Recovery from the Indian Ocean Tsunami

Part of the series Disaster Risk Reduction pp 121-137


When Is Too Much Money Worse Than Too Little? Giving, Aid, and Impact After the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004

  • Malka OlderAffiliated withCentre de Sociologie des Organisations, Institut d’Études Politiques (Sciences Po) Email author 

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This chapter examines the problematic of donations and humanitarian aid, a context already fraught with power imbalance, when donors give so much that it is arguably more than what is needed. Although similar situations have occurred over the past decade, the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 was one of the first examples of this in modern aid work, inspiring a response from donors that was both quantitatively and qualitatively unprecedented. Both the size of the response and the structural differences because of the large percentage of non-institutional donors led to a number of problems that highlight issues in the aid paradigm. The large amount of funding did not lead to improved performance; rather, it raised expectations to an unrealistic level and led to a focus on media-friendly projects rather than need-based programming. Despite the surplus in funding, agencies continued to compete, either for grants or for beneficiaries, which became in shorter supply than money; and this competition, rather than improving performance, tended to worsen it.


Aid Disaster Donors Funding Tsunami