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Humanitarian shares a different side of conflict

Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder and executive director of War Child in North America, was a special guest at the LBJ/Common Experience distinguished lecture series Feb. 28.
Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder and executive director of War Child in North America, was a special guest at the LBJ/Common Experience distinguished lecture series Feb. 28.
Photo by: Nathalie Cohetero | Staff Photographer

Dr. Samantha Nutt, humanitarian, author and founder of War Child in North America, joined the likes of Maya Angelou and former President Gerald Ford as an LBJ distinguished lecturer Feb. 28.

Former President Lyndon B. Johnson cultivated the LBJ Distinguished Lecture Series in 1973. Formally established in 1982, the series brings notable leaders to campus in an effort to enlighten and inform students.

The series is a part of the Common Experience program. The 2016-17 theme is A Century of Conflict: Dialogues on the U.S. Experience of War since 1917.

Nutt is the founder and executive director of humanitarian organization War Child in Canada and the United States. She was able to offer a different view on war than previous Common Experience presenters.

“War Child is a different kind of humanitarian agency,” Nutt said. “We work exclusively with local partners, local grass roots organizations and community groups. We invest in their capacity and we take a long-term view in the problem of war.”

Nutt’s experience in the field of humanitarianism came a few months after she graduated from the University of London. As a student, she wrote her thesis about how war impacts women’s health.

She was recruited by The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund to travel to Somalia to help women and children affected by war. Nutt’s work with UNICEF was volunteer labor, so she was paid a total of 50 cents on a technicality.

“As a young physician, being in that environment and being confronted by the tremendous loss of life, the lawlessness and the tremendous violence that existed in Somalia in the mid-nineties but still exists now, was absolutely heartbreaking,” Nutt said.

Although Nutt found her first experience in Somalia to be devastating, she said it permanently shaped her view on war and set her on the path to become who she is today.

Nutt focused on one of her trips to Baidoa, Somalia, a place she and the New York Times have referred to as “The City of Death.” In Baidoa, Nutt met a woman named Nadia who had been raped and beaten by thugs. Nadia lived in the middle of war-torn Somalia with no way out. After sexually assaulting Nadia, the gang sliced off the soles of her feet.

Upon hearing Nadia’s story, Nutt said she realized how different war was for people like Nadia compared to those in more westernized countries. She began to ask her self why.

Nutt said she and her team noticed a strong correlation between sexual assaults, war zones and Coltan mining locations. Coltan is a type of metal ore used in the production of technologies like cell phones and laptops.

In response, Nutt urged the audience to think more critically about the uses of war.

“If we think more critically about peace and diplomacy, stop relying so much on short-term humanitarian interventions and start thinking and planning for the long term, then I think the next 22 years can be better than the last,” Nutt said.

The audience fielded questions to Nutt after her presentation, asking what they could do to stop the harsh effects of war and how to donate wisely. Nutt encouraged the audience to stay informed with international news, reach out to political representatives and carefully donate.

After her presentation, Nutt attended a reception where she mingled with guests, faculty and students. She shared information on her novel “Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid.”