Suffering and the enormous death toll for millions of men women and children in parts of Africa and the Middle East is a dilemma that has become so critical that António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, will travel to Geneva next month to make an urgent appeal to the world for badly needed funds. His aim is to avert a disaster on a scale not seen since 1945.
In recent years, there have been countless, deeply disturbing reports by journalists who have braved extreme danger in hostile environments to provide the world with close-up views of grave suffering by millions trapped in war-torn areas. The result has been that, with food, water and medicine almost non-existent, they have been unable to sustain themselves. We have witnessed briefly on television screens a mother dying of starvation, or a child only seconds away from a similar fate. When this happens on a mass scale, it is truly difficult to comprehend.
Even more distressing is the billions of dollars spent on powerful weapons of destruction. One has to wonder whether there would be enough funds to feed every hungry child in the world if powerful nations were not so obsessed with threatening each other over.
Even before this column could be completed, there is little doubt that the death toll from starvation, disease or being a victim of regional violence has climbed even farther. It is generally known that corruption on a huge scale in a number of governments in troubled areas is a contributing factor in what seems an endless state of the strong rumbling over the weak to maintain or protect a position of dominance at any cost.
Even the United Nations appears somewhat helpless in trying to merge leading nations opposed to each other, with a view to at least focusing more on human suffering in our world, where people die because they are unable to get a glass of water.
With some parts of the world glowing with economic prosperity while seeking ways to expand their grip on financial success, and millions facing a nightmare of poverty and horror with little hope of change, I am reminded of a story published by EC Comics in the early 1950s in America. There was something about that story, although fiction and in their science section, that seemed prevalent when viewing our world today.
The work of fiction was entitled “Judgment Day” and was about this earth attempting to join an interplanetary group in our solar system. After being mandated to make certain changes in the quality of life for all on Earth a prerequisite for gaining membership, the day arrived for an official representing the celestial group to see whether Earth had complied.
After being shown highly successful areas where people, for the sake of the story, were in what was described as the orange section on earth, the visiting official from outer space requested to see people in what was described as the blue section. These were people with inferior standards, many of whom were merely struggling to exist. When the space visitor questioned this, he was told that there was some progress there, but the blue people were not up to standard and there was not much that could be done for them.
The space traveller, still covered in his spacesuit, took out his pad and informed the earth official that they had failed to qualify for membership, and that he would return later to make another assessment. He then returned to his sleek space vehicle, blasted off into the deep blue sky, and within moments was out of sight.
Inside his craft, now streaking through space towards his home planet, he carefully removed his helmet — even during that period of racism in America, the magazine took the bold step to show the spaceman was a black man.
Perhaps the real message was that after decades since publishing that story, much of the Earth is still in need of changes in how people are treated, irrespective of race or religious beliefs. The nations of power need collectively to use their resources in a more concerted effort to halt what has been, for too many, a relentless dark night of terror and suffering.
The big question remains: is the world willing to do something about it?
At the moment, it is nothing short of a shameful tragic event on this planet.