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Africa generously aids Asia's tsunami victims

Tsunami victims in Galle (Sri Lanka) receives international aid:
«It is not the quantum that matters in our case.»

© afrol News / Red Cross / Till Mayer
afrol News, 5 January
- From the poorest parts of Africa to the more industrialised countries in the north and south, Africans make their donations for Asia's tsunami victims. Mozambique made a US$ 100,000 "symbolic" donation, Nigeria gave US$ 1 million, South Africa's Red Cross today launched a fundraising drive, following Uganda, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles and Kenya. Also the AU, Algeria, Egypt and Libya have contributed significantly.

Mozambique is one of the world's poorest countries, where a large majority of the population lives in misery. With poverty comes the exposure to natural disasters, as Mozambique's catastrophic floods of 2000 had strongly demonstrated. Mozambique thus became the centre of attention of international solidarity.

Now, the Mozambican government felt, it is payback time. Referring to the great efforts in aiding Mozambicans in 2000, the government already on 29 December donated US$ 100,000 to the Red Cross' tsunami aid appeal, saying the amount was "symbolic". Since that, Mozambican citizens and institutions have participated in a fundraising effort never before experienced in the poor country's history.

Not only Mozambique was quick to respond to this enormous disaster. Also the African Union (AU) within the first days after the tsunami had donated US$ 100,000 to a relief operation outside the African continent - one of the first-ever actions of this kind by the AU. The Union, whose contribution was modest, was internationally praised for its demonstration of solidarity while Africa remains in so much need.

Also in the relatively richer North Africa, governments were quick to respond. The governments of Algeria and Libya immediately donated US$ 2 million each to humanitarian works in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Maldives and Thailand. Further, the Egyptian Red Crescent Society sent a plane with medicine and other aid worth US$ 81,000 as initial step.

During the last few days, African solidarity with the tsunami victims has even extended. The Red Cross societies in countries such as Uganda, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles and Kenya have launched fundraising appeals to support the needs of the affected countries. Among these affected countries are also Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles and Madagascar.

Today, the Red Cross society in South Africa has launched a fundraising drive to raise rand 10 million (US$ 1.7 million) for the tsunami victims in South East Asia and Africa. "We were greatly touched by the moving and terrifying scenes of destruction on television, but the overwhelming numbers of the affected people, especially the death toll compels us to play a part," said Lesley Mondo, Secretary-General of South Africa's Red Cross.

There has already been an enormous response among South Africans. "Our office in Cape Town has been inundated with phone calls from people who want to help in whatever way they can," said Mr Mondo. He indicated that since the launch of this initiative, they have so far received nearly rand 2 million and are receiving an average of 30-40 calls per hour.

The head of the Red Cross' regional delegation in Southern Africa, Françoise Le Goff, expressed her applause for the large efforts made in the region to help Asian tsunami victims. "We are humbled by such initiatives from Red Cross societies in Southern Africa region that are mobilising resources to assist the affected families in Asia against a background of enormous social and economic difficulties in their own countries but the emotions and solidarity shown by African people are beyond their limited resources," said Ms Le Goff.

Also the government of South Africa this week took an active role in providing help to the tsunami hit region. On Monday, an inter-ministerial committee was established to coordinate South African aid. A South African delegation led by the Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang last night left for Jakarta, Indonesia, en route to attend an international donor conference to aid victims.

- Thus far countries that have asked for aid from South Africa include the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand and have asked for urgent assistance in the provision of purified drinking water, blankets, waste disposal as well as food, the government said in a statement today. Pretoria expects to announce a government donation to the tsunami victims within short.

The same response is now even coming from the government of Nigeria, a country where more than half of the population lives in extreme poverty. President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday set up a national committee to raise funds, following the example of South Africa. Nigeria has by now contributed US$ 1 million to a UN fund coordinating the tsunami relief work.

President Obasanjo today urged all Nigerians to contribute generously to the national fundraising efforts. His political foe, former presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari, already has made a donation of naira 100,000 (US$ 760) to the fund established for Asia's tsunami victims.

In an appeal, Mr Buhari said that Africans were now obliged to share the little they have in this opportunity to show international solidarity. "It is simply not right to always hide behind our poverty to refuse to do things which our conscience beckons us to do," Mr Buhari told the Abuja-based 'Daily Trust'. "It is not necessarily the quantum of contribution that matters in our case. It is more the readiness and spirit," he added.

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