As we turn in on ourselves, we turn our back on suffering humanity

What we've missed while focusing on Trump and Brexit


Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump is how self-centered the UK and the US have become.

In the UK, Brexit has become all consuming, powered by debate about how to ‘take back control’ of our borders in an effort to keep people out.

Likewise, Donald Trump seems unmoved by the rest of the world, focussed as he is on building a wall to keep people out of the US and embarking almost solely on a ludicrous series of attacks on the media.

So while the UK and US have been missing in action on the global stage, what has been going on around the world?

In South Sudan, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that around 32,000 South Sudanese have fled into neighbouring Sudan since the start of the year as a result of civil war and an unimaginable famine.

Just last week the United Nations announced that 100,000 people face starvation in South Sudan, According to UNICEF and the World Food Programme, one million more are on the brink of famine, and around 5.5 million people (roughly half the size of the entire population of South Sudan)  will face severe food shortages by the summer unless more relief is provided.

Just before Christmas, UNICEF published startling statistics showing that close to 2.2 million children in Yeman are acutely malnourished, requiring urgent care. At least 462,000 children suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), an increase of almost 200 per cent since 2014. An additional 1.7 million children suffer from Moderate Acute Malnutrition.

Quite starkly, as we debate what Brexit should look like, the Civil War in Yemen is largely to blame for one child dying in the country evert ten minutes as a result of preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, malnutrition and respiratory tract infections.

In China, a country whose money we seem so open to accept to finance infrastructure projects in the UK, its government is using anti-terrorism measures to prevent churches from meeting unless they are state approved. New laws in the pipeline are aimed at upping state control over who leads churches in China, where they meet and what they get taught.

And in October last year, as the UK was getting to grips with Theresa May’s conference speech and what it meant for Brexit, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on our ally, Saudi Arabia, to end severe discrimination against girls and to repeal laws that allow the stoning, amputation, flogging and execution of children.

I’ll repeat that. An ally of ours having to be asked not to stone, amputate, flog or execute children.

As a country we need to wake up from the isolationist position we now find ourselves. We have a duty as a wealthy nation to be looking out and seeking to save the lives of those whose lives could be saved.

Consider how perverse it is for children to be dying of diseases that are easily preventable with the right medication. How can we allow that to happen?

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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