One criticism frequently levelled against the media is that we habitually devote acres of space to disasters involving ourselves and other first world nations and relegate bigger catastrophes in the developing world to a couple of paragraphs on page 44.
It is true that this happens but I don’t regard it as particularly evil. It is no different from the fact that a television station in Guatemala will run big on an earthquake in nearby Nicaragua yet ignore or downplay something much worse which happened in Australia or Indonesia or Thailand. Proximity and familiarity motivate these news judgments. I doubt the Queensland floods or the Victorian bushfires were on the front page of many newspapers in Africa.
The coverage of Hurricane Sandy in Australia this week has been massive, and understandably so, as we have a close relationship with America, many of us have holidayed there, many of us have lived or do live there.
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She lives on a street corner in Delhi. Not in a house or even a slum but, literally, on the side of a dusty footpath, under a mango tree that’s long since tired of bearing fruit.
She was three or maybe four, dirt-streaked and dung-smeared, her hair shorn not with love but into pest-preventing tufts. Her eyes were still there to look at, but nothing looked back. Hope had already departed.
“She’s probably sick,” my brother said, scooping up the girl’s six-year-old brother and chiding him for not going to school.
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A little over two months ago, on 9 July 2011, the world celebrated in unison at the birth of the world’s newest nation, the Republic of South Sudan.
As the Prime Minister’s Special Representative, I was privileged to represent Australia at the independence celebrations in Juba, South Sudan’s largest city and the capital of the newly independent country.
It was an historic moment, and the elation was palpable and infectious. With an Australian Akubra hat protecting me from the hot African sun, I shared in the joy and celebrations of thousands of South Sudanese.
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A lot of people, when they look at pictures on the television about the unfolding famine in Somalia, say “we’ve seen it all before. What’s different about this one? And why haven’t they fixed it up by now?”
I understand some of the cynicism but if you have been to this region as I have just been, you cannot be indifferent to what is happening there. This is the worst drought in the Horn of Africa in 60 years.
Famine has been declared in a significant slice of Somalia and by Christmas it is anticipated that the famine will extend to the southern half of the entire country.
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Europe granted £1.8 million in emergency aid to Ethiopia today in 1984. One million people were believed to have died in the famine of that year and aid workers described the situation as “hell on earth”.
And it’s Monday so what’s on your mind? Share it here.
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New Guinea, geographically as well as historically, is Australia’s closest relative. Separated from the mainland during the last glacial period, the waters filled-in what now separates them: 150km of the Torres Strait.
Despite being endowed with enviable mineral stores, economic and political exploitation has left New Guinea housing many of the poorest people on earth – particularly in the western half of West Papua.
Amidst a program toward independence from the Dutch, the international community neglected West Papua in order to realise a business deal between U.S. mining company Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (“Freeport”) and Soeharto – at the time an Indonesian army general.
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Let me tell you the story of Shane Dolan.
I met him two decades ago, when I was in Ethiopia for Four Corners, filming “The Forgotten Famine”, which I wrote about in this space a month ago.
Shane was an aid worker. Not the kind who hands out food at emergency relief centres, but the kind who works for the long term.
Just once I’d like to see a celebrity, the kind that make a lot of fuss about pledging money to a cause like Haiti, to follow through.
It doesn’t matter which one. I just want to see them turn up again a few months-even a year- later to check how things are going. After the camera’s been turned off and around the time we’ve all started to forget how badly we cared about it.
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As the rescue operation in Haiti begins to shift to one of recovery, the global community is now beginning to see the true scale of the disaster which has struck the tiny Carribean nation. Natural disasters such as the Haitian earthquake, the Samoan and Tongan tsunami of last year and the Asian tsunami of 2004 always bring out a truly astounding expression of a shared humanity.
Natural disasters bring poverty to the fore but the fact is extreme poverty is a daily reality for far too many people around the world.
25,000 children will die today from preventable diseases, 900 million people around the world will go to sleep hungry tonight, and tomorrow 1.4billion people will be forced to survive on less than US$1.25 for the day – more than two-thirds of them women and children.
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