Is it possible to ensure that relief gets through to the poor and marginalised victims of the tsunami?
A report by Oxfam has found that the poorest tsunami victims have benefited the least from the relief effort.
The charity says that aid has tended to go to businesses and landowners with the poor more likely to spend longer in refugee camps where it is harder to find work or rebuild lives.
How can relief get through to the poorer victims of the tsunami? Is red tape slowing down reconstruction? Should there be better co-ordination between governments and aid agencies?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
We are helping 4 Sri Lankan families that we have known for the last 10 years. After the tsunami they were poorer than when we first met them. We still send what we can, direct to their bank accounts, and have just helped one family to buy a fishing boat as NO government aid has reached them - and this affects 8 families whose men work as fishermen. The system of patronage is a disgrace, and people who gave so generously might never do so again when they see that the ordinary people still haven't received a penny. We despair at mankind, will we never learn and grow?
Philip Lloyd, Knokke, Belgium
I lived in one of the countries that was affected by the Tsunami and knew that most of the money would finish up in the pockets of a few already rich people. I was branded as heartless for refusing to give money to the Tsunami appeal, but I am glad that I didn't. I paid an extra contribution to a UK based charity!
Roger Lewis, Watford UK
I am currently working in Sri Lanka, teaching English. Although many legislative and bureaucratic difficulties stem from the constant political wrangling, I have seen the real positive impact aid has made here. In my village alone, individuals have been given their livelihoods back and the chance to get back to normal. From a personal point of view, I have been able to give directly, through the help of British donors, and I've found this very successful. Unfortunately, the bigger the organisation, the bigger the admin!
Philip Jach, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka
Once again we hear an aid agency complaining that something is not right with aid given to disasters. It seems that while they are very good at pointing out errors they seem so much slower at ensuring the aid does get to the people who need it most. I get sick and tired of aid organisations forever telling us what we should be doing, while they who are on the ground fail to do the job their supposed to be doing.
Ian, Southport England
I am not surprised at all. Corruption and injustice happens all the time in my country. However we should keep trying and come up with new solution for the problem instead of turning away from it. Those poor people really need our help. Please remember that if you stop helping because you feel your effort is useless, they are the one who is going to suffer the most. So please, don't give up trying.
Sally, Jakarta, Indonesia
The only way to ensure that aid reaches the poor and needy is to send contributions to NGOs who are known to be committed to the welfare of the poor. They know the places and the people. One can state clearly one's choice of the area to be served and that is respected.
Nirmal B Chakrabarti, Kharagpur India
I am sure Oxfam and the other charities are doing their best, but it is clear that without full co-operation from the governments concerned, the poor will become poorer and the rich will become richer. A sad state of affairs.
Mem, Cambridge, England
Too many people think 'aid' begins and ends with handing over your spare change to a collector. In January when my college planned some fund-raising events for tsunami aid, I suggested that we locate a similar institution that had been affected by the tsunami and support them directly. Nobody was interested so I guess the substantial sum we raised is now being frittered away like a lot of the cash that has been given to the fund.
Megan, Cheshire UK
At least in Indonesia's case, I don't think that we understand the extent of the disaster. Simply giving money to the poor will not help. Nothing is left standing. No amount of cash transfer can buy anything, as there is no markets, no fishing boats, no farming land. What would you buy with a million dollars if there is nothing to buy? Even with all the money available, rebuilding all the homes, offices, hospitals, schools, and markets, will take YEARS, not 6 months. Please understand, your aid does help. But I don't believe that a developed country have had to lose 150,000 people in one day.
Brava Sudjana, Indonesia
Too much red tape, not enough co-operation between the various Aid agencies. Our local church raised enough money which was then given personally to families in real need by our vicar. I thought that was great and I do think that if one knows precisely the projects for which money is needed people would become more involved and more interested.
Ingrid Wood, Ashurst, UK
This is one reason why I don't give to charities - because I know most of it will be wasted. What Oxfam needs to do is totally circumvent any government if aid is not evenly distributed.
Nicholas Kingsley, Chichester, West Sussex
One of the greatest problems is that NGOs are having problems getting materials to remote areas, which are prone to civil/military disturbance and to natural disasters including earthquakes. NGOs are compelled to use our funds responsibly but cannot get the insurance needed to spend the money on the ground where it's needed. And as some international NGOs will not work with local partners, who would be more willing to take the risk of working without insurance, reconstruction is being hindered. Comprehensive reconstruction efforts are being pursued by some outstanding organisations, which are providing training for local people to work in construction and develop long-term skills that they can use when local economies turn upwards again. It's going to be a long, laborious process and there will be occasional grim stories but we should continue to give our support to all involved civil society bodies, local and international governments, and fund-raising efforts.
Sue Alexander, Kent, UK
Western governments should work only through NGOs and their work should be subject to periodic unannounced inspections and audits. NGOs and governments not cooperating with this policy should be excluded from receiving further aid.
The news that aid is getting only to the people who need it least is distressing, but it's almost as distressing to read so many comments that say, in effect, "Don't bother to send any money to any charity, because it won't get to the right people". Obviously, we need a different strategy for distribution, but the poorest people who have received nothing so far will never get anything at all if the rest of the world stops sending aid.
Lesley, Vancouver, Canada
The money that was donated by the people who were concerned about what happened in the areas which were affected by the tsunami was meant mostly for the poor people who lost their homes and are in need of medical support, not for the rich!
Sherry Anne, Cainta, Rizal/ Philippines
Well what a surprise - not! Why is it always the businesses and the already wealthy who end up with most of the aid? The poor, as usual, remain downtrodden and deprived. It makes me sick to my stomach. It's exactly the kind of thing that turns me away from making donations of any kind these days, much as my heart is telling me I should.
According to the latest report from Oxfam, as per usual, it is not the needy that is getting the aid but the rich and land owners. Surprise, surprise! this happens every time and we just do not learn, we continue to throw good money after bad instead of insisting that any aid is distributed by our own charities only, no exceptions.
Michael Mciver, Hastings, England
If all the hundreds of millions raised by the developed countries cannot get through to the people that really need it in the tsunami hit countries what chance is there for Africa? The tsunami countries have stable governments and economies far greater than most African states. If the money is not being well distributed in Asia will we continue to see the same actions elsewhere?
James Faulkner, Manchester
WHY do the poor always stay poor and the rich get richer? We should be all ashamed and demand the poor get the money and decent homes.
Laura L. Bedard, Hudson, USA
It's unfortunate but this is typical of relief efforts, little wonder that people are turned off contributing. Aid in the form of cash should not be turned over until the recipient government can show the extent of their relief efforts. Some charities could also do with closer scrutiny and mandatory auditing of their relief coffers.
Allan, Vancouver, Canada
As one would have suspected, the aid is being used to rebuild the tourist locations as it is beneficial to the economy, whereas the poor are again being ignored, simply because they cannot be benefited from.
Naveed Khan, London, UK
Unless the international aid agencies insist they plan, execute and control the distribution directly, nothing will ever change. The rich enrich their bank accounts, the poor will never benefit nor receive anything.
H. H. Fehse, Western Australia
As a school student you can imagine how much effort and energy the whole school put into collecting money for the victims of the Asian tsunami and we raised a lot. I think personally that the generosity of the British people is very much being reflected in the fantastic work of the DEC. However I do believe that there is a great deal of room for governments and aid agencies to work closer together even yet. It is only through this that we can ensure relief is reaching everyone who has been affected. The aid so far has clearly been well used as seen in the house rebuilding etc. My school for example is now working on a long term project to ensure that aid reaches everyone by conducting the project ourselves.
J. Mehta, UK
In Thailand aid is not getting through to people to help rebuild homes etc because of influential and rich persons wishing to build new resorts where small fishing villages were once located.
Fraser Heath, Aberdeen, UK
In places like Sri Lanka there is a patron-client relationship between the politicians and their supporters i.e. the influence of a parliamentarian is needed to secure emergency relief or a government job. A memorandum written by the legislator to inform civil service authorities of the plight of an individual or a group is necessary to get anything done through government departments including Rehabilitation and Relief Ministry. This expanding role of patronage is now affecting Tsunami aid distribution. And we all know the priority given by politicians to businesses and to the rich.
Ruben, London, UK
In the end, I didn't send any money to the fund as I felt that a) the British government was already sending money on my behalf from the taxes I pay and b) the fund was getting so large that it was inevitable that some of it would be misappropriated. Following the Sri Lankan imposition of import taxes on Oxfam vehicles, I feel vindicated. It's much better to support the smaller charities where you have full confidence in how the money will be spent.
Dave, Leicester, UK
We should have known it before. It's always the poorest who suffer most. The politicians high and low can't be trusted, they just keep most of the money. Let the West go there with money in their pocket and just give it to the poor.
Wim de Vries, Helmond, Netherlands