Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Somber Thanks

Each year at Pesach, and to a lesser extent on Thanksgiving, my FOO (family of origin) keeps in mind peoples who are less fortunate than ourselves. Like many people, we have spent quite a bit of time talking about Darfur. But this year I’m thinking about a lesser known but even more dire conflict zone.

In the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), 4 million people have died since the conflict began in 1998. That’s over 1,000 people per day. In addition to that, there are 2.4 million people displaced by the conflict, and 42 million who are suffering from food insecurity (including 17 million who are malnourished).

Despite the presence of a UN mission, this is not truly a post-conflict society. The conflict persists. The scale of the destruction is breathtaking. I know this is depressing. But it is important to know. To recognize what is happening. This is what my FOO taught me: to be grateful for what we have; to understand that there are people out there who have nothing; and to be politicized about it.

I am thankful to know that I have enough food to eat. That I have a place to live. That I am alive. These are not luxuries. Yet, for so many people, even that last and most basic human right is violated. We cannot rewind time and give these people back their lives, and more people are dying every day. Those who are not dying are in precarious situations. Please remember them.


Aliza said...

umm...what can we do?

Sunkist Miss said...

That's an interesting question. I will continued to think on it, and do more research. However, here's my preliminary answer.

It's a lot harder because there isn't the sort of big public outpour as with Darfur, and consequently there are less developed avenues for getting involved. However, there are of course many NGOs (and governements) involved in giving humanitarian aid, etc. They can always use support. Amnesty would also point out that they periodically issue urgent actions on human rights abuses, and you can write letters accordingly.

Public pressure has an influence on foreign policy, and US foreign policy in turn has a big impact on international involvement. So, contacting the White House, presidential candidates, and your Congressional Representative, is an important avenue for getting your voice heard. Let them know that you're concerned about the situation in the DRC and that you want to see the US actively working to repair the situation. What kind of support you think the US should be offering is of course subjective -- it is both an ideological and policy question. Examples of what you might suggest could include humanitarian aid, development aid, contributions to the existing peacekeeping operation, stronger Security Council action, etc.

Finally, generally raising awareness is good, but not enough. It needs to be channeled. In other words, talk about it to other people and get them to do the same.

Sunkist Miss said...

Also, MONUC, the UN Mission, has been relatively successful recently as it has good troop-strength and a robust mandate. But there is not a self-sustaining peace and international community is ready to move onto the next conflict. Commitment to stay longer and make this actually work is very much needed.