International tsunami study highlights inequalities
in aid spending
A major independent evaluation published last week
has called for a fairer system of funding emergencies so that all
those affected can escape suffering and death and rebuild their
lives. This is essential given the rise in natural disasters the
world is facing.
|After the disaster, the donations that poured
in meant $7,200 for every affected person, but what happened?
The Tsunami Evaluation Coalition (TEC), an international
multi-agency effort to enhance humanitarian aid, in its study applauded
the public for their record-breaking donations to the 2004 Asian
tsunami, while highlighting how this enormous influx of funds revealed
discrepancies in how aid money is raised and spent.
A total of at least US$ 13.5 billion was raised,
US$ 5.5 billion from the general public, amounting to over US $7,100
for every affected person. This contrasts starkly to only US$3 per
head spent on someone affected by the 2004 floods in Bangladesh.
The TEC report revealed that emergency relief
is not given only on the basis of need, but in response to political
pressures and what aid agencies believe may be popular with the
donating public. The report calls for independent monitoring of
governments to make their funding systems impartial, flexible, transparent
and in line with the principles of good donorship.
John Telford, Lead Author of the TEC report, says:
“The high-profile coverage of the tsunami led to the largest
and fastest funded response ever. But the glare of public attention
pressurised agencies to spend quickly and visibly, often causing
them to neglect formal needs assessments and under-estimate the
complexity of post-disaster recovery.” Other global emergencies
not benefiting from as much media coverage receive a fraction of
“The gross inequity in funding for different
emergencies is evident in people reduced to half-rations in Sudan
in the face of increasing malnutrition, while Iraq and Afghanistan
continue to get generous funding,” adds Telford.
|Building a new home with a little Western
The report presents an appeal to donor governments
for more consistent donations and support prior to disasters to
help states in high-risk zones reduce risk and respond better when
It calls on international agencies not to by-pass
but to work through and improve the capacity of local structures
already in place when affected countries are overstretched in a
Local affected people and their neighbours saved
virtually every life that was to be saved in the tsunami before
international rescue teams arrived. Telford says: “While aid
agencies are recognised for providing affected populations with
the security they needed to begin planning what do next, they need
to involve them in the management of the response. This is particularly
important when emergency relief priorities rapidly change to those
of rebuilding and re-establishing livelihoods.
The importance of this change and frequent poor
performance in meeting people’s longer term priorities is
reflected in many findings and several recommendations in the report.”
The TEC report also urges governments to fund
international organisations to improve personnel, coordination and
quality control between emergencies. While these may be ‘invisible’
investments, Telford highlights their importance: “The scale
and frequency of modern emergencies is on the rise and the quality,
capacity and regulation of the international relief system is currently
inadequate to support this.
The public should also not think that their responsibility
ends once they have handed over a cheque.
Insisting on independent regulation and transparent
reporting will go a long way to ensuring that agencies maintain
the professional standards they have set for themselves.”