Earthquake Aid Is Not Enough

I'm shocked to see the minimal amounts of aid being provided so far for the regions affected by the devastating tsunami arising from the earthquake in south-east Asia; Ireland provided only 1m Euro, but even that looks good compared to the European Union's promise of 3m Euro. And the 25 tons of aid from Russia or the provision of plastic sheeting and tenting from the UK - sorry but that is shamefully pathetic. Please harass your politicians to give more aid and consider making personal donations.


Please stop bitching. Since when is the amount of money an indicator of quality ? Do you think that if we give to 'someone' 2300 trillions of dollars it will be used conveniently ? Just to take a small example, the Suharto family is one of the wealthier in the world. Does it make sense ? Think about it. For God sake, 1MEUR is nothing compared to the average US salary in NY or CA, but the PPP in Sri Lanka is 3K$ while it is 40K$ in the US ! Only wealthy fat tourists would spend 150$/day in Phuket and say 'wow, it's cheap' while the carpet cleaner would get paid 2000 bahts / month. Where's the money going ?

Posted by angy reader on December 27, 2004 at 04:38 AM PST #

Colm ... the world will respond and help these people as much as possible. More and more announcements are coming out today for aid. Horrible situation, though, I agree. Angry Reader ... your comments are not welcome. Please go away. Jim G.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on December 27, 2004 at 05:24 AM PST #

Jim - thanks for your comment. The situation has improved considerably since I wrote this entry; in particular I'm delighted to see the US make a decent contribution relative to its size and wealth. Of course we also know more now about the scale of the disaster; in excess of 100k people dead, many still missing, 1.8m in need of food, 5m homeless. I think still more aid and debt relief is needed. I consider myself fortunate to live in a country with a reliably temperate (though often cool) climate, but for most countries on our little planet, giving aid is simply good karma; you can never predict where the next natural disaster will happen.

As for Angry Reader's comment - I think you are simply wrong in your comparisons. Aid is always expensive because it occurs in response to an emergency; the normal costs no longer apply as aid money is spent on \*flying\* (not driving) food and supplies directly into affected regions and importing medicines, supplies and trained workers in from first world countries. Re-building of housing and infrastructure will be very expensive. It is wildly irrelevant to compare this to the wages of a carpet cleaner or the pocket money of a first world tourist.

However if you choose to think in those terms, you might consider making your next foreign holiday in one of the affected countries - after the re-building takes place, the indigenous peoples will be in need of a means to make regular incomes and many of those opportunities have also been destroyed.

This disaster may only be newsworthy for a fortnight but the impact will take years to recover from. These people need aid \*now\* simply to survive, but when this stage has been passed, they need to rebuild their homes, roads, hospitals and their lives. What price can you put on human life and dignity?

Posted by Colm Smyth on January 03, 2005 at 10:30 PM PST #

"aid money is spent on \*flying\* (not driving) food and supplies directly into affected regions"

No kidding. And how much in dollars, euros, or dinars do you think the current U.S. and other nation's military efforts in the response are costing? That amount was not mentioned in the early, $35M U.S. number, but the U.S. military was already mobilizing to assist when President Bush spoke. Sixteen C-130s deployed to Thailand. Dozens of large military cargo flights daily from the U.S. to south asia. Dozens of military helicopter flights direct to the affected areas. Thousands of pounds of military rations shipped. Hospital ships diverted. Freshwater production facilities already delivered and functioning (thanks to the Australian military). More coming from the U.S. military.

Add to that western non-governmental charitable organizations. Dozens of aid flights. Doctors, firefighters, and simple volunteers are already there. What is the cost of their efforts?

Anyone who thinks the U.S. and other western nations efforts are small is not only poorly informed, they simply have their eyes closed.

And sorry Colm and Jim, but Angry Reader is absolutely correct when he says money is not an indicator of the quality of relief. If it is, then a monetary value must be put on those things such as the military and volunteer efforts. In that case, the U.S. contribution probably already exceeds $500M USD.

Posted by Informed Reader on January 04, 2005 at 04:53 AM PST #

A follow up.

I forgot to mention the deployment of a Marine Expeditionary Unit to south asia.

Based on numbers of U.S. military members deployed to south asia in support of relief efforts, some quick math suggests the U.S. spent $100M to $150M USD in the first seven days. That is the personnel costs alone, not all of the other costs. That number is probably well over $200M USD now. Add in the operating costs of ships, airplanes, and helicopters and the military effort is probably in the $300M-$400M USD range. That is money already spent, not promises.

Check out this article for more info:

Posted by Informed Reader on January 04, 2005 at 05:20 AM PST #


U.S. citizens' donations to charities for tsunami relief top $200M USD. See Americans Open Wallets for Tsunami Relief

I don't know how long this aid will take to make to to south asia, but it seems my $500M USD estimate is fairly accurate.

Posted by Informed Reader on January 04, 2005 at 07:12 AM PST #

Informed Reader, my original blog mentioned money as well as other kinds of aid. I don't disagree with Angry Reader's statement about quality vs. money; I did however highlight that the comparisons to the cost of living in south-east Asia are spurious in this context.

All of the examples you quote appear to be US-given aid; since my original blog there has been a tremendous response which is a deeply heartening show of humanity.

Posted by Colm Smyth on January 04, 2005 at 07:16 PM PST #

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