The pharmaceutical giant Merck works with the Gates Foundation, providing pharmaceuticals for AIDS treatment in Botswana. Pfizer, an even bigger drugmaker, donated $25 million worth of medicine and $10 million in cash to aid tsunami victim in Southeast Asia.
Proctor & Gamble has developed the PuR Water Purifier, which makes contaminated water drinkable. (Each powder-filled packet cleans 2.5 gallons of water.)
The purifier is useful most anywhere in the developing world, but especially in disaster areas.
P&G has worked with non-governmental organizations and faith-based groups, such as Samaritan's Purse, to distribute its product at cost. In the aftermath of the tsunami the company donated millions of packets and made millions more inexpensively available, providing enough purifiers to clean more than 150 million liters of drinking water.
But size is not everything. Most nimble and creative are small organizations like CFI. Devoted to saving individual lives rather than entire societies, CFI collected materials for Nias before large organizations were even thinking about the island.
CFI runs orphanages and schools for ethnic Karen refugees from Burma (or Myanmar) now living in Thai refugee camps. The group also builds simple clinics, termed "freedom hospitals," and trains medics to work inside Burma, where the Burmese military routinely destroys villages and terrorizes residents.
In the aftermath of extensive Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia's Moluccas islands, formerly the Spice Islands, CFI provided aid to refugees in camps on nearby islands. And the organization is currently raising funds to create a training center for handicapped (many blind) Christian converts in the largely Islamic nation of Bangladesh. They suffer what amounts to a dual disability, enduring both public and private hostility.
The world is simultaneously awash in tragedy and opportunity. The poor will always be with us, but those who possess much have moral responsibilities to those who possess little. While presidents and prime ministers debate the efficacy of new government aid initiatives, a multitude of private assistance programs make it possible to give both generously and effectively.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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