Relief Aid Abounds, But Not a Consensus on Its Use
Expert Warns of Doing More Harm Than Good
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ROME, JAN. 16, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Billions of U.S. dollars are being allocated by governments and international organizations to countries affected by last month's tsunami.
In an interview with ZENIT, Riccardo Cascioli says that the challenge now is to identify the best way to use the funds. Cascioli is the director of the Italian-based European Center of Studies on Environment, Population and Development, and an expert on Asian issues.
Q: The tidal wave that struck the countries in Asia and Africa is the third most serious that has occurred in the last century. Are there measures that could have been taken to avoid all these deaths?
Cascioli: In fact, technology exists today that, had it been applied in the Indian Ocean, would have avoided the great majority of human losses. It is no secret that a global alarm system for the tsunami has been functioning for many years, and at present is able to identify the formation of the tsunami and its direction and alert concerned countries in just 20 minutes.
Q: Why, then, were such measures not taken?
Cascioli: Essentially, for two reasons. The rareness of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and above all the high cost of such sophisticated technology, to which must be added -- and this is very important -- organization in each country able to give the alarm, establish an evacuation plan and, eventually, prepare aid rapidly.
Clearly what matters is the substantial development of the affected countries. A similar tsunami -- in terms of violence - on the coasts of Japan would have caused limited losses, precisely because it is a developed country that has learned to live with certain natural phenomena by developing and applying a technology capable of controlling and limiting its effects.
From this point of view, one cannot fail to observe that in the last decades an ideology has been affirmed at the international level that denies the human experience of the previous millennia. So, instead of investing in infrastructure that would limit the damages of natural disasters, today much more is spent on absurd attempts to control the climate and its alleged effects.
Q: The United Nations will now administer the largest sum of aid in the history of humanitarian emergencies. How can these resources best be used?
Cascioli: Over these years U.N. agencies and some NGOs connected with them have been characterized for concentrating aid in projects directed to limiting the human presence rather than protecting it. Also over these days, once the first wave of distress passed, reasoning has begun that puts the blame on local populations, because they are growing too much and are concentrated in villages and cities along the coasts.
However, if in some countries fishing is one of the essential economic resources, where should the fishermen live? In the mountains? Do our Sicilian fisherman live inland? The problem, on the contrary, is that human urbanization must be favored, with housing that is able to cope with certain emergencies, with proper alarm systems, and so on.
Of course there are NGOs that work in this manner. However, to put aid funds in just one sack increases, unfortunately, the risk that they will be invested in a mistaken way. All the more reason why U.N. agencies should be mistrusted which, in addition to investing often in a mistaken manner, have given proof of inefficiency. So the concern of some countries can be understood.
Q: Over the last decades much of the aid collected following natural disasters has been used in programs to reduce births. Will this be the case again this time?
Cascioli: Unfortunately, I think the agencies are continuing on this path. It is no accident that among the first U.N. agencies to invest in the Asian Southeast is the United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA], ever the main protagonist in birth control campaigns. By Dec. 27 it had already allocated $1 million for "reproductive health" interventions, which we all know is a concept that hides the intention to promote abortion and contraception at the global level.
UNFPA itself states that among the populations affected there are 150,000 pregnant women who must be helped. However, we know that if these women fall into the hands of UNFPA personnel, few children will be born of them, adding victims to the victims. It is important to recall that in the emergency obstetric kits sent by the UNFPA, there are manual vacuums, which in fact are used to practice abortions.
And if someone is still in doubt, I would like to point out that these last days the Hewlett Foundation -- one of the main foundations historically committed to birth control plans -- has given $1.2 million to support "reproductive health" interventions in countries affected by the tsunami: $900,000 to UNFPA, $300,000 for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which is the most important NGO in promoting abortion in the world and a key member of the UNFPA.
There is almost the impression that these organizations in fact have a certain affinity with the tsunami, given that they work for the same objective.