Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tsunami Woes

IRIN had an article today about people from the tsunami stricken areas of Sri Lanka and their irritation with the relief, or lack of relief, they have been provided.

Living here I get a different view of these complaints. I mean, I agree, money was spent on the wrong things. But I also feel like expectations here were just way too high for what is termed "emergency relief aid" for a reason.

When I talk to people here I get the feeling they think this aid should enable them to live a far better life then they were living prior to the tsunami. I don't really feel like emergency aid should be used to improve the standard of living -- it is meant to make sure you have the basic necessities.

Sri Lanka is not an extremely poor country (the World Bank calls this a lower-middle income country). People here are constantly asking, "Where did all the tsunami donations go?" Well, I'll tell you: to less fortunate people.

And then there is the question of why the wealthy in Sri Lanka don't feel compelled to provide some assistance. I had this problem in Russia too (Russia is actually an upper-middle income country, in case you were wondering). Why is it when a tragedy hits a developing country the expectation is that the rest of the world will fix it and those very fortunate residents that are extremely wealthy (even by Western standards) can completely ignore their fellow citizens?

And yes, probably more money went to pay salaries of INGO staff than to actually rebuilding the tsunami effected countries. We all say boo hiss at that, but how many of us would be willing to live alone in a disaster zone without getting paid something (especially if you have made a career of it). I'm not saying what they are paid is reasonable, because it isn't. There is a reason why getting such a job is a highly competitive process and it has a lot to do with the insane salaries.

But money is poorly spent here too, providing things that should not be provided. For example: Harshana just met with the Tourism Board about some infrastructure improvements that would be nice in Arugambay -- like public toilets (mainly for the fisherman) and a building to store fishing paraphernalia. The Tourist Board said they could provide these things, but someone needs to accept responsibility for maintenance. This is very reasonable to me. So what happens, the community asks Sewalanka to pay two people to manage the maintenance. Seriously. First off, Sewalanka is supposed to be about sustainability, and that is just not sustainable. But what really gets me is the community doesn't see any reason why they should accept responsibility. They asked for them -- they claimed a great need, and I actually agree -- but apparently they can't be bothered to clean a restroom. I'm flabbergasted.

1 comment:

Nilusha said...

"Where did all the tsunami donations go?" Well, I'll tell you: to less fortunate people.

Is this true?

Media had a different idea...like it went to some politicians pockets???