Malaysia flood relief efforts hampered by random acts of kindness

A man sifting through a pile of debris and rubbish accumulated from the floods at Jalan Kutan in Tumpat, Kelantan. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
A man sifting through a pile of debris and rubbish accumulated from the floods at Jalan Kutan in Tumpat, Kelantan. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The intention may be good, but "random acts of kindness" are not helping flood victims.

Groups or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that go around randomly "dumping" aid items to flood-hit villages in the east coast are upsetting planned disaster relief efforts by the authorities.

"For example, during our recent visit to Kuala Krai, we saw aid items, especially clothes, being strewn by the sides of the road because these NGOs were oversupplying the items to the same villages," said Datuk Wira Bahari Datuk Abu Mansor, vice-chairman and head of National Disaster Management for the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS).

He said donated clothes were strewn everywhere and soaking in mud.

Dr Bahari said the situation was quite bad and it was crucial for the government to step in to organise the aid distribution.

"NGOs themselves should be educated on the structure of disaster management and the proper way to hand out relief items to flood victims.

"What is happening now is that villages located nearer to the main roads are getting more than their share of aid, while those in remote locations are left with nothing," he said.

He added that "random acts of kindness" were also hampering the aid providers as they made long trips to remote villages only to find that some NGO had already given assistance to these areas.

Dr Bahari said the disaster management team was now initiating the second stage of their relief efforts.

"The waters are slowly receding but we now have to help the victims rebuild their homes, including houses, which were totally swept away by the floods.

"In fact, we now have an over supply of food items and are in need of electric rice cookers, kettles, stoves, mattresses, pillows, cooking utensils and cleaning utensils."

He said blankets and sarongs were still needed, as most victims did not have a proper dry place to sleep or even sit.

On Tuesday, The Star reported that "disaster tourists", who want to see for themselves the scenes of flood devastation and post selfies and other "I was there" pictures on Facebook or Twitter, were adding to the woes of the people by coming in large groups and clogging up areas with their vehicles. They were also getting in the way of services and volunteers who are trying desperately to reach the victims.