Africa…

I had a talk with my friend few minutes ago. She’s in Africa right now. It was when I suddenly remembered those three photos that completely changed my perception about Africa. Every time I see them I can’t help myself but think how useless I am. . . and wish I could help… I know these photos were taken two decades ago, but as hard it is to believe it’s still a very common picture in these countries…

Mike Wells, 1980, Uganda, World Press Photo of the Year

Child in Uganda holding hands with a missionary. The stark contrast between the two people serves as a reminder of the gulf in wealth between developed and developing countries. Mike Wells, the photographer, took this picture to show the extent of starvation in Africa. He took it for a magazine, and when they went 5 months without printing it, he decided to enter it into a competition. However, Wells has stated that he is against winning a compeition with a picture of a starving boy.

Kevin Carter, southern Sudan, 1994

In March 1993, photographer Kevin Carter made a trip to southern Sudan, where he took now iconic photo of a starving Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture. It is a horrific picture that gave people a true look at the dire condition in Sub-Saharan Africa. Carter said he waited about 20 minutes, hoping that the vulture would spread its wings. It didn’t. Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away. The parents of the girl were busy taking food from the same UN plane Carter took to Ayod.

The photograph was sold to The New York Times where it appeared for the first time on March 26, 1993 as ‘metaphor for Africa’s despair’. Practically overnight hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask whether the child had survived, leading the newspaper to run an unusual special editor’s note saying the girl had enough strength to walk away from the vulture, but that her ultimate fate was unknown. Journalists in the Sudan were told not to touch the famine victims, because of the risk of transmitting disease, but Carter came under criticism for not helping the girl.

Carter eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, but he couldn’t enjoy it. Two months after receiving his Pulitzer, Carter would be dead of carbon-monoxide poisoning in Johannesburg, a suicide at 33. His red pickup truck was parked near a small river where he used to play as a child; a green garden hose attached to the vehicle’s exhaust funneled the fumes inside. “I’m really, really sorry,” he explained in a note left on the passenger seat beneath a knapsack. “The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist.”

James Nachtwey, Somalia, 1992

A mother carries her dead child to the grave, after wrapping it in a shroud according to local custom. A bad drought coupled with the effects of civil war caused a terrible famine in Somalia which claimed the lives of between one and two million people over a period of two years, more than 200 a day in the worst affected areas. The international airlift of relief supplies which started in July was hampered by heavily armed gangs of clansmen who looted food storage centers and slowed down the distribution of the supplies by aid organizations.

Postcards from Hell

For the last half-decade, the Fund for Peace, working with Foreign Policy, has been putting together the Failed States Index, using a battery of indicators to determine how stable — or unstable — a country is. But according to The Economist, as the photos here demonstrate, sometimes the best test is the simplest one: You’ll only know a failed state when you see it. Read full photo coverage at The  Foreign Policy HERE. I only apload three photos (copyright: The Foreign Policy) from the countries that top the list of the most failed ones.

1. Somalia has topped the Failed States Index for the last three years — a testament not only to the depth of the country’s long-running political and humanitarian disaster, but also, as James Traub writes (“In the Beginning, There Was Somalia”), to the international community’s inability to find an answer.

2. Chad‘s troubles are often written off as spillover from the conflict taking place in next-door Darfur, Sudan. But this central African country has plenty of problems of its own. An indigenous conflict has displaced approximately 200,000, and life under the paranoid rule of Chadian President Idriss Déby is increasingly miserable. Déby has arrested opposition figures and redirected humanitarian funding to the military in recent years. Matters might soon get worse as the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country’s east, where the bulk of the refugees reside, begins to depart on July 15.

3. The next year will prove a decisive one for Sudan, perhaps more so than any other since the country’s independence in 1956. In January 2011, the people of South Sudan will vote in a referendum on whether they would prefer to remain an autonomous region — or secede as an independent state. All analysts predict it will be the latter, but they are equally certain that it won’t be so easy. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is likely to cling close to his control of the South, where much of the country’s oil riches lie. This is to say nothing of Darfur, where peacekeepers recently reported an uptick in violence with hundreds killed.

Four actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and none improved in May 2010, according to the new issue of the International Crisis Group’s monthly bulletin CrisisWatch, released on June first. Main Trends:

Deteriorated Situations
India (non-Kashmir), Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories, North Korea, Thailand.

Improved Situations

Unchanged Situations
Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Armenia/Turkey, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Basque Country (Spain), Belarus, Bolivia, Bosnia, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Chechnya (Russia), Colombia, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, DR Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Moldova, Morocco, Myanmar/Burma, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Caucasus (non-Chechnya), Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Rwanda, Serbia, Somalia, Somaliland, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan Strait, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

However, one more conflict deteriorated a week ago in Darfur. ICG will report about it in its coming report. According to the Reuters, there was a spike in violence in Sudan’s western Darfur region, which a U.N. envoy said was seriously hindering protection and aid for civilians. The envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, told the council 447 people had died in May alone — a lower figure than given last week by U.N. officials, but still what he called a “serious escalation” in fighting between Sudan’s government and Darfur rebels. Gambari, head of the U.N./African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, or UNAMID, said military clashes were likely to “continue for some time unless urgent efforts at ensuring a ceasefire are made by the international community.”

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebel factions took up arms against Sudan’s government, accusing it of neglecting the region’s development. Khartoum mobilized mostly Arab militias to crush the uprising. Violence has increased since one of the main rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), announced in early May it was freezing its participation in peace talks.

What I like most about it, are these “deeply disturbed” and “gravely concerned” statements from the international community. Same like in Darfur’s case a week ago: “The council president Claude Heller of Mexico told reporters (concerning Darfur) there is not an initiative of any delegation to present a concrete action for the time being.”

Sadly, replying to the postcards from hell, we always send postcards back with the note “ahh, we are gravely concerened…”