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600,000 Dying Stories Aren’t Being Told

Over the past three months, 30,000 children under the age of 5 have died from starvation and sickness as a result of a fatal mix of famine and disease that’s spreading in the refugee camps … camps that continue to increase with those who are fleeing their water-parched lands to find refuge in parts of Ethiopia and Kenya.

And the United Nations predicts a potential 600,000 more could die by the end of the year.

If this were in the United States, Europe or Asia, the world would be up in arms, extending hands of grace and finances to forestall any more death. But, this is in the harsh sands of Eastern Africa, where life isn’t given much hope and the lifeblood of death (grief) is a luxury few are afforded the time to concern themselves with. It’s almost as if life is worth less in these parts … it’s as if these stories aren’t worth being told.

Imagine the Stories

There is a grief that doesn’t sleep.

Most of us are able, in some way or another, to go through the necessary phases of grief, and come to a place of acceptance. It might take months, years or decades, but we find the time to wrestle, to express and to become the new yet un-whole person we must become in the wake of death.

We become human by sharing our humanity with others, and when those others leave, we lose part of ourselves, and so rediscover ourselves as new people who are less than what we used to be. And that discovery of learning to leave and learning to become new is the grief process.

And yet, right now, there are Somali mothers and families who don’t have the luxury of grief.

Imagine being a Somali mother.

Being displaced from your home.

Walking days or possibly weeks to the closest refugee camp.

And losing one child, maybe two or three, to starvation.

Imagine the complication of guilt that comes with losing a child to starvation.

You, the parent, couldn’t, didn’t provide for your child, who now lays lifeless.

A lifeless child who may not even be afforded the privilege of a proper burial.

The guilt that eats away at you.

Not to mention, your own starvation that’s literally eating away your body, clouding your mind, hindering you from thinking clearly, causing you to become less stable and more reactionary, more emotional and erratic; or possibly less emotional and more lifeless. More and more you feel like an animal.

And, surely, while your one child may have died (or maybe two have died), you may have one, two, three or four other children who are dying of starvation who you must tend to.

You don’t care about your own survival, but you know you must survive … or who will advocate for your children? If you die, who will care for those you leave behind—the other families who are also suffering just as much as you? As little as you care for your own well-being, you know that if you pass, there will be no hope for the dependent ones you brought into the world, which you must make sure will not leave it.

Here, there isn’t time for grief.

All the energy is for the living.

This is the desert. This is the jungle.

A jungle for which few (especially the U.S. media sources) seem to care.

The History of Why We Don’t Care

Josh Hartnett has beautiful eyes.

He has crazy great eyes and a face structure that would makes the Greek gods jealous. In 2001, there was nobody hotter in Hollywood than Josh Hartnett, and few that could pull out a crowd to the theaters.

Coupled with director extraordinaire Ridley Scott, Hartnett and his talent ridden cast that surrounded him depicted a story like the Passion of the Christ that most of us have seen, but few will ever watch again. When Black Hawk Down was released, it was less than a decade removed from the actual narrative it was depicting … a narrative that began in 1991 through the double curse of civil war and famine.

The famine was so widespread it prompted the United Nations to launch the United Nations Operations in Somalia—a humanitarian effort whose footwork was done mainly by military personnel. Factor the civil war into the famine, and you have a group of trained military acting as humanitarians while nearly 300,000 civilians starved, some from want, many from withholding.

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The situation degenerated to such a base state that by 1993 the hair trigger was tripped when Mohammed Farrah Aidid, the usurping warlord, used his weapons to control the ultimate armament: the food that had been sent via international aid, prompting the U.S. to act by launching a group of elite soldiers to capture Aidid in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

And if you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you know the rest.

And we haven’t forgotten the lives of 19 well-meaning men, who were attempting to put out a fire they didn’t start. And we shouldn’t forget.

And, it seems, many haven’t forgotten those scenes, with Josh Hartnett acting absolutely beautiful and the Somalis acting ugly.  

The Other Reason We Don’t Care

The lack of oil.

We have a serious interest in Libya, as each day Gadhafi has withheld 1.5 million barrels of oil from being exported during the last couple months of rule. According to the Associated Press, even though Libya’s oil only accounts for some 2 percent of world’s oil, the quality of their oil is nearly unmatched. Some analysts have suggested that the Libya situation has enabled the rest of the world’s suppliers to double their price of exported oil, ultimately raising the price of gas and lowering our quality of living.

And whether or not those stats are all true, the bottom line is this: the civilized world has a vested interested in the situation in Libya.

Granted, Gadhafi is a megalomaniac whose last desperate grasps at power have caused untold casualties. Granted, he committed despicable crimes against humanity and has threatened not only his country, but, in many ways the world.

Not to mention we all love seeing the oppressed rising up to overthrow their oppressors.

While I’m horrified at the estimated Libyan deaths since the beginning of the Gadhafi “rebel repression” and the unknown countless others who have died under the four decades of Gadhafi’s iron-fisted reign, for the life of me, I just can’t understand why 30,000 dead children in Africa haven’t grabbed at least a couple world headlines? I don’t understand why the 600,000 children who are dying in African refugee camps isn’t selling news?

Oh, yes, and did I mention most of the Somalis are Muslim?

And did I mention that they have no natural resources that might incite our vested interest?

It’s time that these 600,000 stories are told. It’s time to be moved into action.

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