Tsunami: $Millions From Africa

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The African continent cast aside its woes in a rare display of a deep sense of service to the Tsunami victims, pledging millions of dollars in assistance and shaming the initial US response. This continent, from the poorest to the industrialized countries, made donations to the victims in the Indian ocean rim.

Mozambique, a country which went through a brutal 16-year civil war donated US$100, 000 to show solidarity with Tsunami victims while Zimbabwe has targeted $3.5 million. Nigeria gave US$1 million while Namibia and South Africa’s Red Cross societies have launched massive campaigns to raise millions for the victims following similar moves by Uganda, Seychelles and Kenya.

The African Union (AU), Algeria, Egypt and Libya have also lent their weight by pledging support for the affected countries despite the woes that face the continent. The southern African region has in the past received support from Asia countries and other well wishers in western countries when it was facing drought and floods.

In its initial response, the AU donated US$100, 000 scoring a first for the continent’s humanitarian activities. In north Africa, Algeria and Libya donated US$2 million in humanitarian aid to Sri  Lanka, Indonesia, the Maldives and Thailand. The Egyptian Red Crescent Society dispatched a plane with medicine and other aid materials worth US$81, 000, putting Africa firmly as an important humanitarian player in the world. Funding raising activities have gone into a higher gear in many parts of Africa.

Red Cross societies in Uganda, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Zimbabwe and Kenya have launched appeals within their countries to raise money for the affected people.  South Africa’s Red Cross launched a fundraising campaign to raise Rand 10 million (US$1.7 million) for people in the affected regions in South-East Asia and in East Africa. “We were greatly touched by the moving and terrifying scenes of destruction on television, but the overwhelming numbers of the people, especially the death toll compels us to play our part,â€? said Lesley Mondo, secretary general of South Africa’s Red Cross.  Africa is increasingly rising from the shadows to claim its rightful place in world affairs despite the problems of droughts, floods, debt, poor economic growth and other that affect the continent. The US government initially offered a paltry US$15 million as part of its Tsunami assistance but raised  this to a wholly inadequate $350 million after criticism. Critics charge that the US government offer of US$350 million is a mockery considering that the cost of one F-22 Raptor jet is US$225 million and that election campaign costs for Kerry and Bush US$400 million while the cost of America's occupation of Iraq per day is US$280 million.

But the world has shown its larger-than-life understanding to the Tsunami victims and has stepped up fundraising activities that would if combined surpass the figure of the world’s ‘superstar.’  “African countries which have pledged humanitarian support to victims of the Tsunami disaster which ravaged South East Asia and some parts of Africa claiming more than 240 000 lives, have set a very good trend with no precedent in living memory,â€? wrote a commentator in the Southern African Times.  “The gesture shows that Africans are capable of empathising with fellow beings in distress.  Zimbabwe, which has received negative publicity in the West as a ‘pariah state’ has set it’s a target of Z$20 billion (approximately US$3.5 million)."

“These are mournful times, very sad times, not just for this region but also for the whole world. So many people have died in circumstances in which, to say the least, are devastating to human conscience,� said Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe during his visit to Malaysia. “We sympathise with the countries, the relatives and families of those who have died. We are the lucky ones to survive tragedies and the lucky ones must have a human heart, human soul and least think of those who have passed away, their families and their countries."

The worst hit area was Indonesia’s Aceh province but thousands of other people died too, in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand including the some parts of the east African coast.  Africa has its own share of problems –the HIV and Aids pandemic, the Darfur crisis in Sudan, malaria and other killer diseases, huge debts, and civil wars. Overburdened by this, the continent could have ignored distress calls from people in Asia, but with compassion and a rare blend of human conscience, Africa has done the unthinkable. “When your neighbour’s horse falls into a pit, you should not rejoice at it, for your own child may fall into it too,â€? goes the Yoruba saying, that says much of rich traditions and teachings on this vast continent.
Tsiko is The Black Star News's Africa correspondent based in Zimbabwe. Send comments to
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