In the movie District 9, an alien spaceship stalls in the skies above Johannesburg. After three months with no communication, South Africans decide to board the ship, only to find a million aliens who need rescuing. They move them to District 9, an area that’s a cross between a township and a refugee camp.
After having been buried for a week in the rubble of Haiti’s January 12 earthquake, Ena Zizi was rescued by the Gophers. As they pulled her dirty and injured body out on a broken piece of plywood salvaged from the rubble and carefully passed her down over three stories of debris to the ground, the 70-year-old woman began singing.
Late one night in April 1998, just two days after Guatemalan bishop Juan Gerardi released a report about who was responsible for what during his country’s recently terminated civil war, someone smashed in Bishop Gerardi’s head.
Not long ago donkey-drawn plows turned the soil over in fields of sorghum and peanuts near Bela village. But today the village is deserted. In 2003, Arab militias killed 37 people and drove the survivors away. Now there is only silence—the sound of genocide in slow motion. The grass and weeds growing up amidst skeletons of burned huts are proof that the world hasn’t cared enough to stop the violence and bring the people of Bela home.
As the sun rises over Kuala Bubon, Wadi begins mending his fishing nets. Soon he is accompanied by the sound of hammering that echoes across the lagoon where dozens of brightly painted new boats are moored. Two and a half years after the tsunami ravaged this village on the southwest coast of Indonesia’s remote Aceh province, life has begun again and peace has flourished.
New fault lines are complicating the already daunting challenge of recovering from last October’s killer earthquake in the Himalayan foothills of northern Pakistan. As tens of thousands of survivors brace for the coming winter, relief groups are caught in a religious squeeze play that makes recovery and reconstruction even more difficult.
As many as 25,000 of the 35,000 people who lived in the city of Balakot died in the earthquake that hit northern Pakistan and India-controlled Kashmir in October. Bibi Rahiba lost her husband, one brother, and three of her five children. Weeks after the quake, she has made little progress in finding the bodies of her children. But she steadily chips away at the rubble.
The bomb craters and unexploded ordnance in the rice fields around Sam Ang’s village in Cambodia remind local residents that the war the United States fought against neighboring Vietnam more than three decades ago knew no boundaries.
When Nadarajah Arulnathan visits his church at Pasikudah, he puts on a surgical mask because along the way he must pass rotting bodies tangled in the underbrush. They can’t be removed because of the landmines, washed loose from a nearby military base and scattered across the land. The church sanctuary is battered but still stands.
We are here, we are there, we are everywhere!” Every day the Thai sex workers formed ranks and paraded through the convention center, their signs demanding acceptance, their chants in practiced English reverberating off the giant pharmaceutical company exhibits and booths touting flavored condoms.
On the flight from Johannesburg to Luanda, Angola, the airplane is packed. Half the passengers are oil workers returning for another four- or five-week stint on the wells off the coast. The other half are relief workers, coming to feed, house and cure more than a million Angolans who are starving in the wake of the country’s recently concluded civil war.
When the rains began in Central America in June, Alejandro Fuentes took his nine-year old son, his hair discolored by malnutrition, and walked back and forth across his small farm in the parched south of Honduras. They poked holes in the ground with sharpened sticks, dropping in their last seeds of corn and beans.
The taxi's motor died three times as the driver wound his way around the fallen trees and through the flooded streets of Havana. He was trying to get me back to my hotel before the worst of October's Hurricane Irene hit Cuba's capital. Each time the decrepit Lada—a Soviet version of a small Fiat—stalled, I climbed out to push it out of the deep water. And each time help appeared.