Textures of human suffering

ComradesInHealthCoverI was in Baborigame to document military atrocities, but the helicopter going to the military base was full that morning. So I stayed behind with the nuns, who were the only source of health care for the impoverished Tepehuac Indians in this remote area of northern Mexico. By the time his mother brought him in, the infant was so dehydrated and weak that he couldn’t even cry. Given the nuns’ meager supplies, there was nothing to be done but watch as he faded from his tiny little body. His mother held his body and cried softly. The old canard that in other cultures they feel less grief over the loss of a child because it is a common event seems a cynical justification for indifference in a world of gross inequity. If nothing else in doing human rights fieldwork, we become painfully aware of the myriad textures of human suffering.

-Alicia Ely Yamin, “Health and Human Rights in Latin America, and Beyond: A Lawyer’s Experience with Public Health Internationalism,” in Anne-Emanuelle Birn and Theodore M. Brown (eds.), Comrades in Health: U.S. Health Internationalists, Abroad and at Home (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013), p. 238.

Learn more about Alicia Ely Yamin’s work here. View her Beloit College talk in 2010 on a “Rights-based approach to health” here.

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