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|Another Wave of Suffering||
The past month has seen an outpouring of generosity unprecedented in human history. In an amazingly short period of time, billions of dollars have flowed to the victims of the southeast Asian tsunami. With the death toll surpassing 200,000 across 11 different countries, many people around the world have come together in a global act of compassion.
This is how things should be.
At the same time, a natural disaster takes far more lives every year, yet seems to go unnoticed. The threat of contaminated water that now faces the survivors of the tsunami is real, but it is not new. Millions of people lack clean drinking water, not because of a tidal wave, but because of a series of natural and man-made disasters. Across the continent of Africa, 400 million people still lack reasonable access to safe drinking water. People in rural Africa, mainly women and young girls, spend as many as billions of hours each year hauling water, some of it safe to drink, much of it riddled with disease. 85% of all diseases in African children under 5 years of age are caused by water borne bacteria, such as cholera.
Most Americans still cannot comprehend the death and destruction wrought by the ocean's destructive force. Very few understand the death and destruction that the dry earth will bring in the coming months. Television images of children swept away by drought and disease will not dominate the news as the tsunami footage did. Certainly, wealthy tourists will not fall victim to this natural disaster. And because this wave of destruction will be out of sight, it will remain out of mind for most of those who would and could help, if only they could see the need.
This is most certainly not how things should be.
If the world had the ability to stop the tsunami, it certainly would have. If a warning could have gone out in time to save thousands of lives, we would have sent it. The fact is, we have the ability to prevent a massive loss of life in Africa. Those of us who work every day to alleviate human suffering are sending out a warning to the rest of the world. It is within our power to do something before hundreds of thousands of people die. But like the tsunami relief, it requires unprecedented generosity and quick action on the part of people around the world.
I am asking -- even pleading -- for the media to hold their magnifying glass over the continent of Africa and for the people of the world to have compassion for those who suffer. Governments, corporations, individuals, and activists really can make a difference in the lives of those who live each day with death at the doorstep.
We must continue to help those who face long-term threats in the aftermath of the tsunami. At the same time, we must realize that there are others who urgently need our help at this very moment. This is a catastrophe we can overcome. We must remember them before it is again too late for too many.