The Indonesian tsunami: Natural disaster, human responsibility

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Britain is very good at providing foreign aid. In fact, the amount Britain spends on foreign aid is the equivalent to 0.7% of its gross national income per year. In other words, for every hundred pounds made in the UK, seventy pence goes towards foreign aid. It is unsurprising, then, that the British Government sent a plane filled with practical aid such as shelter kits to Indonesia following the recent tsunami and ensuing humanitarian crisis there. We can also take pride in the fact that we have repeatedly lead international efforts in disaster containment and recovery.

Given the fantastic results of this proud tradition, it seems odd that when the government proposes cuts, the immediate response of many is to point at the foreign aid budget in outrage, and ask why the money isn’t being spent at home. Watching BBC question time, it is not rare for this question to be met with a round of applause before the debate has even begun, usually asked by a disgruntled looking old man.

[pullquote]It is simply abhorrent to treat foreign aid as a low priority in our national budget.[/pullquote]

“British money for British people” is a phrase commonly bandied about, usually accompanied by the claim that we should do nothing to help Syrian refugees or the plight of Yemeni civilians under fire from Saudi Arabia while there are so many homeless veterans on our streets. In fact, earlier this year the Daily Mail published a list of other things we could spend foreign aid money on, a list which included things as ridiculous as a year without TV licenses.

It is simply abhorrent to treat foreign aid as a low priority in our national budget. There is no objection to sending aid to such a tangible emergency as the Indonesian tsunami, so why is it that as soon as we aren’t shocked by images of death and destruction that many would be quite happy to stop providing food aid to communities in impoverished countries, where hunger claims 21,000 lives every single day? Britain has many issues to deal with, but next time we consider whether we should cut foreign aid in favour of ‘Britain first’ there is a simple question that needs to be answered: is someone less worthy of help because they were born on a different piece of land to us?

Sean Simpson


The Indonesian Tsunami that struck in early October is still creating ripples with its immense amount of destruction and the loss of life. 1700 people are dead and many more unable to be rescued. Searchers are unable to rescue many due to them being trapped under huge pieces of rubble. At Hotel Roa Roa, screams for help were heard for days until all fell silent. Only six guests were confirmed to have survived the earthquake.

[pullquote]Helping to rebuild infrastructure could go a long way in aiding the country’s economic expansion.[/pullquote]

This isn’t the first natural disaster that Indonesia has faced. Earthquakes are a common occurrence with one almost every two years. They are no stranger to the dangers posed and how unstable their infrastructure is. But with disaster management strategies expensive, the archipelago is at a major disadvantage compared to other countries. However, Indonesia is not the only developing nation to face these problems. Countries like India, Myanmar and Haiti face many natural disasters, from earthquakes to hurricanes. When a tsunami stuck South Asia on Boxing Day 2004, there was a massive loss of life in many countries, from Sri Lanka to Thailand.

The main reason for developing countries facing such heavy losses after a natural disaster are mainly its economic status where there are not enough funds allotted for such disasters and thereby not enough aid provided. where It also points out the social injustices in every nation’s system where the rich become richer and the poor, poorer.

Developed countries like the USA are more prepared for natural disasters. They have convenient alarm systems in place, evacuation routes and in some cases even a panic room for long term stay. These simple methods could go a long way in helping developing countries better their infrastructure and be prepared for disasters that strike them so often.In my opinion, richer countries should provide training and financial aid before and after disasters. Helping to rebuild infrastructure could go a long way in aiding the country’s economic expansion.

But the question I will leave you with here is this, do you think your country is doing enough for disaster management? Do you believe you are prepared for when a crisis hits?

Vaishali Ramesh

Last modified: 16th October 2018

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