The Asian Tsunami Debated

There is no doubt that December 2004 will be remembered around the world for some time to come. While we all tucked into our turkey and chestnut stuffing (or nut roast/lentil pie if you wish) surrounded by family and friends, people in 13 countries/regions were experiencing a major catastrophe.

Much has been written about this disaster and the power of television and global telecommunications allowed us to watch events and their impact from the comfort of our homes.

Worldwide, there has been a massive positive reaction to this disaster where huge sums of money have been raised to assist countries and communities rebuild their lives. This has largely happened as a result of ordinary people getting involved in activities on a local and national basis. Governments have tried to match some of this effort by offering aid in different forms to affected countries.

What we have tried to do in this section is identify some of the thinking, debates and information sites that may be useful to you. We welcome any comments or additional information that you believe would add value to this section.

In this section we have included 10 pieces that explore different dimensions of the event and our responses to it.

  1. When tragedy trumps borders – ‘Mother Nature did not discriminate between Muslim and Christian, Tamil and Sinhalese, poor and rich, native and foreigner’ – a piece by Indian political scientist, Ramesh Thakur, which explores the broader context and significance of the event.
  2. Africa’s hidden slaughter deserves as much attention as the tsunami – ‘In the next hour more than 1,000 children under five will die from illnesses linked to poverty. Half of them will be African – a death toll equivalent to two tsunamis a month. Unlike the suffering in Asia, these deaths are avoidable. But there is no three-minute silence for the victims’. Kevin Watkins, Director of the UNDP Human Development Report explores the African context.
  3. Federal tsunami aid hits $425 million as cash woes hurt Africa – Ms. Otim, 37, is a Kenyan activist in the Pan-African Treatment Access Movement. She devotes her considerable energy to raising funds for lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment for the estimated three million Kenyans living with HIV-AIDS and the 28 million people across Africa who have the virus. Journalist Stephanie Nolen explores issues around HIV and AIDS in the context of official responses to the tsunami.
  4. Gender and natural disasters: Why we should be focusing on a gender perspective of the Tsunami disaster – ‘There has been talk of an early warning system that could have prevented the enormous scale of the disaster by allowing time for people to evacuate, but what about the social and economic dimensions of natural disasters? Is there a way to prevent some of the social difficulties faced in the aftermath of natural disasters? Can natural disasters be used as a platform for positive social change in communities?’ Rochelle Jones explores the issues.
  5. Don’t let tsunami wash out the Millennium Development Goals – ‘Although small, Singapore’s response to aid fellow South-east Asian neighbour Indonesia in the aftermath of the devastating tsunami is being hailed by a regional development expert – Marwaan Macan-Markar – as a pivotal step in the global race to rid the world of poverty.’
  6. Disasters Fund would help reach real goals – Geographer Ben Wisner argues for the setting up a Fund ‘like the Fund for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that would be used as a first priority in the least developed, indebted countries that are most vulnerable to disasters’.
  7. The right kind of aid – ‘As more aid pours in for the unfortunate victims of the Asian tsunami, there has been much hand-wringing that nations, notably the Untied States, have not done enough. But while the highly paid UN staff whips up, and the media avidly reports, big government aid competition, what is far less well monitored is whether the money is being well spent’. Roger Bate comments.
  8. Responding to calamity Asia – Disaster points to peril – and promise – of water – ‘The tragedy that has unfolded over the past week in Asia reminds us of the power of water to both give life and take it away. As the death toll rises from the earthquake and devastating tsunami, efforts to provide all manner of aid are picking up speed and urgency’. Peter Gleick reports.
  9. The longer view – ‘The deadly tsunami in Asia struck with little warning, and so did the eruption of criticism over aid levels that followed. The critical press coverage was a surprise because disaster relief has popular support and has rarely been a controversial part of the aid budget. It is far harder to build support for long-term reconstruction and development.’ The International Herald Tribune reports.
  10. Thousands Died in Africa Yesterday – When a once-in-a-century natural disaster swept away the lives of more than 100,000 poor Asians last December, the developed world opened its hearts and its checkbooks. Yet when it comes to Africa, where hundreds of thousands of poor men, women and children die needlessly each year from preventable diseases, or unnatural disasters like civil wars, much of the developed world seems to have a heart of stone.
  11. Martyn Turner cartoon – Irish Times cartoonist Martyn Turner explores the context.
  12. A list of countries affected by the tsunami