Why aid during disaster?

I am not sure this belongs in GD because it is more of a question that crossed my mind. Does it belong to IMHO or perhaps GQ - I am not sure. Please feel free to move it to whichever forum is considered appropriate.
Here’s my question - Some 160,000+ people died in the recent tsunamis in the Indian ocean. Most countries have donated huge amounts in aid. Add to that the donations by societies, individuals, corporations etc etc. around the world ,and we can see that the aid figures runs into billions maybe. I do not know the number of recipients of that aid, but hazarding a guess, I will peg the figure at about 1,700,000 or even 2,000,000 assuming 10 survivors to every dead.
Now, from here we find

I do not know the amount of aid made available to these people, but I am almost sure that the per capita aid to the latter group is far lower than that made available to a tsunami victim.
So, the question is why this disparity? Why does an individual who does not usually contribute much to charity,(and this I have observed) decides on donating specially in time of a disaster. Why do shops start collecting specially for tsunami when at other times there might not be any collection box on their counters? Why do corporations and individuals make special drives only when a tsunami or earthquake occurs and not as much at other times. Why does a figure 164,000 people dead in tsunami make them behave differently than a figure of 8,000,000? What is the psyche behind such actions, that allows people to not treat the two occurances with commensurate attention and emotion?

You do know that literally billions and billions of dollars and uncounted tons of food have been shipped to, for instance, Africa, over the preceeding decades not only by the US but pretty much by the entire world…right? I’ll leave it to you as an excersize to look it up if you feel the need.

To answer your question, this disaster required immediate relief and was something that touched the imagination and sympathy of people world wide. In times of great disasters its pretty natural for humans to want to help. The cronic problems of disease and hunger are more every day problems. As I said though, the world pretty much HAS donated billions and billions of dollars, tons of food and medicine and sent doctors and other specialists. The underlieing problems in, again, say Africa, aren’t that the world hasn’t sent aid…but that the political structure there is unstable and the world has been reluctant to send troops to ensure the supplies get where they are needed more by the people. In short the world hasn’t stepped in and stabalized the situation, prevented the warlords and the genocides from taking place, the food from rotting on the docks or being siezed by said warlords, etc.

In short its a bit more complex picture than what you painted in your OP as far as merely sending aid goes.


The starvation in large populations is not caused by the availability of food, or aid, or compassion by the nations of the world that have food, and money. Distribution is the problem. Many countries that have starving people (such as Kenya, Nigeria, Myanmar, and Sierra Leone among others) are not ignored because no one cares. They are ignored because the governments, and power structures within those countries systematically loot the donations given to their people to an extent that makes it impossible to deliver food, or other aid to the people who need it.

An elderly man in Nigeria proposed to his tribal leaders that the government appoint a Ministry of Corruption. His reasoning was that if corruption was legalized, It could not increase, and if it was legal, the corrupt would keep their wealth inside Nigeria, and improve its economy, rather than escape to foreign countries to spend it. It is truly sad how reasonable that proposal is.


“When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.” ~ Eric Hoffer ~

150,000 deaths is a tragedy. 8 million is a statistic. Unless people see shocking images on the magic box in the living room, they tend not to give a shit. Witness the billions of dollars donated to families of 9/11 victims - people that are mostly healthy, and all of them are actually alive. I would argue that the starving masses needed that money more than little Timmy whose dad was a firefighter.

Just making a comparison, please don’t flame me. I have nothing against firefighters or little Timmy.

Yet mysteriously, more and more people are still starving. Go figure. I’ll leave you to reflect on that one.

Interesting analysis. So, people don’t give a shit about the starving masses, ehe? From memory I seem to recall that the US spends something like 9 billion (thats billion with a b btw) a year on aid to various African nations. World wide I think the total is something like 60 billion. Perhaps you should ask yourself why the folks in the tsunami are being slighted instead. We won’t even get into the 9/11 victims and their surviving kin…just won’t go there.

BTW, that guestimated 9 billion a year figure for the US doesn’t count private contributions by individual citizens or by charities, churches, etc.

You are right…no one gives a shit about the starving poor in Africa. :dubious:


Not much of a mystery if you ask me…perhaps YOU should reflect on it a bit, hm? (btw, I dispute the fact that starvation is on the rise world wide…do you have anything to back that up with besides a gut feeling?)

Looking at Africa its incredibly clear why aid isn’t working…and it has nothing to do with the amount of aid shipped over or the willingness of the world to open their pocketbooks to the poor and the starving. It has to do with the instablility of the region, the lack of distribution systems, the corruption, the appathy and uncaring of the folks in charge of those hell hole nations for their people, and mostly with the incessant warfare that has rocked the continent for decades. Rather hard to distribute food and medicine into regions where its either siezed by one armed thug or another, not to mention the fact that said armed thug might just decide to kill you as look at you.



If you say so.

Looking at Africa its incredibly clear why aid isn’t working…and it has nothing to do with the amount of aid shipped over or the willingness of the world to open their pocketbooks to the poor and the starving. It has to do with the instablility of the region, the lack of distribution systems, the corruption, the appathy and uncaring of the folks in charge of those hell hole nations for their people, and mostly with the incessant warfare that has rocked the continent for decades. Rather hard to distribute food and medicine into regions where its either siezed by one armed thug or another, not to mention the fact that said armed thug might just decide to kill you as look at you./QUOTE]
Well, then it makes sense that we should do something about it, being the caring and generous people that we are.

But we don’t. Because that would be hard, and really, no one wants to go out of their way about it.

What do you propose? Should we invade those countries, topple the regimes, and install better governments? I’m not sure anything else would work.

Let me rephrase my question. Let us say the total aid effort towards tsunami victims was US$10 billion(from here . Dividing that by the number of people who received that aid we get a per capita aid of US$5,000 per person. This is of course based on the assumption that for every person dead there were 10 survivors who were affected and needed aid.
If we were to similarly computea figure of aid made available to the 8,000,000 who die each year because of hunger, although I am not certain for lack of figures, but it seems quite likely that a sum of US$5000/person is not made available to them. Never.
Regardless of why the aid does not reach them, more important was my question about the difference in reaction exhibited by the same very people, and that includes individuals, corporates, businesses, governments etc, towards two different types of disasters. The only difference I believe, and as someone mentioned, man’s morals, or their acivation, are not as responsive to tragedies and deaths as they are to shock value. More than the sheer size and number of deaths, an element of some form of catastrophic activity works better to make a person feel more charitable.
Funny animal - man!?

In short… yes. Aggressive humanitarianism. Only not unilateral. And with an actual plan behind it. And with followup infrastructure building investment.

Exactly. And after Iraq I’m pretty solidly against the US doing such a thing in the future either. Look at the reaction by The World™ to taking out Saddam after all. No, I think next time its going to be on The World™ to ‘fix’ Africa…if The World™ wants it fixed. Of course, this doesn’t even touch on if its right or wrong to do anything like that to ‘fix’ the problem of starvation in those countries. Or how really difficult it would be to attempt to impose stability and peace in those regions.

To my mind, if Iraq was wrong from a ‘moral’ or ‘legal’ standpoint, then going into Africa would be equally wrong…at least from the US’s perspective. And honestly, it would be wrong from The World™’s perspective too in that light. Only if The World™ was united in its desire to get rid of these hell hole nations and REALLY fix the problem would it be quasi-right to do.


If $5000 were available for every starving person, they still wouldn’t see any of it. The same thing would happen if $50,000 was available to every one, or $5. If no amount of money will do any good, why give any money at all?

With a disaster, at least people can see their charity actually doing something.

No, that reaction was to the inept manner in which the invasion was presented and executed. If someone halfway competent is in charge, The World ™ would probably be a tad more supportive than someone why says “you’re either with us or against us… and if you’re against us you’re evil.”

Well, that might be part of it…the reaction to an emergency triggers in humans a response to help out. And a disaster on this scale shocks and horrifies people…as well as bringing out vast wells of sympathy. Just looking at those poor people seeking their lost children, or finding them washed up on a beach, looking at ruined villages and such…it brings a tear to the eye of even the most hardened IMO…and makes us want to help out.

Disease and starvation, especially in Africa, have been with us for a LONG time though, so as far as in our day to day lives, we are fairly immune to thinking about it. Its been with us so long, and there is no end in sight no matter how much money we’ve poured down that sink, that the average person doesn’t think about it much anymore…perhaps thats a self defense mechanism for some? Having actually been to Africa I know it is for me…otherwise I dwell on whats going on there and it completely depresses me constantly.

However, I think your OP is flawed in the fact that the wealthy nations of the world, including the US, HAVE been giving aid to Africa both official (i.e. from the governments) as well as through NGO’s and other charities for decades. Literally hundreds of billions of dollars has gone to attempting to alleve this situation…to no avail. But the money, over time, dwarfs whats been donated so far and probably will be in the future to the tsunami victims.


Well, you are entitled to your opinion. For myself, I’m not buying it. I don’t think there was ANY way the US could have invaded Iraq that wouldn’t have caused a huge stink…certainly there was no way Iraq could be invaded on strictly humanitarian grounds, reguardless. Even attempting to use WMD (which WAS credible prior to the invasion) and the ‘threat’ of Iraq there was nothing but roadblocks and foot dragging going on. In hindsight of course everyone KNOWS there were no WMD (I think the threat thing was overblown even at the time and was merely an excuse), but at the time it was pretty widely believed that Iraq had them…and that Saddam had them hidden and was successfully playing the UN inspectors like a harp.

And IMHO things would have gone on indefinitely had the US bowed its head and played along. Another endless succession of inspections (as long as the threat of the US military was on his border at least), and then more evasions, more dithering by the UN and The World™, and perhaps another round of toss the UN inspectors game by Saddam when the US was forced to remove the threat eventually…until eventually things would have returned to the status quo and The World™ could have gone back to sleep content.

BTW, I’m not attempting to say the US invaded Iraq for purely humanitarian reasons, or even because of the supposed WMD or the ‘threat’ it posed…but there WERE humanitarian reasons to invade Iraq, and to remain in Iraq for that matter…which are largely ignored or scorned on this board and by The World™.

Perhaps it would have been a good thing if the US HAD played along…certainly I’m no fan of the Iraqi invasion from the US’s perspective. Much as I felt and feel for the Iraqi people I don’t believe it was America’s problem to fix (not that this was the primary reason we went in there of course). But you can see that this is just a game to The World™…a game of maintaining the status quo. No way is a nation going to be invaded and occupied for humanitarian reasons with the approval of The World™…not unless its in the Europeans backyard and a concern to them anyway. If thats the case then you can toss the rules out and just proceed, especially if you can rope America in to help. :slight_smile: THEN its perfectly peachy…

No, there were too many political factors to allow the US to invade Iraq with the ‘support’ of The World™, at both the international level as well as from the peoples of the various nations…and the same thing would happen if the US attempted to intervene in Africa too by itself or with a small coalition of those willing to do such things. Even if ole Billy boy himself was president the howls from Europe alone would be deafining.

I have serious doubts that Europe is going to get of ITS collective ass to send over troops either (its not in their backyard after all), and I can’t think of another country (or collection of countries) that COULD send over sufficient force to stabilize even one of the African hell hole nations…let alone the entire region. Much as it pains me to say its not going to happen…the various African nations are going to have to figure it out for themselves how to stabilize. And we and the rest of the world will continue to pour money down the sink there for no appearent change for the forseeable future.


How do we convice the UNSC to go along with this? Russia and China might not be too keen about a plan to force democracy on the world…