Friday, July 21, 2006

Tsunami Update

It was easter 2005 when the big tsunami hit Indonesia and other parts of Asia. Response was immediate and generous. One of the most notable of NGO's in relief operations was Canadian Red Cross which garnered the lions' share of donations by Canadians.

Red Cross operations were started in all three hard-hit areas. Banda Aceh and region in Indonesia being one. Immediate needs for temporary shelter, food, water, medicines and medical aid were in place by the end of month 1. Clean-up operations proceeded and rebuilding operations were scheduled. In all of these CRC was heavily involved, The most expensive aspect was the building of permanent housing, to which CRC had pledged the construction of 6,000 units. By the end of the first year CRC was rushing to complete the first house.

Four months later, CRC announces that 280 homes are 'near completion' and that by the end of the year, this number will have risen to 1600 homes. In my math, the current rate of 70 per month will have to increase by more than 200%. This construction is being hampered by increasing costs and a sporadic supply of building materials. I guess the original notion of shopping locally might not be the best idea, but then importing supplies will run right into the cooperative government of Indonesia.

With the latest in seismic events just reported last week and another appeal to help those affected by the mini-tsunami and the on-going volcanic activity on the Island - it looks like the rebuilding process might be susceptible to derailment.

It was noted that CRC appeared to be a little slow getting rebuilding started as other groups were well in the lead providing housing rebuilds while CRC was bogged down in realty negotiations. Very few people have been relocated o these accomodations. Recent news from Bandah Aceh criticises some reconstruction efforts as being 'shoddy' or built in dangerous sites. The CRC touts its houses as being of excellent quality. Perhaps the critcisms arise from the first group housed seeing others getting something 'better'?

The CRC continues support efforts geared to those currently living in temporary camps. If previous experience is any indicator, a significant number of temporary accomodations become more permanent as time passes, and people get settled. Perhaps CRC could be more effective by getting into the building supply operations and let people reconstruct their own houses. A choice of 4 models is nice, but is it the best way o meet peoples' needs, and is it ciost effective?

One thing that is fairly certain is that this most populous of lands, built on the Pacific's fiery rim, will continue to have more than the normal share of disasters, and that CRC and other charities will continue to appeal for aid. How effectively that aid is used, remains nebulous.

I'll have to see if I can find out how other Canadian groups are doing.

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