Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bangladesh flooding (and the war in Yemen) dwarf Texas' troubles

As you may have heard, there has been flooding in the south of the USA.
Indeed, you can't fail to have heard, even if you don't live in the US. It has received blanket coverage in newspapers, on television, and all over the internet. And, yes, it is certainly a major event, with at least 44 dead, and 32,000 people still in shelters. Hurricane Harvey was the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in over 50 years, before it faded to a tropical storm, and 132cm of rain fell in just a few days (a record for continental America).
But I was a bit taken aback when I heard, just yesterday, that there has been much greater flooding happening at the same time in Bangladesh, northern India and Nepal. I first heard about this on CBC Radio report, although the Guardian also covered it (and pointed out the disparities in media attention) a couple of days later.
Now, Bangladesh is no stranger to flooding, but this is something on an unprecedented scale. Over 1,200 people have died, and an estimated 40 million are directly affected by this particularly vicious monsoon season. Many thousands of homes have been washed away, and farmland destroyed, and there have been any number of landslides, downed electricity towers, damaged roads, etc. Clean drinking water is always an issue in the region, but the flooding has pushed it to critical proportions, and widespread disease in the aftermath is a distinct likelihood. And the rain continues to fall.
We always pay more attention to events in our local neighbourhood; that is perhaps to be expected. We also pay more attention to events affecting people that look like us, which is less explicable and less justifiable. But the almost complete absence of coverage of a humanitarian crisis of this magnitude is just extraordinary. Perhaps the most shocking fact I heard was that the main English language newspaper in Bangladesh ran a detailed report on the flooding in Houston just the other day! Now, I don't mean to play down someone else's natural diaaster, but some perspective is definitely needed here.
The Guardian goes even further to point out that even the Bangladesh disaster pales in comparison with the biggest humanitarian crisis at the moment, Yemen, where an estimated 10,000 people have been killed in the last couple of years, and about 7 million made homeless, under a constant barrage by Western-armed Saudi Arabia. Yemen, for various reasons, has received much less media attention than either Texas or Bangladesh (or Syria for that matter).

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