothers cannot bear on their conscience to bring a life into such misery and uncertainty. The team then ensures that the women will receive access to birth control and birth control training as soon as possible.

Leaving the site, I focus on one simple word: hope. Hopefully this year’s crop will not succumb to insects and lack of rain like it did last season. Hopefully, the Burmese Army will not launch an attack like it did less than a year ago. Hopefully, the international community will intervene to cease the human rights nightmare in Burma. But in the meantime, those of us who struggle in defense of human rights will keep assisting the victims of the Burmese Dictatorship and learning the restorative powers of a cookie when placed in a tiny hand in a world that has escaped our collective conscience.

This child suffers because “political considerations” prevent the international community from protecting and aiding IDPs.

“. . . Treblinka is both because some men have built it, and almost all other men have let it be . . . ”
(George Steiner, Language and Silence)