Deficiencies in disaster fundingBMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7493.733-a (Published 24 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:733
Disasters less “telegenic” than the tsunami must not be forgotten
EDITOR—The tsunami disaster has been of increasing concern in the media, leading to one of the largest international charity movements, as described by Walker et al.1 But polemics began in France on 3 January 2005, when Pierre Salignon, director of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), declared that his organisation had received enough donations for the victims of the tsunami, and that their plans for this operation were already fully financed.2
He explained that MSF was still accepting money for other major humanitarian campaigns such as the slaughter in Darfur, Sudan, or AIDS in Africa, and he proposed that future donations received for South East Asia should be redirected elsewhere, after asking each contributor personally.
According to MSF, the funds collected in 15 days for this tragedy were six times those gathered for the earthquake in Bam in the same time or those collected for Darfur in two months.2 This very fact does raise a simple question: why did people give more and faster this time?
We think it is mainly because of the media coverage. The tsunami provided what economists call a “focal point.” It happened just after Christmas, when people are usually less busy and the media do not have many interesting topics to report. Besides, Westerners on holiday were affected. Television networks showed so many sad stories about husbands having lost wives or children being the lone survivors of their families. Emotions were high and emotion guides altruistic help.3
We must be careful that less “telegenic” causes are not forgotten.
Competing interests None declared.