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Commonwealth Journalists' Association

CJA member TREVOR GRUNDY reports on the latest version of Bob Geldof’s Band Aid campaign in the fight against ebola.
Children in Britain think it’s a Christmas Carol like ‘Silent Night’ or ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman.’ Bob Geldof remembers it as a song that sold 3.7 million copies thirty years ago in 1984 and raised over £8 million for famine relief in Ethiopia.

Now, the former leader of the Irish new wave Boomtown Rats has released a slightly re-written version of the song-cum-carol-cum-anthem – “Do they know it’s Christmas?” – to coincide with the climax of Save the Children Week in Britain.

His fingers are crossed that it will raise a similar amount – perhaps a lot more – to help fund the fight against Ebola in West Africa.

Awarded an honorary knighthood for his first 1984 Band Aid campaign, Geldof, 63, says he organised Band Aid 30 not out of nostalgia for the days he was a household name and secular saint in the UK but, rather, in response to a call from an unknown person at the United Nations who told him that more money was needed to fight Ebola in West Africa.

Geldof and his musical collaborator Midge Ure have changed some of the lyrics about snow failing to fall in Africa and references to a burning sun that brings no relief in a continent  “where nothing ever grows/ no rain nor rivers flow.”

At a news conference, he said that parts of Africa are today “lush”, with hydro-electric plants making some vast areas “massively fertile”.

Zambia’s Emili Sande joins him on the record, along with teenage pop stars who remember “Do They Know It’s Christmas” as a carol they sang during the run-up to Christmas at school.

In one of the later versions of the song The Sugarbabes asked Britons to draw back the curtains and peer through their frosty windows so to see African poverty beyond their warm living rooms with tables weighed down by food and drink.

Then U2’s Bono let rip with the chilling words – “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.”

Sir Bob says he doesn’t much care whether the new version is as well- performed as the 1984 hit, explaining-“It really doesn’t matter if it turns out to be a lousy recording. What you have to do is buy this thing.”

That’s a somewhat watered down version of the advice he gave the British 30 years ago when he yelled at TV viewers – “Give us your  ***** money.”

How Sir Bob’s latest effort to help Save Africa is received in Africa remains to be seen. At least one senior European commentator on the African scene thinks Band Aid 30 is “ill-considered.”

Claus Stäcker is the head of Deutsche Welle’s Africa Service. He writes on the network’s website that Bob Geldof has done a lot to help the world’s poorest people. But the German journalist questioned the whole Band Aid 30 enterprise. He concludes by noting wryly that Geldof’s wish that the latest version of the 1984 song will put an end to the curse of Ebola once and for all “is shared by very many people, not least the 85 percent Muslim population in Ebola-stricken Guinea for whom the line ‘Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?’ may not resonate very well.”

The other two West African countries worst hit by Ebola are Sierra Leone (71.3 percent Muslim) and Liberia (12.2 percent).