Saturday, September 29, 2007

floods in Africa

Does anyone know they're going on? I must admit, I've read a bit about them, but I'm a bit of a news junkie. Still, it's hard to track, beyond a superficial depth, the extent of the disasters in such varied areas.

There is obviously Iraq, the ongoing mess that is the Middle East where it seems one particularly rash or even more extreme by someone in the Middle East and it seems dominoes are ready to fall; there was a massive earthquake in Peru last month, there was another big earthquake in Indonesia a couple of days ago, less than three years after the massive damage inflicted by the huge tsunami of 2004.

There were forest fires in Greece which killed 37, but of which I'm keenly aware because of some family. And in the wake of those fires, vague zoning laws have allowed for the possibility of large-scale theft of land. And then of course, there were the worst floods Britain has seen in some time during the summer. And while of course this damage in Britain is bad, the country is to a great degree insured against natural disasters. Being an island in a fairly mild climate, buffered by the moderating Gulfstream which keeps weather in Britain fairly mild, Britain is, long-term, not at the significant risk that Peru (often vulnerable to earthquakes) and southeast Asia, very vulnerable to earthquakes and floods, are.

Still an' all, these are by most accounts, the worst floods in Africa in a long time. They've affected a wide swath of sub-Saharan Africa, from Mauritania and Burkina Faso in the west, across the Cameroon, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Niger, and the forlorn Sudan. Sudan-whose accursed citizens must think they were evil in another lifetime to warrant such pain in this life. The floods have also ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, the Congo, Sierra Leone, and Ghana. Altogether, estimates put the number of those affected directly (via loss of home) at 1.5 million. In Uganda, over 300,000 are negatively affected and are reliant on non-profit aide for at least the next six months. That number is 60,000 in Togo where 30,000 homes have been washed away as well as six dams. In Ghana the number is 75,000 needing immediate and sustained NGO or government assistance.

Sudan, one of the largest African countries, has been perhaps the worst hit, with 500,000 needing above-mentioned help and 113 perishing in the floods. The cost of providing for such large numbers of the sick and infirm is $64 million in Uganda. This is a challenging fund-raising goal but is quite achievable if the West set its mind to it. Of course, given the financial incentives, will the Western media devote sustained attention to Africa? Survey says: don't bet on it.

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