While I was researching this magazine, the offices of the international NGO Save the Children were bombed in Afghanistan. This was bookended by two suicide attacks in Kabul, one using an ambulance. Aid organizations were running out of superlative terms to reject the horror. Harrowing. Unacceptable. Unjustifiable. The International Committee for the Red Cross tweeted in response ‘Do not attack civilians’ over and over until its 240 characters were used up.
As designers were laying out this edition, the Syrian government intensified attacks on Eastern Ghouta, home to 400,000 trapped residents. UNICEF gave up trying to use words altogether. Instead, they released a blank press release – a first for a UN communications office.
There have been times, working on this magazine, that I’ve felt similarly lost for words. But I feel now, somehow, more hopeful than when I started – despite being fully cognisant of the horrors. Maybe because every person I have spoken to in the aid world refuses to accept the idea that some lives are worth more than others. Maybe it’s their catching admiration for the people they support and work alongside and the innate capacity of humans to survive and rebuild.
As I have gained a better understanding of the current threats to the humanitarian endeavour, I have been able to appreciate what has been achieved – and how much worse it could be if we did not keep alight the belief that human suffering, however far away, demands an international response.
We’ve got a special focus on the Middle East this month in our book reviews, Worldbeater profile and other features, along with a splash of Brazil via our new Letter from the Cabalo Seco Afro-indigenous community.
Hazel Healy for the New Internationalist co-operative.