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Future of relief aid

28th Sep 2018
Future of relief aid

India has declined international aid on behalf of the flood victims in Kerala.
(Photo: Akbarali/Creative Commons)

As climate change’s effects are becoming apparent around the world, affecting nations both wealthy and impoverished alike, the question of disaster relief aid is a pressing one.

Will poorer nations’ need for foreign aid to rebuild their infrastructures usher in a new era of colonialism, where international banks and wealthier nations demand that various stipulations are met before dispersing funds to help an ailing population? This fear may be why Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, “respectfully declined” international aid on behalf of the flood victims of the south-western Indian state of Kerala, which has left hundreds of people dead, hundreds of thousands displaced, and close to $3 billion in damages.

It has been deemed the worst flood in a century, with 2,300mm of rainfall throughout the region since the beginning of June. Even so, Modi decided to keep with a longstanding policy of providing disaster relief through domestic efforts.

Due to the scale of the damage, many were appalled by this response. Qatar offered $5 million, the UAE pledged $100 million, and the Maldives, which is in real danger of soon being underwater itself, offered $50,000 in aid. India’s refusal to accept funds directly from neighbouring governments has to do with its desire not to be beholden to them for how the funds are spent.

Instead, Modi’s External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson stated that funds directed toward the Prime Minister’s Relief Foundation as well as international entities were welcome. The Indian Government has so far pledged only a fraction of the $2.7 billion in estimated damages, leaving the people of Kerala to wonder if they will ever get their homes or livelihoods back.

According to The Week, “an all-party delegation of MPs from Kerala that wanted to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to raise the issue of the devastation caused by the recent floods in the state, was denied an appointment to meet him.”

The MPs wanted to raise grievances on behalf of their constituents regarding the foreign aid refusal policy, and though they offered to meet Modi at his convenience, were nevertheless unsuccessful. As elected representatives of the victims of the flooding in Kerala, they expressed outrage at the denial, considering it, “an insult to the people of Kerala.”

India’s response to the offer of foreign aid is an interesting one, for already there are calls by some for benefactors to devote funds only to religious-specific groups, excluding victims who practice other faiths.

Complaints of caste discrimination within displacement camps have also been reported. Though India is no stranger to religious strife and violence, one would imagine that during a natural disaster where all suffer equally, such categorisations would take a back seat to human decency, which all of the major religions advocate first and foremost.

Certainly, there were moments of heroism during the floods, where Indians helped Indians, but the road to recovery is long and people return easily to their alliances.

Still, if PM Modi’s Government is looking to supply a pittance in funds while asking civilians of the world to contribute the rest, knowing full well their history of corruption regarding such matters, they should also ensure that all of Kerala’s victims, regardless of religion, are being offered assistance.

Countries all over the world are beginning to understand that humanity is in the midst of the climate change crisis. It is no longer impending. It is here.

United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, recently stated that “Climate change is running faster than we are.” In the last five years, trillions of dollars have been spent on relief aid for natural disasters including floods, tsunamis, mudslides, droughts, etc.

Governments, civilians, and organisations from around the world have stepped up to offer financial assistance, yet sooner or later we are all likely to suffer, in one way or another, from a natural disaster.

As extreme sums of wealth get concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewerboth Apple and Amazon were recently valued at over a trillion dollars, those who hold in their hands the funds to fix devastated nations may offer to help, but like any good businessperson, with an expectation of accrued interest.

Sarah Sakeena Marshall,
English Language Teacher, Environmental Columnis

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