Thursday, April 30, 2009

something more serious than swine flu

As this whole swine flu "crisis" spirals out of control I can't help but feel sort of hopeless with mankind. In the past 6 days we have seen countries all over the world closing their borders to Mexico, cancelling flights, closing schools and businesses, and dedicating hours upon hours of riveting media coverage to the sitation. It's really incredible the extent that people have acted--and how quickly. Which is why I feel like we are all a little deluded.

I am a little ashamed that people have reacted to strongly to a virus that hasn't actually affected that many people in the grand scheme of things, especially as the there are many much more serious situations that are largely ignored. The one that weighs the heaviest on me is the war in Darfur. Since it began, there have been as many as 675,000 deaths--murders I should say as it is actually a genocide, and more than 5.5 million people have been displaced.

I will be honest, I did not know the extent of this terrible situation until I read the book What is the What, which is the story of Valentino Achak Deng who was a refugee of the Sudanese civil war in the 80's and 90's. Although his story mainly takes place before the current war in Darfur, it gives a heartwrenching account of how and why the whole conflict began in the first place. All of the proceeds from the book help to fund the The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation and to aid the Sudanese in both American and Sudan. Their website has so much information about the war, and also about how people can volunteer. Another very good organization is World Vision, which focuses on sponsoring children.

I also recently read this comment on a blog post:

I taped a map of North Africa over my bed and studiedDarfur. The war appeared in the media in 2004 but it had begun in the 1890s when the English drew borders that boxed the Arab north and African south inside the same nation now known as Sudan. The English developed the north but left the south a desert. After Sudan gained its independence in 1956, the Arabs saw themselves a degree better than the Africans, and since then both have fought over the identity of the nation. In between the rounds of war, old rituals continued. Each season, Arab herders drove cattle tothe southern region of Darfur, where Fur, Masaaleit and Zaghawa tribes welcomed them. The cattle fertilized soil and helped carry supplies. In 2003, adrought in the North dried wells, turning earth to sand and forcing Arab herders south. They wanted more than grazing for cattle; they wanted new land. Rifles were handed out to African tribesmen. Anger crystallized into rebel groups, among them the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and EqualityMovement. After the rebels raided a military outpost,the Arab dominated government, flush with oil money, bought weapons for the Arab herders creating a militia we now know as the Janjaweed. They galloped into villages; shooting men down, ripping women apart, stuffing bodies into wells or ravines. Refugees fled to the neighboring nations of Chad and the Central African Republic. In the years that followed, 2.5million people were driven from their homes and up to 255,000 were killed.

I hope that more and more people become aware of this situation and talk about it. Something needs to be done soon.

I guess the whole point of this post is to communicate my frustration with how the media selectively covers stories, and blows them out of proportion or leaves them out altogether. We rely on them to let us know what's going on in the world, and they rely on us to get in a tizzy and panic when they say we should. There are a lot more important and serious things going on right now than the swine flu--at least for the flu there are vaccinations and anti-virals. But what vaccine can we give the people of Darfur to save them from the misery they endure every single day?


  1. I feel your pain. I hate the hysteria over swine's ridiculous. The school I work at sent out memos telling us to wash our hands and cover our mouths if we need to sneeze. I hate that they think I'm three.

  2. great post. I'm glad people are beginning to raise awareness.

    have you heard of Fast Darfur ( Great site where different communities and individuals commit to fasting (water only) for three days to unite themselves with the struggles in Darfur.

    great write up