Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Boy That Survived The Vulture

17 years ago, back in 1993, the New York Times published one of those photos that instantly make their way into our collective memory: a severely malnourished toddler under the stalking look of a vulture just a few feet away. The picture was taken in the Sudanese village of Ayod, and the photographer was South African Kevin Carter. This image, crude as it can be, soon became symbolic of the terrible problems that devastate the African Continent, and I bet every one of us had seen it before. Carter was awarded with the Pulitzer for that picture one year later, but along with the Pulitzer, came a wave of critics blaming him for not helping the little boy.

What is not widely known is that the little boy, named Kong Nyong, actually survived the menacing vulture and famine. The picture was taken in an improvised UN food aid station run by French sanitary personnel. Zooming in the picture, a plastic bracelet can be seen in Kong Nyong's wrist, showing that he had already been diagnosed and was about to be taken care of (T3, "T" for Severe malnutrition and 3 is the arrival number). Kong Nyong actually recovered, overcoming famine and other odds and lived for another 14 years. Unfortunately, three years ago Kong Nyong died of "fevers", according to his family.

This bittersweet story has a lot to teach us. First of all, that world poverty can be successfully fought, and international efforts are not as dull as they sometimes appear, as Kong's recovery demonstrates. Secondly, that there are still really big problems to tackle, like hunger or diseases like the one that took Kong's life three years ago. Third, that we should investigate what we hear about poor countries because, as it turns out, not everything is bad news and disappointment. Negative information leads to lack of hope. Carter himself received strong criticisms for not helping the boy, but nobody asked if the boy was already being helped. And finally, that there is still hope in the long and harsh struggle against poverty. We have to boost that hope with positive stories and sincere and complete information.

- David Nebreda

SOURCE: ELMUNDO.ES (Spanish news)