Jan Egeland of Norway is the key person for the UN’s humanitarian affairs. He noted last year that Tsunami areas got plenty of international aid (almost 100% of that needed to rebuild) while Pakistan earthquake victims languished (I think it was 25% of the needed relief).
In Africa starvation now stalks millions. Egeland was recently quoted suggesting urgent need could rise to 15 million, momstly in Somalia, and correctly noted that if, for example, Scandinavia faced hunger on this scale the world would be scandalised:
“It would be evident if, say, all of Scandinavia faced collective starvation, the world would really respond. “If all of northern Iraq was facing massive starvation, I think the world would really respond. If Kosovo and Bosnia again faced starvation, I think the world would massively respond.”
Some suggest foolishly that starvation is a natural limit on population, yet it’s clear that over long periods development leads to LOWER birth rates. Thus funding development in third world can *theoretically* lead to a positive feedback, creating less suffering in the long term.
Political impediments caused by instability and despotic leaders and persistent ignorance about basic health issues stand in the way of optimal distribution of aid. Yet there are always better ways and collectively we should be able to find them.
I think many who oppose higher levels of aid to Africa would support much higher levels of international aid if there were better mechanisms to make sure the funding was working and demonstrate the benefits to the skeptics.
As the cost of the Iraq war approaches $400,000,000,000 I’m reminded that 20% of that number, or $80 billion, was cited a few years back as the cost to eliminate world hunger. Where are all those conservative economists when you need them for this cost/benefit analysis?