On July 13, 1985, Liz McLaughlin journeyed to Wembley Stadium to attend Live Aid. One of two billion people worldwide, McLaughlin watched with wide eyes as Bob Geldof and U2 spoke of the famine and starvation in Africa. Twenty-six years later, McLaughlin watched with those same eyes as an elder herder in Bornea pointed to a pile of cattle bones and said, "This month it's the cattle. Next month, it's the people."
As a humanitarian aid worker, McLaughlin has spent the last 19 years traveling to the most anguished and devastated parts of the world. From the violent conflicts of Kosovo and Sarajevo, to the terrifying genocide of Darfur, to the massive destruction of the Haiti earthquake, Liz McLaughlin thought she had seen it all. That was until she traveled with CARE, a humanitarian aid organization, to the horn of Africa.
Each day, during her time at the Dadaab refuge camp in eastern Kenya, McLaughlin watched as 1500 men, women and children joined the 400,000 people already receiving food, water and other emergency relief. While almost every man and woman described days, even weeks of traveling, it wasn't their stories that scared McLaughlin the most. It was the fact that the people she met were the lucky ones, she says. Outside the camp, over twelve million people were fighting alone against the worst drought in 60 years.
The suffering McLaughlin witnessed is far from over. Yet, if you turn on the TV or flip through a magazine, you will be spared the devastating images and stories of famine, as they are conspicuously absent. Every day for the past few months, the people of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have been fighting a battle almost invisible to the rest of the world.
Live Aid was the day that forever changed McLaughlin's life. It marked the day she opened her eyes to the world. Today is World Humanitarian Day. Let it be your own Live Aid. Start getting involved!