We discussed the tsunami and relief efforts in a special edition of our phone-in programme Talking Point. Our guest was UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland.
It is almost three months since the Asian tsunami disaster which left nearly 300,000 people dead and many thousands more without their homes and livelihoods.
Last week the Asian Development Bank (ADB) urged governments around the world to honour their financial pledges to the countries worst-hit by the 26 December earthquake and sea surges.
There is a shortfall of more than $4bn (£2.1bn) from what was promised for rebuilding India, Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
Do you have any direct experience of how relief money is being spent? Is progress being made? How much more needs to be done?
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received:
My family just spent a month on Ko Phi Phi, Thailand, while I did volunteer veterinary work there and in Phuket. Western volunteers were doing incredibly hard work trying to clean up Phi Phi which was a disaster. Everyone echoed the same story. Where is all the relief money? Is the Thai government trying to get the local businesses out so that they can sell to mega resort companies? I would like to find out the real story. Obviously Phi Phi's growth had not been controlled and a touch of paradise had been overcrowded, but hopefully the locals don't lose their lifestyle.
Chris Holmes, Lakeport, Ca, USA
I salute all those who have volunteered from the beginning of this disaster and I just hope that all those who have pledged to help do so without any corruption. You never know when you might need the help of the world, so honour your promises and keep helping.
Ursula, Gaborone, Botswana
I worked in Lhok'nga, Banda Aceh for a few years, and colleagues of mine are on the ground in Aceh, helping where they can. My info is that basic aid has been good and well distributed, but the aid needed to give the infrastructure and building work a boost has not got into gear! I sincerely hope that the agencies are not sent packing before their job is finished, because there are no other people who can complete such projects. The funding must continue, be well controlled by the agencies, and all corruption ended. The people in these areas deserve the best help they can get, or be given. They are truly amongst the best on earth!
Tom Martin, Stanhope, Co.Durham, UK
Who can possibly tell? I'd be extremely concerned if the Indonesian Government had sight of any funds at all. As one of the most notoriously corrupt states in the world, lets hope the aid agencies have had the common sense to bypass the politicos?
David , Reading, UK
I've just come back from Thailand, where there are many reports that aid is not reaching those who need it, but disappearing into the control of local politicians, police and businessmen. These same people have used the tsunami to take prime tourist sites from their previous owners, using laws hastily passed by their corrupt friends. Perhaps worse is that the Thai government is withholding a report which states that warnings, of the impending danger, could have been given to some of the affected areas. The reasons given for this are that it would damage the Thai tourist industry; and that 'Farangs (foreigners) love to sue'. This is a dreadful insult to the 'Farangs' who donated millions of pounds, in the belief it was going to help those in need.
Tim Fright of England: Define for us "effective UN response", as the term seems to contradict itself on its head. If not for the effective and hasty response of Britain, US and Australia, this area of the world would have doubled or tripled its death toll before the UN agreed to hold a meeting about whether or not the death toll was high enough to intervene with any kind of aid. Last time I checked, the UN was close to a decision on what to have for lunch in said meeting.
A friend in Sri Lanka has been highlighting the real plight of the tsunami effects. Two thirds of the devastation there is in the north and east Tamil areas. Government media has been highlighting only the one-third Sinhalese area. The UN Secretary General, Canadian PM and Prince Charles were denied permission to visit the worst hit areas. Aid has apparently not got through to Tamil areas, but taxes have allegedly been imposed for the release of aid stuck in airports and ports. Italian-donated ambulances/aid are reportedly stuck in the airport as permission to move them to the north has been refused. It is time for the Sri Lankan Government and the rebels to put down their differences in the name of humanity, for their own countrymen, in order to benefit from the generosity of mankind around the world.
Go to Thailand. We have recently returned from a week at a resort near Krabi, Thailand, in the Andaman area. Apart from Railay Beach East, we found it almost impossible to see any signs of Tsunami damage. I think one of the problems was that the Foreign Office did not remove the region as an affected area early enough. The problem now is tourists have cancelled - our hotel was only 15 per cent occupied in early March. There is no reason not go, and some of the deals on offer now are, frankly, astounding.
Martin Brodie, Watford, UK
It will take Sri Lanka over ten years to recover. Several countries promised massive amounts in aid - some of it has yet to materialise. Britain should lead the way by setting up an Asia-Pacific Commission to look at the long term implications of the Asian tsunami. This a long term commitment.
Ivan Corea, Buckhurst Hill, Essex
I was a member of a disaster relief team in Banda Aceh, specifically in the village of LaDong. I am interested in finding out where the money that is being raised by Former President Clinton and Former President Bush will be utilized. I have seen nothing in the media that addresses the specifics of where that money will be directed.
Jenny Foreman, Germantown, TN USA
Governments will not honour their pledges, they will pledge at the time, when media interest is high, and then those pledges will dissolve as media interest wanes.
I have just been to Koh Phi Phi and the devastation is clearly still terrible. The clear-up is effectively in process but essentially it is coming from the volunteers who are coming to the island and literally picking up rubble along with the locals. The streets, the buildings and their port are all complete wrecks. The locals were so desperate for us to buy knick-knacks, books and jewellery off them as their businesses are now permanently closed-down.
Personally I saw no evidence of a great deal of relief money being put to use. It was really sad being there and to realise that a whole island, homes and families were destroyed in just a few hours, is just unbelievable. The locals in Phi Phi were genuinely so grateful for what seemed to us, very little money. It seems a shame that the vast amount of money raised has only trickled through Phi Phi. I have so much respect for the volunteers - the true heroes.
Claire Davies, London
Does an effective UN response to the tsunami relief effort make the UN more relevant in world politics after recent US Republican attempts to disparage the UN? and if so, how?
Tim Fright, Billingshurst, England
Will there be enough monitoring how the money is spend?
Girdhari, Zeist in Holland.
After spending a month doing relief and reconstruction work in Galle, Sri Lanka, I can attest to the fact that money is not getting where it is needed. While I do not have any answers on a global scale, I can recommend that donors find trustworthy locals or volunteers working in the hard hit areas. You can decipher trustworthy volunteers from corrupt ones by their ability to provide information on the project (temporary houses, schools, etc) at hand, receipts showing the purchase price of supplies and digital photos of the progress. This will help support the economy and make direct improvements and impact those most adversely affected. Monsoon season is rapidly approaching and help is desperately needed.
Emily-Gene N. Green, Sacramento, USA
I have recently come back from Sri Lanka and left the country very disillusioned. The scale of the disaster defies imagination and at times reminded me of a scene from a Vietnam War movie. In the area I visited assistance was basic at best although aid agencies are to be commended for providing the fundamentals of life. However, people lack hope and everything is not going to be okay in Sri Lanka unless proper standards of management and accountability are enforced. The scale of the rebuilding programme is immense and whilst I was there not a lot seemed to be happening. I personally don't understand why some organisations say they have enough money - particularly in light of recent complaints from the Asian Development Bank.
Chris, London, England
What are the general efforts being made to forestall future losses in human life and property that have occurred in the Tsunami regions?
Moses Boyos Garba, Mubi, Adamawa, Nigeria
I was staying on Koh Phi Phi on December 26th, and experienced first hand the full ravaging that this beautiful little island took. I keep wondering to myself exactly where one would start in order to repair what I have seen. The damage was just stupefying. Given the planning procrastination of the Thai authorities in this case, it's not hard to see why things may be taking a long time. There's so much to do before life returns to anything like normal for the people affected.
Steve Jaques, Aylesbury, UK
Now is the time for a major change in the way these governments deal with their own people to lift them out of poverty. The effect would be that they should pay minimum wages, supply good health care and housing. But this would make costs rise and stop the migration of manufacturing in these areas.
Tony, Welling, Kent
No. And by now most of the world has lost interest and the Red Cross and the local governments are left with a big kitty of cash with just burial expenses to worry about. The people who needed the money are still not getting it and are dying of starvation and malnutrition. How can we help? We donate, but if it is not getting there it is in someone's pocket in the middle area.
Darren Smith, New York
To anyone who thinks that tsunami relief is a matter of replacing simple boats and home, it's really not. My Acehnese young friend, for example, found herself suddenly orphaned and must be the parents of her even younger siblings. Providing livelihood to those ill-prepared for a disaster in such proportion is no simple matters. Even replacing "simple" infrastructures Americans take for granted, post office, government services, hospitals, electricity, roads, etc will take much time and money. Even farmers can't go back to work before massive farmland be desalinated, a massive undertaking just for a "simple" task. If any government doesn't want to give any amount of money, $5B or however much, it shouldn't announce it before consulting the Congress or whomever, and reap worldwide publicity and acknowledgement out of it. it's just bad taste.
Inggita, New York, NY
As I understand it the Sri Lankan government have increased import duty taxes on the raw materials so much that the aid agencies on the ground are unable to afford to get materials past customs. Officials have then been selling the stranded items to the highest bidder.
Julia, Cambs, UK
The problem is worse than this sounds - what is actually happening is that the money is being spent now on the clear-up and subsistence and nothing will remain for rebuilding - which is what is really needed.
My family spent Christmas in Thailand and luckily we were in Bangkok the day the tsunami stroke. However, after much soul searching we decided to continue our holiday and flew to Phuket on December 27. We missed our scheduled flight and ended up flying standby on a 747 surrounded by doctors, nurses, rescue workers and the media. That was certainly a surreal experience for the family. Our hotel on the South East, the Cape Panwa, was unaffected and the Thai people at the hotel and locally were so delighted we stayed! Having witnessed some of the damage in Phuket, I strongly urge all governments to ensure that money pledged is sent urgently. Thailand needs our support in tourism. Thailand, Sri Lanka and other Asian countries need us to visit now more than ever. Thai people love to smile even in these very difficult times. Go on have a holiday in Thailand and you will have a fantastic time!
Edmund O'Leary, Surrey, UK
I don't think the money will ever get to where it was intended. I remember after September 11 here in the States people donated record amounts of money to the families and to the rebuilding effort. Less than 10% actually went where it was supposed to. I think the money might get to the countries, but it won't get past rich peoples' resorts.
Ernie Pope, Tucson, AZ, USA
On track? This was a disaster, a natural one. It wasn't planned and the clean up is a reactive situation. I hardly think holding it to a timetable is fair.
Steve, Brighton, UK
I think that communities in the UK and around the world should adopt a community affected by the tsunami. This way, now that the world's media is not focusing as much attention on the situation, local areas can become more involved in the regeneration program. Each focusing on being able to provide money, goods and materials and allowing firm bonds to be established across the globe.
Alan, Glasgow, Scotland
The immediate emergency relief operation ought to be finished by now and the long term rehabilitation programme should have commenced. Unfortunately the bureaucracy in the United Nations means that UNDP and the World Bank are incapable of getting the long term rebuilding aid, assistance and infrastructure in place in a short time frame. There are still victims that are in need of counselling and there are those that are ready to rebuild their homes but have not received any assistance or financial help to do the task. There is really little tangible progress being made and the relief money is not being well spent.
Anne Woodward, Denmark
I am in regular contact with my good friends in Galle, Sri Lanka. They are homeless and living in a near by monastery. They have yet to receive any aid or help except from the monastery. The price of re-building materials has gone up and up along with demand. Some materials such as building sand are in very short supply. Is the aid that we in the West have donated likely to be put to practical use soon? Two and a half months is a long time for this aid to reach the people who so urgently need it.
Robert Bennett, Doncaster, England
My best friend was working in a dive shop on Phi Phi island when the wave hit and was tragically one of the many lost. A project has been set up in his name called Paradise Found Project. The people of Phi Phi are receiving a very small amount of money from a charity called Hi Phi Phi but they are still awaiting a decision from the government about the future of the island. In the meantime, friends and families of those lost and of those working on the island are raising money to help the clean up and rebuild operation as without it they would not be able to move forward.
Caroline Lewis, Bristol, England
Those that have delayed payment should be ashamed of themselves. We should name and shame them, so they don't get re-elected.
James Murphy, Dorset
I have been on the Tamil Nadu coastline for six weeks, working to rehabilitate those affected by the tsunami and my firsthand experience is that whilst rescue and relief operations were effective, aid for repair and rebuilding of houses and boats is in short supply. For relatively small sums of money houses could be repaired and people moved out of the refugee camps in which they continue to exist. They are rapidly becoming dependent on food and water handouts and urgently need to be rehabilitated. I am disillusioned that the money I and countless others donated has not reached these areas. Progress is far too slow.
Ian Hunneybell, Colachel, Tamil Nadu, India