Report: Much tsunami aid wasted

AP, October 5, 2005

LONDON, England -- Poor communication hampered relief efforts after the December 26 tsunami and led to large amounts of aid going to waste, according to a report released Wednesday by the British Red Cross.

<<  A Buddha statue sits amid the rubble in the tsunami-destroyed downtown area of Galle in southern Sri Lanka.

"When a big disaster strikes, chaos is almost automatically what follows," said Matthias Schmale, international director of the British Red Cross.

"World Disasters Report 2005" is a collection of essays by experts, commissioned and published by the charity.

Relief agencies failed to communicate with one another and with survivors to accurately assess what supplies were needed and in what amounts, the charity said.

Relief agencies could benefit from making joint assessments, said Alastair Burnett, a senior official from the Asia office of the British Red Cross.

Large amounts of used clothing clogged warehouses and ended up by roadsides because it was unsuitable for the needs of the survivors, the British Red Cross said.

"People sometimes give tatty, worn out clothing. There are issues of the dignity of the people we serve," Burnett added.

The charity also urged the creation of early warning systems to prevent the kind of massive death tolls the tsunami created, said Moira Reddick, head of the organization's international program advisory department.

The Red Cross has established early warning systems in some countries like Bangladesh, where volunteers warn fishermen in boats and coastline communities to head for higher ground.

"That ultimately comes down to, for example, a Red Cross volunteer on a bicycle cycling around and telling people to get away from those coastlines," Burnett said.

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