The outpouring of support following the tsunami was overwhelming, with everyone from government officials to school children pledging to aid tsunami survivors. The haphazard nature of this massive tragedy reached across nations, ethnicities and religions to unite the globe in a common cause. By offering relief, nations and individuals have tacitly acknowledged the random nature of this disaster, recognizing that it could have easily been their own nation devastated by nature’s fury, and this awareness has catalyzed cooperation among them to minimize death tolls.

Unfortunately, these death tolls have steadily increased in the last month, going from 8,000 to 30,000 to 150,000 to current estimates of up to 225,000. Numbers of such magnitude are so unfathomable that they have prompted the media to put human faces on the devastation, telling the tales of orphans who dream of waves and wake screaming, and parents still wandering from hospital to hospital, searching for their children.

Even these stories, which move viewers through their words, pictures and narratives, never truly capture the horrors of this catastrophe – a catastrophe that destroyed families and communities, childhoods and livelihoods, one which will forever alter millions of lives.

The aftershocks from this tragedy were felt throughout the world, with churches, communities, schools and governments uniting to provide whatever support they could.

Initially, reports from affected areas in Sri Lanka revealed that transportation and communication systems were so badly damaged that aid was not reaching the areas most affected by the tsunami. Eventually, reports changed from relief organizations being forced to borrow from local shopkeepers to villagers seeing a doctor for the first time in their lives.

The tsunami has brought more attention to these regions than decades of civil war and genocide did. People across the globe were riveted to their televisions the week after Christmas, watching pitiful images of decimated schools, buildings, homes and lives.

I heard Tamil, my mother tongue, on National Public Radio for the first and likely the last time ever, a surreal experience that made me feel farther from Sri Lanka than ever before. I was relieved, however, to see the genuine concern coming from the global community and to hear they were slowly making progress.

Unfortunately, news coverage in the affected areas has been steadily declining, as stories of Iraqi elections and national security resume their positions at the forefront of American consciousness. This trend profoundly disturbs me, and my concern for tsunami survivors grows as each news byte shortens.

Over $4 billion in aid has been pledged to this devastated region, yet many have expressed grave doubts over whether these pledges will ever be fulfilled. As the media gradually averts its audiences’ attention away from tsunami relief and removes pressure on the public and government sectors to continue relief efforts, it is less likely that they will keep their pledges of aid. And evidence already exists of these entities reneging on these promises. For example, victims of the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran are still living in “temporary” tents. According to the United Nations, only about half of the aid pledged to Iran was actually received, and these destitute refugees are still pleading for help.

It is frighteningly likely that this same situation will occur with the tsunami survivors – that in another year they too will be in the same tents, wearing the same saris, longing for a semblance of normalcy that refugee camps cannot offer.

Successful rehabilitation efforts require dedicated, genuine commitment long after the media stops interviewing vacationing tourists in beach resorts and long after the foreign doctors have returned to their regular practices.

The president of Oxfam America, Raymond Offenheiser, reiterated this, saying that governments “must support people rebuilding their lives after the cameras have gone. Like all the people in the humanitarian crises that never hit our TV screens, they need the continued, not just fleeting, generosity of rich governments.”

In this spirit, efforts here at Georgetown must continue past the first month after the tsunami, even past the first year. It is crucial that support for relief work only gains momentum here as sources outside the university become depleted, discouraged or disinterested. The Georgetown community has an honored tradition of providing for those in need, and it is this spirit so direly needed now in South Asia.

Events such as next Friday’s relief gala, Waves of Hope, must be sold out to provide a shining example of the Georgetown ethic of service and commitment to others in need. We have a responsibility to tsunami survivors to offer help however we can. Tickets to the gala are only $25, or 2,500 rupees, a colossal amount of money for most Sri Lankans, but only the cost of about two meals at Leo’s here.

Every donation makes an amazing difference, and together, we can offer support long after the cameras leave.

Tasha Manoranjan is a freshman in the College.

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