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Red Cross Raises Record Funds for Tsunami Victims

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says it is winding down its appeal for victims of the East Asian tsunami because it has raised an unprecedented amount of money. The organization says the tsunami funds will help countries recover and rebuild their lives.

The International Red Cross says it is largely the generosity of the general public that helped raise a huge amount of money since the tsunami struck a month ago.

Red Cross Spokesman, Roy Probert, says the agency has raised nearly $1.2 billion. He says 85 percent of these donations came from the general public.

"I think it would be slightly unethical to be asking for more money," he said. "We have enough money now to implement programs for the next 10 years in those tsunami-hit communities. And, I think we also need to remind people that there are people dying and suffering in other parts of the world. And, obviously, those kind of programs need funding as well."

At least 9000 volunteers and about 300 international Red Cross staff are delivering food, clean water, and shelter materials to tsunami survivors. Mr. Probert says the Red Cross will continue to provide emergency assistance for now.

But, he says once things settle down, the agency will turn its attention to long-term recovery programs, including rebuilding schools and medical facilities.

He notes the advantage of having funds in advance is that it gives the Red Cross the ability to plan ahead and help needy communities in a timely and appropriate way.

The United Nations Children's Fund also praises the so-called tsunami spirit. It says it has raised $300 million to assist victims of this catastrophic event. Consequently, the head of UNICEF's emergency operations, Daniel Toole says the agency has stopped new initiatives for fundraising.

"That is a phenomenal response showing how people can respond when they open their hearts and open their wallets," said Mr. Toole. "More than half of this money has come from the general public. That testifies to the extent to which people have been touched individually. The tsunami was a random event and it could have happened anywhere. I think it was a good reminder to all of us that we have to be prepared for emergencies."

The U.N. World Food Program also has praise for the generosity of the general public. It says without donations from private companies and individuals, it would never have been able to hit its funding target so quickly. It says the private sector provided 20 percent of the $256 million food relief operation it is running for tsunami survivors.