(The first rule in disaster relief is to ASK what people want and need. It is amazing how rarely this rule is followed. People do things like send their fuzzy sweaters to sweltering southern India, and then sit back feeling smugly self-satisfied while someone in southern India has to haul their fuzzy sweaters away to the dump. -kg)
By the third week of January there were at least 200 agencies on the ground in Aceh, the Indonesian province that bore the brunt of the disaster. But less than a quarter of them sent reports to the U.N.âs emergency co-ordinating agency OCHA.
âWithout knowing who was doing what, and where, some communities were inevitably overwhelmed with aid while others were neglected,â? the annual IFRC report said.
Rivalries between agencies competing to spend unprecedented budgets and wanting to âfly the flagâ? discouraged information sharing, leading to duplicated work and wasted resources.
One result of the poor co-ordination was a surplus of doctors and lack of midwives, the report said.
Surgeons poured into Banda Aceh where 10 field hospitals were set up but none worked at full capacity as relatively few tsunami survivors were injured. One U.N. witness in the Indonesian town of Meulaboh saw 20 surgeons âcompeting for a single patientâ?.
By contrast there was a dearth of midwives and nurses. Women had to give birth without medical assistance. The report said womenâs aid needs â sanitary protection, the contraceptive pill and headscarves for Muslim women â were often overlooked.
There was also concern that not all the agencies were providing aid of the right type or standard.
Major aid groups were alarmed to see Scientologists â followers of a controversial church founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard — arriving to provide what they called âtrauma careâ?.
And when medical agency Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) went to vaccinate children in one Aceh village, staff found someone else had got there before them but had left no record of which children had been vaccinated. Reuters AlertNet – Post-tsunami chaos wastes aid