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African refugees: Literally starved for attention

I did something very simple, yet quite drastic today. Upon seeing one of my children stare into a full pantry and again bemoan, “I’m starving and there’s nothing to eat,” I went to my
computer and printed out a recent picture of starving children in
one of Africa’s refugee camps and stuck it on the pantry.

I added one to the refrigerator door for good measure. Under the photos, I added the words, I am starving. You are not.

Judging by the look in my own kids’ eyes, I may have gotten my message across.

I wish it were that easy to affect the rest of the world.

Right now, as I type, as you read, exists in Dafur, Africa what the UN is calling the “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” Tens of thousands of victims of attempted ethnic cleansing, living in refugee camps, literally starving to death every single second. In fact, in the time it took me to type that sentence, ten more innocent children have lost their lives to hunger and/or disease.

It is not enough that they have seen horrors we cannot even begin to imagine: rapes, mutilations, mothers and fathers massacred before their precious eyes, their homes burned down around them. They now face an even more horrible reality: a world so busy supersizing its Big Macs and listening to its iPods, that no one seems to care.

It is shameful that the largest amount of news coverage Africa has received in the past month has to do with Angelina Jolie adopting a baby girl from there.

Ask the typical person on the street and they can tell you her name is Zahara. They can tell you all the details of her private jet trip to the United States and her weeklong hospitalization with Jolie by her side. They will go on to tell you how Brad Pitt caught meningitis when he was there.

But ask them about Dafur and you’ll draw a blank stare.

Are we truly that warped in our priorities? Don’t answer, it’s a rhetorical question. Of course we are. I’ve said it before, proximity to an awful event is in direct proportion to how much a person cares. And Dafur is halfway around the world. You do the math.

The UN has finally begun to mobilize and coordinate airlifts of food and medicine, but it is sadly coming in too little and far too late. The people are dying every single second. The children scream constantly from a hunger so strong they can feel their bodies digesting themselves. And for every child that is allowed to slip away, a mother takes up the wailing — her own hunger now compounded by unspeakable grief.

I understand the world is full of strife, terror and problems of unfathomable magnitude. I understand that conflicts and killings go on in every society. But I also understand that in a world so bloated by its own indulgence, no one needs to starve.

If 911 and the recent terror bombings in London have not illustrated for people that tragedy is an equal opportunity employer and that “they” today could just as easily be “you” tomorrow, I don’t know what will.

One thing I am certain of, however, is this. These people cannot be left to die because we are too busy watching HBO and playing Xbox. It’s not like we’re talking about a cancer we cannot cure. The solution to starvation is not rocket science. It is food. The solution to disease is medicine. We have it, they need it. The fact that they are thousands of miles away from us doesn’t matter. They are people. They are YOU. They are ME. They are made of the same flesh, blood, tears, joys, sorrows and capacity to love and hate.

I urge everyone to start paying attention and help. Give to Unicef. Skip your latte, pack your lunch, and send what you can.

And while you’re at it, print out a picture for your own refrigerator. Because maybe, just maybe, the solution to apathy and distorted priorities lies in facing the simple, heartbreaking photo of a dying child each time you are tempted to look into your own larder and say, “I’m starving.”

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