Taiwan pledges $50 million in aid to tsunami-stricken countries

On January 2, the Republic of China (Taiwan) government committed $50 million to Southeast Asian countries stricken by a devastating earthquake and tsunamis last week.

Vice Premier Yeh Chu-lan made the announcement after presiding over a meeting of Executive Yuan agencies involved in the relief effort, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Council of Agriculture, the Department of Health (DOH), the 921 Earthquake Post-Disaster Recovery Commission, and the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics.

"As a member of the global village, we have an obligation to send Taiwan's love to South Asia and should today consider how to mobilize all of Taiwan's resources in this effort," Vice Premier Yeh said. She noted that the government has decided to contribute $50 million for short-term and long-term assistance, including $20 million worth of rice, US$15 million worth of medical supplies and $15 million in community and harbor reconstruction.

“Although we are not a United Nations member, we have gone through various channels to get in contact with U.N. disaster relief work and link up with the international consortium formed by the United States, Japan and Australia for assistance," Vice Foreign Minister Kau stated. He said that Taiwan's initial efforts by both civic and government groups had been "warmly welcomed" by local residents.

“This aid volume would make Taiwan one of the top 10 donor countries in the world,” Vice Minister Kau added.
Two relief teams from Taiwan flew to Indonesia and Thailand earlier last week, taking with them tons of medical and relief supplies. DOH Minister Chen Chien-jen said Taiwan plans to set up 50 medical service stations in tsunami-affected countries.

Kuo Yao-chi, chairwoman of the Public Construction Commission, said that so long as host countries can provide plots of land and infrastructure facilities, Taiwan can build three makeshift villages in two months, with each housing 4,500 people, a school and a medical service station.

"We have learned a lot in post-disaster rehabilitation from the 921 earthquake that left more than 2,400 local people dead and tens of thousands homeless in central Taiwan in 1999," Chairwoman Kuo said.

In addition to government efforts, many charities in Taiwan launched fundraisings for tsunami relief, too. One of Taiwan's leading charities, the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, has started a program to mobilize at least half million of its members in Taiwan and elsewhere in the world to raise money for tsunami victims.