Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Aid for victims of Hurricane Felix: The good and the ugly

I just talked to a member of the government of the Autonomous Region of the North Atlantic of Nicaragua. This person told me that there are problems with the aid being sent to the region. There has been an outpouring of good will and solidarity, and even in Waslala, one of the poorest municipalities of Nicaragua, we have gathered several truckloads of donations. However, I was told that each organization is distributing its aid independently to the communities that they work with. As a result, some communities have received no aid at all and are facing serious problems. Hopefully the Atlantic Coast will organize and this will get worked out soon. It reminds me once again how much of a “natural” disaster is really “human” disaster.


zooms said...

I recognise this all too well.
We got a tarpauline, U.S.aid, that made your skin itch, two bags of food from a local head master that we did appreciate, a bowl of hot and tasty soup from the Trinidad armed Special Forces that were enforcing the curfew, and two years after Ivan passed, we got 100 cwt of beans per household, in our village, that smelled funny and everyone dumped in the river.
The best aid we got was from the lady over the road who had a generator and gave us ice every day for 6 months, until the Cubans came and fixed the electric lines.

Anonymous said...

This - unfortunately - is so typical: the lack of coordination of aid and its disbursement, the inability and/or unwillingness of a myriad of charities to cooperate.
Some of it caused by donors' - sometimes ill advised - demands, bust most of all by each and every charity's self-interest in first and foremost to preserve its existence (and show off to donors as able to function separately) and the jobs of its management... and then and only then to provide aid.
It's usually tolerated because inneficient aid beats no aid, but there are also angry voices being raised (especially in Europe) about the international charities and their personnel becoming "the new colonialists".

Please, do not suspect me for any anticharity feelings. As a consultant to charities (sometimes assuming executive positions on an ad hoc basis if needed) I am one of all those to be blamed, I am afraid. :-(

Graeme said...

How come they have no problem getting coke-a-cola and AK 47s shipped around the world, but aid seems to always be so damn difficult?

Aaron A. said...

The "human" disaster alright.

When it is aid. Sometimes it seems to be things most unpractical that gets there first. Like helping everyone in the hurricane ravaged area get a tv or a radio.

Frank Partisan said...

A natural disaster had something to do with getting Somoza out.

Sontín said...

Thank you everyone for your interesting comments.

Zooms. It sounds rough. My experience with hurricane Mitch was that the best aid was really neighbors helping neighbors.

Minerva. I feel that governments, or disaster committees, or the aid agencies themselves should organize all aid collectively so that it is distributed with equity. It is unfortunate that the competition for funds and fame makes something like that difficult.

Graeme. The ability of coke and pepsi to appear in the most remote corners of the world is impressive (and disturbing), but they have an enormous distribution network set up that is profitable and continuous use. The Sandinista government is trying to use to Citizen's Power Councils as a mechanism for the distribution of aid, perhaps along the same idea ... but they are not yet established enough to really be functional, and the population that is not sandinista does not trust them, or feel included by them.

AAron. Perhaps with a few mind numbing sitcoms, you forget that you have no food or house??

Renegade. There was an earthquake that leveled Managua in 1972. What made people angry was the generally held opinion that Somoza pocketed most of the money that came in for the reconstruction. If you have visited Managua, you will have noticed that the city was not rebuilt and signs of the earthquake are still present.

bethjillian said...

I am working on a report for school and the historical fact that was given to me was Hurricane Felix in 1972. it sounds there was another one that just hit and that people still remember the other one. but in my research it looks like it was more of an earthquack. can you help me out on this?