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. JC

    The real story, Sara, is that you couldn't take the child from the mother, because Islamic countries do not allow adoption. Story might have left you with a "warm 'n fuzzy", but was not very much on-point.

    August 18, 2010 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  2. Concern

    Please do not give donated money to the corrupt Pak government. We should help the people directly. Otherwise there will be no end for flourishing of the terrorist in that country.

    August 18, 2010 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. JAM

    Bringing politics into this issue is just a way for people to find an excuse for not helping and avoid feeling the guilt of enjoying a $5 coffee when that could be better used to sponsor a water filter which could save countless infants.

    Poor people are in dire help – lets help them with what we can.
    The poor have no race or nationality, because at the end of the day no one cares about them...

    August 18, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  4. JustMe

    The Saudi government donated 100 million dollars and the citizens of Saudi Arabia have raised 111 million dollars through a telethon (television fund raising) today.

    "Just Google this and you will find out what other Muslim countries are doing"


    August 18, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. reaper

    Children are the future!

    August 18, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Braveheart32

    Pakistan is accusing US and India for the flood disaster ..Pakistani government and media has been actively leading the mass to believe this is a disaster created by US and India..I don't know how , but this crap is the news...

    August 18, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. pbd

    This is terrible. I didn't realize so much of Pakistan was basically on a flood plain. My own house flooded this past year and we lost a lot of things, but all we have to do is throw some money at it and it's fixed. No one died and everything will be good as new in a few weeks. Reading this story sure takes away any temptation to whine and moan about my misfortunes. God – or Allah- bless these poor folks ( He knows who He is even if we don't).

    August 18, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. from faraway

    wondering! you guys have so much time to waste on useless arguments about who's right and who's wrong and who should help and who should not? But have you asked yourself that what is my contribution in this regard?
    But the real question is How much i can do and how much i have done?

    August 18, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kristen

    I think you should make arrangements to get the baby. He/she can have a better life here. If nit you maybe someone you know.

    August 19, 2010 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bushra

    I am reading the above comments and am so disappointed. The article is about personal humanity, yours and mine, irrespective of religion or caste or country. It is about feeling another human being's pain. You do not want to give, is upto you. it is your morality, your ability to give. Not everyone can donate. The least one can do is try to feel their pain and empathize, not with countries or the religion, but the men, women and children who have lost everything they own. This is what it is all about. Feel the pain and be grateful for what you have. Donating is your personal matter. May God bless those who donate... and those who don't but have the humanity to feel the other's pain

    August 19, 2010 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Sumbul

      I loved what you said. I have not been able to sleep at night after reading this story. Keep writing, its inspiring!

      August 20, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sibt-e-Hassan Raja

    Pakistani people want peace in the world and our government, army and people are struggling hard as compare to any other country on the earth . . . . we lost so many lifes in war against terrorism . . . . but still we can fight against terrorists . . . . Islam is the religion of peace . . . . the people who are using the name of Islam for fighting they are not even Muslims because a true Muslim cant kill any innocent person . . . . Islam teaches us " killing a single person is equal to killing all the human kind" . . . . . India is taking advantage from these situations . . . but let me tell all of you . . . . India have to understand the problems and issues of Pakistan . . . . India is the bigger state in south asia and India have to play his role to bring peace . . . . If India will keep blaming Pakistan for there internal issues so no one can solve the conflicts between two nuclear nations . . . .

    August 19, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Fiona

    This is not about being Muslim, Hindu, Christian or Jews. There are good and bad people in every nation and just because of some Moran's u can not judge the Entire nation. People lost there homes, infants are sick people don't have clean water to drink. People haven't had a full meal in days, Kids have done no harm to anyone, This is a act of God and lots of innocent people are getting hurt if u want to do something then help them and pray for there safety don't waste your time in thinking who did what, do it for the sake of humanity. Put your self in their shoe and think what would u want...I pray with all my heart May Allah bless everyone with his blessing and this is a phase that will pass and things will get better(Ameen)

    August 19, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fervent

    The big developed nati0ns need to halt narcissism and come forward to aid the poor flood victims of Pakistan. Why are we debating over terrorism right now? I dont see any connection between it and the detrimental conditions in pak caused by floods! if anyone wants to play the blame game then fine, go ahead but dont blame the innocent pakistanis for anything, its their corrupt leaders who have been unsuccessful in formulating the correct policies for the country.
    There is a dire need of materialistic and moral support for the victims, 1/3 of the country is drowned under water ( according to UN stats) the sufferers are also human beings! no race, cast or nationality should matter if someone really wants to make both ends meet and do something for the sake of humanity...
    God bless us all!

    August 19, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sumbul

    I want all moms who are reading this to answer my question. What would make you give up your baby? Would you give up your baby so that she could drink healthy water, eat good food, wear proper clothes and have a safe place to stay? Or would you rather have her die in your arms? You all know the answer! Please donate $1 today to any charity to stop this tragedy.

    August 20, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sheisbackisis

    I was very touched by the words in this artcile. I thought I'd post my sincere encouragment and thanks for getting the information to the public by sharing your experience. I for one do not take lightly what you and others at CNN do to inform us. Thank you again. You have changed the world.

    September 3, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
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