As an Afropolitan I cannot ignore recent events happening on the continent; some of which have been afforded the privilege of mainstream media attention and high profile political engagement, others not so. Admittedly there are moments when I have become increasingly desensitised to yet another story pertaining to disease, conflict, death and famine in Africa. This is just one of many narratives (albeit a dominant one favoured by mainstream media) which seem to strengthen the misrepresentation of Africa as a hopeless, perpetually conflicted, ‘dark’ continent-one that I am loathe to endorse. That’s when I have to remind myself that Africa’s story is as rich, varied, colourful and multifaceted as the countries which dwell within her borders. However I do want to raise awareness of five situations in five countries on the continent, which are pretty devastating and has been laid on my heart to share. Some you will be very familiar with and others not so but all deserve recognition.
1.South Sudan- Conflict, Famine and Water Lilies
The world’s newest nation has had a turbulent genesis since it’s emergence in 2011, due to internal conflict between the Government and opposition forces. Thousands have died, millions have been left displaced and the country is on the brink of famine. And although it is no longer on the mainstream news agenda it is still happening. I saw this photo a few months ago which both mesmerises and horrifies me – leaving a lingering sadness that won’t go away. A beautiful little girl reduced to eating water lilies – which I am certain has no nutritional value- because it is the only root that is edible and available in the region.
2. Sierra Leone and the Ebola Effect
Every week I speak with a gentleman who works in the local supermarket and is of Sierra Leonean descent. Most times our conversations are light-hearted and brief but this one was different. He shared that he had been working 6 days a week- 16 hours each day (2 jobs), for the past year in order to save money to reinvest ‘back home’ and to provide for his family. However, his plans to travel home have been left in tatters because of the restrictions on travelling to the country. A gentleman normally so calm and composed was clearly distressed when relaying the situation:
“I have been building back home, I have my family back home but I can’t go and it hurts me. Every time I get a phone call, I am fearful of bad news. My family were telling me of people being afraid to leave their homes and if they are sick, they are afraid to go to the hospital because they feel they will be wrongly judged to have Ebola. Schools have closed down, hospitals left abandoned because some workers are not wanting to come in and risk being infected. People are languishing like prisoners in their homes- not able to work and their children not able to go to school. Even communities where neighbours who related well to one another no longer communicate, everyone keeps to themselves. I don’t know what is happening to my country.”
3. Nigeria- 2,000 reasons and counting
This can pretty much be summed up by the following hashtags #JesuisNigerian #Nigeria2000 #BringBackourGirls and I propose another ahead of the General Elections next month #GetGoodluckOut. There is so much I could say but here is an article which comes very closes to articulating my exact thoughts on the matter.
4. Malawi- the Floods
Malawi is not one of those countries you hear of often-whether in the news or in daily conversation (unless of course you are from there or have connections to it). I have long been intrigued by this relatively peaceful, small, landlocked nation since I had a primary school friend who was of Asian Malawian descent. However the country is now back on the news agenda due to the recent flooding which at last count has killed almost 200 people and left over 200,000 people homeless. There is great concern re. ensuring clean water, proper sanitation and food can be distributed to those who need it. This is further compounded by the fact Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Next door neighbours, Mozambique have also been affected by the floods.
5.Congo- Panzi Hospital
In the words of Tatiana Giraud- a Congolese Activist ‘How can it be right that a public general hospital that has helped 30,000 rape victims and continuously helps the local community even by providing meals for the poor is taxed?’ The Panzi hospital recently had their bank accounts seized by the Congolese Government. This means it cannot pay staff, buy medical equipment and is in a state of deadlock. Congo was once dubbed the rape capital of the world by a UN Official because of the extensive use of rape as a weapon of warfare in the conflict-ridden eastern part of the country. This makes the work of the hospital even more vital as it is based in Bukavu in the same region. This vital, life giving, service could now be at risk unless action is taken.
How can you get involved?
Sign the petition here
Join in the social media campaign by: tweeting foreign secretary, William Hague @WilliamJHague and include the following hashtags #Panzi #FreePanzi