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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 5, 2006 | Vol. 36 No. 1
SAIS Center Publishes Report on U.S. Handling of Overseas Aid Post-Katrina

By Felisa Neuringer Klubes

The Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS has released a report that critically examines the U.S. government's role in managing offers of foreign assistance received in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last August.

Immediately after Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, the British government, for example, sent the United States 500,000 ready-to-eat meals for hungry victims, but the food went uneaten after the Department of Agriculture blocked its distribution for fear of spreading mad cow disease.

On the first anniversary of Katrina, the author of Role Reversal: Offers of Help From Other Countries in Response to Hurricane Katrina sheds light on this and other incidents that occurred as the U.S. government, she said, resisted or mishandled offers of foreign aid. The report is based primarily on interviews with key U.S. government and international experts and diplomats.

"During this hurricane season, we should resolve to act on the lessons from Katrina and improve America's ability to cope with the next disaster," said the study's author, Anne C. Richard, a fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations and vice president for government relations and advocacy at the International Rescue Committee.

Offers from other countries poured into the United States after the hurricane struck on Aug. 29, 2005, but President Bush vowed on Sept. 1 that "this country's going to take care of it," and FEMA managers argued that international help was not needed. Even after the State Department reversed course and welcomed outside aid, there was no system in place to vet the offers and donations, such as the British food. In her report, Richard tracks the final disposition of the meals, which went mostly to needy people in Eastern Europe.

In conclusion, Richard recommends steps the government and international community should take before the next large-scale disaster strikes America, including adoption of a uniform list of goods for stockpiling and use in crises. Throughout, Richard makes the case that effective crisis response is an important part of international security.

On Thursday, Sept. 7, Richard will discuss her findings at a forum hosted by SAIS. The event will take place at 9 a.m. in room 500 of the Bernstein-Offit Building.


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