In Bangkok today a 5 day public holiday begins as the city takes down some of its flood defences in an attempt to ease the mounting pressure on the capital from the trillions of tonnes of water surrounding it, mainly from the north of the country.
Many residents cannot simply leave, and are hunkering down for a weekend of major flooding as a result.
This news has made UK media front pages (online at least) today, and may well keep its prominence in the next 48 hours.
We have friends in Bangkok, who recently left Saigon to have a baby in one of the hospitals there, and who seemed to be in good spirits this afternoon when they texted us, but who are of course keeping their hopes up that the situation is not as dire as forecast over the coming days.
For Lou and I, it is their situation, and the fact they are in Bangkok (which is also a mere hour’s flight from here) to which we more easily and readily home in on.
Although a total of 360 people have so far been killed by the recent flooding in Thailand, as with other such stories covered each day in the press, it is impossible for any one reader to find an adequate amount of compassion and space in their emotional schedules to respond to a fatality statistic such as this.
Similarly, in Kenya and Somalia the numbers of people affected by the famine there this year are difficult to quantify. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives. Tens of millions remain at risk. These, too, are numbers and situations to which we find it hard to relate.
I saw today that the UK press have a new angle on the appeal for support in these two countries, following William and Kate’s announcement they will be making a public plea for donations towards the ongoing effort to save lives in the Horn of Africa. In the melee of disasters and emergencies reported across the globe on a daily basis, I hope their interjection has the desired effect, and helps people relate, in some way, to the plight of those who are suffering.
Here in Vietnam, and in neighbouring Cambodia, CARE has been providing humanitarian assistance for the past 2 weeks to local communities in the Mekong Delta, more thousands of whom have had their homes ravaged by flood waters. I am sure coverage of this has been put out in the wider press, but I know it has not made it to the top of the headline hierarchy.
The media have tough choices to make all the time about profiling news, and finding ways of making their stories relevant to their readers. Is an earthquake in Turkey more important an item than a flood in Cambodia, or civil conflict in Yemen?
Where I am going with all this is, in a somewhat meandering way, to share with you a short blog that I also read today – on CARE UK’s website – which I felt unique in its ability to relate to its readers, in this case about the ways in which flooding in Pakistan has again engulfed the country, and taken lives and livelihoods innocently away.
Perhaps, simply enough, it is the emotive nature of the piece which is so compelling in my eyes. Or, because the author is not a journalist, having their work scrutinized by editors, or de-prioritised out of the limelight by other events, that the sentiment evoked is extremely powerful.
I expect comparing my colleague’s blog with international media stories is a flawed exercise anyway. Best then if I head to bed, and let you be the ones to decide for yourself…