Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A nurse who helped to inspire Live Aid

25 years ago, the news coverage depicting starving children in Ethiopia prompted Sir Bob Geldof to act. Geldof put together the benefit concert Live Aid which not only provided food to Ethiopia, but ushered in a new era of action against hunger and poverty.

Some of the news coverage Geldof witnessed showed a nurse who was trying to care for children in Ethiopia. Claire Bertschinger told viewers in the UK that she had to pick and choose which children received food and turn the others away. The BBC now has some of the footage streaming at their website.

From the BBC, we read this interview with Claire Bertschinger 25 years after the Ethiopian famine. Bertschinger says it took her over 20 years to finally talk about the nightmarish scenes she saw first-hand.

It was this footage that moved Bob Geldof to begin his fundraising.

"Without any aid, Live Aid or anybody sending money, thousands, millions more people would have died," she said.

"What Live Aid did was to support them long enough for the rains to come, for them to grow crops.

"We, as the Red Cross, gave seeds and hoes so they could start growing crops again and gradually they managed to have small stores of food.

"So that when a drought came along they could go back to their stores and not have a similar famine," she added.

In Michael Buerk's famous report on the millions of people facing starvation the previous year, Dame Claire talked about how she had to decide which children would be fed, and who would not.

She admitted she had been "scarred" by those experiences.

"I can remember one time when I had children needing to come in," she said.

"They just had skin dripping off their bones, they had no fat or muscle left at all and I counted 10 rows of children and in each row there were a 100 children and I only had 60 places.

"It was a horrendous situation where I had to choose who could come in and who couldn't."

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