Twelve THAI boys of Wild Bore soccer team and their coach have finally been discharged from the hospital. The visuals of the rescue mission, showing how unmindful of the nationality of the children divers from different countries risked their lives to save these trapped children, were beamed on almost all the news channels across the world. These visuals contained a powerful emotional message that has not only moved every viewer, but it has moved news channel anchors and reporters as well. It was in fact a rare and a touching sight to witness the entire world moved for the cause these trapped Thai boys: USA, Britain, Australia, China and of
course India; many nations voluntarily came forward to join the rescue mission with their expertise in every possible way.
In this confronting time, when most part of the world is divided into political blocs engaged in sanctions, tariff war, and conflict, the entire optic of the rescue mission was quite a heart-warming and encouraging. In last few decades, there have hardly been such occasions when such a tragedy has blurred the national boundaries and gripped the world in just one wish and anxiety; everyone wanted to somehow see those trapped children be brought out safely. And, finally, as the news of the success of the rescue mission came in, the world went into a kind of euphoria.
In September 2015, the photo of the young Syrian boy, Aylan lay drowned on the beach in Turkey was published in the newspapers across the world, and it was there all over the social media, had also shaken the world. And, it helped drive home the miserable plight of Syrian refugees somehow trying to enter Europe. But according to the new report by the European Journalism Observatory, a media institute based in Switzerland, the pictures’ powerful message was short-lived. Just after few weeks, newspapers in Europe were back to opposing the cause of immigrants.
A year later, in August 2016, the image of a young Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh, with his face soaked in dust and blood was also all over the internet and came to represent the plight of civilian population living in Aleppo city of Syria. But this outcry of emotion was also soon last in thin air.
But beyond these occasional emotional images, there is a large issue faced by the children of the world.
According to UNICEF, 2018 report, ‘today, one in every four children in the world is living in a country affected by conflict or disaster. Nearly 50 million children have been uprooted from their homes due to violence, poverty or natural disaster. These facts expose an alarming reality: that the impact of a humanitarian crisis on children has reached catastrophic proportions’. The world has witnessed war and economic sanctions by the USA and its western allies in the name of eradicating terrorism and destroying nuclear warheads: since the 1990s, they have imposed 500 such economic sanctions. These war and sanctions has led to millions of children trapped in a situation without enough food and medicine available for them. Apart from this, there are millions of children trapped in conflict and violent situations; they have been deprived of their childhood, education, and home. Millions of children disabled by war and many more exposed to a violent and conflicting situation for long are facing post-war trauma. Worst affected of all are children in Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and countries of East Africa. Millions of children in North Korea are also paying the price of USA sanctions.
Yet only 6 per cent of total $174 billion global spending of official development assistance in 2015 was spent ending violence against children. While world spending on the military is increasing, children trapped in poverty are dying of preventable causes: nearly 5.6 million children die each year of preventable disease; one million babies who die on the day they are born; according to UNICEF, by 2030 the figure will be as high as 69 million. The basic thing like proper food is not available to children of developing countries which is supported by the fact that nearly 150 million in these countries have stunted growth.
There are millions of children in the world, who are trapped in the severely polluted environment are paying the price. According to WHO report of 2017, 1.7 million children below the age of five dies of polluted environment like air pollution and unhygienic living condition every year; of these 5,70,000 dies of indoor and outdoor air pollution and second hand smoke. Developing countries are worst in this regard: according to Greenpeace India, in India national capital Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, and Maharashtra are the places where children are worst affected by pollution. The report states that ‘together these states are home to 12.9 million children, who are below or up to five years’.
Unlike the Thai crisis the above situations are manmade; so, here we are not required to fight against nature but the human nature of acquiring more and more economic and political power. And we also need to realise the fact that in the name of civilisation and development, the world is gradually growing much more destructive and brutal; world powers are recognised by and feared for their destructive power. World spend much more on military and war than on children’s development: eight days of world spending on war and arms can bring in education for all the children of the world.
This leaves us with the larger question that how this gesture of unprecedented solidarity, support, and concern generated for Thai children world over is not allowed to die down like on earlier two occasions; and could be further channelised into saving the life of billions of children trapped in poverty, conflict, and pollution across the world. Hope, activist, journalists and all concerned citizens and leaders of the world will come forward and seize the opportunity.
Countercurrents.org, July 23. Anurag Modi is national executive committee member, Samajwadi Jan Parishad.
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