Vidyya Medical News Service
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Volume 6 Issue 365 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 30-Dec-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 31-Dec-2004
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USA Update: Coordination of relief assistance for victims of the recent tsunamis

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Today we have with us three people who can brief you, update you on the coordination of relief for tsunami victims. We have Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Marc Grossman, from the State Department; the Director of Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Lt. General James T. Conway, and of course, the Administrator of the Agency for International Development, Andrew Natsios.

They each have very short initial statements to tell you about some of the things we're doing, and then you can -- they'll take your questions. Once they're done, I'll be back and can answer your questions on other aspects or other issues.

So, let's start with Under Secretary Grossman.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Thank you very much, Richard. Thank you and thank you all. I'll be the, I think, most brief of anyone.

The job I was given today by the President was to lead a U.S. task force. And as the President said, we're trying to accomplish three things with this task force:

First, to work with the partners that the President talked about today -- Australia, Japan and India -- to see if we can form a core group to provide coordination and assistance to the terrible tragedy. I had the chance earlier this morning to speak to the three ambassadors here to begin the process of that coordination, and I also proposed that we have the first conference call of me and my counterparts in those three capitals tonight at 10 o'clock. And so, that is what we will do.

Second, to help to coordinate the interagency response here in Washington. The President, as you know, from watching him as he walked out, had a National Security Council meeting today and we have spent the morning helping to, I think, get the interagency organized. People, yesterday and the day before, were already doing a tremendous amount of work. We'd like to just make sure that that work can be facilitated and goes as easily as possible.

And then, third, to see what more can be done to get the international community to help with these relief efforts. And so, we've begun the process of trying to respond in this way, and we're going to take this now to a new level. And that is the job I have been given and the job I intend to carry out.

And so, I'd be glad to come back and answer questions, but for right now, General, please.

LT. GENERAL CONWAY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. As you can imagine, our commander of the Pacific Command, Admiral Tom Fargo, has been extremely busy and active over the last 72 hours, in contact with the various chiefs of mission in his region, as well as his military counterparts.

As a result of his discussions, he has opted to stand up Joint Task Force 536. The commander of that joint task force will be Lieutenant General "Rusty" Blackman, the commanding general of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force, located on Okinawa.

That headquarters is already in the process of deploying a forward command element, has moved to Utapao, Thailand. The Thais have been gracious enough to offer us use of Utapao throughout the disaster relief effort. That forward command element will be commanded by Brigadier General Ken Gluck, who is General Blackman's deputy up in Okinawa.

Three disaster relief assessment teams are either in place or are moving into place: the first arrived in Thailand this morning; a second will arrive this afternoon in Sri Lanka; and a third will arrive tomorrow in Indonesia. Their task, of course, will be to make immediate assessment as to the nature and the scope of the impact of the disaster.

We have committed, at this point, six C-130 aircraft for airlift support. They will be operating out of the air base at Utapao. We have committed nine P-3 aircraft, four of which will operate out of Utapao, the other five will operate out of Diego Garcia. As we speak, there are at least two P-3s in the air conducting that initial observation and reconnaissance of some of the damage sites to further the assessment.

The Lincoln Carrier Strike Group was in Hong Kong. It has been diverted now to the Gulf of Thailand. It has aircraft in the air doing a reconnaissance of the Malaka Straits to check for debris before it would transit. If it's clear, and early reports indicate that it might be, the five ships associated with that carrier strike group will take position off the island of Sumatra. It has embarked aboard 12 helicopters, which we find extremely valuable in these types of scenarios, that will be employed dependent upon the results of the assessment team.

The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group was in Guam. It is foregoing port visits there and in Singapore to move rapidly to the Bay of Bengal. It's estimated to be on station sometime on or before 7 January. It has seven ships associated with the strike group. It carries 25 helicopters, which will be valuable to us, again, in disaster relief. There are four additional Cobras that will also be instrumental, we think, in reconnaissance efforts; 2,100 Marines, 1,400 sailors embarked aboard the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and 15th MEU.

The commander has also opted to move five of his pre-positioned ships out of the squadron located in Guam. These five ships have freshwater-producing capability. Each ship can produce 90,000 gallons of fresh water a day, and, of course, that will be extremely valuable as we have a number of requests already for freshwater supply.

There is a sixth ship that has a field hospital embarked aboard that can be phased ashore, again, depending upon the results of the assessment teams and the need.

Just before I stepped over, I discovered or was told that there are two additional ships out of the squadron located at Diego Garcia that Admiral Fargo is also ordering to action. They will embark as soon as possible and get underway, again, for assignment in the affected region. Those two ships also have a 90,000 gallon freshwater-production capability.

Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: I'm Andrew Natsios, the Administrator of USAID. We have stood up the Response Management Team, the RMT, which is the AID 24-hour/7-day-a-week disaster response center here in Washington. We did that on Sunday, Sunday morning. We deployed a DART team, a Disaster Assistance Response Team, of technical disaster relief specialists from AID. There are 44 people on the teams; 22 are now in site in the countries. They are doing assessments, working with local officials, nongovernmental organizations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and local officials.

We have very good, close relationships with the disaster management agencies of the four countries that are most severely affected; in fact, AID has been working to build capacity through technical assistance programs and disaster management for some years with these countries. We know the officers well. We have been funding the Asia

Disaster Preparedness Center for many years in Bangkok, which has been training these managers for an event like this, to build capacity at the national level so that they can handle their own response.

Our job, both in the United States and in other countries that are helping, is to support people in the countries themselves. It's their county. They're doing the lead in the response. Our job is to support their efforts. Several of these countries, of course, Thailand and Indonesia, have a history of natural disasters because just of their location. And as a result of that, they've been through this before -- never on this scale, never on this scale.

India, of course, is a huge country, the second largest in the world. They have a very established disaster management system and we have actually a bilateral relationship for disaster training and technical assistance with the Indian Government through AID for some years now.

We have committed $35 million into what is basically a drawdown savings account and the teams in the field, as they do their assessments, can pull down that money and spend it right on the spot. We do our response directly through our teams or through contributions to nongovernmental organizations. And some of the best in the world are now sending their best relief managers to the scene. We'll be working with them.

We've already given $4 million to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva, which is the international manifestation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movements. We've given money to the national chapters in the four countries of the Red Cross movement. We've provided funding to the United Nations through the World Food program. We've purchased 3,000 tons of rice in Indonesia, which is now being made available.

The principal response, however, in the four major areas, we respond in all disasters to the areas of food; secondly, medical care and health; third, water and sanitation; and fourth, shelter. This is primarily right now focused -- our efforts are focused with the rest of the international community on water and sanitation because that is the greatest risk to people's lives.

What's happened basically is the water and sewage systems are now combined because of the water surges that took place and the destruction that followed. And as a result, people are drinking sewage water. And that will substantially increase the risk of communicable disease and diarrheal disease, which could kill many people in epidemics, if they get out of control. So our big focus right now is clean water and control of the sanitation problem.

We are also -- we have moved ships in, C-130s have already arrived from our regional stocks. In Dubai, we have four regional warehouses around the world and the Dubai one has been -- has the largest stocks available. We moved a C-130 in. I think it's landing now in Indonesia. We'll move them into Sri Lanka very shortly. Plastic sheeting that will house about 10,000 people are being distributed. Water bladders that will keep clean water, and also jerricans for people to transport the water to their shelter areas.

We will complete our assessment, our initial fast assessments, according to international standards. There's a manual that's on our website, if you want to read it. It's called, "The Field Officer's Guide." It's a red book. Everybody carries it with them. It shows exactly how you do the assessment in each of the sectors, how you prepare your response plan, and then money is taken out of that $35 million account. That is, however, an only an initial amount of money. We always send them in with some money so they can spend it on the spot, if they need it. We will be making additional contributions as the assessments come in.

I just want to add this very important caveat to this. There is a tendency, if someone sees something in the news media, or if someone who is not trained in these disciplines in the field, to report it, and then I'm told, based on the media report, to do something. That's very dangerous.

During the Kurdish emergency in 1991, a major newspaper, on the front page, reported a meningitis epidemic, and they insisted people were dying from meningitis. My doctors in the field said, no, there is not one case of meningitis; there is a cholera epidemic. I was called by members of Congress and ordered to send in vaccines. And we didn't do it, fortunately, we sent soap in because that's what you do when there's a cholera epidemic.

We must respond to the needs assessed by technical experts on the ground or we're going to kill people. Rumors do not help us provide assistance to people. Only reports from technical specialists will be used to make these judgments.

The President said today this is just an initial response. As we get the assessments in, we will make further contributions.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let's get the other briefers up and go to questions. Why don't you stay there, Andrew.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Barry, do you want to --

QUESTION: Two, queries quickly: first from Secretary Grossman; the second for Director Natsios.

There's been a suggestion of some sort of debt relief. Can you tell us, to the extent it's known now, literally, what is going on to, you know, to have debt relief or any other financial relief?

Mr. Natsios, every day, the State Department appeals to individuals to contribute. God knows the U.S. is contributing. Have any of our corporations, who obviously will get large contracts and probably lucrative ones in the rebuilding process, have any of them been asked to contribute their efforts? Have any of them volunteered or responded, if there's been such a request?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, first, Barry, thank you. On the question of debt relief, I think, as the President said this morning when he went out and was asked about this question, he said, look, first of all, we're in the short term -- we're doing the short-term assessments now, a long-term assessment is to come. You know, but we're open to all kinds of ideas and so I think that's right where we'll be.

The question that was asked of the President this morning was that -- you know, Chancellor Schroeder and others were talking about debt relief, and, as the President said, we have to now assess and be open to the possibilities.

QUESTION: There isn't even a Paris Club* meeting in sight?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: There's not one scheduled.

QUESTION: Not one scheduled?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Right.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: In terms of people's private contributions, I just want to emphasize this: We do not want people contributing used clothes, pharmaceuticals from their medicine cabinet or cans of food. If they want to make a contribution, I suggest they go to the InterAction website, which lists the reputable international NGOs that are doing responses. You can make a contribution in cash to people. That will immediately be sent to the field and will move quickly. If your people give commodities, it will take a month to get there and the transportation costs are more than the value of the commodity.

Please do not send commodities. We need cash to these NGOs. We contribute to the same NGOs. We know which ones are the competent ones. If you want to use our own website, www.usaid.gov, we have hyperlinks to the NGO community that have indicated that they will be responding specifically to this emergency if people want to give cash.

QUESTION: Any response from --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Secondly, let me just --

QUESTION: Will Conway --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Let me just finish this before I forget what your questions were.

The second is in terms of our level of contribution. There's been a little controversy over it. We actually checked the figures. These are OECD figures, which is the accepted international standard. It's a standard apples-to-apple contribution for the world. We gave $2.4 billion last year, 40 percent of total contributions by all countries. We are, by far, the largest donor -- no one even comes close to us -- and have been for a long time.

The President actually has increased assistance in food aid and disaster relief while I've been Administrator in his first term, so we actually have more resources available than we ever have before. So we have been generous for a long time. We're the leaders. We have been. We will continue to be, as the President said today.

Thirdly, the corporations. We started a thing -- in fact, Secretary Powell announced it in 2001-- called the Global Development Alliance, and we now have 200 alliances between AID, foundations in the U.S. and nontraditional corporate donors who want to give money, their corporate money. There's a list of these on the Global Development Alliance website in AID.

There's a report and it's quite interesting. Corporations have contributed, with foundations, $2 billion. We've put in 500 million to these alliances. Most of them are in development. Some of them, however, are in relief, and we will go back to them and ask if any of them that work in these countries, because many of these are industrializing countries that have a base of corporate support from the United States, to see if they'd like to contribute.

QUESTION: A Conway question, if I may?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Yeah.

QUESTION: General Conway, as you probably know, because my primary beat is the Pentagon, so my two dozens questions are directed to you but I limit it to three quickies.

First of all, who has the con on this total relief and recovery operation? Is it the Joint Task Force operating out of Utapao?

Secondly, will there be other joint task forces and do you have assessment teams now in Sri Lanka and Indonesia?

And third, the pre-positioned ships out of Guam and Diego, how long will they take to get on station when they can start filtering water?

LT. GENERAL CONWAY: Okay. Of course, Admiral Fargo is responsible for all that happens or fails to happen in his AO, so I would say he is the overall commander. This is all under a State Department lead, by the way, for the marshalling of those volunteer nations who will provide relief support.

General Blackman will be responsible for what happens in the immediate vicinity in those countries that are affected, but we fully anticipate that there may be sub-joint task forces, just based upon the scope of the effort and the disparity between need and the distance between countries. So I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see some sub-joint task forces take shape.

Secondly, or actually getting to the last question, I think we incorporated an answer to your two, the ships out of Guam will take seven days to reach Thailand, perhaps as many as 11 if they go all the way over to Sri Lanka, and must go through the Straits of Malaka. Those ships that are coming up from Diego Garcia, the two that I referenced, we think will be roughly four to five days once they're underway.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let's go back to the front row.

QUESTION: I have a question for Under Secretary Grossman. In these sort of disasters, there's always the possibility of a lack of coordination. We do have international groups responsible for coordinating; for instance, the Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the United Nations. What was the reason for the United States to form this core group? How will it interact with other global agencies? And exactly who will have overall responsibility?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, first, I think we decided yesterday -- Secretary Powell proposed to the President and the President agreed -- that this core group of the three countries plus us were in a position geographically with capabilities to do something quickly to coordinate efforts that are on the ground. And as the President said today in his statement, I think Secretary Powell said before, we hope this core group will grow because there are more people who have more capabilities and we hope will provide more capacity.

In terms of our relationships with the international organizations, we want those relationships to be as useful as possible; for example, I've already been in touch this morning with the United Nations so that I am in contact with them so that there's also that coordination going on.

So we took this initial step with these four countries to deal with, as Andrew said, the initial crisis. As the President said, it's going to grow and I think that coordination will be quite effective.

QUESTION: Mr. Grossman --

QUESTION: Are there --

MR. BOUCHER: Let's keep it under control. Robin, please.

QUESTION: We all woke up to this calamity on Sunday morning. Today it's Wednesday. Why has it taken four days for ships to be sent off, for a task force at this level to be formed, and for the United States to double the amount of aid? Why has it taken this long?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, I think, first of all, you have to go back here and we all -- you all -- we all woke up to this on Sunday and immediately people started to work here. As Andrew said, his 24-hour task force went into operation. We have two task forces in operation here at the State Department -- one focused purely on American citizens, consular affairs, and one on relief -- and they've been in operation for some days. Our military forces have been organizing themselves. And as the President said and as Secretary Powell said yesterday, I think you have to pay tribute to the people in our embassies, ambassadors and the people who are in the field who have been working on this since the very beginning.

And so, you know, we now are trying to make sure that our response meets our obligations and meets our values. But I don't -- I think we have been working on this for some time. What we want to do now, as the President says, is take this up to another level through the --

QUESTION: But why has it taken four days? I mean, it looks like United States is responding to criticism from whether it's United Nations or questioning -- or just about the fact the President hasn't been publicly visible. Why has it taken four days for all of this to happen?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, I mean, I read the article that you wrote in the newspaper. But, I mean, I think if you see what happened with Secretary -- Secretary Powell has been speaking on this for a couple of days. We had initial money there. We have increased our money. We've organized this group of people. So --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: But, Robin, to be fair about this, okay, the way this works is we set up the RMT in all of these emergencies. And you'd never get -- most reporters never even report we even have one, or they don't even know what a DART team is. When I had come back from church on Sunday at 12 o'clock, my staff said, in your absence, we mobilized the DART team, we mobilized the RMT, we informed the Secretary of State, Andrew. I hope no one gets in trouble. I said, you did the right thing. Without my authority, you did it. It was already set up on Sunday morning and it's been in operation since then. Three hours is not bad timing.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Let's move on please.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: But the point here is, the principal responder is the DART team for all international emergencies for the U.S. Government. That's how it works. The Pentagon was informed. They began planning on Sunday to do this. You don't just send people out in two hours. You begin mobilizing, you start the planning, and you start sending -- we did that on Sunday.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Let's go to Paul.

QUESTION: Well --

MR. BOUCHER: Please, sir. Let's slow down a sec. We'll get to you. I promise.

QUESTION: I've got a question for the General. To what extent was the military response held back by our commitments elsewhere in Asia right now?

LT. GENERAL CONWAY: Not at all. Pacific Command has a significant allocation of forces available to do disaster relief and his is a separate set of requirements. So I would say that there is no association with what's happening in Iraq or in Afghanistan.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Why don't we go to the gentleman in the middle.

QUESTION: You have indicated -- you have responded to criticism that the response as been too little, too late, and you've indicated that there is more to come. What realistically should the rest of the world expect in terms of financial and practical commitment from the United States?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, as the President said, we've made an initial commitment here and the President said this was only the beginning of our assistance, but he also said, and I think very properly so, and as Andrew pointed out, we now are in a phase where we're trying to save people's lives, get people fed, and make an assessment. And when that assessment comes, I think it will lead us to what more can be done.

The other point that I would make to you is, you posed the question by saying, you know, what can the rest of the world expect from the United States. I mean, this, I think, as the gentleman said here in the beginning, is going to be a gigantic international requirement. So our expectation is, is that the European Union, the United Nations, other countries will also join in this. This is not something, although as Andrew said, we make a substantial contribution, more than anyone else in these emergencies, this is certainly not for us to do alone.

So I think the premise of your question has to be tilted slightly, which is that this is going to take a worldwide effort, and we would expect and we would hope, and I believe, that the world will respond.

QUESTION: Do you think it was a mistake not to -- just one follow-up please.

QUESTION: Sir, just one quick question for Mr. Natsios.

You have some people on the ground now in-site in these different countries. I realize that their assessments are not yet complete, their initial assessments. But from what they have reported back to Washington, what can you tell us about the situation on the ground in all of these different countries?

And the question for the General, you have C-130s flying into Thailand now. Are those going to be daily flights going in and out of Thailand to provide food relief, or do you have any plans to sort of keep that going on on a daily basis?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: I talked with Tim Beans, who is the AID Mission Director in Thailand. He just came back from the first assessments on the Thai coast. He is reporting, and other teams are reporting, that the death rates are higher, sadly, than anything the media is reporting. They just haven't gotten to certain areas. Aceh is in the middle of an insurrection. It's been in a civil war for a long time now. And so, there are areas of Aceh that have not been accessible to anybody, including the national government of the -- Indonesia -- and they only today approved in Indonesia access by the international community to the area.

I think we have the sort of ceasefire in place, according to our friends in Indonesia, that will allow us access. But the deaths in Indonesia are much larger than anybody, including the Indonesian National Government realized, because some of these areas are insecure, or were insecure.

QUESTION: So you mean Thailand and Indonesia?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: I'm conflating the two. Thailand is not insecure at all, but --

QUESTION: No, I mean, death tolls being --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: The death tolls are higher in all the countries than we anticipated, but particularly, in Indonesia. We forget it was not just a tidal wave in Indonesia. It was a 9.0 earthquake. A 9.0 earthquake is massive. That has leveled cities. It's a huge earthquake. It's the fourth largest since 1900, most severe, in terms of the Richter Scale.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, General.

LT. GENERAL CONWAY: Yes, the initial C-130s that arrived had two purposes really: one to bring some initial humanitarian assistance that they picked up in Kadena Air Base before they flew south. They also, of course, are bringing aboard these relief assessment teams; henceforth, they will be available to that assessment team commander to direct as he sees fit. But, of course, the primary purpose is to ferry supplies throughout the region.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We'll go to you.

QUESTION: I've got a question for Mr. Natsios. You have mentioned different websites that people could go to for donations, and that that was much better than sending commodities. Do you have a sense of -- just a ballpark sense of how much money has been raised online for this disaster, just a ballpark?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: There is a consortium of NGOs that we give grants to to actually maintain a database on that, and we're getting the first initial assessments. I don't have a figure for you, but we can certainly get that, and put it on our website as soon as we find out how much it is. But we do collect that information.

I might also say, you mentioned earlier, in terms of coordination, UN OCHA’s principal funder is the United States. That's the UN agency. We, with the EU, are the major funders of that institution. In fact, President Bush's father helped create it in 1991, after the Kurdish emergency. And the database that they've installed to capture all of the data, private and public, for this emergency and all other emergencies, was something that AID helped with the Europeans to establish 12 years ago.

So we worked very closely with the UN, we’re the principal funders of these institutions that have set up these coordination systems. All of the data from us, the State Department, and the military will be sent by the AID RMT to the database at UN OCHA, the UN agency that coordinates humanitarian -- for their database -- so that all of this stuff is coordinated in a central fashion.

And anybody can see it. By the way, it's a public website. You can go onto it yourself. It's got very good data on it.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, John.

QUESTION: Administrator Natsios, you are reported to have said that the distribution of -- the disbursement of the $35 million has depleted your emergency relief funds, and that you're going to have to go to the White House or Congress to get more money. I'm wondering what kind of funds -- are now a pool of funds are available to you, or are you going to have to wait until Congress comes back into session to get more money?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Well, I don't want to get into an argument with the AP reporter, who is a good guy. Okay?

The reality is I did not tell him we have to go back to Congress because we don't have to. What I said was that our budget has not been allocated. The President -- it was a late budget, as you know. It wasn't until late November. OMB has given us an initial $35 million, exactly what we asked for. We've allocated it to the DART team. They're spending the money.

OMB said, you need more money, call us up and we'll give you an advance on your budget. The budgets are now just being allocated by a federal agency because it takes a while to do that. I was explaining that to him. I got too much into nuances about the federal budgeting process, which I realize is a little arcane for most people.

So we don't have a problem with resources right now. Now, there are limits to how much we can put in, given the size of this. We will be talking with the White House and with OMB and with Secretary Powell and with Marc Grossman about what the requirements are, as the assessments come in. But right now, what I said was depleted was the $35 million. We spent -- you know, we've moved it into the account. That's what I was talking about.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up. How much are you going to get in your new -- in the new budget and will that be enough? Are you going to have to ask for a supplemental?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: We won't know that until the assessments come in.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We've got time for two or three more. I'm sorry. We'll do Steve, David, and one in the back.

QUESTION: I have a question for Mr. Natsios.

You referred to the $2.4 billion that the U.S. spent in the last year for this sort of thing, and you say that was 40 percent of the total -- so, but yesterday the UN Relief Coordinator said that the problem is that pledges a year later are often, in fact, usually unmet. Victims of the Bam earthquake are still living in emergency conditions.

I wonder if you could address that problem that despite an outpouring in the first week or two in these emergencies, there is not enough money spent for long-term reconstruction in these disasters. Is that your experience as well? And just as a small follow -- question related, you mentioned earlier damaging rumors by the media on these disasters.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: In the past, in the past.

QUESTION: There aren't any now, are they?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Not now.

QUESTION: Okay.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: I'm just urging you to be careful with what you report because it affects responses sometimes.

I'm sorry. What was your first question, just real quickly? (Laughter.) I forgot it.

QUESTION: You addressed the matter that experts say that there just is not enough --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Oh, yes, yes, yes.

QUESTION: -- relief over the long term in these disasters.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Exactly. Typically, that is a correct statement. In the past, in natural disasters, there tends to be more money given than is required for initial relief response and then not enough money for rehabilitation and reconstruction, which is much more expensive. That's true. And if most of my friends, who are disaster managers, say, if they could redistribute stuff, it would be from the first phase into the second phase.

And so, I try to marshal our resources. I was very careful to say the $35 million would go for the response, but not which part of it, because we try to collapse as fast as possible the initial response and move immediately into rehabilitation. And I want to emphasize this. The principal responders in humanitarian emergencies are the people themselves who live there, and local officials who are in charge of responding and the national disaster response who speak the language, have the maps, know the transportation system.

Sometimes they get overwhelmed, and I think the Sri Lankans basically are telling us this is so massive they are being overwhelmed by it. But Indonesia and India have other resources because of their size. They still need help. We're going to provide it. But we need to not think that the only -- these people are all paralyzed, they can't help themselves, and we go in there and save them all.

That is really not an appropriate way of looking at this. We know what -- most of the best work that's done is by the people themselves. Our job is to support the people in the cities and in the villages who will begin the reconstruction process. So we're not there to tell them what to do, but to ask them how we can help them. That's an important distinction to make.

We will continue to do that, as we have in the past, and I'm confident that things will work out well.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. VOA, David.

QUESTION: General Conway, you have moved some P-3 aircraft. You're sending some helicopters in. There are reports that some of these more remote areas -- the Andaman Islands, the Maldives, that islands have been swept away. Do you anticipate that U.S. forces have been, will be involved in the active rescue of people who have been swept out to sea or are marooned or anything like that?

LT. GENERAL CONWAY: Well, of course, that's the nature of any relief. Initially, you look to recover people that may be stranded, people that may be at risk of losing their lives. After recovery, then certainly we will be providing relief to those who have survived.

QUESTION: Has there been any anecdotal evidence that that has happened already or --

LT. GENERAL CONWAY: Not yet. The P-3s are up at this point taking a look. They're the first assets that we have available to accomplish that mission, and I'm satisfied that reports will be forthcoming, but I can't comment on it at this point.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, last one. The gentleman in the back.

QUESTION: Regarding with the core group, Under Secretary Grossman, you said that other countries might join this group. Do you have any idea what kind of countries are going to join?

And also, you said, you know, you met the ambassadors of these three countries this morning. What conversation did you have?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, let me deal with the second first. What I said was that I did a conference call with those ambassadors this morning and I wanted to alert them to the President's statement. I wanted to also propose that we have the first conference call of the core group at my -- the counterpart level tonight at 10 o'clock, and they were nice enough to agree to that.

In terms of who joins the core group, I mean, as the President said, he hoped it would expand and I hope it will expand, too. And it goes to the answers I was trying to give before. You know, I hope people will start to call up and say, "How do we join? Here's what we can bring and here's our contribution to the international response to this disaster." But we felt that these were the four countries who could do something right now and we hope, as the President said, that lots more countries will join in.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: What about American --

MR. BOUCHER: I'll do the American citizen part for you right now. Okay? General, that's yours.

QUESTION: How much money has been given by the world, in total?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Our latest estimate as of this morning was 110 million, but that's probably outdated by this afternoon.

QUESTION: When will you get that updated?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Well, OFDA has a fact sheet that comes out every day and it's updated. It's on our website, just, you know, go -- click to the website. It's easy to look for. And it will have on the back page, I think, all international donations and where they're going and all. It's a very detailed fact sheet.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, I want to --

QUESTION: Aid.gov?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: www.usaid.gov.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, if I can -- Marc, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: You mentioned that they are higher --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: I think it's going to be well over 100,000, but we'll see. I hope it doesn't.

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's what the --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank our briefers, thank Under Secretary Grossman, General Conway and Administrator Natsios for coming by.


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