Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Thoughts on the Tsunami

I have spent much of the last week wondering how to broach the subject of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and the resulting disaster. It doesn't seem right to ignore it completely but where do you start with something like that?

The scale of the whole thing just beggars belief. You can try to make some sense of the numbers involved by giving them 'understandable' equivalents, such as the population of Bedford having died or everyone in London being made homeless, but that won't give any sense of the anguish and suffering that has been afflicted on so many. Even the images we see in the news reports aren't enough for us to grasp it as we are unable to imagine the same level of destruction along thousands of miles of coastline

In fact, the only thing that matches the scale of the disaster is the scale of the response from the rest of the world. The amount of money pledged for aid from governments, corporations and the public is truly astounding. Billions of pounds have already been given and there is no sign yet of the supply tailing off. Applied efficiently and correctly, that sort of money could work miracles.

For once, there is a sense that everyone is aware that long-term investment is needed and that many are prepared to give it. Attention will ultimately pass from the affected areas as the media circus moves on and the events of the last two weeks fade into memory but hopefully enough momentum will have swung behind the efforts to rebuild the devastated towns and villages by then for it to carry on long after the reporters have gone home. With sustained investment and help the rebuilt communities could be stronger than they were before. Who can deny that that is the right thing to do?

If you want to contribute anything substantial and you are a UK taxpayer, then don't drop it into a collecting bucket outside the supermarket or anything. Go to the DEC website and donate online instead, remembering to tick the 'Make my donation Gift Aid?' box. Doing this means the government will pay back the tax on your donation, giving an extra 28p for every pound you pledge. Make your money go further.

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