Thursday, 15 December 2016

Obsessed by Brexit, while the world weeps

Britain is benumbed by Brexit. It’s as if nothing else is happening in the world. But beyond our shores, a kaleidoscope of horrific events is now crystallising across the planet. Are we too blinded by Brexit to see?

Tens of millions of desperate refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people are fleeing war, terror and poverty in what the United Nations has called, ‘the worst refugee crisis since records began.’ 

An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

In Syria alone, 13.5 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance due to the violent civil war that began in 2011. The largest city, Aleppo, has been devastated, and most of the population has been killed or displaced. The United Nations has described the situation as “a complete meltdown of humanity.” A desperate evacuation effort is taking place right now. 

Although there is not a world war, the world is in a state of war, with only ten of the planet’s countries completely free of conflict according to the Global Peace Index (Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Japan, Mauritius, Panama, Qatar, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vietnam).

The bloody conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have been going for well over a decade, and have spilled into Syria, Libya and Yemen. Around 75% of all battlefield deaths are taking place in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. War, violence and terrorist atrocities across the world have made this year less peaceful than last year.

In addition, climate change represents one of the biggest threats ever known to humanity, with scientists predicting that this will increasingly cause heat waves, floods, droughts, storms and pandemic infectious disease patterns, pollution, malnutrition and mass migrations.

And in Britain? 

Our time and energy are now completely absorbed and engrossed by Brexit.

I seriously wonder if in future historians will look-back aghast at how Britain's eyes were distracted and taken off the world's most serious events whilst we wandered down a cul-de-sac called Brexit.

In my view, Britain shouldn’t Brexit. I cannot see any verifiable advantages, and being tied up with Brexit for years and years to come is ridiculously paralysing the country and the machinery of government. 

But now, at Christmas time in particular, I’m asking everyone to take a brief break from Brexit to think about what’s happening in the rest of the world.

• In the photo of Aleppo, Syria, surrounded by the ruins of war, Esraa, just 4 years old, and her brother Waleed, 3, sit huddled and bewildered on the ground near a shelter for the internally displaced.

Please help them and other Syrian children in perilous situations this winter to keep warm and safe. Donate to UNICEF [Photo credit: UNICEF/UN013175/Al-Issa]

• In the photo from Yemen, a destitute and forlorn mother laments the loss of her son in a war that has destroyed the country. “We lost my son in an air strike,” she told an aid official. “He was the only one we could depend on. Now we have no one to provide for us.” 

Today in Yemen, already one of the world’s poorest countries, more than 7 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and children are dying from malnutrition. Please donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee, who have brought together a coalition of UK charities to help the crisis in Yemen. Make a donation or call 0370 60 60 900 [Photo credit: Care International]

• In the photo from Haiti, devastated by Hurricane Matthew, a woman in the Truitiers neighbourhood, one of the poorest in Port au Prince, stands surrounded by putrid flood water. 

According to the UN, 1.4 million Haitians have been directly affected by the devastation of Hurricane Matthew, including some 175,000 internally displaced people, now living in around 300 temporary shelters. At least 1,000 people have died. Oxfam have field workers there now providing assistance. You can help their efforts with a donation[Photo credit: Fran Afonso/Oxfam]

• In the photo from Nigeria, young mother, Falmata*, is distraught as she witnesses her 2-year-old daughter, Bintu, struggling to breathe with acute malnutrition and malaria. North East Nigeria is gripped by famine as a result of 7 years of brutal fighting between insurgents and government forces. 

Save the Children is providing severely malnourished children with expert treatment at their specialist health centres in Nigeria. Please support their work online or phone 0800 8 148 148. [Photo credit: Tommy Trenchard / Save the Children. Name of mother and daughter changed to protect their identities].

• We should also not forget the poor and struggling here in Britain, where thirteen million people live below the poverty line. Individuals and families are going hungry every day for a range of reasons, from benefit delays to receiving an unexpected bill on a low income. 

The Trussell Trust runs a network of over 400 foodbanks, giving emergency food and support to people in crisis across the UK. You can help their ‘Hope Not Hunger Christmas Appeal’

There are many good charities – and good people – doing their best to help people in need this Christmas, and throughout the year, across the world and in this country too. The charities listed here represent just some of them and there may be other charities you support. 

Of course, we can’t help them all, and we may not have the means to give much. But the fact that we might only be able to do a little, is surely no excuse for not doing what little we can.

Brexit has overwhelmingly absorbed Britain and Britons. But across the world horrific events are taking place that also need our urgent attention. 
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