Thats what we will get to.

Friday, January 06, 2006

And the Band Plays On

One of the advantages of doing business in NYC is the chance to hear from the cities wide variety of cab drivers. It seems all of them have strong political views and are happy to regale anyone willing to listen.

One thing about me, I consider myself a student of human nature and find the cab drivers, from all around the world to have some interesting stories. One I met on my last visit was from the Congo. I remember vaguely hearing about it there in school but couldn't say much more than at one time it was a French (or maybe Belgian?} colony.

This man told me there was a terrible war there that most people here had no idea about. He was an elderly gentleman in his 70's and was driving a cab to make enough money to send for the rest of his family.

Today I saw this news story and thought of him.

LONDON (Reuters) - The Congo conflict is the deadliest humanitarian crisis of the last 60 years but the world is still not doing enough to save lives, according to a survey on Friday.


Its authors pleaded urgently for more aid and tougher security in the wake of a war estimated to have killed nearly four million people, mainly through hunger and disease.

"Congo is the deadliest crisis anywhere in the world over the past 60 years," said Richard Brennan, health director of the New York-based International Rescue Committee that counted the human cost of the conflict.

"Ignorance about its scale and impact is almost universal and international engagement remains completely out of proportion to humanitarian need," Brennan said after the survey findings were published in the Lancet medical journal.

The U.N.'s 17,000-strong Congo peacekeeping force -- its biggest in the world -- is trying to establish order across Africa's third largest country in the wake of the war which began in 1998 and officially ended in 2003.

Bands of gunmen still intimidate civilians in large areas, particularly in the east whose mineral riches are believed to have fueled a conflict that at one point drew in six foreign armies and was dubbed Africa's first world war.

Brennan said improved security is vital to lower the death toll and argued that aid must be dramatically increased.

The survey showed that the death toll in the Congo conflict so far was higher than the numbers killed in Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo and Darfur.

After surveying 19,500 households across the former Belgian colony, the survey calculated that the mortality rate was 40 percent higher than that of Sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 1,200 people dying every day.

Up to 20 percent of children are malnourished. Most deaths, especially in children, occur from easily preventable illnesses.

"National and international efforts to address the crisis remain grossly inadequate," the survey concluded, arguing that more, better trained peacekeeping troops were speedily needed.

The survey authors' outrage was echoed by Evelyn Depoortere of the Paris-based aid agency Epicentre who said "Rich donor nations are miserably failing the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo."

"Every few months the mortality equivalent of two southeast Asian tsunamis ploughs through its territory," Depoortere said in a commentary to accompany the survey findings.

"We can no longer claim ignorance about this and other wars' profound and protracted effect on human health," she said.


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