I think often times what the humanitarian world faces is hopelessness. Let’s just talk about war and displacement for a second. You can view a list of on-going armed conflicts here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ongoing_armed_conflicts , I doubt that list is 100% correct, but it is probably somewhat accurate. It covers up a good portion of the map.
And you see the conflicts where over 10,000 people died in the last year. Syria (50,000+), Afghanistan (30,000+), Iraq (20,000+) and various countries in Africa where Boko Haram is involved (10,000+). The number of conflicts where between 1,000 and 9,999 people died is even more numerous. South Sudan, Libya, Sudan, Pakistan, Somalia (Kenya), the Sinai, Ukraine, the Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iraq and the drug war in Mexico.
12,000 + people died from gun violence, whether a homicide, suicide or an unintentional shooting in the US last year: http://www.thetrace.org/2015/12/gun-violence-stats-2015/
All those numbers only count the dead, not the displaced, not the disabled, not the wounded (both physically and mentally), not the detained and certainly not the poor, in 2012, 2.1 billion people, almost a third of the planet, lived on less than $3.10 a day http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview .
In 2014, almost 60 million people were refugees (displaced outside of their home country) or internally displaced (displaced inside their own country). That’s insane. That’s 1 in every 122 people on the planet. And I’m willing to bet money it’s gone up since then. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/06/refugees-global-peace-index/396122/
I have a hard time wrapping my mind around those numbers. I grew up in a town of 500 people. That many people (more) have died in the Boko Haram wars in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad in the first two months of this year. When I was growing up we had to drive about 30 minutes in order to get groceries. That town was around 9,000 at that time. Almost the population of that whole town was slaughtered in the Mexican drug wars in 2015.
And the displaced? Well that’s the entire states of California and New York. Millions of people. A good portion of that is Syrian. And we have a problem letting in 10,000 people? You guys (that are against the whole thing) lack so much goddamn perspective it isn’t even funny. And I am willing to have that argument anytime.
I digress. I was talking about hopelessness. Time to tell a story.
I was working my second job in South Sudan. It was on the border between Sudan and South Sudan, in a refugee camp. Right across the border the Northern military was bombing populations who were fleeing across the border. At the particular time that I showed up at this particular refugee camp, there was a population of 30,000 people who had just crossed the border, escaping northern bullets and northern bombs.
Neither the UN nor the government of South Sudan could find a suitable location to put the people at the time. Meaning that the government didn’t want to stick them near any existing population center because they were afraid that would create tribal problems and the only land that they had for sure which would be close to a source of clean water was near the oil fields. And there was no way they were going to stick them near their (the government’s) primary source of revenue. The UN for their part was working on finding a water source that would work but….they were behind, way behind.
So while that was being sorted (if you could call it getting sorted), the people were walking from hafir to hafir. A hafir, the way I understood it at the time, is basically a whole in the ground, somewhat deep that has filled up with rainwater. MSF would go out there and drop a pump in the water, cleaning it and the people would drink. We would deliver five days worth of rations, sorghum, lentils, oil. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorghum https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lentil
Sometimes we would be able to deliver in five days again. Sometimes we wouldn’t. Sometimes the roads would get cut off because of the rain and it would seven days instead of five. Or maybe eight. People would have to make the food stretch.
During that time, in the rain, you would generally have around five to eight people huddled under four sticks and a plastic sheet, sleeping in the dirt and the mud and the water for the most part.
The people would drink all the water from the hafir after a week or so and then they would start walking again. On to the next water point. People were getting weak. People were dying. Nobody ever counted fatalities. Everyone assumed mortality rates were high but no one ever counted. That’s just the way it was.
That whole operation was a bit desperate. There was the bush, the inefficient bureaucracy, the lack of decision making, the lack of resources, the tribal problems, the whole thing. I remember just being extremely frustrated, even when I was put in a place to influence certain decisions that I thought were good I got overturned in the name of bureaucratic and financial relationships rather than the humanitarian cause and need. And I was just one small cog in a much larger, somewhat dysfunctional though trying to do it’s best machine.
I think it all feels (for the humanitarian world, I aint talking about me) a bit like that Greek tragedy where the guy keeps having to push that boulder up the hill but he never makes it to the top.
And it’s about the people. It’s about the act of greedy and selfish human beings who should never have been in power that create this suffering for other people. It’s about all the people that stand-by and let that happen. Something we’re all guilty of. It’s about our own ignorance of the world around us and our own selfishness for not wanting to truly better ourselves and help others.
At least that’s the way I see it. And I don’t feel hopeless. It’s easy for me to say though, I’ve got four walls, a roof, food and my health. It’s easy for me to feel hope. I’ve met too many good people in this world not too feel it. I think more to the point is what you do with it then.
I’m still finding what I’m going to do with this blog, if I’m going to make it educational, philosophical or just a story telling tool, I’m not sure yet, I think the biggest thing that bothers me is just the ignorance that exists in the world (particularly in my own country but it really goes for everywhere) about the world. I figure if we all just understood a whole lot more about why things are the way they are then we could figure out ways to make things better for everybody. Because I certainly don’t think we do it effectively or efficiently now, case in point is Syria right now, but there’s so many others.
Anyway, I’m going to keep writing and find those ways to take action and to educate. Until next time.