Victims of Poverty Jan05


The poor, especially in developing countries, are victims of natural disasters or selfish acts of autocratic monarchs, ruthless dictators and corrupt governments. The public, in most rich countries, is generous and willing to help alleviate global poverty if it is confident that the aid is received by the poorest and most vulnerable.


Why does it take a massive natural disaster resulting in 250,000 deaths, like the recent tsunami, to motivate governments to react in a meaningful way to help alleviate victims of poverty? Why do governments of some rich countries, like the USA & UK, hesitate to respond promptly, sensibly and generously to such tragedies in poor countries? Why does it need a generous response from the British public to embarrass some western governments to “increase” their offers of financial help?


Traditionally, the British people are generous, fair and tolerant. Their spontaneous, sincere and generous donation of more than £200m to the tsunami disaster demonstrates that whilst politicians in some rich countries acknowledge poverty, they choose to minimise their response. They choose spin to convey an impression of generous concern and stage-manage commitment without tackling the real causes of poverty. It is hard to believe that the world’s richest country, the USA, offered initially a meagre US$4m for the tsunami disaster. This amounts to US$0.13 or half a penny per American citizen! The British government’s initial offer was £15m - amounting to 25p per citizen. Canada, Australia and Japan reacted more promptly and were far more generous in their assistance. India, affected by the disaster, offered to help other countries.


Natural disasters in rich countries e.g. USA (Florida, California) attract immediate and substantial financial help from their government. A far larger sum was offered by the US government to Florida for the recent hurricane disaster than the total global donation pledged for the recent tsunami disaster. Furthermore, pledges of help by governments for the tsunami disaster may not be honoured as the victims of last year’s Iranian earthquake know!


I condemn without reservation all those responsible for the 9/11 attack on New York that resulted in the death of almost 3000 innocent people. In response to 9/11, the US Government gave substantial aid and compensation to individuals, families, corporations and civic authorities. It has invested billions to establish and run a separate Department of Homelands Security. No such department exists for the war on poverty!


The whole world, led by the US Government, has been mobilised to legislate for and invest in the war on terror. Even governments of poor countries have been “persuaded” to comply and invest in extra security measures – investment that diminishes their budgets for health, education and economic development. There is no equivalent campaign and investment in the war on poverty.  Sadly, the poor lose in any disaster – natural or man-made!


2000 million poor people living on less than US$1 (50p) per day continue to suffer and die in desperation. It is the ultimate crime of humanity to allow the poor to starve and die of poverty knowing that help is available from fellow human beings but rationed by rich governments. No wonder that to this day the pledge by all rich member countries of the UN to donate 0.7% of their GNP for international aid is no more than a UN resolution – unimplemented and clear proof of lack of serious commitment.


Why does the “international community” invest so little in the war on poverty compared to the war on terror? How can we accept the preventable death of millions of poor people and sustain our moral and religious convictions? Is the value of human life across the globe assessed on the basis of ethnic origin, nationality and governance?


When will politicians of rich countries seriously wage war on global poverty? President Bush did not prioritise the war on poverty in his inaugural address. His call for “freedom” and “liberty” means little to an African peasant without access to clean water. It means little when barren land and disease can neither prevent starvation nor death.  Abraham Lincoln delivered freedom and liberty to his people in their time of need. George Bush, leading the richest nation on earth, can and should make it his mission to lead the world in delivering freedom from poverty for those beyond his shores.