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Asean Affairs   23 December  2014

When will the last child stop crying because he/she is starving? When will we no longer see children with their rib cages hanging out and their skinny little legs too weak to walk? When will they no longer have distended balloon bellies? When will their eyes no longer have that vacant, listless stare as if they knew that they were about to depart this life,  never to play, never to learn, never to tease their brother or sister?
When will emaciated mothers with sagging, empty breasts no longer have to put their baby under a mound of earth and walk away into the horrible night alone?
 In 2000,  193 countries  met at the United Nations in New York and vowed to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015, and to eliminate it by 2025. (According to the World Bank, extreme poverty is defined as living in the U.S. on $1.25 a day. You can get a 99c hamburger at McDonald’s. After paying the 8c in tax, you have 18c for your housing, clothing, education and health care.) 
How well are we doing?  Are we making progress?
In 2012, the World Bank said that we are making progress.
It said that in China, extreme poverty fell from 60% in 1990 to 13% in 2012.  It is estimated that 400 million moved out of the category of extreme poverty. Yet many say that this is not because of  U.N. efforts, but China’s own increasing prosperity.
 In developing countries outside of China, the rate of extreme poverty fell from 37% to 25%. The World Bank says that progress has been substantial in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In the former, the rate of extreme poverty fell from 54% to 36%. In the latter, the rate fell only 4.8% to below 50%.
The U.N. estimates that at the half-way mark in 2015, “only” 1 billion people will be in extreme poverty.
10 people are drowning in an ocean. We rescue 2, and tell the others that we are setting up a committee to eliminate drowning, and that 3 will be rescued by 2015, and the remaining 5 by 2025.
Is that progress?
Well, we have rescued 2 so that is better than none, but for the remaining 8, there is no progress. There is only death.
And so with the children who are dying of starvation NOW. Committees and Millennial Goals are meaningless to all those children who are dying  now.
But could we save the lives of those children now? Do  we have enough food to do so?
The bitter truth is that we do have enough food – more than enough food. What we lack is the will to use it. Both the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) state that we have enough food to feed everybody on the planet.  The U.S. Government actually pays some farmers not to grow crops. If the Guinea Savannah Zone in Africa were properly cultivated, it could feed the entire world.
No, our problem is not a lack of food, but a lack of ethics. A few years ago, a young child was walking in the middle of a Chinese street when a truck hit her, drove over her, and then drove off.  Then, a number of pedestrians walked by her as she lay in the street, and did not do anything.
We are shocked by this. But when we know that children are dying of starvation every 5 seconds somewhere in the world, and do nothing about it, are we ethically the same as those people who walked by the girl in the street?  Even if she had not died,  the complete disregard for her is shocking in its inhumanity. 
Mankind’s humanity is at stake on this issue of child mortality. In the past, when we did not know what was going on in the rest of the world, we had an excuse. Today, we do not. We know what is happening around the world. If we ignore the terrible suffering and tragedy that affects so many, our humanity is seriously lessened. No man – or woman – is an island. We cannot cut ourselves off from the rest of humanity. If the roles were reversed – if it was Africa that was the rich continent and we were starving, would we not want Africans to come to our aid – NOW? Sometimes, the truth stares us squarely in the face. Do we have the honesty, integrity and courage to accept that truth?
So what can we do?
This varies with each individual’s circumstances. Those with money can donate it to alleviate poverty and sickness. Those with special skills may be able to donate some time to help save lives.
Many organizations are doing what they can to save the children. Those on the front lines are shining examples of humanity at its best. Their heroism and selflessness in the hot and humid sun humbles us all.
But all this has been and still is not enough.  The task is too large, the urgency too immediate, that only the combined efforts of the world’s nations can fully address this problem, and stop these deaths NOW.  Yes, NOW. The nations of the world have all the resources and logistical capabilities to do it. All they lack is the will.
Therefore, I have started a Petition to the United Nations to stop the death of these children NOW.  I know that there are millions of people out there who would willingly sign it. I want to submit a Petition to the U.N. with millions of signatures.
So you can do your part now by clicking on the links, and sharing it with every family member, friend, acquaintance, business associate, even  enemy – no matter who. I want the nations of the world to know that their citizens want them to save these children NOW.
I recognize that it is a tall mountain to climb, but it is a mountain that we must climb. I also recognize that this is only the beginning. Once we keep them alive, we need to move to the next phase of development. But we cannot do that unless these children are alive.
On behalf of the children whose lives you will save, thank you.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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