Beyond War, Beyond Bullets

Marc Lacey provides a look at the reality behind the fighting that plagues Africa in the New York Times Week in Review this morning.

For every
in the
war zone,
62 people
have died

about Congo, Lacey points out that for every violent death in the war zone, 62
people have died from disease, exposure and hunger. It’s startling. And the
basic premise, that more people die from nonviolent causes than from direct
violent, is true in every other conflict on the

One of the greatest
killers on the continent, malaria, is easily preventable. However, when
villages are destroyed and people are forced to flee, they are plunged into
chaos that makes it impossible to live even a semblance of normal

It’s not just the physical
destruction of homes and infrastructure. It’s the destruction of families and
of neighborly relationships that offer support and nurture under more normal
circumstances, that result from forced displacement. This toll from fighting is
much broader than the immediate cost of human lives in violent battles; it’s the
long-term destruction of families and community

Fleeing for their lives, whole
villages are torn apart. Children become separated from parents, the weak and
frail can’t keep up with those who are more mobile and are left to fend for
themselves. People often flee in panic, rushing to get away, not knowing for
sure where they are headed, or where they will end

Malaria, an easily preventable
disease, is one of the greatest killers. But delivery of medications to people
who are scattered and dislocated is impossible. Women die in childbirth without
any kind of medical care. Wounds go untended and become life-threatening.
Shock and grief impair immune systems, weakening them and providing an open door
to infections and communicable

Lacey says the numbers who
die in these conditions are almost too high to contemplate. In Congo, he
writes, 3.8 million people have died since 1998 from “rebel insurgencies, tribal
rivalries, competition for resources and just plain butchery without a

The International Rescue
Committee estimates two million have perished in southern Sudan over a period of
years, 200,000 in the past two

This appalling reality points
to the need to ensure that the U.S. budget is, in fact, a moral statement and
includes adequate amounts for humanitarian assistance. It also points to the
need for people of goodwill to keep pressure on governments to engage in
dialogue for peace. It points to the need to continue to tell this story of
human suffering. It’s frustrating to me that these deaths occur daily and they
are barely noticed by most of the mainstream media–with notable exceptions such
as Lacey’s article in the Times and the continuing coverage of Africa by the

Alternative media sources must
continue to attempt to inform people of goodwill who have a global conscience in
order to enable them to act. This kind of storytelling isn’t just to inform,
it’s the foundation for action.

that’s the final point. I think people will contribute to non-governmental
organizations that are working heroically to ease this suffering and fill in the
gaps as best they can. But we need the storytelling to continue to keep these
needs in our consciousness.

And, in
addition, we must support long-term assistance that brings stability to these
fragile places where poverty is a daily reality, and the underlying reason that
ragtag militias can so easily de-stabilize a region and wreak such destruction.
We can make a difference if we are determined and persistent in addressing these
situations. 20,000 deaths a day are more than enough reason to keep telling this

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