You don’t have to be brain surgeon to rejuvenate a life
It is always heartening when Australia bands together around an issue with such cohesion and gusto as we have seen over the past fortnight with the separation of the conjoined twins, Krishna and Trishna.
I feel I should, out of journalistic integrity, (not that I’m a journalist) mention that I have had some dealing with the twins. In 2007 and 2008 I would spend my weekends volunteering at their orphanage in Bangladesh and was struck at the time by the girls’ strength and resilience.
Andrew Bolt’s piece in Friday’s Herald Sun focused on the debate (largely in our oh-so-balanced talk back arena) about whether or not the Australian Government should have foot the bill for the operation to separate the twins.
Whilst I wholeheartedly support Danielle, Moira Kelly, Atom Rahman and the wonderful team who have supported the girls, I must - and believe me I never thought I’d utter these words - agree with Andrew Bolt in saying that the Australian Government and associated departments made the right decision in not paying for the procedure.
It was not the responsibility of the Government to spend multiple millions on such an operation, when the private sector had the resources and the will. However - and now we’re back on familiar territory- I whole-heartedly disagree with this becoming a left-right binary.
The Government’s pressing responsibility to the world’s poorest. Whilst it is easy to feel a personal connection to this story, we must look at the broader issue.
I am amazed and appreciative at just how far these girls have come. In Shishu Bhavan, Dhaka where I met them a few years ago, I was amazed at their battler-like quality. But, the truth of the matter is that in their orphanage at least one baby a month would die of diarrhea and other preventable diseases.
This was in an orphanage where at least children were fed and cared for. The harsh reality for millions of others is much starker. And yet, the reality for us is much cheaper and much simpler than we give credence to; we do not need to spend millions to save lives. Dollars will do.
Last Thursday was World Toilet Day and as vulgar and obtuse as it may sound, it exists to raise awareness around a key issue in the developing world. Currently there are 2.5 billion people in the world that do not have access to safe toilets and sanitation.
Horrifically and all too commonly with issues of extreme poverty, this issue affects children the most. 1.6 million children die every year from diarrhea resulting from a lack of clean water and adequate sanitation.
It is the root cause of more child deaths than malaria, HIV/AIDS and measles combined. Without increased spending on sanitation these figures cannot and will not drastically improve.
And what is the cost? The UN estimates clean water and sanitation for all for as little as $9b a year. And before asking where our duty lies to support this sum, the US cosmetic surgery industry is worth over $11.8 billion a year.
We have the means, we have the technology and the resources to change the way millions of people live, in order for them to survive. Krishna and Trishna are living testament to that, but let us not forget the millions whose story is less documented, less expensive and in many ways less complex.
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