HealthNews Pick

The pandemic has become a humanitarian disaster in the United States


(CNN)In my 20 years as a journalist, I’ve experienced crises and devastation around the world first-hand.

Some have been one-time natural disasters, like the aftermath of 2004 tsunami that shattered coastal communities along the rim of the Indian Ocean, near its epicenter.
While reporting there, I visited a resettlement camp in Sri Lanka, where 3,000 people had access to only one bathroom. We drove around for days, sleeping in our car and using the car battery to power our camera and lights to reveal the devastation.
There was the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, where I arrived just 14 hours after it struck. The military and large aid organizations hadn’t yet arrived, so we witnessed the immediate aftermath in Port Au Prince. The buildings had toppled to the ground and estimates were that 100,000 people were killed immediately. About another 120,000 would die in the weeks and months after. I remember young children running after the trucks that were carting off dead bodies to check if their parents were in there. To this day, I consider it one of the toughest stories I’ve ever covered.
And then, the 2011 famine in Somalia, where severe drought and a leadership vacuum led to more than a quarter-million dead, half of them children. Starving people would walk for days and days to get to the refugee camps, and by the time they arrived, they were even more malnourished and depleted. So many didn’t make it.
All of these stories are heartbreaking and horrifying in their scope and depth — the sheer number of lives lost or derailed.
I never thought I would feel that sense of loss and suffering about my own country. As this pandemic unfolds in the United States, I now count it among the worst humanitarian disasters I’ve covered.