When 90 million readers turned from turkey to the comics in some 2,000 U.S. newspapers last week, they got more than the usual fantasy and folderol. Their favorite characters, the creations of 175 syndicated cartoonists, delivered the same unfunny but earnest message: on this bountiful Thanksgiving in America, much of the world still goes hungry.
Transforming cartoonists into crusaders was the idea of Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), who enlisted Charles Schulz (Peanuts) and Milton Caniff (Steve Canyon). Trudeau felt there was no better way to reach people than "through characters they've known all their lives." All the newspapers ran the cartoons, but only 300 published as well an advertisement by the cartoonists asking readers to send donations to USA for Africa. Originals of last week's strips will be auctioned at an art exhibit, and a book, Comic Relief, is due out this spring.
Other African-relief efforts gave a rough accounting of themselves last week, almost a year to the day after a group of Irish and British pop stars called Band Aid harnessed rock musicians to the job of feeding hungry people. Some $84 million has been raised, reported Kevin Jenden, the British architect who serves as executive director of the London-based Band Aid Trust and U.S. Live Aid Foundation. At least $34 million has already been spent for famine relief, says Jenden, which provided 17,000 tons of grain, 2,000 tons of milk powder, 1,200 tons of sugar and 350 metric tons of biscuits. More than $40 million will go toward long-term development projects, such as irrigation and reforestation.
Private aid agencies have complained that the relief effort's organizers were far more efficient at staging rock concerts than distributing food. The pop stars now insist that they have got their charitable acts together. To process requests for aid, an advisory committee of present and former Government officials was set up last month at Georgetown University.