Top Story of the Week: International Community Scrambles to Address, Mitigate Natural Disasters’ Effects

A volcanic eruption, 7.7 magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunami in Indonesia caught the world’s attention this week along with the severe flooding in Benin. The international community, led by the United Nations, is also on high alert as a potentially damaging storm threatens Haiti, a nation still reeling from the powerful earthquake that flattened its cities in January.

The European Commission, U.S. and Australia have pledged humanitarian aid to boost relief and recovery operations in Indonesia’s remote Mentawai Islands, which were hardest hit by the tsunami. The pledges came despite Indonesia’s initial reluctance to accept foreign aid for relief efforts in the aftermath of the disaster. The Asian country was concerned that accepting foreign aid may undermine its national legitimacy, noting that the nation’s acceptance of overseas aid following a tsunami in 2004 “had an arguably negative effect on its citizens,” said The Atlantic’s Elizabeth Weingarten.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono later welcomed foreign aid for the reconstruction phase of the relief efforts but stressed that Indonesia will continue to spearhead the projects. The U.N. and SurfAid International, a nonprofit organization, are assisting local authorities in coordinating the relief operations, which suffered setbacks due to bad weather and various logistical problems. Delays in the arrival of aid have roused frustration and desperation among tsunami survivors, many of whom voiced disappointment over the sluggish delivery of assistance.

Meanwhile, in West Africa, the U.N. and its partners have launched a USD46.8 million aid appeal for flood-ravaged Benin. The money will go toward 21 projects that will provide emergency relief and support to affected households over a six-month period. Japan was one of the first countries to commit assistance to the West African country, where at least 680,000 people have been affected by the disaster.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is also appealing for emergency aid for some 500,000 people in Haiti, which is expected to be hit by a powerful storm later this week. The threat comes as Haiti tries to recover from a cholera outbreak that has so far claimed 337 lives.

“This storm is approaching at a time when aid agencies in Haiti are already stretched to the limit,” Nigel Fisher, humanitarian coordinator for the U.N. in Haiti, has noted.

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.