Fieldset
This picture shows more than just footprints...

On a wall in an MSF hospital in Bangladesh, a simple artwork celebrates hope as healthy children are discharged from the intensive care unit

Footprints from children treated at Goyalmara hospital in Bangladesh

This picture shows more than just footprints. It signifies future hope, maybe even miracles, and definitely the performance of MSF.

In all my 25 years of humanitarian work, never had I seen such a clear indication, an innocent representation, of the success and difference we can make to the lives of sick children in a challenging situation.

It is simple and honest:

Each footprint represents a healthy child leaving our neonatal intensive care ward in Goyalmara, Bangladesh.

Celebrating the impossible

It does not represent any religion, or financial or political hierarchy, not even the refugee or “host population” here at the heart of the Rohingya refugee crisis.

It shows to everyone who comes here that we cherish the survivors

It is just a child’s foot, dipped in paint and placed on the wall as they leave the intensive care unit, now healthy.

What could be more innocent and yet more powerful?

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Footprints on the wall of the intensive care unit at Goyalmara, Bangladesh
Footprints on the wall of the intensive care unit at Goyalmara, Bangladesh

The idea was from a young Canadian nurse who wanted to visualise, for both the staff and the mothers of the sick children in the ward, that there are true successes – times we could all celebrate that the seemingly impossible is sometimes possible.

It shows to everyone who comes here that we cherish the survivors.

Devotion and dignity

I am not naïve. I know that we did not manage to save every child in the ward, unfortunately.

Every child was treated with the same devotion, care and professionalism. However, some were beyond our reach and passed in a dignified and poignant way. 

This is a sad admission of our limitations, but also a realisation that we tried our best and gave care and dignity in a place where those values were sometimes missing.

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An MSF medical team sits with a mother and her two-month-old son in Goyalmara hospital
An MSF medical team sits with a mother and her two-month-old son in Goyalmara hospital

So, this is not about any county, politics, finances, or environment, this is only to recognise the great work we do at MSF – enabling a sick child’s recovery and helping them take their first step into their new world.

In 1969, humanity made its first footprint on the Moon. At MSF, every day we help a child make their first footprint on Earth.

Their first confident mark on this world.

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Read more: Stories from the Rohingya refugee crisis

“People are suspended in time”: Two years on from the Rohingya refugee crisis

“The love for your child is good”: Mental health and the Rohingya crisis