Swedish aid agency criticises tsunami relief

Aid work after the Asian tsunami on December 26th, 2004, could have been better, according to the largest humanitarian assessment completed to date.

Those aid organizations that helped after the destruction must in future be more attentive to the needs of those suffering in the areas affected, the report concluded.

Stefan Dahlgren, spokesman with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), writing in Dagens Nyheter on Friday, said the response to the catastrophe was the fastest and biggest in history, but that the way in which aid is delivered has to change.

He said aid organizations have to listen to local people more and not get involved with projects with which they do not have experience.

He said one example was how many organizations built and donated boats to fisherman in Aceh and Sri Lanka. Dahlgren said many of the boats were too small and were donated to areas that already had problems with over-fishing.

Another problem was how organizations began producing houses with mixed results. The money was not lacking and that led, in some cases, to aid organizations feeling a responsibility to show results to their own organizations rather than to those suffering in the area, he wrote.

Humanitarian effort is needed, but the tsunami catastrophe shows that it is not an “ambulance response” that is needed, but long-term reconstruction work in dialogue with the affected country.