On the politics of Tsunami Relief
I recently came back from a 5 week Tsunami Relief work in Galle, Sri Lanka. I gave out prescription eyeglasses and looked for cataracts (which was followed by a paid operation upon diagnosis) with the tsunami victims as well as the local population. I cannot speak for other Tsunami affected regions, but in the case of Sri Lanka the following is true:
(1) Unlike other Tsunami affected countries, Sri Lanka had no financial nor numerical limit on the amount of money and the number of NGOs, respectively, which could come into Sri Lanka to give aid in the affected regions.
(2) What followed were numerous NGOs. An NGO works in the following manner: first find an area which needs your help and resources, go to that area, help out and take pictures of such actions, and finally go back to your home country and use the pictures to further fund yourself.
(3) These NGOs, upon entering Sri Lanka, found themselves in areas with numerous other NGOs. There was a lack of coordination by the government and poor organization led to numerous problems.
(4) First the government taxed all goods, even if they were NOT COMPETING with the local produced Sri Lankan goods just to make money. The NGOs when distributing these goods such as sewing machines and boats, due to the language barrier and lack of governmental organization, ended up distributing the goods into the wrong hands. The goods as a result never reached the tsunami victims and instead made their way into the black market via other persons.
In the case of Sri Lanka, I blame the government for the lack of organization which has led to little or no improvement in the situation of the tsunami victims. In other countries where there was a limit on the amount of financial help, like Indonesia, the situation has forced a truce with the separatists and brought about peace. On the contrary, In Sri Lanka situations have remained the same between the separatists Tamil Tigers and the majority Singhala people. Although the creation of the Tamil Tigers can be attributed to a certain Indian political demigod named Indira Gandhi (nee Nehru)....well that's another story.
Up From The Comments: Vikash Singh on Tsunami Relief
Vikash Singh (also see his photos here) recently left quite a comment in response to a post I did last week on my various speaking gigs on campus. I thought I would bring it up to the front for people to peruse: