Katrina and Asian Tsunami Relief Comparison

John Quiggin observes that,

Ten days after the New Orleans disaster, the US has accepted offers of foreign aid totalling $US1 billion, but most of the assistance is not getting through because of red tape.

In contrast, he notes that some aid reached Aceh, smack in the middle of the tsunami damage, in only five days.

That̢۪s for a more widespread disaster, in the middle of a war zone, in a Third World country, with few roads, and thousands of kilometres from the countries giving most of the aid.

In discussion in the comments section, John observes,

It̢۪s data. Working how to make sense of it is up to you.

Okay. Here’s another bit of data that might be useful in this discussion: The aid which reached Aceh on the fifth day was the first aid Aceh received. Millions of dollars in relief aid for New Orleans, Biloxi, and the rest of the Gulf region arrived on day one.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LJD says:

    “It’s data. Working how to make sense of it is up to you.”

    I’m calling B.S. on that one. This is an apples to oranges comparison. Something motivates people to study this “data” in the first place. So many other aspects to focus a study on…. like how we can respond more effectively in the future.

    So what’s the point?

    We gave nearly as much to one country as the “international community” has provided to us? That confrims my point that the U.S. is not “indifferent” to human suffering.

    Our bureaucracy is preventing the aid from getting where it needs to go because they “hate blacks or poor people”? Well, in the middle of the GWOT, I would not immediately accept container loads of (biological agents), um blankets, without some scrutiny. Maybe Aceh did not have any national security concerns.

    Don’t journalists have anything more productive to do with their time? This is just stupid.

  2. Barry says:

    Day 5, with no warning, vs day 1, with several days of warning.


  3. James Joyner says:

    Barry: You would expect the aid to be delivered before the disaster?

  4. Evon says:

    Hasn’t anyone been watching TV? According to the Red Cross and Salvation Army, they had trucks ready to roll into NO before Katrina hit. LA officials prevented them from driving into NO saying that giving water and food to the people at the Superdome would encourage people to stay there and other NO people to go there. LA’s position was that they wanted to evacuate the people not encourage them to stay in NO.

  5. ken says:

    Evon, if you go to the Red Cross web site you will see that they say right up front that it was FEMA who told them to stay out of New Orleans.

    The mayor, the police chief, and everyone else hit by the catastrophe were begging for people to come in and help.

  6. dougrc says:

    I think that when this is all over and done with there will be a few things that stand out:

    1. The local governments failed to carry out their emergency plans mainly because they were not able to communicate with most of their employees and many of their employees were victims of the disaster.
    2. The state government was not prepared to facilitate communications and recovery when the local governments efforts were found to be failing.
    3. FEMA and the private relief agencies were in place to respond to requests from the local and state governments, but had little communications from them in the first 72 hours.
    4. And the biggest failure was that while there was a massive rescue and recovery effort spread over three states, no one hurried to get that effort to the 3 or 4 locations in New Orleans where the MSM and cable news had moved their reporters.

    Their reporting of the plight of less than 1% of the population that was affected by this catastrophe I’m sure helped their ratings but did little to report on the massive effort hundreds of thousands of volunteers and government employees were making. The perceptions was that nothing was being done, while there were actually heroic efforts being made all over the affected area.

  7. Lurking Observer says:

    Really, ken?

    This is what the Red Cross site says, right at the beginning of their FAQs on the New Orleans situation:

    # Acess [sic] to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

    # The state Homeland Security Department had requested–and continues to request–that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

    [Emphasis added.]

    That’s from their own site.

    National Guard and local units are under state and local, not Federal, authority. And the state Homeland Security Department means the Louisiana HSD.

    So, where are you getting your “information”?

  8. spencer says:

    The job of the red cross is to provide food, room, clothes, money, etc, to people hurt by the disaster. The red cross is not set up or prepared to conduct rescue operations.

    I see nothing wrong with the way it was organized. The red cross was set up at central points around the city and the rescue workers took the victims to the points where the red cross was set up to do what they do.
    At these points they had electricity, water and phone lines that they would not have in the city.
    So they would not have been able to perform in the city.

    Sounds like a very good way to do it.

    Why is anyone making an issue of it?

  9. LJD says:

    So, where are you getting your “information”?

    There’s a hole in the tin-foil hat.