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Christmas Need Not Be a Paradox
The world splashes billions upon billions on Christmas shopping and binging
Teoh Cheng Chooi (bobteoh)     Print Article 
Published 2008-12-17 12:39 (KST)   
Each year the world splashes billions upon billions on Christmas shopping and binging yet on Christmas Day itself, just as on any ordinary day, 25,000 will die of hunger or a related cause. By the time you finish reading the next sentence, another person or two would have died because of hunger or poverty. Unfortunately, as the United Nations World Food Program points out, it is children who die most often.

Almost all of the deaths from this can be prevented. It really takes very little to stop the crisis. In fact, if only rich countries would contribute less than one percent of their annual income, or 0.7 percent to be exact, these deaths can be averted.

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Why the 0.7 percent? Well, according to a simple yet ambitious global plan called the UN Millennium Project launched in September 2000, it takes just US$195 billion a year to fix the problem. So in March 2002 a group of 22 of the world셲 wealthiest countries agreed that each of them would give 0.7 per cent of their national income to the poorest countries to combat the plague. This means that these countries need to donate just 70 cents out of each $100 they earned.

Five countries were quick to meet the 0.7 percent goal: Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweded. Others pledged to do so within specified dates while others still were reluctant to even set a target date for their contributions.

Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States were the most reluctant to make their commitments. Japan and the US are the smallest donors, falling far short of the 0.7 percent target. Yet last year alone Christmas spending in the US amounted to an estimated $474.5 billion. Because of the financial meltdown in Wall Street and the current recession, Christmas spending in the US this year is expected to drop by half. But even then, it is still a fraction of 0.7 percent prescribed by the UN Millennnium Project to prevent unnecessary deaths due to hunger or disease.

The reason for setting up the Millennium Project by rich countries is because efforts by international relief and aid agencies and individual country initiatives are not enough to solve the crisis.

Poverty deprives. And we need not even have to look far to see this. For instance, in Myanmar it will take many, many years for the cyclone survivors to recover what they have lost. People can continue to live with a bare minimum but access to safe water supply is still crucial for survival. The world's most prolific killer is diarrhoeal disease. Father Christmas won셳 be there or near anywhere where death stalks the living dead.

But many others, mostly international aid agencies, are again playing Santa quietly. You and I can make the difference between the living and the dead by joining them by cutting back a bit of our Christmas shopping this year and donating it to relief efforts. There are many agencies to choose from.

One of them is a local NGO, World Outreach Malaysia. It has responded by providing a simple device called 쏬ifeStraw to ensure that the Myanmar Cyclone victims have access to clean drinking water.

The aptly-named LifeStraw is a personal, low-cost water purification tool that transforms contaminated water into safe drinking water and reduces the risk of diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases. The small hand-carried patented device, no bigger than a small bicycle pump, requires no electrical power, batteries or spare parts and can easily be mass-distributed in areas where drinking water is polluted. It has a life time of 700 litres, or about one year of water consumption for one person. (Please visit www.wointl.com for details).

LifeStraw can be your one-off gift as it is easily affordable at only a couple of dollars each. Donate a few bucks, that셲 all it takes to save a life. You can get to play Santa Claus too. Christmas need not have to be a paradox after all. The living need not have to die because of hunger or a related cause.
(Jesus said) 쏤or I was hungry, and you didn't feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn't give me a drink. I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me. (Matthew 25:42,45 Holy Bible New Living Translation).

Have a meaningful Christmas.

Bob Teoh is editor of www.mysinchew.com
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Teoh Cheng Chooi

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