Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Relief and Reconstruction - Cyclone and Earthquake (Part 1)

My son and I were nearly drowned in the swimming pool of Guoman Hotel in Port Dickson. It was the morning after the infamous 26th Dec 2004. Over 200,000 people living in the peripherals of the Indian Ocean perished when a tsunami was generated by a massive earthquake off Aceh.
We were struggling in the water and trying to attract attention by waving and shouting. Passersby were a mere few meters away. They paid scant attention or misinterpreted our actions and were left to fend for ourselves. My son put his arm around me and we started sinking. Both of us drank plenty of water. My son calmed down somewhat remembering the coaching that he has. I managed to detach myself from him and then started pushing him by his armpit to side of the pool. With his elbows securely on the solid tiles, he clasped his hands together and uttered these words, “Thank you God!”
I could not imagine the suffering of the ordinary folks in Sichuan, China and Irrawaddy, Myanmar after being devastated by an earthquake (12th May) and cyclone (2nd May) respectively. Over a hundred thousand perished and millions were made homeless.
The Star reported yesterday that MERCY disbursed RM2,000,000 for direct on the ground expenses in Myanmar. Half were spent on relief work while the other half on education for affected children. The operational costs came up to RM33,000 (less than 2% of the total). They must be managing the funds very well. It is not unusual that 30% or more of the donations goes into non-direct costs like operations and administration.
The Cuban Medical Centre in Yogyakarta helping earthquake (27 May '06) victims.
Within a month RM2 mil was on the ground which is impressive esp. with an uncooperative and paranoia government in power. Promptness in disbursing funds is so important. The benchmark to work with is to get the donations on the ground within 60 days for relief, recovery and education programs. This includes the very important first few days where rescue of the living, burial of the dead and sanitizing the disaster zone are done. Concurrently, relief operations will be set up for the survivors.

A look at the list of expenses from the table provided by MERCY will indicate that it is involved very much in relief and recovery operations rather than rescue. Rescue is a much more technical exercise and generally only government funded departments can maintained and trained such teams.

Earthquake in Yogjakarta in May 2006 - 6,000 died and about 200,000 houses damaged or destroyed
After the rescue, recovery, relief and education it will be followed closely by reconstruction and rebuilding esp. repairing and building new houses. Other programs like donations, micro-credit and micro-enterprise will try to get the populace back to their feet. MERCY has another RM2 mil to disbursed. This will most likely be allocated for rebuilding homes, lives and livelihood. It may take up to 1 -2 years.

1 comment:

Kenny Mah said...

Well-written coverage of the recent natural disasters and what we're doing to help out. I didn't realize so much money would normally go to operational costs. I guess MERCY did a very good job of managing the money. Good on them!