Tsunami relief effort presents challenges

Unprecedented generosity is a start – now, we must continue and see the effort through.

The destruction caused by earthquakes and tsunamis in Southeast Asia and east Africa has left people around the globe awestruck, sympathetic and unusually generous.

The situation’s gravity makes such generosity and sympathy seem intuitive, but we should never take people who look outside their own little realities to help others they will never likely meet for granted, especially in such a quantity.

Even with this outpouring of goodwill, the havoc Mother Nature wrought on the world presents immense challenges.

First, the world community must stay on this course, long after the media cease to pay attention to it. Often, it is far easier to promise than to deliver.

Second, the international community must be careful not to allow other altruistic efforts to falter, at least not more than is absolutely necessary. While there is always a painfully finite quantity of resources for things such as foreign aid, this disaster does not relieve us from the responsibility to help others suffering from other tragedies.

Examples from health issues alone are: More than 24.5 million Africans who are still infected with HIV, according to the BBC. Malaria will still kill between 1.5 million and 2.5 million people this year, according to the World Health Organization. We must find a way to help Southeast Asia and east Africa, while ameliorating the suffering of at least those who had our attention before.

Finally, even once the checks are signed and the money sent, the real challenge still exists. Combating disease, hunger and homelessness, rebuilding and reconstructing countless cities and towns, and helping populations deal with loss will require a monumental effort and skillful management of that effort from everyone who has offered it.

Sympathy for victims of this tragedy is universal and apolitical. As such, it is the perfect opportunity for the “international community” to prove it is more than a ubiquitous phrase used by media and politicians; that it can come through for its members in need.

We have started to do this. We must now continue and see it through.