Saturday, January 26, 2008

Paying attention to Congo

NPR ran a story this morning about the 5.4 million deaths in Congo since 1998, 2 million of those deaths since 2002 when the war in Congo more or less stopped. The deaths are occurring because of the failure of the infrastructure and health care in the Congo. The number of deaths exceed Darfur substantially, and even outstrip the 2 million deaths in southern Sudan over the 22 years or the civil war in that region (1983-2005). The story does a nice job of pointing out that global economic and political interest in The DRC is low (unlike oil rich Sudan), and the cause has not yet been championed by celebrities or high profile politicians (no names were used, but we all know who they were talking about).

These stories mean so much more to me now that I have been to Africa. I met, and continue to correspond with, a Congolese refugee who left the DRC for Kakuma in 1998; he desperately wants to continue his education and make a difference in his country, but his family has few resources to aid him--they have been refugees for the last 9 years. He is going to a university in Nairobi this semester; I hope to be able to help him continue his education there or help him get to the US or Canada to continue his education. I don't know the the ins-ands-outs of bringing students to American universities, but Kakuma graduates about 300 students a year from the high school in the refugee camp, and it seems (to my naive eyes) like a very easy thing for American universities to be offering scholarships to those who might be interested. I know universities in this day and age don't recruit for humanitarian purposes, but maybe that trend needs to get started.

If anybody reading this is working at / attending a university with a humanitarian mission, please contact me!


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