The Asian Tsunami

The Asian Tsunami

Aid and Reconstruction after a Disaster

ADBI series on Asian Economic Integration and Cooperation

Sisira Jayasuriya and Peter McCawley

The 2004 Asian tsunami was the greatest natural disaster in recent times. Almost 230 000 people died. In response, governments in Asia and the broader international community announced large aid programs. The resulting assistance effort was one of the largest humanitarian programs ever organized in the developing world. This book discusses the lessons of the aid effort for disaster protection policy in developing countries.

Chapter 7: Conclusion

Sisira Jayasuriya and Peter McCawley

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, environment, disasters, politics and public policy, international politics


INTRODUCTION In the wake of a great disaster it is natural to look for hope. We can, we think, at least draw lessons which will help guide us in the future. We can do better next time, we tell ourselves. We hope that the pain that vast numbers of people have suffered will not be in vain. This chapter will consider how realistic such hopes may be in the light of the 2004 Asian tsunami events and consider what lessons may be drawn from the experience of the delivery of aid following the tsunami. But for those who read these pages hoping for guidelines that can ensure considerable improvements in the delivery of disaster aid in development countries, a warning is in order. One of the main lessons of the delivery of assistance following the 2004 Asian tsunami is that much confusion and conflict is inevitable in the immediate aftermath of such situations. Local emergency institutions in poor countries are almost always greatly over-stretched in crises of this kind. The international community rarely responds much better either. Indeed, our single most important conclusion is that it is local communities – rather than the national or international communities – who are quickest to provide the most valuable practical immediate assistance following a great disaster. The policy implication is that within the extremely limited funding available to support emergency relief measures in poor countries, much greater priority needs to be given to strengthening local preparedness rather than funding delayed responses in the aftermath of...

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