Home > Planetwatch > The Dark Continent – A mirror to our future?

The Dark Continent – A mirror to our future?

When I was a child any mention of Africa conjured up images of ostriches, zebra, wild elephants and vast expanses of savannah. My dad took me to watch the documentary, Beautiful People, which further fuelled my fantasies of Africa. During my teens, I was addicted to the adventures of Tarzan the Ape Man, a magnificent creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Later, movies like Gods Must Be Crazy and George of the Jungle cemented my illusions.

Those days, I never realized that Africa was undergoing a humanitarian and environmental crisis. The Africa of my imagination, the exotic Africa, existed only in a handful of wildlife reserves like Masai Mara, Serengeti or Kalahari Desert. The rest was in shambles. Africa, once the cradle of man was now his graveyard. What happened in Africa ages ago, the evolution of man, transformed life on the planet. The dark continent, now lie bleeding at the altar of our indifference. What we witness now in Africa, in my opinion, is a bleak prognostication on the future of the world.

Global recession and escalating food prices have dried up food aid to Africa. Recurring droughts have depleted water resources, withered crops and decimated livestock leaving people hungry and severely malnourished. The stark images of Africa, especially those of photojournalist Kevin Carter who committed suicide unable to face the horrors, are heartrending.

Although my phantasmagoric images of Africa are shattered, although I am not able to contribute much to alleviate its troubles, the appreciation and admiration I feel for those who have been waging a relentless battle against the pervasive despair and starvation in Africa is boundless. I recently came across an article on Dr André Briend, the French pediatric nutritionist who developed Plumpy’nut, a inexpensive peanut based fortified food which can be fed to severely malnourished children. Plumpy’nut, packed with vital nutrients does not require addition of water making it ideal for Africa where clean water is scarce. Another noticeable innovation which addressed Africa‘s potable water scarcity was LifeSraw, a portable plastic straw designed by Torben Vestergaard Frandsen which made contaminated water drinkable through effective and instant bacteria removal.

Josette Sheeran, head of the United Nation’s World Food Programme remarked that “the know-how, the tools and the technology to feed the world” is already available. All we need is an acknowledgement of the plight and a desire to mitigate it. To me Africa is a mirror in which each of us shall soon see ourselves if we continue to callously ignore its predicaments.


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Categories: Planetwatch
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