Famine in Niger

I didn’t know about this. That’s a problem, not because I need to know about everything, but I’m assuming that, like most of you reading this, I’m an above-average news consumer with a certain degree of awareness about this kind of stuff, but the impending famine in Niger was completely new to me. Maybe that’s because the only time Niger’s been in the news was because of a fake report about yellow cake and the subsequent exposure of Valerie Plame.

The crisis is partly a media problem.

“‘We have been trying to raise the profile of a developing crisis in west Africa since last October,’ said Oxfam’s regional humanitarian co-ordinator, Nick Ireland. ‘It’s been clear since then that there would be a food shortage this summer but it has been painfully slow.'”

So for some reason, despite Live 8 and the G8 conference, this problem—which could kill up to 2.5 million people—has gotten no play.

Why must groups like Oxfam, who have been laboring through other channels to get the public to pay attention to this issue, resort to this stereotypical image?

It’s a sad commentary on what ultimately moves people to pay attention. When will the West get past the need to see starving children to act on Africa?

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