Hope is the Last to Die
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
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
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.