Gaza, Ebola, Iraq … are we approaching disaster overload?
As high-profile conflicts jostle for public and media attention, other humanitarian crises are pushed off the news agenda
Wednesday 13 August 201
Reflecting on the responses to the number of man-made emergencies detonating or still smouldering around the world earlier this year, from Syria to Ukraine and from Nigeria and South Sudan to Central African Republic (CAR), Kofi Annan appeared uncharacteristically weary.
“You sometimes have a feeling that the global community – and even the big powers – can only focus on one crisis at a time,” the former UN secretary general said.
“We’ve moved from Syria to Ukraine. Look at how the focus on Ukraine has eclipsed what is going on in Syria and in other places. The only crisis that has got a bit of attention and been able to break through the Ukrainian dominance is [Boko Haram’s kidnapping of] the girls of Nigeria.”
That was three months ago: before Ebola; before Isis’s genocidal march through Iraq; before the downing of MH17, and before war erupted in Gaza. Add to that tally the food crisis likely to affect 14 million people in nine east African countries, and you wonder what Annan would say today.
Step forward Helen Clark, head of the UN Development Programme: “It’s hard to remember a time when more crises were jostling for space in the headline news, or when the world’s leading diplomats, such as the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and the UN secretary general [Ban Ki-moon], were engaged in shuttle diplomacy on so many issues simultaneously,” she says.
But such are the challenges facing aid agencies and NGOs. And for some, the number, scale and complexity of the crises now vying for political prominence and publicity are unheard of.