Tsunami Relief Shows Humanity's Capacity To Give
When a wall of water crashed across the shorelines of several Asian
countries on December 26, it was a powerful reminder of just how vulnerable
humanity can be to the forces of nature -- especially people living in
Dramatic and devastating, the tsunami left at least 150,000 dead, millions
homeless and caused billions of dollars in damage. Fortunately, the world
has responded with an enormous outpouring of support. Within days of the
disaster, politicians in developed countries began to announce aid
packages. Donations from the public have been even more remarkable. In
fact, some aid agencies have even stopped accepting relief money
specifically for the tsunami disaster because they simply don't have the
capacity to spend it on the ground in the afflicted countries.
But in all our efforts to bring some hope to those suffering, we mustn't
forget that the developing world needs our help every day. Those living in
poorer countries do not often have access to the services and
infrastructure that we take for granted. At the best of times they may not
have healthy food, medical services, clean water or sanitation. In times of
crisis, what little these countries have to protect their citizens can
easily be overwhelmed.
We also must not forget that the tsunami isn't the only humanitarian crisis
facing the developing world today. Last year, more than 1.5 million
Africans died from AIDS. Every year, more than two million people die from
tuberculosis and one million people die from malaria -- most of them in
developing countries. These diseases are part of the reason why nearly
one-fifth of children born in sub-Saharan Africa will not live past the age
The tsunami has also taken the spotlight off other long-suffering regions,
such as Sudan and Uganda. Millions of refugees in these areas are still
living in squalid camps. Such camps are breeding grounds for the same
diseases that experts are concerned could become rampant in areas affected
by the tsunami because of a lack of sanitation.
None of this is to say that countries suffering in the wake of the tsunami
don't need our help -- they do. But the tsunami was really a sobering
reality check. Our world is unpredictable and disaster could strike any
time. When it does, it often hurts poorer regions the most. Yet, one glance
at the list of casualties from the tsunami and it becomes clear that the
disaster's reach goes far beyond Asia. Canadians, Swedes, Americans and
those of many other nationalities also died. Our world has really become a
much smaller place.
Since the disaster, there have been calls for a better tsunami early
warning system. That seems obvious. But warnings are only useful if they
are heeded. And we are getting all sorts of warnings about the future that
we continue to ignore. We were told, for example, that coral reefs and
mangrove forests helped buffer coastlines from damaging waves. Yet many
such ecosystems in the Indian Ocean were lost to development in recent
years -- ecosystems that may have offered some protection to some areas from
Scientists are also continuing to warn us about the effects of climate
change -- especially on developing nations that lack the infrastructure to
respond to more frequent severe weather events, rising sea levels and
changing precipitation patterns that a warming world is expected to bring.
Unfortunately, while the developed world's response to the tsunami disaster
has been heartening, our response to climate change has been tepid at best.
It's not that humanity lacks the capacity to respond. Obviously, judging
from recent events, humanity's capacity for compassion can be profound.
It's just unfortunate that it takes a tsunami to trigger it.
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Source: David Suzuki Foundation