Friday, May 18, 2007

The search for Madeleine McCann

Millions visit Madeleine website and the website has attracted thousands of messages of support. More than 50 million hits so far, its organisers say.

Multinationals including BP, McDonald's and supermarket chain Carrefour are also supporting efforts to spread the image of the four-year-old in Europe. Rewards totaling over £2.5 million have been offered.

What is striking about all this how the plight of this little girl has had such a massive response, when around the world every day children are dying from lack of clean water and sanitation, as well as famine, war and abuse. Child slavery is alive and well and coming to a store near you yesterday!

Not that all those wrongs should cancel this one good thing. Far from it, but it does beg several questions.

Firstly, the power of the media. The family and its supporters have done an excellent job of keeping media interest in the story high. How much that is due to a lack of stories of interest (to the media at least) is difficult to assess. Certainly there are plenty of other worthy stories if only the press could be interested.

Secondly, what does the whole affair say about the British people (I am a Brit myself)? There has been quite a lot of criticism of the Portuguese Police, comparing them unfavourably with British Police and how we react over here to such cases. I am firmly of the opinion that they police are doing their best within the framework of the Portuguese criminal justice system. However, we Brits can be somewhat disparaging about foreigners at times and its embarrassing.

Thirdly, what does this say about the relative value of white children, especially girls, from middle-class (apologies to those of you who don't have 'class' in your countries - read comfortably well-off professional here instead) compared to non-white children from poor families, especially foreign kids? Sadly, it seems, children like Madeleine McCann, have more value than others who are from non-white families, especially if they are poor and non-Christian too. (Please note: I am a white male Christian - make of that what you will).

For those who are interested in looking in more depth at the plight of children all around the world, I suggest the following sites as a starting place:

www.worldofchildren.org
Unicef
GlobalIssues.org

For your interest, here are some staggering statistics to contemplate:
Around the world, 27–30,000 children die every day.

That is equivalent to:

* 1 child dying every 3 seconds
* 20 children dying every minute
* A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring almost every week
* An Iraq-scale death toll every 15–35 days
* 10–11 million children dying every year
* Over 50 million children dying between 2000 and 2005

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