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ISSUE 118 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/25/2005

Give more to relief: Aid must extend beyond Tsunami

By Anne Torkelson
Online Editor


Friday, February 25, 2005

This past December, the world was shocked by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean which produced a tsunami that became one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern history. The tsunami, which affected over 11 countries, left more than 150,000 dead and tens of thousands missing or displaced, sparked a global relief effort.

Countless organizations from numerous countries are accepting donations by mail, telephone and online. Governments across the globe are pitching in, donating money to be used for reconstruction of infrastructure, transportation of victims back to their communities, disaster prevention and other types of aid.

Many benefit concerts, banquets and performances are raising relief funds as well.

Individuals are also finding ways to help out. One of the more unique fundraising efforts, called “Tsunami 100K,” is 50-year-old James Cozens’ attempt to simultaneously get fit and raise money for the tsunami survivors.

The New Zealander, who is self-described as “just under obese,” will set out on April 2 to bike 100 kilometers in three months, raising money through personal pledges.

While the countries affected by the tsunami will need much time and aid to recover, the disaster has generated such a worldwide relief effort that some organizations have almost more money than they can handle.

The British Red Cross, which has raised £60 million, has reported it may have a difficult time spending the money in the three-year time period allotted and is considering putting some of the money toward other causes. At least two other large British charities have privately admitted they are facing problems allocating all of the money received.

Other organizations are experiencing the same problem as the British Red Cross. Oxfam America, an international development and relief organization based in Boston, announced it will stop raising new funds for tsunami survivors.

Médecins Sans Frontières, the world’s largest private humanitarian relief organization, began refunding donors after receiving over three times the amount of money it had hoped to raise.

This enormous outpouring of generous donations by countries, organizations and individuals is commendable. The tsunami was a huge tragedy and survivors deserve our continued relief and support.

However, we must not forget that the tsunami is not the only tragedy going on in the world.

We must be careful that the tsunami does not overshadow our concern for other international tragedies.

The war in Sudan has left over four million adults and children starving and homeless, and a critical food shortage in southern Africa threatening starvation for 18.1 million people.

What about the tragedy that our country, the wealthiest in the world, has huge numbers of homeless people and many, especially children, who do not have health insurance? Charities such as the British Red Cross are afraid that making this information public will decrease future donations for other disaster efforts. Is this in itself not a tragedy?

Great danger lies in growing complacent of and accustomed to tragedies such as these because they are routine and have less shock-value.

Victims of the tsunami deserve our aid and support. It is our duty to help them. However, we must not forget about the victims of other tragedies that deserve our help as well.


Online Editor Anne Torkelson is a sophomore from Golden Valley, Minn. She majors in English and religion with a concentration in media studies.


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