Friday, May 1, 2009

The Real Victims of Swine Flu

"The real victims of swine flu; As the media focus on a global sneezing fit, the plight of people in Congo, Somalia, Burma and China is being ignored

by Simon Tisdall
30 April 2009

.... Not considered quite so newsworthy by perspiring international media infected by a global sneezing fit was the latest extreme violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. According to Human Rights Watch, 35 civilians were killed, 91 women and girls raped, and hundreds of homes burned down in fresh reprisal attacks by Rwandan Hutu militias in North Kivu.

Additional, escalating killing is now feared in South Kivu as the Congolese army and allied militia deploy southwards, said Oxfam spokeswoman Rebecca Wynn. At least 100,000 people have been displaced in recent weeks amid continuing atrocities by all sides. In total, an estimated 1.4 million are homeless. Promised UN peacekeeping reinforcements have not arrived.

The sudden surge in first world swine fever has also overshadowed the plight of millions in the Horn of Africa, principally in Somalia where a reconfigured government is struggling to survive. Random violence, suicide attacks, kidnapping and armed robbery are daily problems facing the 3 million people currently dependent on food aid. Over 1 million Somalis are displaced, many living in insanitary tent cities. For them, flu is not a big issue....

For others, like the Israeli and Sri Lankan governments, flu victims provide a welcome diversion from military victims. While the Sri Lanka's Tamil-bashing president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, seems hell-bent on turning his country into a rogue state, Israel's army has been quietly insisting its not dissimilar operations in Gaza in January were entirely in accordance with international law.

Human Rights Watch heaped scorn on Israel's claims this week while the International Crisis Group warned that a "boiling" Gaza could soon explode again. But with the world busy holding its nose and examining the contents of its handkerchief, who's listening?