The Uk has raised £45 million in three days. The Republic’s government is facing criticism over the low levels of aid proffered. But as the FT points out it its leader today, the first responses are not the important ones, it’s the long term that matters.
In fact the problem of bringing relief lies in the fact that most of the victims lie on the edge of a globalised economy (not unlike the majority of the victims of the Irish famine):
Like mountain- and forest-dwellers, coastal communities are often some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Even the tourist beaches of globalised, middle-income Thailand host small, isolated and poor Muslim communities, sometimes called “sea-gypsies” from their nomadic traditions. Picturesqueness belies poverty. Scratching out a living from small-scale fishing, frequently at subsistence level, many coast-dwellers live with a perilously small margin of sufficiency.
Though the initial response has been powerful, the problems may only be capable of solving when the rest of us turn our backs and go back tour own more pressing local realities:
The traditional pattern of aid after a natural disaster or a war in poor and unstable countries goes like this. Offers of cash or aid in kind – which, not being fungible, are far less effective – mount rapidly in the days following the event, often before communications have been properly established or networks set up to distribute and spend it. By the start of reconstruction, interest has waned and actual aid disbursements fall short of pledges. Finally, when the worst effects of the disaster have been repaired or simply faded from view, the country sinks back into obscurity, the chronic problems of poverty and poor government which exacerbated the disaster unresolved.
Finally, the letters page of the FT is led by an interesting piece from Professor Debarati Guha-Sapir of WHO. He believes with the extra resources the international focus, there should a serious attempt to bring chlorinated water and proper sanitation to all.
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