BUNIA, Congo — There were two ailing boys, both appropriately named Innocent, at a makeshift hospital here. They didn't know it but they represented the two different ways of dying in Africa's wars.
The older of the two Innocents, at 14, was a victim of the most obvious killer - violence. He had machete wounds to his neck, suffered as he tried to escape the tribal militiamen who swooped down on his village recently. Innocent's mother was killed. The men with machetes tried to sever Innocent's head, as well, but for some reason never finished the job. Innocent's neck had a series of deep hack marks when he arrived at the hospital in the arms of his father.
Doctors at the hospital, which is run by Doctors Without Borders, rushed him to surgery and managed to bind the wounds. They are not yet sure if he will survive.
The younger Innocent, just 12, was from another village overrun by tribal fighters, albeit several years ago. He got out in time to avoid injury. But ever since, this Innocent has lived in a camp, huddled together with other displaced people. Still, his survival is in doubt. His arms are covered with mosquito bites and his blood is full of plasmodium parasites. Malaria kills if left untreated, which it often is in war zones like eastern Congo.
There's much more. Read the whole thing here. The scope of devastation is mind wrenching.
There is an accompanying graph that speaks volumes. For every violent death in Congo's war zone, 28 children under five die, as do six kids 5-14, 13 women 15 and older, and 15 men fifteen and older -- total of 62 deaths.
What kills them? Malnutrition, respiratory diseases, diarrhea, anemia, measles, meningitis, accidents, and TB, and other causes too numerous to mention.
This is the face of pre-modern war -- the very kind that has been endemic in Africa for as long as anyone can remember. We've gotten past the point that this incessant brutality can be reasonably be attributed to the ravages of colonialism. And it has become clear that no real progress will come without massive intervention from the developed world. But have we the will to pursue sweeping reforms on the order of what is happening in the Middle East? I doubt it.
The NYT today runs a story by Donald G. McNeil, Jr. on efforts to combat malaria. Something as simple as hanging a mosquito net becomes a political statement. Read it here.