Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Geof reports from Cairo on the impact of unrest on children in Egypt and Libya. Geof is currently leading our efforts to support the needs of children in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution. He also plays a key role in providing relief for refugee children and their families fleeing from unrest in neighboring Libya.
I returned to Egypt the chaotic day before the fall of Hosni Mubarak. It’s hard to believe that just a few short weeks how calm it is in the streets. I’m able to move about Cairo – as easily as anyone can move about this teeming city of nearly 17 million people.
Just a few days ago, I visited the heart of the uprising – Tahrir Square. Tahrir means liberation and it is clear the Egyptian people will settle for no less. Protests continue on Fridays, reminding the country’s tenuous leadership of their demands.
It was in Tahrir square that I met Baraka who was trying to support himself by selling little Egyptian flags for protestors. I asked Baraka what the flag means to him, especially as he witnessed the revolution. I asked, “does it mean anything to you?” He answered “no, I sell them because I make money.” They go for about 20 cents a piece.
Baraka was tiny, not even four feet tall. He had scabs on his forehead and left cheek – he did not say how he got them. He was filthy, grime under his nails and dirt on his face. I thought to myself, at least he has shoes – which many children do not.
Baraka looked about nine years old. I shuddered when he told me he was fourteen. About a third of Egyptian children are stunted – severely under developed.
Under the Mubarak regime, undocumented children were denied basic access to food, school and medical care. Most of these children have been abandoned, neglected or ran-away from abuse.
Having seen first hand the toll previous policies have taken on a generation of some of the country’s poorest children, I am hopeful the Egyptian people will prioritize education and health programs.
We all wish for happy, healthy children who grow up to be productive members of this free nation.