Audrey Hepburn: A Tribute to her Humanitarian Work
      Home      Contact      Links      Site Info      Guestbook
      Her Work





      Spirit of Audrey

      AH Children's Fund

    home >her work >somalia



Audrey's last journey was to war-torn Somalia, in September 1992. "I walked into a nightmare," she said. "I have seen famine in Ethiopia and Bangladesh, but I have seen nothing like this - so much worse than I could possibly have imagined. I wasn't prepared for this. It's so hard to talk about because it's unspeakable." Between the worst drought in history and a horrifying civil war that had destroyed the country; most of the population was starving to death. "There's nothing left," Audrey said. "The cattle are dead, the crops are gone, whatever there was has been looted. Anarchy. It's a country without a government." It was the first time in history that a country had been held together purely by relief workers, from organizations such as UNICEF, Save the Children, and Care. But there were too few of them.

At the feeding camp in Baidoa, "One of the first sights I saw" Audrey said, "was that they were loading the bodies of that night onto a truck, and most of them were very small. Just one night's dead. Around a hundred. Children were sitting around waiting to be fed, but they were beyond wanting food. Some of them had to be more or less force-fed with tiny spoonfuls. They are just totally spent." Her son Sean says:

She came back and said 'I've been to hell.' And every time she spoke about it, she had to relive it. Nothing ever prepared her for going to a camp and meeting a little kid and coming back the next day and he wasn't there anymore. You're supposed to go back to your hotel room and drink bottled water? Get on a plane and go back to your regular life? It throws your whole world out of balance.

The mission was followed by press conferences in London, Geneva, and Paris and numerous television appearances in the United States. Not least of her skills was that she could speak with reporters in a variety of languages. More than any other, this round of interviews generated an unprecedented amount of international coverage and captivated the world. In all of them, she looks a bit tired but otherwise healthy, betraying no hint of the fact that she had just fifteen weeks to live.

When Audrey returned from Somalia, she discovered she had developed cancer in her appendix, which spread to her colon and then to her stomach. Speaking in New York after her trip, she said, "I'm filled with a rage at ourselves. I don't believe in collective guilt, but I do believe in collective responsibility."

« Back • Main  • Next »