Compassion Fatigue?

  • post Type / Humanists International News
  • Date / 2 May 2006

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has recorded some 70 natural disasters in 2005. To come to the aid of the needy, during the year, it asked for $5.7 billion (£3.2 billion) in assistance – of which only 57% has been raised. While the world community has indeed been rallying round to help, it is clear more is needed from us, and we need to ask our governments to do more as well.

Disappointingly, one year on, the UK Government failed to honour its tsunami aid pledge when Tony Blair promised to more than match public donations. Now, while the UK public generously gave 300 million to the Disasters Emergency Committee, the government gave only 75 million directly to relief works. Now it makes the astonishing claim that the estimated £50 million of tax reliefs from public donations, the government’s long-term development project assistance of £65 million allocated for the regions now affected by the tsunami, and the European Commission’s spending on long term projects of £40 million as well as the Commission’s £45 million debt relief for Sri Lanka over the next decade should all be counted towards the UK’s tsunami pledge. Globally, of the total requested aid of USD 1.2 billion, USD 1.1 billion has already been raised.

The South Asia Earthquake of October 2005 which killed 75,000 approximately in Kashmir is an ongoing disaster with severe cold killing many more. The aid requested was the lowly sum of USD 550 million of which only USD 162.9 (or 29.6%) has been received. Oxfam published a list to name and shame those rich countries which failed to help victims of Kashmir’s disaster. 5 developed countries viz. Spain, Portugal, Greece, Finland and Austria donated NOTHING at all.

National governments also need to do more to help their citizens and ensure that aid is not caught up in red tape or stolen by a corrupt administration. They also need to make investment in infrastructure to ensure that not just relief but also rehabilitation takes place: for example, after Hurricane Katrina which killed 1200 people, the US government authorised payments of USD 62 billion. An additional money of USD 212 billion is being arranged, apart from USD 32 billion for flood defences.

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