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Disaster response on the run

12th October 2005

Disaster response on the run: What is Howard's policy?

AID/WATCH called on the Australian Government today to release the criteria it uses for developing its response to international disasters.

The request comes after significant imbalances have emerged in the official response from government to recent disasters including the December 26 tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the South Asian earthquakes that have rocked Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

The response to the tsunami saw the Government of Australia pledge $1 billion in loans and grants to assist the many millions of people that lost their homes and businesses and over 220,000 who lost their lives.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina the Australian Government pledged $10 million to assist in the relief effort for the 300,000 people who were evacuated, the families of over 1000 people who were killed and 275,000 homes that were lost.

Following the recent earthquakes in South Asia, Australia has pledged $10 million to the many millions who have been displaced and to support the families of the estimated 40,000 people that have lost their lives.

"The Howard Government needs to clearly articulate how Australia assesses its disaster response. Recent examples illustrate that the approach is unbalanced and hence open to accusations of leverage or corruption', said AID/WATCH's Tim O'Connor.

"This is policy on the run. Why do 300,000 people in New Orleans get $10 million, while the millions of homeless in Pakistan and India get the same?"

"In recent years there has been a significant shift from focusing aid on poverty alleviation to national security and governance in the Asia Pacific region. For example the generous pledge to Indonesia after the tsunami has been distributed in large part, outside of tsunami affected areas and diverted right across the archipelago. It seems, aid is being used as a tool of foreign policy rather than to assist those most in need', suggested O'Connor.

"Such actions raise huge concerns. Australian's need to be really sure in these times about why our Government is providing this assistance", said O'Connor

ENDS

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