Contents page 1 — “A crisis only becomes a crisis if there are pictures of” page 2 — “crises often great productive energy,” On a page
read what places in the world, it is the health of the people is worst? Which of these crises, we take isn’t it? And why not? Florian Westphal-and-white answers. He has long worked as a Journalist and since 2014 managing Director of Doctors without borders Germany.
Zeit ONLINE: Where to needed medical emergency just at the most?
Florian Westphal: In countries such as Yemen and Syria, but also in southern Sudan or the northeast of Nigeria.
TIME ONLINE: While most people know that in Syria and in Yemen, a war that drives many people to nutritional deficiencies, it is hardly reported on South Sudan and Nigeria. What is happening there?
Florian Westphal since 2014 managing Director of Doctors without borders. Prior to that, he worked as a Journalist and for the Red cross.
Westphal: In the North-East of Nigeria for more than ten years of conflict between government forces and various armed groups, often referred to in the broadest sense, Boko Haram. More than 1.9 million people are displaced within Nigeria. They often live in urban areas, but are cut off from health care and the opportunity to earn money, and therefore dependent on humanitarian aid. And not often, because armed groups and the government to restrict access for aid organisations. So people die on the spot of Malaria and easily treatable diseases. In addition, many are severely traumatized and without prospects, without having to get help.
Zeit ONLINE: Is the Situation in Nigeria as a model for other crisis regions?
Westphal: Yes. 2018 Doctors without borders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic is very active. All of the countries in which the public order has broken down. Many people are exposed to the complete arbitrariness of armed men, who settle their conflicts on the backs of the civilian population. You deprive and expel people and rape women. Some of these men are government soldiers, some are called militias, some rebel, some freedom fighters and some terrorists – but ultimately that doesn’t matter. In the media these crises, often only as Numbers: “Eight million people in the North-East of Nigeria are in need of humanitarian assistance,” or “a million Cholera-suspected cases in Yemen”. These Figures are impressive, obscure, but very specific destinies.
TIME ONLINE: Please explain.
Westphal: Even for humanitarian actors, such as us, it is complicated, to people in crisis areas. And for journalists it is even more difficult; they don’t come often not only in the affected Region. How is it possible to display the individual suffering of the people? It would be so important, because the public perception is very much influenced by images and individual destinies.
TIME ONLINE: you mean pictures like the one of the Syrian young Alan Kurdi, which was in the autumn of 2015, drowned on a Turkish beach on the belly? The image moved, among other things, the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to announce to take in more refugees.
Westphal: This is a good example of how the image of a dreadful fate can have incredible impact. More often, however, it is still fundamental: We take the existence of a crisis is only true if there are pictures of her. That’s why we know more about the forest fires in California than on conflict situations, the numbers are calling for moderately a lot of more victims. The importance of images in reporting is probably one of the reasons why natural disasters receive more attention than other humanitarian crises.