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A world in crisis

I have an alarmist friend who believes we should all be building underground bunkers and stockpiling essential supplies for the “Long Night” ahead. He believes that…

I have an alarmist friend who believes we should all be building underground bunkers and stockpiling essential supplies for the “Long Night” ahead. He believes that the world is long overdue for another mass effect—a routine natural occurrence when nature re-corrects itself by shaving off the deadwood, holding back certain natural processes and resettles into a new equilibrium.

Maybe he is right, maybe he is just another crackpot prophet of doom. But who is to say?

Either way, the world will never be the same. The 70s witnessed widespread recognition of the world as a single, interconnecting whole. The 80s have shown that this whole is not operating as a self-sustaining system. In the 90s, the chickens came home to roost for the one side of the same coin of geopolitical imperialist culture created by the aftermath of WWII.

In the 2000s, the world coalesced into a truly global village and in the 2010s, the pent-up pendulum of natural selection was completing its launch sequence for a kinetic showdown. In the 2020s, the showdown is in full swing.

In short, we appear to live in a world in crisis – manifesting itself in hunger, poverty, debt, conflict, statelessness and war, as well as in the accelerating degradation of the natural environment.

Even though the majority of these world events that credibly threaten the global status are in the Global South, the multipliers will reverberate throughout the Global Whole. The countries under focus are home to just 10% of the world’s population but account for approximately 86% of all people in humanitarian need globally, 75% of displaced persons, 70% of people suffering from crisis or worse levels of food insecurity—and a growing share of global extreme poverty.

In The Democratic Republic of Congo, intense fighting broke out in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2023, following the collapse of a truce between the government and the armed group M23. This exacerbated a protracted crisis that had already exposed millions of Congolese to conflict, political tensions, economic pressures, climate shocks and persistent disease outbreaks. The country enters 2024 with 25.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance—more than any other country on earth.

Across Ethiopia, livelihoods have been decimated by three consecutive years of drought alongside multiple conflicts and, now, there is a risk of an el-Niño-induced flooding. The November 2022 ceasefire between the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front continues to hold in northern Ethiopia, but other conflicts, particularly in the central Oromia region and in Amhara in the northwest, are fueling humanitarian needs and raising the risk of a return to large-scale fighting. Persistent inflation is further deepening the crisis.

Niger Republic’s July 2023 coup has triggered political tensions with Nigerian and other neighbouring countries, leading to the withdrawal of international security assistance after the junta kicked out American and French troops from its territory. New sanctions and border closures have also severely limited the amount of nutritional aid and medical supplies entering the country. Public spending has also decreased by 40%, weakening key services.

After facing five consecutive failed rainy seasons, Somalia is now experiencing widespread flooding. These repeated climate shocks have devastated agricultural lands, damaged critical infrastructure and driven humanitarian needs. The country enters 2024 with 4.3 million people facing crisis levels of food insecurity and a limited ability to restore food production.

An ongoing government offensive against the armed group al-Shabab risks driving civilian harm and displacement, further worsening conditions for 6.9 million in need of humanitarian aid.

In Mali, security and economic crises have left 6.2 million people in need of humanitarian support. The recent withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping force has raised safety concerns, especially of renewed fighting between the government and Tuareg armed groups in northern Mali. Already, armed groups are besieging towns and cutting off humanitarian access while half of the country is living in poverty.

The conflict in Myanmar has spread significantly since the military retook political power in 2021. In October 2023, three major armed groups resumed clashes with the government, putting state military forces under significant pressure and causing increased civilian harm. 18.6 million people in Myanmar are now in need of humanitarian assistance—nearly 19 times more than before the military takeover.

Over 335,000 people have had to flee their homes since the latest escalation began, leaving more than two million people displaced across the country. Security has rapidly deteriorated, with severe impacts on civilians and their access to basic services and humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, climate change means that communities in Myanmar are exposed to more frequent natural hazards, particularly cyclones.

Burkina Faso is facing rapidly growing and spreading violence as the Burkinabe military struggles to contain armed groups. Roughly half of the country is now outside government control, with armed groups including Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin blockading cities and towns and preventing residents from accessing basic goods and services.

The very young, bombastic military ruler of Burkina Faso, Captain Ibrahim Traore, has made some bold moves to confront these threats and has mulled a union together with the three other Sahelian countries facing ECOWAS and international sanctions for toppling democratic governments, to wit, Guinea, Niger and Mali.

South Sudan has faced insecurity since its independence from Khartoum in 2011. Going into 2024, the war across the border in Sudan threatens to undermine South Sudan’s fragile economy and worsen political tensions. Meanwhile, an economic crisis and increased flooding have impacted families’ ability to put food on the table.

Currently, nine million people in South Sudan are in need of humanitarian assistance. This amounts to 72% of the population.

Gaza enters 2024 as the deadliest place for civilians in the world. Residents are enduring the brutal consequences of the latest round of conflict between Israel and Hamas, which is being fought without sufficient regard for the international laws and norms built to protect civilians even in the most dire circumstances on the part of the Zionist regime in Israel.

Israeli forces began airstrikes and ground operations after Hamas launched a deadly ground incursion and rocket barrage on southern Israel on October 7, 2023, killing 1,200 people and taking over 200 hostages. Israeli operations have since caused severe destruction and widespread death and displacement throughout Gaza, killing over 35,000 people so far.

Diplomatic engagement brought about a temporary truce in late November 2023 and the release of some hostages, but fighting is likely to continue, at least into mid-2024. Palestine rises to its highest-ever position of humanitarian need because the emergency will persist long after the fighting eventually stops.

The ongoing war between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces has propelled Sudan to the top of the list of the 2024 humanitarian emergency—and pushed the country to the brink of collapse. Less than a year of fighting has already more than doubled the number of people in need of humanitarian support.

In Ukraine, perhaps the most consequential of these crises in the global context given the fact that nuclear powers are facing down each other in this theatre, the Russians are making steady gains as much of the world’s attention has shifted to the conflict in the Holy Land between the Israeli brutes and the Palestinian guerrilla militants who are forced to resort to taking aim at soft targets because they lack the capacity to confront the fearsome Israeli mass murder machine and cannot do anything after seven decades of oppression and injustice.

Russia is effectively facing a vast portion of NATO resources on its own and seems to be winning because Western countries seem to back down every time Putin rattles the nuclear option. There are nearly 3.7 million internally displaced people in Ukraine as of February 2024. Nearly 6.5 million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded globally as of the same date. Approximately 14.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in 2024.

We live in interesting times indeed—but that’s not necessarily a good thing. In fact, according to ancient Chinese wisdom, living in “interesting” times is a curse instead of a blessing. Living in interesting times means you will witness a lot of very interesting fireworks displays in the skies… but then the long night will persist and you have to deal with the fallout—terrible, horrifying fallout you might need to hide from in a bunker, on the pain of calamity, death and destruction.

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