Humanitarian issues should be center stage


Every effort is being made é with the help of some very kind and generous people all around the world é to salvage what is left of the shattered body of Ali Ismail Abbas.  If all goes well, he will be given a chance to live a relatively “normal” life.  He and the aunt and uncle who are taking care of him now will most definitely be grateful to everyone who took his story to heart and came together to help him.  Mostly they will be grateful to the journalists who broadcast his story.  We wish Ali everything of the best and hope he recovers well.

The major concern however, should be for those hundreds of other children who never got a chance to have their stories broadcast around the world.  The victims of those evil cluster bombs, which the coalition forces have littered over residential areas where children play in the streets and people are trying to go about their lives.  The victims of shrapnel flying in all directions every time a bomb went off or a missile crashed into a building.  The victims who survived the errors of the “smart bombs”, which very intelligently bombed out civilian buildings.

Yes the majority of the victims of all these incidents were children é and most of them are also completely alone now, having had their families wiped out in the attacks.  These children are what the US flippantly labels “collateral damage”.

We all keep hearing that the hospitals are full and that there is not enough medicine to help everyone but why is the media not making that the focus story?  Why are we not being made aware of exactly how little resources are available to the people there?  Why are we not being shown the other children who now know that nothing can be done for them and are painfully but patiently awaiting their death, completely alone?

The media seems to be dancing to Bush’s hillbilly tune by playing up an isolated case and giving the world the impression that humanitarian aid is getting through to Iraq and that there is nothing to worry about.

The media should get some backbone and tell the truth that the US doesn’t want the world to know.  It will be unwise for the media to continue insulting the intelligence of the general public.  Go for the real stories and stop being the puppets of world-class liars.

The sum of humanitarian aid cannot be just one lucky child.

Hospitals are ill-equipped after looting and without the regular influx of medicines, clean water is scarce, electricity in some cities is still not fully restored and most of all, the promises made by the UK have not been kept.  When is the shipment of “aid” that is being sent by the UK going to be distributed in Iraq?  Will it be sufficient to relieve the suffering caused by the perpetrators of this invasion?  Will it even reach the places it is most needed in?   And for how long will they keep up sending help to these people?

Other aid organizations worldwide have mobilized to get much needed supplies to Iraq.  Again the questions arise: is it going to be enough?  Will these supplies even get to those who need it desperately?  Will the aid organizations be hampered in their efforts to get as much help to the people as they can?

The world should not be complacent é humanitarian efforts should be stepped up and monitored.  The countries that promised that they will keep civilian casualties minimal, must now fix the human mess they made and left in the streets of Iraq.  Let us see if they can spend the equivalent of their war budget on easing the human suffering they caused.

(Ms. Zakiya Fareed is an Administrator with the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)