Woldu was originally found in 1984 by a CBC documentary crew led by Brian Stewart and Tony Burman. Her family walked from their village in Tigray to Mek'ele in hopes of finding food or relief. The harsh journey proved too much for many: her sister Azmara died during the trip; she and her mother both became very ill.
While at the aid center her father, Woldu Menameno, was told by the attending nuns that his daughter Birhan, would likely die within the next fifteen minutes. Her father, preparing for the worst, wrapped her in a white burial shroud, and began to dig a grave. However, as he began to bury his daughter, he noticed a faint pulse. He alerted the nurses, who restored her to health.
The above paragraph is inaccurate. The Sister /nurses taking care of Birhan stated that she would die within a few minutes, while the CBC crew were recording her breathing become increasingly shallow. One nurse injected Birhan anyway, and with a shrug stated that it would mean nothing, but it was something to do. In a few minutes, color returned to her face and her breathing became deeper and regular. A nurse declared she had never seen anyone recover from such a stated and proclaimed it a miracle. I was the CBC soundman in that room. The father was not present, although he may very well have been digging a grave for his daughter.
She subsequently became the iconic symbol that rallied the world to address the 1984—1985 Ethiopian Famine. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the image of her face "changed his life." In 2004, an adult Woldu appeared in Band Aid 20's music video for "Do They Know It's Christmas".
In 2005, Bob Geldof had the film played again, at the Live 8 concert in London, then introduced Woldu, who thanked the audience for their support, in her native tongue. She remained on stage for the first part of Madonna's performance of "Like a Prayer". It was reported 13 January 2010 that Birhan, now a nurse, had become engaged to Birhanu Meresa, whom she had met while the two attended an agricultural college in Ethiopia.
- Indepth: Ethiopia - Strange Destiny CBC website
- Original TV report that inspired the aid projects around the world (1 November 1984)
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