Posts Tagged ‘Haiti earthquake’

It began in Africa: a brief history of NGOs, the media and emergency aid

21 January 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

To most of us in the developed world, disaster, emergency relief and development aid are integral to our understanding of the global South. Mention Africa and we think of Ethiopia, Live Aid, Bob Geldof and a tactless Wembley stadium belting out ‘We are the champions of the world’. We remember Somalia, Rwanda, bulging Trócaire boxes, Concern fasts in the parish community centre, Oxfam shops, missionary collections, the Far East and the GOAL Christmas Day run. In the evening we put up with ads for World Vision and a gentle voice imploring you to ‘sponsor’ a child named Ndugu disturbing the break between instalments of football, Friends and Sex and the City.

Timeless though it seems, this system is a relatively new construct. It began just over forty years ago in West Africa, on 12 June 1968, when ITV broadcast a series of heart-breaking scenes from civil war-torn eastern Nigeria, renamed Biafra by the secessionists. Among the over-crowded masses of refugees it showed starving children close to death, lying on rickety hospital beds, with little or no access to food and medicine. To today’s viewer the images are sadly familiar; but in the history of aid and emergency relief, Biafra and the massive media coverage it spawned mark an important turning point. Read More