Vegard Skjefstad

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When it Hits

Yeah, you probably heard what went down in Haiti. If you haven’t, here’s a quick summary: On Tuesday, a major earthquake hit the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and a country that was in rather miserable shape already is now on its merry way to hit rock bottom. The estimates of number of casualties are rather hazy as of now, I’ve seen numbers ranging from 30,000 to 500,000 – and that’s just form the earthquake itself. If you want to know more, Wikipedia has a detailed article about the 2010 Haiti earthquake you can read.

According to the same source, Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas by most economic measures. It had a nominal GDP of 7.018 billion USD in 2009 with a GDP per capita of 790 USD, about $2 per person per day. Needless to say, the country’s infrastructure was in no way capable of handling a natural disaster like the one we’re seeing now even before the earthquake hit, and most of us can only imagine what it’s like now. So, please, if you can spare a few dollars – or whatever currency you might use – donate to your favorite humanitarian organization.

That concludes today’s morale encouragement. Now let’s put everything into perspective.

In the time it took you to read the above three paragraphs, 9 children died of starvation somewhere in the world. In the next hour, on average around 700 more will die. In the next day, 16,000. In 2010: 6,000,0001. It’s possible that the CNNs and BBC Worlds you are watching are also running 24/7 coverage of that catastrophe, but I doubt it. Don’t get me wrong, what happened in Haiti is a disaster of biblical proportions, and we should all help in whatever way we find possible, but why do we keep forgetting about the disasters that happening all the time? It’s just that: They are happening all the time.

If Haiti had been struck by earthquakes three times a week, most of us wouldn’t give a rat’s ass. We’d all forget about it quickly, because in a short while it would no longer have the shock factor it once had and the continuing earthquakes would no longer be news worthy. Take suicide bombings in Iraq, for instance. Remember when they first started to occur back in 2003 when the United States military invaded the country? You probably don’t remember the details, but maybe you remember the enormous media coverage they got. Today? There might be a small note somewhere towards the back of the newspaper, and if you’re lucky, you might notice it.

Yes, I’m exaggerating, but that’s what you have to do to make a point these day.

Most people don’t care much about the tragedies we don’t hear about in the news. Or, it’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we don’t remember – or even know. And I’m no better; I had no idea the starvation figures were that bad. But now that I know, maybe it’s time not just to look at isolated catastrophes like the Haitian earthquake, but to consider what’s happening every second of every day all year? Maybe it’s time to finally start that monthly donation?

Footnotes

  1. Wikipedia – Starvation.

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