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Monday 7 February 2005

No relief: Sri Lanka getting winter gear & useless goods

The grateful people of Sri Lanka would like to make a humble request to all those who have offered succor to its devastated tsunami victims: Please, no more ski jackets, moisturizing gel or Viagra.

The recent outpouring of support, while helpful on the whole, has brought with it a mountain of unusable stuff from the Western world. That includes cozy winter hats, Arctic-weather tents, colognes and thong underwear.

Dubbed "frustrated cargo" by aid workers because it often has nowhere to go, these misfit items are gathering dust in warehouses and creating major headaches for relief workers in the field.
Making matters worse, many aid workers don't know where all the useless handouts are coming from or for whom they are intended. Although most aid that arrives is earmarked for specific relief agencies, such as the Red Cross, some shipments are addressed simply to "The People of Sri Lanka" and have no return address.

Unwanted medicines pose a more serious problem. Doctors and private citizens appear to have unloaded their sample bins and medicine cabinets and shipped the items. Shipments included useful antibiotics as well as drugs that aren't common in many villages and can easily be abused, such as antidepressants.


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