Friday, December 31, 2004

An Unprecedented Global Response is Needed


BANDA ACEH, Indonesia - The world pumped aid into south Asia's tsunami zone on Friday in a frantic race to save millions of survivors from dehydration and disease, and stop a terrifying death count climbing further.

As relief efforts brought a glimmer of hope, the toll from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the tsunami it spawned rose to more than 120,000 on Friday, including about 80,000 deaths in Indonesia, though Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supadi said the toll there could hit 100,000...

...U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called it an unprecedented global catastrophe needing a fitting response, adding that it would be hard to reach and care for the 5 million homeless.

"Not only are we going to be stretched in terms of manpower and human resources, but we are also going to be stretched financially and technically," he said...
Did you note that last quote? An "unprecedented global catastrophe" calls for an unprecedented global response. In other words, every one of us needs to roll up our sleeves and do what we can.

We can't depend on the government's response. The President finally spoke up three days after the fact (or was it four?) and offered 15 million. He was then shamed into upping it to 35 million. Considering the enormity of the crisis, that is a pretty paltry response. Let's face it; this man simply cannot think globally; never could, and never will. But this isn't the time to reopen the election debate, so I'll bite my tongue regarding Bush's ability, or lack thereof, to lead...for now.

The President's response does open the door to another discussion, however, that might be timely. Is our government stingy? According to the L.A. Times, it depends on how you crunch the numbers;
But views of American generosity depend on who is doing the measuring and how.

By total money, the United States by far donates more than any other country in the world. This is the gauge preferred by most U.S. officials.

But when aid is calculated per U.S. citizen or as a percentage of the economy, the United States ranks among the least generous in the industrialized world...

...Critics of U.S. giving often cite statistics from the Paris-based Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, which each year measures overseas development assistance as a percentage of gross national income for the 22 leading industrialized nations.

In 2003, the United States ranked dead last on OECD's list, spending only 0.15% of its national income. Other Western countries contributed more. Norway spent 0.92% of its national income; France 0.4% and Britain 0.34%...

...A different key measure of international generosity was devised by the Center for Global Development and Foreign Policy magazine. It ranked rich countries' contributions to the poor in terms of contributions through aid, trade, investment, technology, security, technology and the environment. Countries got points for the quality as well as the quantity of their aid and contributions.

On that scale, the U.S. ranked seventh out of 21 nations, behind Canada, Britain, Australia, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands...
And so the debate will most likely go on for some weeks, while 5 million people are homeless, many without fresh water and food. Like I said, don't count on the government to respond for you. After all, they've got more important things to do, like fight a war in Iraq that has already cost 148 BILLION.

The private sector, which includes faith communities, are going to have to make the difference in this crisis. And we can do it. How? Consider this excerpt from Jay Voorhees site, Only Wonder Understands;

...Anyway, here are a few off the wall ideas as to how those of us in the United States could make a special contribution to better help those in Asia:

1. The current adult employed U.S. population is somewhere around 189 million persons. If each of us were to contribute $100 (about 1/3 of one percent of the median U.S. income) we would be able to donate around 18 billion dollars toward relief efforts in Asia. I'm willing to have a special tax assessment of $100 if it means that it will contribute to the effort there.

2. There are about 169,000 congregations that make up the top ten denominations in the United States. What if every congregation in this were to give $500 toward Asian relief? We would be able to give 84.5 million toward these efforts.

3. The Gross Domestic Product of the U.S. is around $11 trillion. Currently the $2 billion the U.S. gives in humanitarian aid represents .15 percent of the GDP. What would happen if our national giving equaled the national philanthropy rate of 2 percent of income? Frankly that gets into numbers that are too large for me to comprehend.

4. What if the the ten richest folk in the U.S. were to donate 1 percent of their net worth toward Asian relief? Relief agencies would see 1.6 billion dollars flow into their coffers.
You can find lots of links for information about the crisis here.

A few donation and relief effort links;

The Red Cross.

Of special interest to Episcopalians;
Episcopal Relief and Development (bulletin inserts for Sunday are offered as well).

And, since Jay's writing motivated me to post this, I would be remiss if I did not include the efforts being made by our Sister Church;
Methodist Relief.

...Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.
- Matthew 25:40

UPDATE: I just heard on the radio that the US has increased their promise of aid tenfold; to 350 million. The story is repeated here. A move in the right direction!

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