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December 28, 2004
Tsunami Toll Now Above 55,000, Expected To Rise "Sharply"

The death toll from the Asian tsunamis has risen sharply today as aid agencies now say that 55,000 deaths have been confirmed -- and that number is expected to get a lot larger soon:

Logistical problems hampered a massive humanitarian relief operation along Asia's devastated shores as the death toll from a huge earthquake and killer tidal waves surged past 55,000.

With the scale of the catastrophe rapidly unfolding, the confirmed number of dead in 10 countries shot up to 55,175, with Indonesia's Aceh province accounting for half of those killed, or 27,174. In Sri Lanka, 17,640 are dead.

The fear that outbreaks of disease could unleash a second wave of tragedy on a region struggling to cope with the first also loomed large with decomposing bodies and sewerage contaminating water sources.

Short of war, the world has not seen such an immediate catastrophe as the Indian Ocean nations are tragically experiencing now. An entire generation has died for some communities, and disease threatens to wipe out what's left. Aid needs to get to the survivors, and fast.

Western nations plan to meet the call, with the US pledging $15 million to start. That met with some disapproval yesterday, as the UN's emergency relief coordinator called America "stingy":

"The United States, at the president's direction, will be a leading partner in one of the most significant relief, rescue and recovery challenges that the world has ever known," said White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy. But U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland suggested that the United States and other Western nations were being "stingy" with relief funds, saying there would be more available if taxes were raised.

"It is beyond me why are we so stingy, really," the Norwegian-born U.N. official told reporters. "Christmastime should remind many Western countries at least, [of] how rich we have become."

"There are several donors who are less generous than before in a growing world economy," he said, adding that politicians in the United States and Europe "believe that they are really burdening the taxpayers too much, and the taxpayers want to give less. It's not true. They want to give more."

This is a typical European response, where people who want to "give more" do so by confiscating other people's money. In fact, Americans are among the least-stingy people in the world -- once you count private donations. As McQ at QandO noted yesterday, America gives far more in private donations and volunteer efforts than their European counterparts. In fact, Americans donate seven times more per household than Germans and put in six times the amount of volunteer work.

How despicable that Jan Egeland uses the deaths of at least 55,000 people to pursue his political ambitions. The UN undersecretary should already know these figures. He should also understand that when governments don't steal everything they can from their citizens, the citizens can be trusted to do the right thing with their money. Egeland's sneering Eurocentrism symbolizes everything that is wrong with the UN: politics over people, ideology over humanity. Egeland provides yet another reason for the US to stop paying UN salaries until they clean house at Turtle Bay.

UPDATE: Oops! Egeland must have gotten a memo from above, because he's backtracking as fast as he can:

The international response to a catastrophic tsunami in Asia has been quick and generous, a senior U.N. official said on Tuesday, playing down his earlier comments that wealthy nations were stingy. ...

Egeland told reporters on Tuesday: "I've been misinterpreted when I yesterday said that I believed that rich countries in general can be more generous."

How, exactly, can one misinterpret the word "stingy"? CNN also reports on Egeland's retreat.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 28, 2004 9:32 AM

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» U.N. Official slams U.S. as 'stingy' over aid, say from Bitsblog
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