It’s been three years since I last visited Nauru and looked in the eyes of the desperate children detained there.
Between 2013 and 2015 Save the Children was at the coal face of this human suffering. Our staff were the teachers, the social workers, the child protection officers and the sports and recreational workers who sought to deliver hope to children and their families. It was our staff who counselled a child whose lips were sewn together and logged the claims of abuse and assault.
In 2015 children were already at a devastating breaking point. I’ve visited refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Myanmar and Bangladesh where the physical conditions are more confronting, but nowhere matches the all-pervasive and desperate lack of hope that I witnessed in Nauru.
We know from damning doctors’ reports this week that children are now in an even more precarious state than ever before.
The news yesterday that one in four kids on Nauru are ‘acutely suicidal’ should have shaken parliament into action.
But so too should the revelation in Senate Estimates that 11 children and their families were flown to Australia for urgent medical attention on Monday night.
Or that an 18-year-old was medically evacuated with septicaemia on the weekend.
In August, 119 children were living on Nauru and many had been born there. Some children of school age have known only this existence, marooned on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific.
Since August, more than 60 children have been evacuated off the island after legal interventions, which in most cases were orders to provide urgent medical attention.