A story of UNICEF from the front lines.
Stern, the president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, recounts how she started her branch of UNICEF and was then tapped to take over the top job and almost immediately dispatched to Mozambique, where she was introduced “to the effects of severe poverty on mothers and children.” Between 2007 and 2011, she visited Mozambique, Darfur, Sierra Leone, Haiti and Kenya. She writes about the problems of expressing to people the very real pain and suffering she has discovered in these poor countries. Admirably, she personalizes and individualizes what are often presented as general problems—a woman in Mozambique, whose fourth child was her first to survive, in an earthen-floored birthing unit located a four-hour walk from her place of work. So shocking are the situations she encounters that she finds herself continually making comparisons with her own family’s Holocaust past. In Darfur, she was struck by not only the images of malnourished children, but also the “ghostlike eyes” of the women who had been through hell telling their stories of their own rapes, as well as those of their children. Equally brutal was her encounter with the maternal neonatal tetanus virus and her presence at the death of a 6-day-old infant convulsing in pain, as well as the impotence of those who knew the disease could be treated but could not stop it. “I used to regard heroes as people who had done unique, unimaginable things: saving a child’s life or standing up to a bully,” she writes. “After visiting Haiti, I decided that sometimes my heroes were people whose whole lives had been destroyed but who day after day took a breath and resolved to carry on, have faith, and pursue their dreams anew.”
A powerfully written, heartbreaking account of making sure that all children have the opportunity to “dream big dreams and have a fighting chance to realize those dreams.”