WASHINGTON (Talon News) — Lutheran World Relief President Kathryn Wolford joined 23 leaders of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in a meeting on relief and development efforts related to the South Asia tsunamis with President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios.

“One of the most exciting things about the meeting was that everyone involved agreed on a few key things we consider critical to our work,” Wolford said in a statement from Lutheran World Relief. “First that we all must commit ourselves to long-term efforts in the areas affected by the tsunami. Second, that money given by governments, corporations and individuals to tsunami efforts shouldn’t come at the expense of other needs and other gifts. And third, that we cannot and must not forget the many other disasters and conflicts occurring around the world.”

President Bush called the meeting to thank NGOs and USAID employees for their hard work in response to the South Asia tsunamis.

President Bush said, “We just finished meeting with a group of representatives and heads of NGOs, all of which are providing love and compassion and help. After that meeting I must tell you my spirits were raised even higher than they were walking into the meeting. There is no question in my mind that the NGOs of America provide such vital, vital help in times of disaster.”

Bush reiterated the NGO leaders’ concerns that American citizens, corporations, and other governments continue to give their financial support to work on other disasters and conflicts and that other parts of the world not be forgotten.

The president encouraged Americans to not forget other ongoing needs while focusing on relief efforts for tsunami victims.

“You should view the tsunami relief effort as extra help, to help solve the problem, so that we don’t short-change the … needs for compassion elsewhere in our country and the world,” Bush said.

In the meeting, Wolford stressed what she and LWR see as critical to those affected by the tsunami.

She said, “By the time most of us were waking up on December 26, LWR’s partners in India and other affected areas had let us know that they were already responding to the immediate needs of people affected by the tsunamis. We will continue our relief efforts in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India, but, we are also acutely aware of and already working on what will be our focus for the long-term: temporary shelter, more permanent housing, livelihoods and psycho-social support.”

Wolford also asked the Bush administration and other NGO leaders, according to the release, to continue publicizing urgent needs in places such as Sudan.

President Bush concluded his remarks by highlighting the legislation he will sign that will allow taxpayers to deduct this month’s contribution for tsunami relief from their 2004 tax returns.

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