International Children’s Day was celebrated June 1st in Cuba
By Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES – The world “celebrated” International Children’s Day on June 1st, which the UN General Assembly proclaimed in 1956. I write “celebrated” in quotes because children were only able to celebrate their day in a select few countries.
My thoughts go out to the thousands of children who die without ever being able to celebrate this day, because of treatable and vaccine preventable diseases. My thoughts go out to the thousands of children who die every day of starvation, because they don’t have any food to put in their mouths. My thoughts go out to the thousands of children who are massacred and displaced in occupied Palestine, with Israel’s constant attacks.
My thoughts also go out to all of the girls who are kidnapped and raped by members of terrorist organizations in some African countries. My thoughts go out to the babies who die in the Mediterranean Sea, trying to reach European soil to escape violence and hunger in their birth countries.
I also think about the thousands who reach the southern US border without their parents, who are fleeing violence, hunger and drugs, in Central/South American countries, who are treated like animals and locked up in cages and all of their rights are violated.
What must life be like for these young children in their countries, when their parents decide to send them alone to a strange land, with other customs and where they speak another language? A father or mother can only make a decision like this if the situation calls for desperate measures.
My personal experiences
I also think about my own childhood, that took place in rural Cuba. Poor places that lacked medical assistance and education, with a 57% illiteracy rate. The vast number of situations that shaped my childhood and teenage years come to mind, like a movie.
I have memories of being hungry, not because of food shortages, but because we didn’t have money to buy it, and of having to work to earn an honest living to feed the family.
Those breakfasts of water with brown sugar come to mind, which were warmed up to warm the stomach, because you couldn’t buy milk. I remember how I wouldn’t be able to have a snack in the afternoons, so when my mother was cooking rice (which wasn’t every day), I would sit in the kitchen and wait for her to take out some water from the cooking rice, and fill my cup and that would stave off my hunger a little.
A consequence of the hunger I suffered in those early years of my childhood led to my body packing it in and the doctor who saw me diagnosed me with weak lungs that forced me to stay in absolute rest for almost three years, with me staying back a few years at school.
I also remember how, during primary school, our mid-morning recess was a moment to take a mental break from class, but I would also be frustrated because I wouldn’t have a snack to keep my hunger in check, or have the money needed to buy from the old man who came and sat in the school’s patio with a box full of candy, that only cost 1 or 2 cents.
After coming out of school at midday, I would walk two kms home and lunch would be waiting for me, which was a plate of cornflour and a piece of boiled sweet potato whenever possible. Then, I would walk another two or three kms to take this lunch to my father, who was working in the fields, making marabu charcoal, which was really hard work to sell after.
That was my childhood, which was loaded with sad moments and frustration, at not being able to receive a small gift on Three Kings Day, or not being able to make other dreams come true, which I’ve spoken about before.
Celebrating International Children’s Day amidst all of the conditions I’ve described, now made worse thanks to a pandemic that forces children to be locked up at home to prevent infection, is an impossible pipe-dream that can never come true.
Instead of promoting International Children’s Day, the UN should be looking for a way to force wealthy nations to work towards making children in every country across the globe happier. Thus, they’d be ensuring a future of peace and happiness for everyone. Our national hero Jose Marti once said that children are the world’s hope.