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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hello Haiti, Goodbye Africa

It’s remarkable what’s being done for Haiti isn't it? But it’s also remarkable what hasn’t and isn’t being done for nations like war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, and crisis-hit Somalia (the land of al-Shabaab and pirates of Somalian). 

The January 12 earthquake may have killed over 230,000 people in Haiti and devastated the already impoverished nation, but does this mean the world turns its back on drought-ravaged, conflict-infested African nations like the Congo who desperately need the world?

Twenty-five years since the charity anthem “We are the World” was recorded to raise awareness of famine in Ethiopia, Quincy Jones (who produced the 1985 anthem) and Lionel Richie (who wrote the original with Michael Jackson) spearheaded a 25th anniversary re-recording of the song, but with proceeds going toward Haiti relief. Star-struck singers, rappers and actors, including Barbra Streisand, Kanye West, Celine Dion, Nicole Scherzinger, Miley Cyrus, and others stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the same Hollywood studio to redo the song to benefit recovery efforts in Haiti.

And for a moment, the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians who lost their lives in the equally devastating famine that ravaged the nation were forgotten. For a moment, the fact that Ethiopia and Horn of Africa in general still grapples with famine problems every year was forgotten. And for a moment, Africa’s problems from the war in DRC to insurgency in Somalia, from the refugee situation in Daadab camp to Darfur crisis in Sudan were shelved to the bottom, perhaps never to be looked at again, unless of course thousands more die.

The DRC offered $2.5m in emergency aid to Haiti, to help the devastated country cope with the upheaval that has left over 230,000 dead, and rendered many more homeless. Whether this is a kind gesture in support of the poor-help-poor democracy, or a sheer wastage of resources from a country that boasts of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced refugees is anyone’s guess.

And did I hear that Senegal had offered large tracts of land to Haitians willing to relocate to the West African nation? While I don’t dispute such a high degree of philanthropic work being extended to a nation in dire need, why hasn’t Senegal, or any African country, offered to allocate a few hectares of land – albeit temporarily - to help thousands of refugees struggling to eke out living in over-stretched camps (like Daadab) where the number of refugees setting in are far more than the land “allocated” to them?

Nigeria was part of a strong police contingent serving with the UN police mission in Haiti that assiduously worked to rescue people trapped in the rubble following the devastating 7.0-magnitude quake that also had dozens of aftershocks. Why is there no presence of such a police force in Somalia to help the transitional government that is almost being toppled by the radical al-Shabaab group?

Is it a case of Africans feeling sufficiently philanthropic to help “black nations” like Haiti, while forgetting that they also have internal problems in the continent that needs disaster-like attention and response?

The west will always come to help, if need be. But Africans should remember that should a disaster of Haiti’s magnitude hit any nation outside the Black Continent, its (Africa’s) problems will always find space in the bins of oblivion.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!