I wonder if I can persuade you that, despite the utter horror of this week's headlines from Syria, we are lucky to live in an era of unprecedented human progress. Yes, I'm going to try to convince you that for more people, in more places, the world has more to offer now than at any time in the history of our species.
While the seasons and the landscape change in Syria, so much about the country's protracted conflict is unchanging and unrelenting. Thousands of people killed each month, atrocities on both sides, and thousands more fleeing the country as refugees. Millions living in limbo, some out of reach of humanitarian aid, when all they want is peace and a chance for normal life to resume.
"If you can't stop the war then at least send us steel shelters so children have somewhere to hide, and send us some food so that people don't starve. The children in Syria are so hungry they are eating mud." These are the stark words of 12-year-old Syrian refugee Zeina to world leaders ahead of peace talks this week, which will determine her country's fate.
According to the Egyptian Al-Ahram weekly October 29th 2013: "Many in the Syrian opposition say that the Al-Qaeda affiliates are now in fact doing the regime's bidding by weakening its true adversaries, those led by the FSA, and alienating Syrian civilians and the West and thus giving the regime the opportunity to claim it is fighting terrorists".
I work for Médecins sans Frontières (aka Doctors Without Borders). Professional humanitarians are many things; rarely superstitious. And yet 2013 has proven a year to leave behind, and I find myself harbouring nothing morbid, yet nonetheless fairly shaken by the 13th year of the new millennium... As a director in MSF, the spectre of Somalia 2013 leaves me feeling apprehensive about Syria, CAR or Sudan in 2014. Or Myanmar and DRC. Or many others.
Globally, there are 100 million homeless. Last week saw some bizarre and disgusting news reported about their fate, which made me think about the wide range of reasons people become homeless, the various fates that await them - and the urgency with which we must safely and affordably house our populations.