How much is a life worth?

In the news business, there's a saying that goes, “One dead fireman in Brooklyn is worth five English bobbies, who are worth fifty Arabs, who are worth five hundred Africans.” I quoted this in my first book, The Hole in Our Gospel.

It’s understandable that we identify and sympathize with the people closest to us. We have a harder time empathizing with people who are somehow removed -- whether geographically, culturally, religiously, or nationally. It’s normal.

But it’s not okay.

Eliza Naquinda and her severely malnourished son, Filipe, at the World Vision feeding center in Angola. (Photo: Jonathan White/World Vision).

God cares as much for the mother in Angola as for the fireman in Brooklyn. Some 1.8 million people have been affected by a drought in the southern African country of Angola, but you won’t see news coverage of it.

While a mother’s milk dries up from a lack of food, and a baby with a swollen belly suffers acute malnutrition, our newspapers offer tips on enjoying the Fourth of July weekend.

I read a World Vision field evaluation from a few weeks ago that described how Angola's drought has destroyed the country’s harvest. Farmers are only reaping 25 percent of their typical maize crop. As many as 150,000 people are suffering from severe food shortages.

As a result of the ruined harvest, the price of grains has risen fourfold. This is in a country where two-thirds of rural households live on less than $1.75 per day. As many as a half-million children are already suffering from malnutrition, and the situation is expected to continue to grow worse before next year’s harvest begins in February -- eight long months from now.

But for many families, even the next harvest is uncertain. Eliza Naquinda ate the seeds she had intended to plant next year. Her hunger, and that of her baby, couldn't wait until planting season. “If I don’t eat well, my milk dries up. My hunger turns into my child’s hunger as well,” she says.

Eliza traveled 50 miles to find food at a World Vision feeding center for her 13-month-old son, Filipe, who is badly malnourished. They eat no more than one meal per day.

I believe that we are all equal before God, and that suffering in Angola is as tragic as suffering in Akron, Ohio. World Vision is working to care for those affected by Angola’s drought: We’re providing immediate food and medical treatment, as well as agricultural training for families like Eliza’s so they can grow abundant harvests when rains return.

Let’s not let the newspapers determine for us who is important and who isn’t. Seeing the world through God’s eyes, we know that all people are worth our care and concern -- because all have been created in the image of God.

Do you agree that it's difficult to display the same level of compassion for people who are far away -- because of geography, culture, or otherwise -- as we do for those who are closest to us? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us as comments.

Read more entries by Rich here on the World Vision Blog. For regular updates, follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


    Hi Clare,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It says a lot about your character that you consider people in need, even those that are far away. How do you give back to those who are in need?



    No, I actually find it easier. I think it's because people far away are likely to be in much greater need than most of us in North America or Western Europe have a clue about. In fact I get pretty impatient about this. I have the most sympathy for people in the greatest need, and they are always somewhere very far from my own comfortable home in geography, culture, usually language too. In my view it just makes them all the more precious and worthy of attention.

    Hi Lindsey! Well, what I usually do is sponsor as many children as I can at any given time, in the most remote or otherwise overlooked places all around the world. I like to sponsor children with disabilities too, so that they're not overlooked either. Everyone is very special, and that's how I try to point this out.

    Clare, I think it is so neat that you are intentional about caring for children with disabilities. Thanks for being so willing to give.


    Lindsey, WV Staff

    I agree with this person above me. Living in America people on Welfare drive better cars then those who work. And seeing the need in America is hard because of that. In other countries I can see it when these countries are in the media it's always war/disaster/malnution related news.

    The earth is full of nutrition for all people around the globe, but there is a lack on fair distribution in the whole ecolgycal system in favour of developing country. Especially Asia and the African continent requires economic aid and relief. If everybody of a working men would give just a small part of donation no human, not any child have been suffering with malnutrition. There are rich countries in Europe, America and Saudi Arabia who are responsible to make a major part of relief to theese poor countries.

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