Why Young People in the Western World Can't Relate to the Famine in Somalia
Why aren’t more young people talking about the children in Somalia dying daily of famine? Why isn’t the general public spending more time discussing the solutions to avoiding famine in the future? Surely not one person will say they don’t care, yet people’s flippancy on the issue is frustratingly sad from my own perspective, an individual deeply immersed within the human rights world. Many people in the western countries shrug off the famine in Somalia, explaining that they’ve already got enough to worry about, but it’s become apparent few understand the true horror of what it might be like to spend a day, suffering, as some of these children do. Over a billion dollars is still being pleaded for by the UN, striving to save lives each minute of the day. And although this number might seem large to a country that is going through a recession, it is nothing compared to the life of even one child (and over 30,000 have already died). Allowing for young people around the world to understand just how valuable a single life is, in my opinion, the key to helping create stronger proponents to supporting the UN’s work and ending this famine in the best way possible.
I decided to reach out to friends of mine, whom are completely outside of any NGO framework, and see what they thought about the current famine and why it might not be getting the attention it deserved within media outlets and by word of mouth. Their insights and analysis aren’t shocking, because as a culture, we do feel detached from such events, either due to a feeling of pre occupation with matters we find much more important than those mentioned above or because we can’t relate to what these children are going through. It becomes forgettable that these children could and should have the opportunities allotted to them that every single one of us was lucky enough to grow up in (if you are reading this, that includes you). The questions I posed to them are below.
Meet Bart, 24- Loves music, hanging out with friends, and spending time with his girlfriend
Nicholas: Whats the first thing you think about when you hear there is an emergency or crisis in another country?
Bart: Will the United States Provide Aid, how will this impact our already thinly spread budget.
N: How long do you normally think about this emergency?
B: 0-5 minutes, not very long. Depends on the relevancy to my immediate life. Also, I am not a religious person so I dont "pray for" or "keep in my thoughts" victims of atrocities. I would assume this would skew the normal persons' replies.
N: Why do you think the media puts more of an emphasis on local issues (such as politics, celebrity gossip, etc) instead of crisises that are affecting people around the globe?
B: Fear = viewers/ratings = money. Easier to rouse interest (read: fear) and hook viewers with Genocide: In your Town? Not Genocide: A look at Darfur
N: Could you think of a way that would help keep an emergency situation in your mind for a longer amount of time, or actually get you to take some sort of action?
B: I was going to reply no, but then I thought about what I find compelling in worldwide crisis reporting: on-site. Especially on-site with peers. Of course this is expensive and potentially low ROI (Return on Investment), but for me, seeing a peer in the "thick-of-it" would be the most influential. With the caveat that this "piece" is presented with some manner of journalistic integrity not like "https://www.tonikhealth.com/" the BCBS of GA health insurance for young adults. This kind of "skinning" is forgettable IMO.
N: How do you view charities or organization that aim to make positive impacts in emergency situations? Have you ever considered joining this cause?
B: Favorably and I find donations (monetary) seem to stymie what little "guilt" I feel about my misanthropy.
Meet Chris, 25- Loves playing cards, riding bikes, and being with his family.
Nich: How long do you normally think about this emergency?:
Chris:When I first learned about the crisis I thought about it a good bit, but after about a week or so of discovering the problem via the internet I hadn't given it much thought since.
N:Why do you think the media puts more of an emphasis on local issues (such as politics, celebrity gossip, etc) instead of crisises that are affecting people around the globe?:
C: I have no idea. I'm much more concerned with these major issues around the globe. Perhaps it's more costly to obtain good news coverage of events on other continents? I'm not in the states currently and haven't watched the news in awhile, but I would have assumed that it was being covered thoroughly. After visiting Canada and meeting a large number of Canadians and Australians here in Whistler, I'm personally embarrassed by how little Americans are aware of world issues compared to Aussies and Canadians.
N:Could you think of a way that would help keep an emergency situation in your mind for a longer amount of time, or actually get you to take some sort of action?:
C:I'm not sure how realistic this is, but if there were commercials during popular TV shows (even just 3-4 seconds long) stating very briefly the urgency of the situation and a website to learn more about the situation then that would catch my attention and make me interested in learning more about the problem on my own. Not a commercial saying how you can help because then I would feel like the organization is just looking for my money via donations, but a commercial saying "hey, this is important and you should learn more about it". If the commercial comes off as incredibly urgent, but leaves me wanting more information, I'm going to go and do research. Putting these ads before popular youtube videos would be great for someone like me as I'm online all the time and if my interest is sparked via a youtube ad then it's very easy for me to immediately begin researching via the web.
N:What kind of message would you like to see, through social media, communicated about future emergencies to better help you empathasize with what is happening?:
C:I think the important thing is that people are made aware of the situations and I think they need to learn to do a little research and learn how to find out more for themselves. The people of the US don't need to be spoon fed all the information, but I do think they need to be made aware of these crises and be made aware of their level of urgency. Another thing that makes me aware of how urgent something is, is when I see the news and at the bottom of the screen you see streaming information regarding a crisis that is not relevant to what's being discussed (such as tornado alerts on local channels). If something is so important that people need to be updated about it constantly in a manner such as that, it makes me feel as tho it deserves a lot of my attention. Of course, this can't be abused or else it would lose its effect of being important.
N:Did you know anything about whats happening in the Horn of Africa and if so, from how? Do you think most of your friends do?:
C:I knew simply because every now and then I say to myself "I wonder what's going on in the world this week" and google "World News". That's how i know. I would suspect that the vast majority of my friends are unaware of the crisis in Africa and that is a sad sad thing.
Through these two interviews, I realized some strong insights about how young people can best understand (and when they’ll convey) information to share with others- they’ve got to be engaged and they’ve got to be able to understand and experience just what is happening to these women and children. They’ve literally got to understand the feelings of despair, chaos, fright, and loss, so they can convey these feelings with their friends, whether online or off. This isn't an easy task, but with social media, there truly are no excuses anymore. Governments need to be doing a better job of devising creative solutions to getting these messages heard, and more importantly, shared.
Government’s around the world don’t need to just give the required funds away and let that be that, they can actively bring the general public into the audience and explain, “Hey, let’s discuss how to best avoid this next time, and devise solutions to getting people set up for long term growth.” It obviously isn’t any one countries job to make this happen, but there is no excuse for allowing children to die, and thus far, 30,000 have. Creating a powerful experience for young people (that incorporates their own lives) with what is happening in Somalia is paramount to the success of fundraising and awareness about this famine. With so much else to compete with on the current minds of young people around the world, it’s no easy task…But it must be addressed, and soon.