America is not as generous as we would like to imagine

Published: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 10:36 p.m.

Like many others around the world, I have been horrified by the scenes of utter devastation coming out of Southern Asia. My feelings were eased somewhat by my knowledge that America would be mounting a massive disaster-relief organization.

Then came the comment from Jan Egeland, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief for the United Nations, inferring that the United States is actually "stingy" when it comes to doling out foreign assistance to disaster-hit countries.

I was sure this couldn't be true - we were certainly the most generous contributor to global aid and disaster relief.

What I discovered surprised me. A Web site for the Council on Foreign Relations ( points to a 2001 poll sponsored by the University of Maryland, which showed most Americans think that approximately 24 percent of our annual budget is spent on foreign aid. That's 24 times what the actual figure is.

In raw dollar amounts, we are the world's top donor, but when this is compared to how much money we actually have, our ranking drops to somewhere closer to the bottom. The amount given is very small compared to how much money we collectively have.

At a time when many Muslims around the world are suspicious of the United States and our motives are questioned, we have been given an opportunity to show our true character and true motivations. Indonesia alone is home to millions of Muslim people.

I urge you to donate to whatever reputable charity suits you best. The Red Cross is currently one of the many organizations providing aid.

Rachel Brown,


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