‘Is a child’s life in Africa really worth 1,400 times less than a child in the West?’ is the rhetorical poser that launches the Metro/Oxfam ‘calling for change’ Christmas Appeal.
The hardly surprising news that aid to Hurricane Katrina victims is around £70,000 per head while that to Congolese famine victims is just £50, shows that despite its undoubted incompetence the USA can, and eventually will, look after its own. So I’m pleased I diverted my charity to pets of Katrina victims but frustrated that, like so many others, the Congolese missed out.
The disparity is gross, but £70k per Katrina victim is far from unreasonable. More amazing is that not that everyone in the USA is so proud at the way they’ve supported their own. Many thought that Katrina relief amounted to a ‘shocking expansion’ of the state; one senator said: ‘I don’t believe that everything that should happen in Louisiana should be paid for by the rest of the country.’
These fools don’t realise that if Americans had failed to build a state capable of mounting a (albeit belated) relief effort, they’d be no better off than the Congolese. Those who depend on charity never have their needs met, because charity has an irredeemable flaw: ‘it’s too emotional to ever develop a strategy that would enable it to be most effective’. The world’s governments need to wean themselves off haphazard charitable appeals, take responsibility and properly fund international relief agencies that never have to appeal to a fickle public to fund the basics.