The silent catastrophe
OISE Oxford | Friday, March 31, 2017
There are still parts of the world that go under-reported, says Simon Wilcox.
First thing every morning, OISE Oxford holds a news review. It’s a way of kick-starting the day for our students, and improving their listening or reading
skills with some ‘real’ English. For their part, the students start arriving around eight thirty, wandering into the lecture theatre with coffees they’ve
just bought from a local café in their hands, and with varying looks of alertness in their eyes. The looks all depend on whether they are morning sort-of-people,
or people more like me who really only wake up properly when the caffeine from the coffee takes a grip.
But half-asleep or not, all our students are woken up with a jolt when the latest BBC headlines are broadcast on the projector screen, or they’ve seen
today’s newspaper headlines. It’s at this point that the poignancy of the latest world events tends to shake them out of their slumbers and alert them
to the urgency of the day.
As I write this, the news dominating everything we read and watch here in the UK is the appalling terrorist attack in London on 22 March, and the triggering
of Article 50 by British Prime Minister Theresa May, which, in two years’ time, will take Britain out of the European Union.
These are both very important stories, of course.
Yet, arguably, one of the most important stories of our time is already slipping from the airwaves, only two weeks after it took the top spot in the BBC’s
night time bulletin, the News at Ten. Sixteen million people in East Africa are in urgent need of food and water, many of them dying daily from starvation
in what the UN has called the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945. In South Sudan, it is a three-year civil war that is to blame. In Kenya, Ethiopia
and Somalia, it is drought – the worst that these countries have experienced in 50 years.
Despite this unfolding catastrophe, however, it seems to have very quickly dropped out of the media’s sight. The story barely made it to the fourth spot
on the News at Ten the night after it had led the running order; and in the last few days, as we approach the end of March, I’ve hardly heard any mention
of it all.
This is partly due, I suppose, to our obsession here in the West with the elite nations of the world: the United States, the English-speaking global superpower;
or the countries of the EU, the world’s largest trading bloc. When, in Britain at least, did we last see any news from Brazil, Ghana or Indonesia?
It might also be due to the Western media’s fascination with sensational events. A terrorist attack is certainly one of those, and tragic too. The slow
deterioration of the humanitarian situation in South Sudan since 2013 does not grab the headlines in the same way.
As a result, it is a story that goes largely unreported – until, that is, the world wakes up to it.
Simon Wilcox is a tutor at OISE with a background in the media. Holding a Postgraduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism, Simon has reported for the BBC in England and a major broadcaster in Singapore. He has also worked for newspapers and magazines, and as a website editor for a London-based NGO.