August 17th, 2010
06:53 PM ET

Pakistani mom: Take my baby; she'll have a better life

CNN reporter Sara Sidner sits in a car surrounded by children as she and a crew prepare to leave the flooded Sindh Province in Pakistan.

Sindh Province, Pakistan - The first things you notice are the flies. They form what looks like a buzzing black crust on children's lips, eyes and foreheads. The children are either too tired to keep brushing them away or too used to them to bother.

"We have terrible problem with flies," 50-year-old Khuda Jatoi says in Sindhi, the local language here. Everyone here is suffering from something. Still, the moment they see us, everyone scrambles to find a suitable place for us. Someone is trying to find a chair for us to sit down. Father Khuda Joti is insisting on giving us tea or sending someone to buy a cold drink. We are guests in his makeshift shelter, and he wants to give us the best of what he has. We cannot bring ourselves to take anything from him. He and his family have lost nearly everything they own.

They are victims of the worst floods Pakistan has ever seen, and yet they are trying to make us comfortable. That keeps happening everywhere we go. The day before, in a school-turned-clinic, a few ladies who had survived the floods handed me a "hair catcher" because they could see that I was sweating profusely, and they wanted to make me more comfortable. At the same time, the men kept fanning us with brightly colored hand fans. It makes me feel both ashamed about how much I have and don't appreciate, and inspired by the kindness that is clearly being extended with no expectation of anything in return.

When we ask about their troubles, the entire clan begins to talk at once. Suddenly we are surrounded by children, women, fathers, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandfathers - all members of the large extended family. They have taken refuge in a small school that the family broke into and turned into an unofficial shelter. They have nowhere else to go.

"We were drowning in the water," one family member says. We couldn't hear much else as the sound of all those voices began to weave together in a suffocating quilt made of despair.

We tried to quiet everyone so that we could have a conversation. They told us their sorrows and spewed anger at authorities for giving too little too late.

Then, something happened that makes me cringe. One of the women in the crowd asked that I take the tiny baby girl I was cooing at. She said the baby would have a better life with me. I wasn't sure I heard her correctly until the actual mother of the baby girl said it. I stood there silent, my brain churning so furiously it was as if it was looking for the right answer to a test from the Almighty. How am I supposed to answer that question? What is the right answer? Is there a right answer?

There have been plenty of days in my line of work where I imagined gathering up all the suffering children and taking them with me - at least I would know that they would have food to eat and books to read. But I never really considered actually taking a baby from the arms of its mother, even if asked. In this case, the family has been so traumatized, I told myself it was just their fear and anxiety talking.

I left with only my notepad and camera in my hand and another of life's difficult questions swirling in my head.

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Filed under: Pakistan
soundoff (288 Responses)
  1. B

    You should have been able to adopt this baby and give her a good life. Shame that didn't happen.
    Fear and anxiety talking? You know the baby has no chance where she is.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bekah

    I'm not surprised to see the hate here. Americans, and especially Republicans or fundamentalist Christians, seem to be pretty heartless lately. It's like you all forgot that our country and their faith is based on being the beacon of light to the world that helps the less fortunate.

    You are all the reason our country is an embaressment. When I see this, I don't see Muslims. I see PEOPLE that are dying and need our help. That's it. We are all the same. They are no different than those dying in Haiti or anywhere else. The fact that you would all refuse to help them b/c some in their country are fanatical is not only sad but disgusting. You all make me ashamed to be part of the human race.

    When Katrina happened, countries from all over the world chose to help us, even communist nations like Cuba that hate us. We had no problem taking all the money we could b/c our people were dying. I guess helping others the same is just too much to ask?

    If this was YOUR child, you wouldn't be making a joke. How any of you can see anything other than the heartbreaking fact that this mother would rather never see her child again than leave her in this poverty and destruction just shows how low our species has come.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don

      If if was MY child and I don't think the average Pakistani would give a dime or a grain of rice to me or my country. He might, however, give sanctuary to people who want to kill my countrymen who are they to hunt down the killers who plotted 9/11. Lets not forget that there are a lot of those guys still out there. Yes its been a while and they are laughing at us. But they are there.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ameen

      @ Don. Just google it, you'll find out that Pakistanis are twice as much generous than the rest of the world in charity.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chelsea

      Riight Don, Pakistan is harboring a large amount of Islamic terrorists. HELLO! We have a couple of them here in the US as well. And, I can't believe you are ignorant enough to think that Pakistan had ANYTHING to do with the 9/11 attacks. Why did Bush start the war in the middle east? to "protect" us from Saddam Hussein, not the Taliban, and not Osama Bin Laden. After WMDs proved to be a failed excuse for ruining a country, America is finally focusing on getting justice for those who died in that horrific event.

      People like you group Muslims and Muslim countries together under the name "Arab" which certainly is not accurate. We need to help people...that's right, i said PEOPLE, regardless of their religion.

      August 18, 2010 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. kid

    This article is heartbreaking and I can't help but sympathize with the writer. The article was beautifully written and she obviously cared. We can all sit here and judge but I know that if I was in that position I could not imagine taking the child away from it's mother. Whoever said this women was doing this for selfish reasons is obviously not a part of any sort of family. I'm only 17 but I can imagine giving up your child would be the ultimate sacrifice. Also this isn't a Muslim question or a Christian question of guilt and responsibility; it was a natural disaster. There is no one to blame and we must help people learn to help people help themselves by giving them aid and skills to regain some normalcy in their lives. I feel it is my responsibility as a person and as an American to help people and show through out the world the principals in which our country was founded on and share with others the opportunities I have received.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bekah

      Let's hope more in your generation are like you. If the world keeps producing fanatics like you see on these boards most days, I fear for our eventual survival.

      August 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. display

    where o where are the rich muslim bretheren states in this hour of need for Pakistan, the country most hated by Muslims i.e. USA is on the top of the list of donors... way to go USA and other Christian Countries, you can win them over by love....

    August 17, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reply

      In case you missed this, Saudi Arabia and its people have donated 211 million us dollars for the flood victims in Pakistan.

      August 17, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chichetr

      The United States is NOT a christian country, get that through your heads! Please for once, read the Treaty of Tripoli or even Thomas Paine.

      August 18, 2010 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. tjm

    Prime Minister Bhutto said "even if we have to eat grass, we will make nuclear bombs". Ohh.. all grass is submerged now.. How about selling those nukes to US and buy food and boats.. Do they want to do it? Probably not if free help is sure to come.. Once the bad phase is over, it will be good time to swindle some money in Swiss accounts, buy some F-16s, add few nukes in the warehouse, built few Maddresa that will brainwash who survived on help of other countries..

    August 17, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reply

      TJM, how did you assume that I am getting some Madressah education, you AH you seem to be the kind that gets indoctrination.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • tjm

      I just decoded your rant. The guy just tried to help who are desperate and in need. And here you are refusing help in a manner I would not call nice. To put it mildly spewing hatred for no real reason. Speaks for the education you have got. You know what, you may refuse when you are offered help.. Meanwhile let them decide what they want and don't..

      August 18, 2010 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Reply

      TJM, I would have been thankful if the donation was selfless, without humiliating Pakistan. But the guy chose to humiliate Pakistan first. Its like spitting in the water you give someone to drink. When you help someone you donot humiliate them at the same time.

      August 18, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. thewayiseeit

    @righton2, I'm right with you!

    August 17, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Reply

    Afghanistan has donated 1 million dollars. For the Pakistani people, even this counts and they are grateful for this as well.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. CSG

    Who will win the prize for the most stupid, heartless comment?

    It's a close contest; lots of people engaged in a race to the bottom on this thread...

    August 17, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. American

    Do not help pakistan they will spend the money on weapons instead of spending on these poor devastated flood victims. Just rememer this is the nation which gives birth to terrorism.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stopthehate

      no, America gives birth to terrorism. its people like you who spawn ignorance and hate that make the rest of the world hate us and gives birth to those same organizations that want to kill us. in effect, you hate them because they hate you. its a neverending cycle and you are the one who is educated and intelligent enough (maybe) to stop it. end the hate.

      August 18, 2010 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. Popoki

    What needs to happen is that various nations (yes, including our United States) need to contribute whatever resources they
    can without worrying about matching or exceeding anyone else. This isn't a contest – it's helping those in need!

    August 17, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reply

      To the point! and nothing else.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Don

    I don't suggest helping Pakistan a whole lot. I recently read there are a LOT of very wealthy people in Pakistan who evade taxes completely. Let them "man up" and help out a bit. Not only that but as an American I don't believe that Pakistan is a true friend of ours in our efforts to fight terrorism. Pakistan doesn not stop the flow of fighters from it's country and it could do a lot more. Maybe it needs to suffer a little. Sending a few bags of rice with our flag on it will not make them like us any more anyway.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. The Dirty Paki

    If you don't want to help, then don't give a dime, but at least don't make such baseless allegations about us.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. grvol

    No thanks!

    August 17, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nick

    Brian, you're an idiot. Read a damn book, then open your mouth. People like you give the U.S. a bad name.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. surprised

    I am actually surprised to see the hatred in these comments. I still believe that we – humans – are evolving, that we learn, that we have grown since, say, the civil rights movement. We have seen the harm that blind ignorance does – when we do it, and when others do it to us. Given that that is so, it astonishes me that so many people would use this article – about urgent human suffering – to rattle off uninformed stereotypes about a supposed group of people. We need to stop "othering" and start helping. It can be the people of Pakistan, it can be the homeless in your own town, it can be tutoring little children who have yet to learn to read... Having so much anger and hatred not only damages the world you live in, it damages you. In fact, it MOSTLY damages you. As much as human tragedies are heart-breaking, they also serve as an opportunity for the rest of us – as individuals – as humans – to reach out in compassion. When you fail to be able to do that any more, you have to wonder what has happened to you.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
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