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. zappy

    I would have rescued this baby – The mother would have been relieved and the child could return to the mom once the flood recedes

    August 17, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Heades

      You say this like adopting a baby can happen overnight. Adoption costs 20-50 thousand dollars, and takes months or even years! This reporter (journalists don't make a lot of money btw) was on an assignment for a few days. It's sad that she couldn't take the baby and help, but that's the harsh reality. Don't be ignorant and judge this woman for her inability to act on this tragic "offer."

      August 18, 2010 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. bos

    Please take the time to understand this person,She probably can't afford to take care of her child.In the condition that those people are in.IN such devestation.Not all Paki are bad people just like in any other culture there are bad people have compassion.

    August 17, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. granny12

    Raj no one deserves this NO one.

    August 17, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. granny12

    To those who spew hatred and have no compassion for fellow human beings. I am a proud member of our armed forces. I have assisted in Katrina, Rita and Ike. I have seen suffering and much sadness. I would give the shirt off my back to help those who needed me. I will do what I can to help the people who are suffering in pakistan. I gave money to those in need in haiti as well. I will even assist your sorry uncompassionate azz's when you need me to come help you in your time of need. Though your hearts are disgusting and vile and your tongues speak of nothing but hatred. You are still a human being and though YOU may not appreciate it your children or family may. you sit back in your comfortable homes and watch this unfold on your tv and have not a clue because if you saw any of this in real life it would affect you and touch your heart. So say what you will with your hate, and hope and pray if you find yourself in this situation SOMEONE WILL COME HELP YOU

    August 17, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      This is a great response to the hatred so clearly seen in many posted comments. May God bless you.. as well as the victims of this tragedy.

      August 18, 2010 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
    • kahwi

      Thank you. A million times thank you.

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

      Beautifully said. Thank you!

      August 18, 2010 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Amna

      if only everyone becomes as compassionate as you are, then this world may have a chance of becoming a paradise. Keep it up. We need more Americans like you.

      August 18, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Amy

    India has offered Pakistan 5 million dollars of aid money and they refused!! If they are that desperate for money and people are starving how can they refuse aid money? Its shows what a bunch of egoistic, arrogant fools they are. They cannot even bury the hatchet once to accept help from their neighbor. If they can afford to be so selective on whose money to take, then fine. I say they don't deserve it.

    August 17, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raj

      Completely agree with you.

      August 18, 2010 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
    • anon. e. mous.

      quick comparison...
      Iran offered assistance to clean up the oil spill in the gulf, the US refused...

      August 18, 2010 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Reply

      Maybe if India would correct the wrongs it has done by ignoring UN resolutions on Kashmir, by not setting up consulates in Afghanistan to send terrorists in to Pakistan or not provide funding to the Paksiatni Taliban to fight the Pakistani army, then Pakistan might accept the paltry 5 mil offered by the Indian Government.

      August 18, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Heades

    The majority of people commenting on this article disgust me. Most of what I see here is ignorance, intolerance and a practically sociopathic lack of compassion. Oh, and it's all in the name of Christ and "Freedom"... right? Jesus would be appalled by your hatred.

    August 17, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. YankeeDoodle

    Too much importance and limelight is being offered to the pakis. They are always the center of attention. They get attention by the media when they kill, they are on the front news when they die. Leave them alone. That is their life. Jeez.

    August 17, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Davey Jones

    "Take my wife, please."

    August 18, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. NQ

    I do not understand this whole talk about religion and state when people are in dire need of basic necessities of life! Put yourself in their shoes. Are you people so emotionless that you do not see their misery? There has been talk above about how Muslims rely on West for aid, well don't you see the same Muslims are fighting the West's war for you in their own country when almost every other day a bomb goes off in retaliation by the angry militants and numerous innocent civilians die just so this world can have the peace we all dream off. Forget this even, are you not aware that the same militant groups are the ones who have stepped in to help these flood victims? So tell me now is the West going to wait for another half of a generation of people to wipe out and the remaining to grow up as people hating the West even more after being helped, nurtured and fed stories by the militant groups? All because the West, the World did not come to their help when they needed it.

    August 18, 2010 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sam

    Please donate to the following:- Edhi Foundation & Humanity First. Two separate organizations that are already in the field and helping the needy of Pakistan. Both are legit organizations and have been helping in many countries. My cousin works as a doctor for Humanity First. He's been to Haiti and South America during earthquakes.

    August 18, 2010 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  11. arwa

    I am willing to take that baby and give her a better life in Canada, help me cnn,
    I really wanna help as many children as I can.

    August 18, 2010 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
  12. lauren

    I will take the baby.

    August 18, 2010 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  13. JM

    that is completely sad. what mother, in complete desperation to save her child, wouldn't ask someone to take her baby rather than see it face inevitable death. how depressing. we in the west have so much but we choose to buy tvs, shoes, clothes (so many unnecessary clothes), more stuff for our homes, etc. rather than use our money to END someone else's distress by helping them rather than helping ourselves to more and more crap that we don't need. obviously, this doesn't apply to the many people who are struggling here but plenty of us still have jobs and continue to shop, shop, shop like there is no other purpose between birth and death. people never seem to ask what it all means. if we were in the same situation, I hope that someone would take pity on us.

    August 18, 2010 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  14. sdnnd

    The problem with funding Pakis is the funds will end up in extremists hands.

    August 18, 2010 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. sdnnd

    It is better to believe a snake rather than a Paki.

    August 18, 2010 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • JM

      You talk to serpents? That can't be good...

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