By Edwin Adjei
Last week was a difficult one for families around the world. Sierra Leone experienced a disastrous mudslide where thousands of people lost their loved ones and over 400 people are estimated to have died. Barcelona, Spain experienced a terrorist attack where 13 people died and about 100 people were injured. As we wrote two weeks ago, Charlottesville, Virginia, in the U.S. has continued to be widely covered throughout mainstream and social media.
The international community has risen with one voice to condemn the attacks in Spain and the US. Marches and vigils have been organized to show solidarity with the countries and affected families.
But as one social media commenter raised, what about solidarity with Sierra Leone? “Not so much”…
Charlottesville. Barcelona. Widely covered. Sierra Leone. Not so much. A catastrophic flood occurred there Monday. Worthy of our attention. https://t.co/ExmWTnV2X5
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) August 21, 2017
Although we critique the fact that catastrophes in Africa often receive sensationalized coverage, one lesson from last week is that perhaps they do primarily when crises in other parts of the world are lacking. In this case, however, Senegal, Ivory Coast, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other African nations have made donations in various forms to help Sierra Leone recover from the disaster. Ghana responded to a call for help by Sierra Leon’s president with cash and materials to help the nation and affected families recover from the disaster. But unfortunately, not many in the international community seem to hear about such support for Africa from other African countries. China’s donation of one million dollars to Sierra Leone made the headlines. But when African countries made similar donations, somehow, such news is swept under the carpet. Even if it does make news such as in this New York Times piece where two African countries’ support is mentioned, they are mentioned after major transnational NGOs.
Why does humanitarian support from African countries and African organizations for other sister organizations and nations on the continent somehow seem less news-worthy? Does this reflect the Western-centric bias of global media (amplifying only particular events) or perhaps the normalization of disasters in Africa (“lots of people always die in Africa, it’s to be expected”)? And finally, why the biased idea of who can “help” Africa? I continue to wonder if it is that African to African support within the continent matters so little to the international community or if it is an intentional effort to close the eyes of the international community to the sacrifices made and support developing nations can offer each other.
Read more news articles about Sierra Leone’s mudslide tragedy and humanitarian aid being offered here:
Featured image source: Ghana Web via Mbawumia
Featured image caption: Ghana’s Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia with Sierra Leone’s President Bai Koroma