Here’s some food for thought as Thanksgiving approaches. On Wednesday, in its 2009 humanitarian appeal, the United Nations made its largest request ever for support in the coming year for 30 million people snared by disaster and conflict: $7 billion. That’s just one-hundredth of what we have agreed to spend here in the US to bail ourselves out of our own financial troubles.
But that $7 billion is going to be stretched a lot thinner than many of us here in the US can even imagine. It’s not going to save businesses; that would be a luxury. Its work is much more elemental than that. It’s money that will save lives.
That $7 billion will help put food in the stomachs of 2.3 million people affected by the violence rippling across the eastern provinces of Democratic Republic of Congo. It will help protect one million people in eastern Chad, both refugees and Chadians chased from their homes. It will provide water, medicine, shelter, and emergency schooling for three million people in conflict-wracked Somalia.
The global food price crisis—which for some of us in this rich country is still an abstraction and not something we feel in our gut or see in the eyes of our hungry children—has pushed the appeal to this new threshold.
Seven billion bucks: 30 million people may need it a lot more urgently than Wall Street needs its $700 billion.