Caritas opts for gradual spend of tsunami funds

In common with the other four major Australian non-profit aid organisations, Caritas Australia has so far spent only a small proportion of funds raised after the tsunami, which occurred six months ago yesterday.

The Courier-Mail reported on Saturday that Caritas has so far spent $4.2 million out of $21.7 million raised from the public.

The paper's report said that most of the $325 million donated by Australians to non-profit aid organisations following the tsunami is "earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in bank interest while agencies decide how to spend the money".

The organisations - which also include the Red Cross, Care, Oxfam and World Vision - say the delays are justified, as spending the donations too quickly could be counterproductive for the sustainable recovery of parts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Burma and the Maldives hit by the killer waves.

Australian Red Cross chief executive Robert Tickner said the rebuilding of tsunami-affected countries should not be seen as "a race to spend funds fast".

The five largest aid organisations, who raised about 95% of the $324.7 million donated by Australians, earned $1.6 million in interest in the first three months after the disaster.

As the six-month anniversary of the disaster approached, only about half of what was donated has now been spent or allocated. Less than a quarter was spent on immediate emergency relief in the first three months.

Australian Council for International Development executive director Paul O'Callaghan said spending on aid relief was progressing ahead of comparable disasters but the operation would be a long haul. He said it was typical in any major disaster that the majority of funds were spent on longer-term reconstruction rather than emergency relief.

After a field visit by its International Programs Manager Jamie Isbister, Caritas Australia reported two weeks ago that its shelter team was working to rebuild devastated areas such as Banda Aceh in the Aceh Besar district and Meulaboh in the Naganraya district.

"In the main, it was a very positive experience. I was there only a week after the tsunami hit, to see what we needed to do and the contrast is striking," Mr Isbister said in mid-June.

"When I first saw the condition of towns in Aceh, when bodies were still being dug out of fields and everything was in a state of total chaos I couldn't imagine it ever getting back to normal - but normality is beginning to return," he said.

Charities slow with tsunami millions (Courier-Mail 25/6/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Australia

Normality returning to Aceh - Caritas update (CathNews 14/6/05)

Thousands rehoused by CAFOD tsunami reconstruction work (CAFOD)
More work needed for tsunami relief, Caritas official says (Catholic News Service 24/6/05)
Normal life is returning (Catholic Voice July 2005)

27 Jun 2005