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Who’s to Blame?
The tsunami's aftermath.


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EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the February 14, 2005, issue of National Review.

The last time I was here in Galle, England had just played a great cricket match against the Sri Lankans, the local economy was bustling, and the great threat–from the Tamil Tiger rebels–was losing its force. But today, the cricket pitch lacks a single blade of grass, the economy is in tatters, and there are over 31,000 dead from the tsunami. The only things that remains the same in this southern port–75 miles southeast of Colombo–are the heat and humidity. One alarming new difference is that malaria is back, and is poised to strike down still more of the children, many orphaned, of this wretched place. It can be stopped, but only if ill-informed prejudice against DDT, the insecticide, is dropped.

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As I fly over the port, I think the devastation does not look as bad as the pictures I’ve seen of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, which Secretary of State Colin Powell described as resembling the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. But Galle is still a terrible mess. Though Aceh, as the worst-affected region, is rightly getting most of the attention, private-aid groups have acted swiftly in Galle as well. Thanks to their food drops and water provisions, its inhabitants have managed to survive the immediate aftershocks of the tsunami’s devastations. But the malaria-control program is being compromised by outdated thinking, especially from the world’s leading health and government-aid agencies…

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