For all her claims of post-colonial independence, Africa's poster child is once again the gaunt toddler with skin kissing his ribs. I don't know exactly why this weeks media coverage has left me with a drought-dry feeling on my palate - it's almost, almost as if 'the wires' and big media houses have caught on to something new and starvation is sexy again. The pictures coming out of East Africa, and those from Kenya and the Dedaab refugee camp are voyeristically spectacular - tall women swathed in fabric with dust lingering in the air , against the backdrop of tattered tents - poignant in its African-ness. Perhaps less artistic and more gut-wrenching are the images of the children - sucked dry of nutrients.
Why am I spitting such venom when media coverage and a deliberate focus on the situation is sure to rake in some of the money that’s needed by relief agencies? Maybe it’s because I feel like Africa is being used - again. To give the first-world ‘a cause’ , a chance to polish our rusty consciences, for a while … until we ‘drop it like it’s hot.’
So while East Africa may trend on twitter and tumblr may be adding #Somalia to its featured tags, will the interest last long enough to affect any real change? While seriously doubting that it will, I also deeply hope that I’m wrong.
Because if we can’t invest in long term interest, in sustained, painful and protracted contribution, then our humanity lies in the balance. The situation around the Horn of Africa is ‘The Perfect Storm’ : an other worldy combination of climate’s ability to oppress, man’s ability to haunt other men and the collation of the mankind’s weakest of the weak in a concentrated area.
To outline immediate solutions would be to try and profess a cause and in my mind the situation seems so entangled, so complex , that for now urgent and unflinching relief seems like the best way forward - let’s talk about development a little later. Just some relief - a bit of reprieve … some metaphorical water for parched hearts.