A map of the most devasted areas of Burma. Taken from the United Nations Flash Appeal
Heartwrenching photos on the frontpages of the earthquake in China that’s taken some 20,000 lives – and counting. The images of mothers cradling their lost sons and daughters can make a grown man cry.
The Burmese junta is partly to blame for our collective amnesia. It blocked most foreign aid agencies and the international media from entering the country. So, on to the next disaster.
Still, it’s difficult to reconcile the international community’s outpouring of sympathy for China in comparison.
Not that who gets international attention and who doesn’t should be a game of numbers.
But the political forces driving what disasters deserve our attention and what don’t, are still trying to forget Darfur. Does the turmoil in Zimbabwe two weeks ago still rate? Anybody remember the devastation in Peru a few months back? Or in Greece for that matter?
Maybe it’s because these countries have little or no political clout that their suffering is quickly relegated to the back pages. They’re easy to forget once the customary condolences and relief shipments of rice have been sent.
Super powerful China is not so easy to ignore – even if China’s leaders say they don’t need the West’s help.
For Western governments and relief orgs the devastation caused by Monday’s earthquake was more than just about death and destruction – it was also another opportunity to engage the reluctant red dragon still putting up great walls to the West. To show her, we’re all in this together.
Too bad the West seems to have given up so quickly on convincing Burma’s generals of such lofty ideas. But then, Burma won’t be hosting the Olympics this summer.
And there aren’t nearly as many countries eager to show goodwill so that their companies can have access to the biggest market in the world.