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Dreamer128 12-31-2004 10:19 AM

Money has been pouring in for the relief effort in the areas around the Indian Ocean that were hit by last Sunday's tsunamis, not only from governments but also from private individuals. It's being called the largest relief operation in history, trying to reach millions of people across a huge area. But is the aid reaching people in time and will it be enough for the long term?

The World Bank said Friday it was allocating 100 million dollars to Sri Lanka out of an immediate budget of 250 million dollars for nations devastated by the tsunamis. In Sri Lanka, around 30,000 people have been confirmed dead, while nearly 5,000 remain missing and have probably lost their lives.

Tourists turned aid worker
Marijke van der Meer, Radio Netherlands daily press review presenter, is in Porttuvil on the east coast of Sri Lanka and tells us how the aid is being organised:

"One of the most urgent problems here is that it is an outlying region and almost no aid is coming here. There is only one doctor at the hospital here, being helped by two tourists: an American doctor and a Dutch nurse. They've been treating patients all morning [...] About 40 kilometres from here there has been an outbreak of contagious disease already."

"The strange thing is that there is plenty of food because there are lot of private initiatives. There is also a private initiative to collect medicine, but if it weren't for the American doctor and the Dutch nurse people wouldn't even have gotten the proper medicine that they needed because people are just collecting things, including medication, that would have been useful the first day after the tsunami, but not at this point anymore."

"Survivors are being collected and put in refugee camps [...] I hear from the doctors here that people are being very despondent; they are finding it very difficult to even eat and sleep, and they are very afraid. Many people believe that it is going to happen again, they don't trust nature anymore."

Future aid

But while images of devastated villages and grieving survivors have prompted a generous response in the short term, Professor of Disaster Studies Georg Frerks of Wageningen University in the Netherlands is worried about the future:

"What we have seen in situations of war and earlier large natural disasters is that the aid dwindles after a certain moment. The media attention has stirred somewhere else and political priorities are shifting and the attention is not really there and it becomes questionable if the aid is really flowing. Experience has learned that very often even the money that was promised has not been given."

Mr Frerks says that the situation in Asia is known as a solidarity disaster: "we feel sympathy with all those people, but to keep the attention for a long term on a certain problem and necessary long term measures and also to do it in a good way, with good planning, we have very often seen in the past that it is very difficult to achieve."

Phases of aid

Mr Frerks explains that there are four phases in the provision of aid and that it is the last two that are usually forgotten by the media and politicians. The first phase is 'immediate rescue aid', which is given by the local population because it needs to be done within the first 24 hours.

The relief operation in Asia is now in the second phase which is 'immediate relieve for rescue needs'; getting medicine, water en sanitation facilities to the survivors. All the people in rescue camps at the moment need to be settled into some kind of refugee camp. "That will be an immense operation," says Mr Frerks.

In the final stages of aid, the focus should be on rebuilding and resettling the areas that have been affected. Eventually the livelihoods of people need to be restored. In the case of the areas affected by the tsunamis, this particularly concerns the fishing and tourist industries. And in the past, Western governments have been very bad in giving aid during these final phases, even though it is in their interest for Asia to remain strong. But according to Mr Frerks, it is difficult for both the media - which play a crucial role in this respect - and politicians to keep focused on a particular area for a long time:

"I am not criticizing governments and NGO's in advance, but I simply argue that it is very much required to pay attention, not only to the short term and immediate needs, but also to think ahead."

© Radio Nederland Wereldomroep (, all rights reserved

MagiK 01-03-2005 08:52 AM

<font face="COMIC Sans MS" size="3" color="#7c9bc4">Does anyone seriously think it will be forgotten? Will public interest wane? Yew betchya...the public attention span is somewhat less than prodigious at the best of times.

In the end though, I have to believe that the majority of the damage will not be and cannot be paid for by the West.....the local communities as has been true throughout time will have to absorb the impact and then move on. At least they are getting Aid now and that is what is important. And lets not forget that even as everyone is talking about the Tsunami....there are still starving Children in African nations that still need aid.

[ 01-03-2005, 08:54 AM: Message edited by: MagiK ]

MagiK 01-03-2005 09:49 AM

<font face="COMIC Sans MS" size="3" color="#7c9bc4">As we speak:

One of the biggest US military disaster relief missions in history kicked into high gear today as an aircraft carrier battle group arrived off the shores of tsunami-battered Sumatra and began launching helicopters heavy with supplies. A flotilla carrying Marines and water-purifying equipment was heading for Sri Lanka, and a former staging base for B-52 bombers in Thailand roared with the takeoffs and landings of giant cargo planes. Two Seahawk helicopters from the USS Abraham Lincoln landed in Banda Aceh early today to begin getting badly needed relief supplies, including material for temporary shelters, into villages along Sumatra’s northwest coast. <...>

More than 20 vessels with thousands of sailors and Marines are being dispatched, along with some 1,000 land-based troops. The USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault vessel carrying Marines, and the Lincoln battle group were to lead the operations from the seas. Thailand’s Vietnam War-era air base of Utapao has become the airlift hub for the region. C-130 transport planes are already conducting sorties to Jakarta and the Sumatran cities of Medan and Banda Aceh, according to a statement today by the US Embassy in Jakarta.

US Navy medical staff are also on the ground in Meulaboh, a decimated fishing village where several thousand bodies have been recovered. The Navy is considering a request from Jakarta to establish a field hospital there. Elsewhere, nine C-130 transport craft took off yesterday from Utapao, a former staging area for B-52 bombers, to rush medical and other supplies to the stricken resorts of southern Thailand and the more distant airfields in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

A small team of Thai-speaking US Navy SEALs, US Army Special Forces personnel and military doctors have been at the battered resort of Phuket for several days. Along with the US military assets, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are among the core of nations contributing ships or planes and helping plan relief operations.


MagiK 01-03-2005 10:10 AM

<font face="COMIC Sans MS" size="3" color="#7c9bc4">Hopw about credit where credit is due?</font>

Mr. Egeland: Our main problems now are in northern Sumatra and Aceh. <...> In Aceh, today 50 trucks of relief supplies are arriving. <...> Tomorrow, we will have eight full airplanes arriving. I discussed today with Washington whether we can draw on some assets on their side, after consultations with the Indonesian Government, to set up what we call an “air-freight handling centre” in Aceh.

Tomorrow, we will have to set up a camp for relief workers – 90 of them – which is fully self-contained, with kitchen, food, lodging, everything, because they have nowhere to stay and we don't want them to be an additional burden on the people there.

I provided this to some USAID colleagues working in Indonesia and their heads nearly exploded. The first paragraph is quite simply a lie. The UN is taking credit for things that hard-working, street savvy USAID folks have done. It was USAID working with their amazing network of local contacts who scrounged up trucks, drivers, and fuel; organized the convoy and sent it off to deliver critical supplies. A UN “air-freight handling centre” in Aceh? Bull! It's the Aussies and the Yanks who are running the air ops into Aceh. We have people working and sleeping on the tarmac in Aceh, surrounded by bugs, mud, stench and death, who every day bring in the US and Aussie C-130s and the US choppers; unload, load, send them off. We have no fancy aid workers' retreat -- notice the priorities of the UN? People are dying and what's the first thing the UN wants to do? Set up "a camp for relief workers" one that would be "fully self-contained, with kitchen, food, lodging, everything."

The UN is a sham.

MagiK 01-03-2005 10:18 AM

<font face="COMIC Sans MS" size="3" color="#7c9bc4">From Clare Short in The Scottsman:

Bush 'Undermining UN with Aid Coalition'
By Jamie Lyons, PA Political Correspondent

United States President George Bush was tonight accused of trying to undermine the United Nations by setting up a rival coalition to coordinate relief following the Asian tsunami disaster.

The president has announced that the US, Japan, India and Australia would coordinate the world’s response. But former International Development Secretary Clare Short said that role should be left to the UN. “I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up,” she said. “Only really the UN can do that job,” she told BBC Radio Four’s PM programme. “It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.”

Ms Short said the coalition countries did not have good records on responding to international disasters. She said the US was “very bad at coordinating with anyone” and India had its own problems to deal with. “I don’t know what that is about but it sounds very much, I am afraid, like the US trying to have a separate operation and not work with the rest of the world through the UN system,” she added.

<font face="COMIC Sans MS" size="3" color="#7c9bc4">Of course she overlooks the fact that the coalition is the only help these people have at the momnent...Im sure the UN will arrive shortly....within weeks surely.

John D Harris 01-03-2005 11:35 AM

I doubt the disaster will be forgotten in 05, but there will come a time that the aid must end. Exactly when that time is should be left up to the aid givers, after all they are the ones giving.

MagiK 01-03-2005 12:26 PM

<font face="COMIC Sans MS" size="3" color="#7c9bc4">Today President Bush and Former Presidents Clinton and Bush have joined together to try and raise private money for the Tsunami Disaster.

I think that This is not such a good idea. Tossing large sums of cash into this particular region is a bad idea. The cash will be gobbled up by graft and greed and weapons to be used against non-muslims later. Better to send food, and water and aid workers. Cash is the one thing that should absolutely NOT be sent.

On top of that....who are we giving this aid to....will these people look kindly on us for aiding them? Sri Lanka has already shown itself. to be singularly unworthy of aid by rejecting Israel's offer. Granted it was the government and not the suffering people who did this...that government is supposedly representing the wishes of the people.

[ 01-03-2005, 12:27 PM: Message edited by: MagiK ]

John D Harris 01-03-2005 01:06 PM

You need to raise a certain amount of cash, to handle some of the needs and future needs. Right now, though it needs to be items sent to the victims, most of the cash given needs to used to buy what is needed. You can eat cash, but it tastes like crap, you can wear cash, but unless you got a hard body, give the rest of us a break. ;)

MagiK 01-04-2005 08:19 AM

<font face="COMIC Sans MS" size="3" color="#7c9bc4">From the Diplomad, today.</font>

The post below reports on the impending arrival of Ms. Margareeta Wahlstrom "United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Secretary-General's Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-affected countries."

She has spoken! At a large meeting this afternoon, she and the local UN rep, Mr. Bo "Please Wear Blue" Asplund have announced the arrival of yet another "United Nations Joint Assessment Team." But this one is very, very ultra- special. According to the UNocrats, it's not "just another assessment team." Oh, no, banish that thought! You see, "This assessment team will coordinate all the other assessment teams." In addition, the UN will set up a "Civil-Military Coordination Office to coordinate [that word! that word!] all military assistance because the military do not have experience in disaster relief (!)"

Let the mockery begin . . . .

<font face="COMIC Sans MS" size="3" color="#7c9bc4">I swear the UN seems to have the script right from Monty Python...</font>

[ 01-04-2005, 08:20 AM: Message edited by: MagiK ]

MagiK 01-04-2005 08:55 AM

<font face="COMIC Sans MS" size="3" color="#7c9bc4">Again from on Scene in the IO

This January 2 report is written by local Dutch diplomats who traveled to Aceh and saw the reality on the ground. We will cite the two principal paragraphs, and leave them unedited in their original rather charming Dutch-English,

The US military has arrived and is clearly establishing its presence everywhere in Banda Aceh. They completely have taken over the military hospital, which was a mess until yesterday but is now completely up and running. They brought big stocks of medicines, materials for the operation room, teams of doctors, water and food. Most of the patients who were lying in the hospital untreated for a week have undergone medical treatment by the US teams by this afternoon. US military have unloaded lots of heavy vehicles and organize the logistics with Indonesian military near the airport. A big camp is being set up at a major square in the town. Huge generators are ready to provide electricity. US helicopters fly to places which haven't been reached for the whole week and drop food. The impression it makes on the people is also highly positive; finally something happens in the city of Banda Aceh and finally it seems some people are in control and are doing something. No talking but action. European countries are until now invisible on the ground. IOM staff (note: this is a USAID-funded organization) is very busy briefing the incoming Americans and Australians about the situation.

The US, Australia, Singapore and the Indonesian military have started a 'Coalition Co-ordination Centre' in Medan to organize all the incoming and outgoing military flights with aid. A sub-centre is established in Banda Aceh."

<font face="COMIC Sans MS" size="3" color="#7c9bc4">I would like to emphasize that this is an Excerpt from a Dutch report on the situation.

Edit: Removed critical comments on the EU. I know the people of the EU want to help.

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