Mon, Jan 17, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Tsunami aid cash not forthcoming, Oxfam report says

THE OBSERVER , LONDON

Western nations lauded for their generosity following the southeast Asian tsunami disaster are failing to honor pledges of aid, leaving shortfalls of millions of dollars in the recovery program.

Despite the huge response by international governments when the tidal wave hit on Dec. 26, the UN's humanitarian appeal is still underfunded by a third, with just US$723 million received out of a total of nearly US$1 billion originally demanded and pledged.

According to an Oxfam report to be published this week, donations have followed the same pattern as pledges to other recent disasters such as the Bam earthquake in Iran and Hurricane Mitch in central America, where initial promises were not honored.

The report will also attack western governments for refusing to push ahead with debt and trade reforms that would free reconstruction money for the region.

It will be particularly critical of the debt relief deal hammered out by the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, with other members of the Paris Club of creditor nations, which suspended repayments rather than wiping out debt. There are concerns that interest payments will continue and the debts will have grown when the moratorium ends.

Oxfam is demanding a full assessment of the level of debt sustainable for each country hit by the tsunami. It will also demand reform to trade tariffs from Europe and the US on textiles and clothing from the affected region.

Bernice Romero, Oxfam International Advocacy Director, said: "In the immediate aftermath the public and governments responded admirably. Pledges were made and the world focused on the disaster.

"Rich country governments sadly appear to be dragging their feet on vital trade and debt reforms to help relieve poverty in the long term.

A World Bank official in New York said: "It's all very well that a freeze on debt repayments has been agreed, but countries will be hit by repayments as soon as the moratorium ends."

The official confirmed that wealthy countries are likely to fall short of the US$1billion demanded by the UN.

Also see stories:

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TV show `Tsunami Aid' raises money for relief effort

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