Global perspective Human stories

US football players, international rugby and pop stars teams up for tsunami aid

US football players, international rugby and pop stars teams up for tsunami aid

Carol Bellamy
Leading United States football players, international rugby and Western and Asian pop stars are being recruited into the United Nations effort to bring relief and raise funds for the millions of people devastated by last month’s Indian Ocean tsunami.

Two players from the National Football League (NFL), New York Giants quarterback Kurt Warner and wide receiver Amani Toomer, are travelling this month to Indonesia, the most ravaged of the dozen countries hit by the tsunami on 26 December, to help the UN World Food Programme (WFP) feed hungry families there.

“We are thrilled to have the help of the National Football League, the NFL Players Association, and these two great players in raising awareness about the critical work we do in Asia, as well as the rest of the world,” said WFP’s Director for US Relations Judith Lewis. “Both Kurt and Amani will be lending their physical support to the people affected by the tsunami, but they will also be drawing attention to the needs of so many vulnerable families in other parts of the world.”

Mr. Warner and Mr. Toomer and their wives, Brenda and Yola, will arrive in Indonesia on 11 February and immediately depart for Banda Aceh, where they will visit some of the most devastated areas. While living in tents, they will help load C-130 aircraft and distribute food to families. The players will work on the frontline alongside WFP staff.

The Toomers will then travel to Sri Lanka, the next-worst affected nation, to help pitch in with reconstruction work. WFP is helping feed more than 850,000 people in Sri Lanka, with a large logistics network spread throughout the country.

Meanwhile, the head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is in Bangkok to attend today’s fund-raising MTV Asia AID concert with a potential viewing audience of more than 1 billion people.

“Thanks to its huge international reach and enormous influence with young people, MTV has a unique ability to deepen their understanding of the humanitarian situation and help raise funds to meet urgent needs,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said of the network which has refashioned its annual awards show into a global benefit that enables young people to contribute directly to the tsunami recovery effort.

“This concert allows young people to do something to improve the lives of other young people who have been hit hard by the tsunami,” she added. UNICEF will be the main recipient of funds raised during the concert, which will feature an impressive line-up of Thai and international artists.

For its part, the International Rugby Board (IRB) has announced that it will donate proceeds from the IRB Rugby Aid Match, “Helping to Rebuild After the Tsunami,” to WFP. The match, which will pitch a Northern Hemisphere XV against a Southern Hemisphere XV, will take place 5 March at Twickenham, England.

“The IRB is delighted that the international rugby community has come together to support this very worthwhile cause. This is highlighted by major Unions agreeing to release players for the match,” IRB Chairman Syd Millar said.