Last night, the UK Conservative party relinquished its party political broadcast slot to make an unprecedented appeal for support in East Africa.
After poking fun at traditional political broadcasts, an array of well known political figures go on to draw attention to the severity of the crisis currently occurring in East Africa. It’s something we’ve never before – not just politicians with a sense of humour – but rising above partisan politics in support of the world’s poorest, a far cry from the across the pond where news is of cuts to foreign aid.
It was Prime Minister David Cameron himself who concluded the appeal by stressing how much more aid is needed, making a direct appeal to the voting public to go online and donate.
This could easily be viewed as a tidy PR stunt – it certainly had the smooth and cool direction of one - but I have to leave my cynicism behind. Many people in the UK are enraged at the amount of aid that continues to be distributed by despite its own economic “disaster”. Combined with reports of aid being stolen from famine victims, this was a bold move to do the right thing and leave politics aside for a few minutes.
Not being a fanatical fan of party political broadcasts, I cherished being able to witness this rare example of of dignity and grace. Having already given in excess of £120 million in aid – far more than its European neighbours - they did not simply sit back in the knowledge they had done as much as could be expected.
Instead they took a moment to retire from their in-house and cross-party quarrels and give almost 3 minutes of priceless prime time airplay to people who need it most right now. What better example to set to those leaders who don’t hold dear the qualities of dignity and equality?
Well step up Australia…
On the other side of the world, politicians also led by example, applying pressure to the people, announcing a dollar for dollar initiative to match funding donated by the public to eligible Australian NGOs working in the Horn of Africa. This strategy effectively doubled public donations with immediate effect whilst encouraging a much steeper growth curve for further donation in this area.
"The scope of the crisis is massive”, states Marc Purcell of ACFID, “In parts of Southern Somalia, mortality rates for children are so high that without further help 10% of all children under 5 will have perished by November."
With such terrifying statistics and 13 million people currently requiring emergency humanitarian aid at the last count, this is actually one of the worst crises in recent history. With things set only to worsen over coming months, the public seem unaware of its severity. Compassion fatigue affects this part of the world more than any other tsunami or earthquake torn region we have seen in the past decade.
Surely in such extreme crisis, a true developed democracy must take responsibility for those in need regardless of current political climates at home or abroad. And yet media coverage continues sporadically, encouraging public interest to wane in a misguided view that we cannot eradicate the suffering of this region. Is this not the ideal time for the governments of the world to use their status and power to bring this issue to the forefront of the public’s awareness?
Is it not the ultimate signifier of a developed democracy, for its leaders to plea to its people not for support with their own deficits and troubles, but to not forget those of us denied such democracy and respect?
So how can we help?
Go online and search for East Africa Appeal and choose how to direct your donation
UK - donate to the DEC.
AU - go to AusAID to see how you can donate.
USA - donate to our partners CARE.