Meet Maysa, a young refugee who put her brother first

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Story highlights

  • CNN's Nima Elbagir addresses the United Nations to mark World Humanitarian Day
  • From Sudan, Elbagir says she carries the failure of Darfur to every new crisis she covers
  • "Everyone wants the same things... Everyone has a right to want the same things"

This is an excerpt from a speech given by CNN Senior International Correspondent Nima Elbagir to the United Nations to mark World Humanitarian Day on August 19. The date is significant as it marks the deadly bomb attack on the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad in 2003. This year's theme is "Inspiring the World's Humanity."

New York (CNN)In 2003, the United Nations was asking for $3 billion to meet the needs of those caught in crises around the world. That's a lot of money.

This year, they're asking for $20 billion.
In 2003, there were 38 million people in need. Before the end of this year, there will be over 100 million.
    It's understandable then that it all becomes a nameless, faceless blur. Cliches of wall-to-wall UNHCR tents, WFP grain sacks and UNICEF schools.
    I'm from Sudan and the first story I really covered was the crisis in Darfur. I was 23. And if I think about it, I think what drove me was that I truly believed that if the world really knew what was happening -- if people really knew -- then of course they would step in. That of course someone, somewhere, would make sure something was done.
    What we have today is a forgotten Darfur, and for me personally -- a sense of failure. It's a feeling of failure that, if I'm honest, I carry with me to every new crisis I cover.
    We see the same equation again and again.
    Good intentions, plus competing interests and the so-called "realities on the ground," that too often result in inaction.
    Seventeen is the average number of years most people spend as an Internally Displaced Person.
    Six is the number of crises that have had appeals running for the last 10 years.
    You probably know this.
    So let's look closer. Let's look beyond the numbers.

    The faces of need

    Maysa lies curled around an oil drum during a boat ride from Aden to Djibouti in April.
    Earlier this year, I met a little girl from Aden. We took her and her family away from the shelling and chaos in the capital Yemen, on a wooden cargo boat we'd rented.
    Her name was Maysa. She's tall for her age. She told me she finds her little brother deeply irritating but when I found out her family hadn't brought any food for the journey, I dug out some energy bars from the bottom of my bag. She gave them to him first.
    Hanna sits with a group of women on a ship carrying U.S. citizens out of Aden amid fighting.
    Hanna was dreaming of medical school when the fighting in Aden broke out. Hanna's almost-but-not-quite boyfriend stayed behind because his little sister was hit by shrapnel.
    Their mother was killed a few weeks prior. Even though no one knew if or when another ship would leave Aden Port, he knew his sister was dying and he refused to let her die alone.
    These are just two among the millions. Two choices and two stories that are about more then the words we normally hear like "conflict" and "displaced."
    Words that actually, when you think about it, tell us very little. Least of all why we should care.
    Almost all U.N. appeals -- 90% of them -- last for three years.
    No wonder you're exhausted. We all are. But the world is in crisis.
    We keep promising "never again."
    And yet here we are.

    People who care

    Some people of course do care. Some people have a capacity for care that is extraordinary.
    A capacity to care so much that even when it hurts, they keep going.
    Chris and Amanda Pilkerton are a couple from New York. She's a chef, he works for JP Morgan. They are the definition of "nice, comfortable, normal."
    Last year during the Ebola crisis, when so much of the world was busy closing its borders, Chris and Amanda saw a piece we'd done about Ebola orphans and decided they wanted -- needed -- to adopt four children from Liberia.
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    They actually started with two -- like any sane person would -- but then discovered that the children had all grown up together and decided they could find room in their lives for two more.
    Then they were told, for really understandable reasons, that adoptions in Liberia were suspended. Especially international adoptions. Now, in their heads, the children they hoped to adopt were already home. But instead of shutting down, they opened up.
    While they wait -- and hope -- they've been organizing donation drives.
    Helping to send clothing and supplies to as many Ebola orphans as they can.
    They recently got the amazing news that the moratorium on adoptions was lifted and they're still helping gather donations for thousands of other Ebola orphans.
    Even as they're desperately working on trying to cut through red tape and bring their children home.
    It's not that much in the general scheme of things. It's not the billions donor nations are asked to give, but to them -- to Chris and Amanda and their communities -- this is time, money and effort spent on people who look nothing like them, who they have no reason to care for.

    'We are at a tipping point'

    Nobody wants to spend their days holding out a begging bowl. No one wants to spend their time stating the obvious.
    Like, people shouldn't drown off shore when you have the ability to try and save them. Children shouldn't grow up in refugee camps because of "settlement quotas." No one should starve to death.
    We are at a tipping point and we can't give up.
    I've seen enough amazing good in people that I know we wouldn't like the world very much if we did.
    So let's start with something small but so powerful. Let's see people for who they really are.
    Let's look beyond the tents and grain sacks.

    #Sharehumanity

    In the lead up to World Humanitarian Day, the U.N. has been asking people to share their stories from crises around the world, using the hashtag #sharehumanity.
    To help us see the people behind the crisis.
    The stories will surprise you with humanity's ability to overcome, to grow, to survive.
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    I always am. Until my friend and colleague Atika Shubert did a story on it, I had no idea that there was a beauty salon in the Zaatari refuge camp in Jordan.
    Apparently it's very popular.
    All around the world, what we need, what we hope, what we dream. It isn't really all that different.
    Everyone wants the same things.
    Everyone has a right to want the same things.