Africa deserves help, not cynicism

4 August 2011

Africa deserves help, not cynicism

EMILE ROEMER • How long will the world continue to accept the existence of places like Dadaab, the huge refugee camp by the Somalian border? This was what I and party colleagues Ewout Irrgang and Eric Smaling were asking ourselves in May, during our visit to Kenya. The situation in the camp has become daily more hopeless. Insufficient food, inadequate education for the children and, worst of all, inadequate housing. And the flood of refugees has grown by the day. The situation in Somalia is, after years of lawlessness, ever more hopeless.

And now we have the worst drought for sixty years in the Horn of Africa. In countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti some 11 million people who had nothing to begin with are directly threatened by death by starvation. Alarm bells are ringing and the world has woken up to the shocking daily images on TV. Emergency bank accounts have been established, people are giving generously, and this is most urgently needed.

I can imagine that some are becoming cynical. It isn’t the first time that the hat has gone round for Africa, but from a political point of view the world shares responsibility for what is happening. Intense speculation in foodstuffs is sending prices soaring to unprecedented highs. A recent proposal from the SP that such speculation be investigated further won the support of the government, though in my view it should simply be banned. Increasingly we see political decisions on privatization and the exploitation of agricultural land in Africa that do nothing to improve matters. And that’s to say nothing of the corrupt leaders and warlords who hold so much of the African continent in their grip.

The causes of the renewed upsurge of distress in Africa are countless, but debating them does nothing to help the people who right now are in urgent need. These people need immediate aid. I call on everyone to give what they can spare to a reliable fund – in the Netherlands this is Giro 555, and there will be an equivalent in your own country. Because every euro, dollar or pound helps. We will see this if aid NGOs and state aid bodies behave responsibly, as the SP has argued with the Netherlands’ own aid organisations and with the ministry.

It leaves a sour taste when one sees how the West throws billions around with such ease in order to prop up a rotten financial system, yet the € 1.1 billion needed to help these people cannot be immediately produced. That’s why we are calling on the Dutch government to match every euro paid into Giro 555, as has often happened in the past. That would be a gesture which would show that our moral compass has not become confused.

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