THEY huddle in tents in dusty Ethiopia, sprawl on sidewalks in New Delhi, or wander around the southern Lebanese countryside. They are the world's homeless, and no one is certain how many millions there are. Much of the world has been generous in providing for immediate requirements: food, clothing, shelter. The outpouring of aid for Africa's hungry from several nations has been particularly warming.
But the long-term requirements have been too little addressed. Although specific needs vary from nation to nation, in general the homeless require economic help to fit into their society as producing members.
International public attention usually focuses on the most visible homeless, those who cross national borders -- from Ethiopia to Sudan, Afghanistan to Pakistan, Kampuchea to Thailand. They're most easily counted: 9.1 million around the globe, according to the US Committee for Refugees.
Millions more are homeless within their own countries: Ethiopians, Brazilians, Indians. They're harder to tally: The same committee estimates 7 million.
The world's homeless seek to exit from the food handout line and become self-sufficient, by returning home and resuming their livelihood, usually farming.
Nearly all homeless need long-term economic assistance. Uprooted Ethiopians want to farm anew: that requires provision of seeds, plows, farm animals, and a measured development of irrigation. Far too little of this development aid is provided to the world's homeless. Donor nations place restrictions on it. Too often it is granted only in the context of international politics.
The developed world should expand upon the generosity it has shown Africa's hungry and homeless refugees. But short-term help should not distract from the longer-term goal of promoting self-sufficiency. ----30----