17 September 2015

Can the Egyptian Orthodox Church Play a Role in Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam Negotiations?

The following news article by Al Monitor, reports that the Coptic Church of Egypt will or is engaged to reach out to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church over the subject of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The two churches split over some political differences, but in the past were one unified church, arguably one of the oldest Christian Traditions on Earth. The Coptic Church in Egypt has been under fire in recent years, literally, as revolution in Egypt sparked religious extremism toward Christians. It is, to me, quite reassuring to see that the current President Sisi wants to engage the Church in a respectful and cooperative manner. I hope that this sends an even broader message.

Coming at transboundary, or shared, water resources from a religious angle, essentially cultural, is something that is touched upon, but often excluded from discussions on water. The importance of keeping the religious element in the discussion over water is something that my previous supervisor, Dr. Aaron Wolf, addresses in his scholarship, lectures and presentations. To me, there are two ways to look at how religion is important - one is that religion has a significant influence on people's decisions and ways of life, including water resources use; the second is that water resources, rivers, lakes, springs, often hold religious or spiritual significance. In the former, one of my colleagues, Dr. Catherine Pfeiffer, encountered the role of God in the Ethiopian Highlands when she was conducting social inventories in food insecure agricultural communities raising rain-fed crops. She had come back from the field confounded as some farmers felt that any alteration of water use to increase their yields would be going against God's Will - as He brought the rain for their crops. I remember her passionately announcing that in order to change the lives of the people in Ethiopia, scientists, water managers, and decision-makers absolutely need to work with the Orthodox Church.

Coptic Pope Tawadros II (R), head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, shakes hands with former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi upon Sisi's arrival for a visit the night before Easter, in Cairo, April 19, 2014. Sisi was elected president a month later. (photo by REUTERS)

Egyptian Coptic Church tapped to play the role of mediator in Nile River dispute

CAIRO — As tensions continue between Cairo and Ethiopia over the construction of the Renaissance Dam of Ethiopia despite political efforts in both countries to overcome the dispute over sharing Nile water, the Egyptian government is involving the Egyptian Coptic Church and encouraging it to play a role of mediation and convergence of views over the issue.
Summary⎙ Print Egypt is looking to capitalize on the Coptic Church’s disputed influence to affect relations between Ethiopia and Egypt on the Nile water-sharing and Renaissance Dam dossier.
Author Ayah AmanPosted September 16, 2015
TranslatorPascale el-Khoury
On Aug. 25, the minister of water resources and irrigation, Hossam El Din Maghazi, announced at a press conference attended by Al-Monitor the signing of a cooperation agreement with Pope Tawadros II, the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.
Maghazi said, “The church supports the efforts of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the government to manage the issue of the Renaissance Dam and build confidence between the two sides,” expressing hope that the church’s efforts would resolve the crisis of the dam for the benefit of the two countries.
Khalid Wassif, spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, told Al-Monitor, “We appealed to the church to help solve the water crisis in Egypt given its important influence on Egyptians and since it has the ability to deliver a message explaining Egypt's water crisis to a broad sector of local and foreign public opinion.”
Wassif added, “The cooperation program with the church will allow training 500 pastors, servants and priests to be water ambassadors and convey messages based on religious devotion to protect the Nile River.”
He said, “The church does not have a direct role in the political or technical negotiations with Ethiopia and the Nile upstream countries, yet it has another role, that of cultural and religious influence aimed at activating soft policy through the Egyptian church’s activity in Africa.”
In another development, Tawadros is expected to travel to Ethiopia Sept. 27 to participate in a celebration of what tradition says was the fourth-century discovery of remnants of Jesus Christ’s cross. The pope had indicated in press statements that the “visit is in response to the visit of Patriarch of Ethiopia Pope Matthias I to Cairo on Jan. 10, and the Nile water issue has paramount importance in all of our dialogues.”
Regarding the pope's visit to Ethiopia, Bishop Beemen, the liaison between the Egyptian and Ethiopian churches, said in a press statement Aug. 27, “The pope did not ask for meetings with political and executive leaders of Ethiopia.” He added, “The church has soft power in terms of negotiations over the Renaissance Dam through [spreading] messages of peace and love, reassuring the Ethiopian side with regard to Egypt’s intentions. Our message is clear. We seek the development of Ethiopia, but at the same time we will not accept any damage to our country.”
The Egyptian Coptic Church is the mother church in the African continent since its inception in the first century, and has a strong and active role in Africa, which is not limited to the religious role, but also covers a range of political, cultural, educational and developmental duties.
The Coptic Orthodox Church had sent several missions to Africa, where it built its first church in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1976; there are 55 churches in Kenya alone. Egyptian Coptic churches have spread to Tanzania, Zambia, Congo and Nigeria. Abune Boulos, the general bishop of the Bishopric of African Affairs, has documented the Egyptian church’s services in Africa in the documentary “Miracles in Africa,” which presents the church as helping provide medical, social, educational and cultural as well as spiritual services.
The Egyptian and Ethiopian churches have a special historical relationship. The church of Alexandria is the mother of the church of Ethiopia, which became part of the See of St. Mark the Apostle. According to the prevailing tradition, the head of the Ethiopian church was an Egyptian bishop assigned by the pope of Alexandria. However, in 1959, Abune Basilios, an Ethiopian, was enthroned as the first patriarch of the Ethiopian church. In 1974, under communist rule and following the military coup led by Mengistu Haile Mariam against the emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, the ties between the churches were severed. Moreover, the church in Ethiopia faced fierce attack under communist rule and lost its influence on the political administration in Ethiopia.
Despite the strong spiritual influence of the Egyptian church in Africa and its distinctive relationship with Ethiopia, experts in African affairs rule out the possibilities of potential progress to mitigate the crisis with Ethiopia over Nile water.
Hani Raslan, an expert in African affairs at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor, “Resorting to the church or religious institutions at the present time to resolve the ongoing dispute over the Nile waters is a waste of time and will not push negotiations toward a solution.”
Still, he believes the role of the church and the exchange of visits could improve relations between Egypt and the Nile Basin countries, especially since most of the problems between Egypt and its African neighbors are due to the bad perception African countries have about Egypt in general. “Ethiopia is a secular state and the Ethiopian church has no influence over the government’s decisions,” Raslan said.
Moreover, he did not expect the visit of Tawadros to Ethiopia to have concrete results, saying, “Sisi himself went to Ethiopia, talked with the political leadership and signed a declaration of principles, but the crisis persists.”
It should be noted that the technical negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, which began in August 2014, failed to reach tangible results to minimize the negative impacts of the Renaissance Dam on the Nile water’s flow to Egypt and Sudan. Despite the political momentum in these three countries on this file, Egypt expressed — in an official statement of the Ministry of Water Resources on Sept. 6 — its dissatisfaction with the slowdown in the implementation of impact studies showing the dam’s bad effects on Egypt so far. Moreover, Egypt reiterated its call for urgent consultations with Sudan and Ethiopia to rescue the negotiations on the construction of the dam in order to preserve the common interests of the three countries.
It seems that Egypt is keeping the door open to any initiatives that will strengthen its position and resolve the ongoing crisis with Ethiopia and the countries of the Nile Basin over the management of the Nile water. However, the political administration must exert more effort in the negotiations to reach technical and legal solutions guaranteeing the interests of all parties while not prejudicing any of them.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/09/egypt-ethiopia-renaissance-dam-coptic-church-mediation.html#ixzz3m0uH6FBa

16 September 2015

Water Diplomacy Blog Features Nile Timeline from Tufts

Tufts University is known in the water world as one of the top water diplomacy studies programs in the world, if not the top. Recently I was sent a link to their Water Diplomacy Network blog for something related to the Nile River and found that they are publishing interesting articles for water resources discussions located all over the world. The blog is contributed to by students and professors and is a nice way to have exposure to the kinds of work they are doing in a more informal and accessible way.

There are some really cool products on this page. Among these is a fantastic visualization of the Nile River Basin country political timeline - the timeline, still in draft form, is interactive and is a really neat way to explore the events that lead to the present story of Nile politics. I look forward to the completed product! Another neat visualization is an interactive graph about the California water crisis - just hover over the graphic and various aspects of data are highlighted, giving a different way of understanding what California is dealing with right now as far as water consumption.

Have a look around at the articles, updates, highlights - there is information ranging from climate change to Nile hydropolitics to application of complexity science to negotiations. Enjoy!

15 September 2015

Dammit! Mekong Irrawaddy Dolphins in Peril Due to Regional Electricity Needs


WWF is now weighing in as the voice of the Irrawaddy dolphin and I am impressed to hear that they are taking up their former position of advocacy, rather than more recent position of diplomacy. This is not sarcasm. Laos PDR's decision to go ahead with the Malaysians to begin construction on the Don Sahong Dam, which I wrote briefly about yesterday, is stirring up controversy in international news. I would argue that the repercussions are far worse for aquatic systems, and in turn terrestrial systems, than just the dolphin. The controversy in this Daily Telegraph article, which International Rivers Network is recirculating, is centered on the 5 remaining dolphins that live in the waters near 4,000 Islands. Someone might ask, what do 5 dolphins matter to a developing country's need for electricity and the need, for Laos in particular, to exploit one of its major natural resources, the Mekong River, in order to provide better economic possibilities for its 6 million people?

Laos has a point, but isn't there another way?
Laos is on the UN's Least Developed Countries list. There are issues of malnutrition, illiteracy, and disease throughout the country. The culture of prostitution and exploitation is bleeding over the border from Thailand. Drug trafficking still plagues much of the Northern and Western portions of the country. However, has anyone sat down and tried to determine the dollars that could be gained from ecotourism - 5 remaining dolphins could be a huge draw - people love dolphins! - compared with the ultimate profit from constructing another hydropower dam within its borders? Is this project like the Xayaburi Dam, 80% generated electricity to be sold across the border to Thailand and sold back to Laos from Thailand in another region for inflated prices? Is Laos being exploited by energy hungry neighbors selling them on the idea of improved ecological conditions from a dam?

Success from cashing in on ecotourism?
Countries such as Costa Rica and Belize have relatively small populations, almost 5 million and less than 400,000 respectively, and huge natural resources. At some point each nations' history, the decision was made to cash in on tourists who want to come to experience the natural beauty, rather than sell it once and then have to look for the next natural resource opportunity - eventually running out presumably, of things like jaguar - comparable to dolphin as "charismatic megafauna". Perhaps Laos could compare its situation with countries that have similar populations - as in the case of Costa Rica, rather than comparing to its immediate neighbors with booming populations - Vietnam has an estimated 90,000 people, or aggressive economies, like Thailand.

Tourist demographic needs to change:
Unfortunately, most of the tourists that frequent Laos, and Southeast Asia in general, flock because it is so very cheap. This attracts a specific kind of tourist. You might not want to read this, but let's be honest about many (not all!) of the tourists in Southeast Asia. The ones who are tight with money, who like to party, who are not terribly respectful of the local culture and customs (spring break behavior)...These are the students, gap year kids, recent conscripts who finished their duty. Then there are tourists who go to Southeast Asia to solicit prostitutes, drugs, and anonymity. I call these folks the second chancers - mostly men of nondescript age or character. This everyone sees, but very few people really want to point out or tell their compatriots to stop exploiting people for entertainment and go back to Europe, North America, Japan, or Australia.

One idea... 
If Laos could lead the region in attracting another type of tourist, moving away from catering to partiers and shoestring backpackers (never mind the criminals and perverts), to tourists who are socially responsible and culturally respectful, tourists interested to experience fascinating culture, history, pristine environments, such as Laos has in the North, or kayak with the 5 remaining Irrawaddy dolphins, such as Laos has in the South, the price tag could change, could jump, and the environment can be conserved. Perhaps.

Perhaps with some sound economic advice about markets, investments, and returns for countries like Laos (it can work!)- instead of some short-term returns advice from those who would like to take their resources and run - the dolphins can continue to dance in cool Mekong waters near sleepy islands and tremendous waterfalls.

Dam threat to Mekong River’s last few dolphins 

The last surviving Mekong River dolphins could be wiped out by the building of a controversial dam by the Laos government, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has warned

Dam threat to Mekong River’s last few dolphins
Dolphin-spotting tours are a huge attraction on the southern Laos islands of Don Deth and Don Khone Photo: ALAMY
The fate of the last surviving Irrawaddy river dolphins on the Laos-Cambodian border hangs in the balance after a Laos government official was reported as saying this week that construction of the dam would begin by the end of the year. 
The 256-MW Don Sahong hydropower project, given the go-ahead in July by the Laos government, could alter the course of the lower Mekong River. Just five river dolphins live in deep-water pools on the Laos-Cambodian border, south of the serene 4,000 Islands, an area in southern Laos popular with travellers who take dolphin-spotting tours. A further 80 of the grey mammals live in the Cambodian section of the river. 
Dam threat to Mekong River’s last few dolphins Just five river dolphins live in deep-water pools on the Laos-Cambodian border  Photo: AP/FOTOLIA
Sam Ath Chhith, country director, WWF-Cambodia, told Telegraph Travel: “The Don Sahong Dam is an ecological time bomb that will signal the end for the five dolphins closest to the dam site. It also increases the risk to the rest of the Mekong’s dolphin population further downstream.” 
Dolphin-spotting tours are a huge attraction on the southern Laos islands of Don Deth and Don Khone, with regular sightings between December and May. At the tip of Don Khone locals take tourists out on small wooden boats. With 20,000 dolphin visits a year, the loss of such a tourist attraction would hit the local economy, according to a WWF report. 
James Mundy of tour operator Inside Asia Tours said: “Dolphin spotting in the region is a true wildlife experience and a highlight for many of our travellers and so we are very disappointed with this news. 
Dam threat to Mekong River’s last few dolphins The loss of the dolphins could harm the local economy  Photo: GETTY
“The dam potentially affects the existence of the delightful but very rare Irrawaddy dolphin, the local economy and the small communities that coexist and survive on the relationship with it.” 
The Laos government and the Malaysian developers, MegaFirst, disagree with WWF. They say that the project will improve fishing sustainability in the area by actually improving fish migration. They also assert that increased tourism activity is a threat to the remaining dolphins.

14 September 2015

Don Sahong Dam - back to the transboundary concerns on the Mekong

Just this weekend I was talking with Dr. Julie Watson about our collective work on the Mekong River, and the idea of a paper was born. Then last night my attention was called to an article that states that Laos is going to go through with a second dam project on the Mekong River. Seems that the timing is right.

Julie and I both included assessments of dam development on the Mekong in our dissertations, she on the Don Sahong and I on the Xayaburi. The Xayaburi Dam controversy I have written about previously several times. Xayaburi is the first mainstem dam in the Lower Mekong. There are at least five dams commissioned upstream in China, but those, for most people who work in the Mekong, are a non-issue. The Laos-Thai Xayaburi created a real buzz with the international community and continues to hold symbolic relevance to irreversible changes in the region. These changes are particularly important to fisheries, water chemistry, sediment load, subsistence communities, to name a few issues.

When I traveled to Laos to conduct research in 2013, I found that through the eyes of locals, the region had changed some years before - right about the time of the Chinese storage dam commissioning coupled with some economic changes in Lao domestic economic policy and the organization known as ASEAN. Though Xayaburi gained international attention, changes in the Mekong, remarkable changes to biodiversity, water flow, and land-use, were already causing some subsistence communities to migrate away from traditional lifestyles. Don Sahong will just continue the trend, now with more potential direct impacts on Cambodia's fisheries.

While Xayaburi broke a precedent of no big dam development on the Mekong River (sort of) Don Sahong is a real problem because it will be located where the last remaining Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins live, reproduce, and play as well as very close to the Cambodian border. When I was in Laos in 2013 you could rent a kayak and go see the animals - a rare experience. Julie talked to people about Sahong working in the region and the implications to people living on the river & people dependent on the fish downstream. (make sure to scroll down on the link - the first page is blank!)

Southeast Asia in general has seen great economic changes in the last two decades and continues to grow in population and economies. The water resources naturally come under threat in such circumstances, especially with all this international push for "green" energy - something that in reality hydropower is not.

NGOs, Cambodia voice alarm at Lao decision to proceed with Don Sahong Dam

Cambodian officials vowed on Friday to prevent neighbor Laos from going ahead with construction of the controversial Don Sahong dam without approval from fellow Mekong River basin countries that would be affected by the project.
The Phnom Penh officials, as well as local and international non-governmental organizations, have expressed alarm at reports that Laos was planning to push ahead with the 260-megawatt Don Sahong dam—the second dam proposed for construction on the Lower Mekong mainstream, Southeast Asia’s main waterway.
“Our commission will meet again to discuss our next moves and what stance we should take. We have no choice but to pressure the government to take measures in order to prevent dam construction,” said Pol Ham, chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly Commission on Planning, Investment, Agriculture, Rural Development, Environment, and Water Resources.
He told RFA’s Khmer Service that he was surprised the Laotian parliament decided to give the green light to the project, which has not been approved by Mekong River Commission (MRC), an intergovernmental body that supervises development along the vital river. The MRC is made up of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
“I was wrong because I thought that international pressures would halt the project,” said Pol Ham, who criticized the Laotian government for disregarding the interests of communities that relying on the rivers waters and fisheries.
Asked about reports that surfaced in regional media in early September that the dam would go ahead, Viraphonh Viravong, Laos Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines told RFA’s Laotian Service “Yes, the concession contract was signed and the National Assembly has already approved it.  This is being implemented according to the legal process.”

“Ill-fated decision”

Conservation groups also have long urged the Lao government to postpone the construction of the Don Sahong dam, arguing that it  will block migratory fish routes, destroy endangered ecosystems, and threaten nutrition and livelihoods across regional boundaries.
“NGOs have expressed concern over the Don Sahong dam construction,” Meach Mean, coordinator of the 3S Rivers Protection Network in Cambodia, told RFA. He said that NGOs would continue to advocate against the dam construction.
“The Don Sahong Dam is not a done deal. Until there is regional agreement amongst neighboring countries over the future of the shared Mekong River, the Don Sahong Dam should not proceed,” the environmental group International Rivers said in a statement by Southeast Asia Program Director Ame Trandem issued last week.
“Regional governments have earlier made clear requests to the Government of Laos that further study and time for regional consultation over the project is needed,” said Trandem. 
“Laos should abide by these requests by allowing a moratorium of at least two years, in order to carry out all of the necessary studies. In the meantime, all further contract negotiations, including for the project’s Power Purchase Agreement, should be halted,” she added.
The Swiss-based World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) echoed fellow NGO critics of Laos’ decision.
“The Don Sahong Dam is an ecological time bomb that threatens the food security of millions and a population of critically endangered Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins. The dam will have negative impacts on the entire Mekong River ecosystem all the way to the Delta in Vietnam,” the WWF said.
“We ask the Laos Government and the developer – Malaysia’s MegaFirst Corporation Berhad – to reconsider this ill-fated decision and wait until further studies on the environmental and social impacts and all legal options and requirements under The Mekong 1995 Agreement have been completed,” added WWF.
The 1995 Mekong Agreement, signed by the four nations, stipulates that in the event that the MRC is unable to resolve a dispute, the issue shall be referred to the governments for “negotiation through their diplomatic channels.”
Copyright © 1998-2014, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036. 

13 September 2015

High Resolution Maps Available: Mekong, Nile, Global Transboundary Basins

This weekend 10 high resolution maps I made for my dissertation research were recovered off of a drive and made available through the Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database (TFDD) site.  The maps are of global transboundary basins, and specifically, the Mekong and Nile Rivers. The global maps show the experimental 2012 Human Security Index (HSI) and 2010 Human Development Index (HDI) scores delineated by transboundary basins. Looking at the individual components of these indices, such as literacy or life expectancy, yields interesting stories about upstream/downstream and developed/under-developed diplomacy and dynamics. (Those map analyses are not included in this collection, these show just the overall scores.)

The maps that pertain to both the Nile and Mekong River basins were created using the available TFDD data in 2014 as well as the HDI & HSI data previously mentioned. The TFDD is poised to release their new data files this fall which will include new basin polygons that feature the delta areas previously excluded. The TFDD team has also worked to identify even more internationally shared basins previously not identified in the collection. The number has gone from 276 to somewhere above 300 now. Maybe when the new data is released it will be time to redraw these maps to reflect the changes!

09 September 2015

New Publication About the Renaissance Dam and Egypt-Ethiopian Cooperation

I recently penned a new chapter on the cooperation surrounding the Renaissance Dam on the Nile River. The negotiations with Egypt-Sudan-Ethiopia resulted in a Declaration of Principles announced earlier this year. With the dam slated to start operation in 2017, the time is running fast toward the Ethiopian dream becoming regional and local realities. I again highlight the missing piece of the local Sudanese affected population in the Blue Nile State. The question of the relocated 20,000 Ethiopians - whether the culture and identity of the riverine communities will survive such changes - remains to be seen.

Please find the chapter at this link. If you cannot read the full chapter and would like a copy - please contact me directly. I have a copy I can share with colleagues.

Veilleux J.C., Water Conflict Case Study - Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam: Turning from Conflict to Cooperation, Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Elsevier, 2015


The Nile River is the longest river in the world, stretching over 6000 km across various climates, landscapes, cultures, and countries. The Nile River has also been the setting for recent tensions and conflict over control of the water rights between upstream Ethiopia's construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and downstream Egypt and Sudan's almost total dependence on Nile River water resources. The existing Nile Treaty guarantees 100% water rights to Egypt and Sudan. These two countries, out of the 11 basin countries, are more dependent on the Nile waters for agriculture, drinking water, local and national economics, and electricity. Starting in 2013, negotiations began between the three countries behind closed doors. News media released articles covering the controversy and highlighted conflict and potential for water wars. After 2 years of closed-door negotiations, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan signed a declaration on 23 March 2015. This declaration signified a new era of hope for official cooperation over Nile River waters outside of the standing Nile Treaty. Media coverage is now claiming an unprecedented breakthrough in regional negotiations. This political shift comes at a time of increased complexity to managing Nile River basin water resources due to pressures from population increase, land-use changes, political upheaval, regional conflict, economic development, and climate change. The cooperation between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan is encouraging considering these pressures and highlights the importance of peaceful international negotiations that transboundary water resources necessitate.
The benefits of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam for cooperation are clear at the international and national scales. However, costs are found at a significant level when considering the local scale. Local communities are subsistence communities and include a majority of several ethnic minorities across the border; the most numerous are the Gumuz people. Although steps have been taken to responsibly handle the relocation of affected communities in Ethiopia, nothing is known about the affected communities in Sudan, just downstream. Currently, there is no visible conflict regarding the 20 000 to be displaced in Ethiopia, but with a complete loss of identity, lifestyle, and resource access, there is potential for conflict. Perhaps, current national-level negotiations between the three countries can eventually extend to local communities.


  • Africa
  • Conflict
  • Cooperation
  • Development
  • Diplomacy
  • Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
  • Hydropower
  • International politics
  • Nile River
  • Subsistence communities
  • Transboundary river
  • Water development
  • Water management
  • Water resources

07 September 2015

Low-Profile Tragedy in South Sudan

Sparse news accounts are covering the humanitarian crisis that continues at a slow burn in South Sudan. A peace agreement was signed last week by the acting President Salva Kiir and the opposition is set to ratify this this week. The international community hopes that this high level activity means an eventual end to the atrocities happening throughout the fledgling country.

The ongoing unrest and conflict have destabilized the already unstable region resulting in tangential issues such as massive cholera outbreak, starvation, over 1.5 million internally displaced people, more than 700,000 refugees, and undocumented numbers of rape and murder.

Earlier this month, movement along the Nile River was restricted to the Upper Nile State. The International Red Cross has responded by airlifting food to hard-to-reach communities. You can imagine once large bags of grain are dropped in, there is still the logistical difficulty of carrying such food back to the village. Some people walked for more than 6 hours to reach the drop zone. If you are already nutrition deprived, such a challenge can be debilitating. A UN news account announced that food aid finally reached communities in the north of South Sudan last week, where difficulties have continued since March.

South Sudan appears only slightly propped up by emergency responses of several large and well-funded international organizations. What would the situation be like if these organizations were not involved at all? Would the world take more or less notice? Images that flood the internet about Syrians fleeing conflict across the Mediterranean Sea make me wonder what it takes to stop the ongoing conflicts? What it takes for the world to collectively say no - this is not happening anymore - agree to disagree and leave the people out of it, instead of the world collectively saying yes - this continues to happen - and it is not our problem.