Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Congo in the News

Stories about Africa are still on my "radar." This article about the Congo is sobering. According to this article, war, disease, and malnutrition are killing 45,000 people a month! In the last ten years, 5.4 million people have died. I have a hard time imagining this, but the article goes on to compare this with losing the entire population of Denmark or Colorado. Malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition are the biggest killers - all preventable.

Now beyond the human suffering involved, this is important because there is a very endangered species living in the Congo, the mountain gorilla. There are only 700 of them living in the wild. Dian Fossey's group, The Dian Fossye Gorilla Fund is working to save these creatures. The human fighters in the area where the gorillas live make this very difficult. For one thing, they are killing the gorillas to eat them for survival. For another, with armed conflicts going on, it makes it very unsafe for animal workers to protect the animals. When people are struggling just to survive from one day to the next, saving a precious resource such as the mountain gorillas is a low priority.

This MNBC article talks about the killing of not only gorillas but also hippos by the rebel armies. The gorillas had begun to trust humans making them more vulnerable to these starving fighters.

I find it very, very sad that so many people are dying from things that modern medical care can prevent. I think it is tragic that the unstable political problems make it very difficult for relief agencies to get in there to provide help. How horrible it is that so much energy is spent on fighting that should be spent growing crops and raising livestock to feed people. How difficult to help people who are so desperate that they must eat gorillas. And what happens to those people when the last hippo and the last gorilla are gone? How do people in more prosperous parts of the world find ways to help?

Living in the United States, even our poorest people live in better conditions and have more access to health care than do these people in the Congo. We are facing another economic crisis here in the United States, which will probably mean that there will be even less money going to help these people in Africa.

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