The tsunami that hit South-East Asia stroked my mind and my heart like millions of other people over the world who felt sadness over this tragedy.
Newspapers, TV, blogs, all conveyed stories, images and accounts of what happened and all converged towards a call for solidarity and financial help. And like in one global move, the planet turned on this side of the world, offering its compassion. Or shall I say, an overbid of compassion that continues to get me quite critical. I don’t think it has even to do with my general suspicion towards charity. Because I do think there is a crucial need of money. I just wonder about the ways things have been handled. I have had those thoughts for a long time but I still don’t grasp much about the situation so it’s quite difficult to stand back and write about it.
When I read that the Doctors without Borders/Médecins sans frontieres websites were calling for donations for other issues because they estimated to have received sufficient fund for the South-East Asia relief, I felt that a discordant voice within the ambient discourse was expressed. I thought it is a very courageous, transparent and bold decision to make.
More recently, I’ve read articles where, at last, the management of the donations and of the help provided was addressed as an issue. Of course, we have previous examples to get us aware of how complex this situation can get. Only a year ago, an earthquake in Iran destroyed 70% of the city of Bam and killed about 27,000 people. A year later, ten of thousands of people are still living in tents, waiting for some of the money promised, among others, by the American government. Also, we can think of other current dramatic situations in the world requiring a strong level of engagement from the rich nations but that don’t have the same powerful impact on minds as did the Indian Ocean tsunami – yet, they do carry their lot of suffering and misery: those wars that go on for years, for instance, like in the Darfour region, or the abandoned people and cities of Colombia to violence and poverty. I guess I’m just surprised they never caught much attention. But maybe the tsunami catastrophy, revealing so much generosity from around the world, will change the deal of North/South support relationship (that is if the event keeps a long-term presence in the media headlines).
In the meantime, we should plan our next vacations to Phuket or South-East India or other beautiful places around the Indian Ocean and think long term help.
The wikipedia page on the matter keeps a fairly clear and regularly updated coverage, including a section on the post-tsunami humanitarian situation.