The world’s response to natural disasters is always beautiful to witness. For a moment, we seem to forget our ethnic, national and religious differences to sympathise, empathise, mourn, pray and come to the aid of the afflicted. That South Africa as a state and even it’s ordinary citizens contribute towards such tragedies fills me with great joy, as it’s indicative of the humanity that lives within us. However, at the same time, it bothers me deeply that we are so willing to assist those afflicted by natural causes, when there’s a killer in our midst that kills more people than most of these tragedies combined-poverty.
It is believed that, “over 22,000 children die every day around the world and that is equivalent to:
– 1 child dying every 4 seconds;
– 15 children dying every minute;
– A 2010 Haiti earthquake occurring almost every 10 days;
– A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring almost every 10 days;
– An Iraq-scale death toll every 18–43 days;
– Just under 8.1 million children dying every year and
– Some 88 million children dying between 2000 and 2009” (Anup Shah).
Hunger, a lack of access to safe drinking water; preventable diseases and illnesses, along with other poverty related causes are to blame for these deaths. Sadly, this continuous human rights failure, this ongoing tragedy never seems to make headlines and just goes ignored.
That we continuously turn a blind eye to this tragedy is beyond me, more so we from, of and in Africa- where preventable diseases take “the life of a child nearly every minute of every day”. Africa where, “more than 50 percent of Africans suffer from water-related diseases such as cholera and infant diarrhoea” (WHO) and where, according to UNICEF, “43% of children in do not have safe, accessible drinking water”- which are all direct consequences of poverty.
I believe that all human life is sacred and that no life should be treated as more valuable than another. As such, it deeply saddens me that we make so much noise about the loss of lives elsewhere, when right on our doorsteps, we have 315 million people – one in two of people in Sub Saharan Africa surviving on less than one dollar per day; 184 million people – 33% of the African population – suffering from malnutrition and one in six children dying before the age of 5. This number is believed to be up to 25 times higher in sub-Saharan Africa than in the OECD countries, which amounts to millions of innocent lives lost, with whatever potential they carried, when there is more than enough food to feed us all on earth. What makes this all the more sad is that in my own country, South Africa, I’ve had to witness first-hand 483 children go without a meal, all because there was no water with which to cook.
Surely, with our ability to so swiftly react to natural disasters, which are beyond our control; we can also react to this man-made tragedy, which simply requires unified and concerted compassion to overcome… Indifference to this, which I consider to be the greatest of all human rights abuses, is to me failure as a human being.
After all, “The continuation of this suffering and loss of life contravenes the natural human instinct to help in times of disaster. Imagine the horror of the world if a major earthquake were to occur and people stood by and watched without assisting the survivors! Yet every day, the equivalent of a major earthquake killing over 30,000 young children occurs to a disturbingly muted response. They die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”~UNICEF, Progress of Nations 2000