Closing Our Eyes on Africa
|How many Americans could explain what the killing and violence in Darfur is about. How many could even point to it on a map? I'm as guilty as any of ignorance on many of the areas in Africa that reel by on the news with reports of fighting going on. The many tribal, ethnic, religious, political, national, and economic conflicts within that continent are difficult for many of us to follow. |
There are many reasons that we don't tend to invest as much time and attention to following events in Africa. The locations are often remote and obscure to us. The players involved are also largely ones we are not familiar with. Our attention tends to be on domestic issues and foreign affairs that we perceive as affecting the United States directly and immediately.
The rest of the world is not be doing much better regarding Africa. Famines, civil wars, rebellions, and even genocidal campaigns in Africa don't elicit the response that they would if they occurred in other parts of the globe. Each instance of violence in the Israel, Iraq, and certainly Europe gets immediate and extensive coverage in the press. Even the United Nations is slow to respond to crisis in Africa.
Perhaps the problems in Africa are so many, so complex, and difficult to address that we tend to want to shove them aside. Between April, 2003 and the end of last year, the best estimate may be that 250,000 deaths have occurred in Darfur, with an additional 6,000 to 10,000 more fatalities every month. The war in Rwanda culminated with the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Just these conflicts alone, Darfur and Rwanda, have a death toll exceeding one million people, with the total in Darfur still climbing each day. Imagine if over a million people died in Afghanistan or the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The international community would be beside itself.
Unfortunately, even those numbers are likely to be dwarfed in the suffering that Africa will experience in the future. Beyond the violence, famine, and many other diseases, look at the statistics for AID's in Africa. The U.N. estimates that 80 million will die in Africa from AID's by the year 2025, with a “best case scenario” of reducing that to 67 million people with advances in treatment of AIDS and generous funding.
The plight of Africa is staggering, and it is tempting to throw up our hands in despair. That temptation should not be surrendered to. We can't solve all the problems, but surely we can do better. The United States has not stood idle, nor has the United Nations. But efforts need to be re-doubled, better organized and take a pan-African view of priorities and strategies.