There is enormous suffering in Africa which the aid agencies occasionally come together to alleviate, as in the case of Rwanda. There have been five Disasters Emergency Committee appeals for Africa since 1991 and the public has responded very well to them despite the effects of the recession. This shows that compassion fatigue is a myth: when there is enough media coverage of an emergency, the British public responds generously.
Because media coverage of Africa is disaster-orientated, people however get a very one-sided view of what is a very diverse continent. There were skeletal bodies in Korem, dying children in Somalia and now piles of corpses in Rwanda. What will it take next for Africa to be the focus of such media attention?
As someone who has seen at first hand several 'disasters' during the past four years, the impression I am left with is not an overwhelming sense of helplessness and self-pity, but rather a feeling of the triumph of humanity. In most disasters it is the innocent that are the victims, yet in spite of disaster and mayhem, people survive. I have been offered food by the starving, refugees enquire about my wellbeing and ask me who is looking after my children when theirs are dying. Africans are fully involved in the relief effort.
Aid agencies are also involved in long-term development work to allow people to take control of their own lives. That work, for the most part, goes on without the attendant glare of television lights as good news does not necessarily make a good story.
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