Was reading an article in the Guardian about Somalia this morning - a few days old, I always get round to reading the comment pages a few days late - and a thought occurred to me. I have, generally speaking, a very politically aware bunch of constituents in Bristol East. They often write to me about international issues - Darfur, Palestine, DRC, Burma, Tibet, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Iran - and know quite a bit about what's going on in those countries.
But apart from the Somali community, only one person has written to me about what's happening in Somalia during my three years as MP. (Plus a few letters from an organised Amnesty International campaign about the imprisonment last year of several journalists in Somaliland). And yet there are maybe as many as 20,000 Somalis living in Bristol, so presumably some Bristolians get to hear far more about Somalia than any other African country.
And the situation in Somalia is at least as bad, if not worse, as that in many of the other countries I've mentioned.
In January this year, for example, a UN official said that "The situation is very severe. It is the most pressing humanitarian emergency in the world today - even worse than Darfur." (See http://www.alertnet.org/db/an_art/1564/2008/00/30-152422-1.htm). I actually met this official at a meeting in Parliament a few months ago, and the picture he painted of what was happening in Somalia was pretty grim. So why isn't it registering on more people's radar? Is it because it seems such a hopeless situation, and people have given up believing that things could ever change? Is it because of lack of media coverage (although there's been quite a bit recently)? Or is it because none of the NGOs are, as far as I know, campaigning on it at the moment?
By the way, there's a DFID consultation on Somalia at the moment - see the News section on my website for details.