News World Two hundred missing girls – why don’t we care?

Two hundred missing girls – why don’t we care?

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Three weeks ago more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, recalled to sit a physics exam, were abducted from a school in Chibok, on the edge of the Sambisa forest northeast of Nigeria.

Their ordeal was – and continues to be extraordinary – but even more strange was the world community’s muted response.

A missing plane captivated the world’s attention – and billions of dollars – and yesterday a bulldozer was called in to excavate the grounds of a Portugal resort where young girl Madelaine McCann went missing in 2007. But the plight of the missing Nigerian girls scarcely registered in our newspapers and was buried late into the nightly news.

Finally two weeks after the Nigerian girls went missing  – The Guardian newspaper asked – “so why doesn’t anybody care?”.

Speaking with The New Daily, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Campaign Coordinator Michael Hayworth said the media’s response has been limited as there is a “whole lot going on in the world” and people are “issue fatigued” when it comes to Africa.

“There is ethnic cleansing going on in Central African Republic. There is a huge conflict in southern Sudan and there are issues with militia in Libya,” he said.

Mr Hayworth said it is “horrendous” that 15000 people had been killed in Northern Nigeria since the start of this year.

However he said the real “standout was the 200 schoolgirls who have clearly done nothing wrong and are not involved in the conflict in anyway”.

He said media have conflated Africa into being one country or one conflict or one issue.

“That certainly isn’t what we want to see because we know that what is going on in Nigeria’s schoolgirl abduction is very different to the journalists been locked up in Egypt,” he said.

“I certainly think that people get issue fatigue and that you hear a lot about various conflicts going on in Africa.

“People can certainly fall in the funk of feeling oh it’s all very terrible and it’s another issue.”

Canadian journalist Allan Thompson has reported on issues in Africa for many decades. He says western media organisations can only concentrate on one African story at a time.

“Some of us refer to it as the Media Cyclops; we have got one eye in the centre of our forehead, which can only be trained on one story at a time in Africa.

“Even though there is 50 plus countries and an entire continent.”

In recent days the issue has crept up into news bulletins – with accounts of the girls’ ordeal published on mainstream sites such as CNN, The New Daily and BBC.

Until today no one had claimed responsibility, however a new video has emerged by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau saying his group abducted the girls and intends to sell them into slavery.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” he says in a video.

Standing in front of an armoured personnel carrier with two masked militants wielding AK-47s on his either side, he is seen talking and smiling.

“Allah has instructed me to sell them. They are his property and I will carry out his instructions,” he says.

Al-Qaida-linked jihad group Boko Haram, which translates “Western” education is sinful, invaded the Government Girls Secondary School just before midnight on April 14, killed the security guards and abducted the girls.

Some 40 girls jumped off the truck and managed to escape, as the truck took off to the forest.

Deborah Sanya, 18, is one of the girls who escaped the day after being abducted.

“I thought it was the end of my life,” Deborah told The New Yorker.

“There were many, many of them.”

“They said, ‘Don’t worry. Nothing will happen to you,’” Sanya said via a telephone.

They were taken to a camp where they were forced to cook. Sanya pulled her friends aside and told them that they should escape.

The camp was not far from Chibok and the girls managed to escape to a close by village where they stayed the night before they arrived back to their families.

The fate of the rest of the girls is still unknown.

Michael Hayworth says the Australian government along with the rest of the international community need to express its solidarity to the parents of the children.

He said the Australian government and the International community need to apply pressure on the Nigerian government to end this conflict.

“It needs to ensure that people who commit human rights abuses and war crimes, like abducting 200 schoolgirls, are brought to justice.”