Audrey Hepburn: A Tribute to her Humanitarian Work
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    home >articles >where hope is the last to die

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Where Hope is the Last to Die
by Audrey Hepburn, USA TODAY, May 26, 1989

In my work with UNICEF, I speak for children who cannot speak for themselves. Recently, I was in Africa to participate in Operation Lifeline Sudan in its effort to save 100,000 from almost certain starvation - most of them children.

Sudan is the largest country in Africa with some of that continent's remotest and most difficult regions, especially in the south, where one of the most brutal civil wars ever known to man is being waged.

Virtually all the population of this region has been uprooted and displaced. They live in fear of war, bandits and famine - all of them deadly.

In the camps I visited, I saw hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, both in the government North and the rebel-held South. Camps, and now-overcrowded towns, where hundreds of newcomers arrive every day after months of walking - phantoms carrying their sick, transparent babies, but reaching their destination, urged on by the one human quality which is the last to die: hope.

UNICEF's mandate is to protect every child against famine, thirst, sickness, abuse and death, but today we are dealing with a far more ominous threat - the dark side of humanity: the selfishness, avarice, aggression which have already polluted our skies, emptied our oceans, destroyed our forests and extinguished thousands of beautiful animals. Are our children next?

That is what UNICEF is up against, for it is no longer enough to vaccinate our children, or to give them food and water, and to treat only the symptoms of man's tendency to destroy. To destroy everything we hold dear, everything life depends on - the very air we breathe, the earth that sustains us and, the most precious of all, our children.

Whether it be famine in Ethiopia, excruciating poverty in Guatemala and Honduras, civil strife in El Salvador or ethnic massacre in the Sudan, I have seen, in my travels to all these regions, but one glaring truth: These are not natural disasters but manmade tragedies for which there is only one manmade solution: peace.

Even if this mammoth Operation Lifeline Sudan were only to achieve half its goal - due to the countless odds it's up against in a vast country with no infrastructure, few roads to speak of, no communications system - it will have succeeded. For not only will it have saved thousands of lives, but it also will have given the Sudan hope. The United Nations will have shown the world that only through "corridors of tranquility" can children be saved. That only through peace will man survive.

There is so much we cannot do. We cannot give the children back their parents, but we can return to them their most basic human rights - their rights to health, tenderness and life.


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