THE dehydrated limbs of those little Ethiopian children, their dull eyes, the flies clustering on their heads as they grow too feeble to brush them aside, mesmerise me.
I want to turn the newspaper pages that picture them. I want to switch off the TV set that brings their plight into my home. But I can't.
Like millions of others living in the West, I'll take out my cheque book to aid Africans for the second time this year. The stub of the donation to Mozambique is still there.
There is no virtue in my charity, I suspect. I am bowing to the inevitability of Africa's inability to set its internal affairs in order and my own fear of that deep remorse that afflicts us when we fail to help.
Besides, I've seen famine in the Horn of Africa. I know the smells of bodies wrapped in straw and dumped overnight for the 'death wagons' to remove to graves in the red soil so poor that it falls through your fingers like sand.
Once you've seen a mother close her dead child's eyelids and turn to the wall, you are scarred forever. You become part of the agony and you must give because there is no other way to help - and, God knows, we're not even sure of that.
These are the people suffering though. They seem on a different planet from their masters in government, many of whom in Africa wax fat by siphoning-off overseas aid and that lining of the pockets so deplorable in Third World countries.
I am sickened by Africa's plight. This continent has withered since it cast off its colonial ties. It has not progressed and prospered. Many countries have reverted to lawlessness which the one-time colonial overlords controlled.
This is not a racist thought. It is a fact there to be seen. If I was racist, I wouldn't help feed starving children. I speak as an onlooker with no axes to grind.
And, from what I see, it's clear the sooner those African countries receiving massive Western Aid are reclaimed on a temporary basis by the West then the better it will be for their peoples.
Somalia is riven by warlords. Sudan is torn apart by a fight between the Christian south and the Muslim north. Mozambique lacks the infrastructure to cope with natural disasters.
There is civil war in Sierra Leone. In Zimbabwe the white farmers, the very people responsible for food produce throughout the nation, are dispossessed of their land by bands of thugs.
If the West is called to provide emergency aid, then the West has a right- and a duty - to impose conditions and install an interregnum of trusted heads of state motivated by goodwill rather than personal avarice.
Ask those mothers hearing their children's death rattles whether it matters if their governments are controlled by the West.
Glad you're not …