President  |  Vice President  |  First Lady  |  Mrs. Cheney  |  News & Policies 
History & ToursKids  |  Your Government  |  Appointments  |  JobsContactGraphic version

Email Updates  |  Español  |  Accessibility  |  Search  |  Privacy Policy  |  Help

Printer-Friendly Version   Email this page to a friend

Privacy Policy  

Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Andrew Natsios
USAID Administrator
Click here to learn how you can help

December 30, 2004

Andrew Natsios

We are so proud to have this opportunity to talk to you today on "Ask the White House". Although the situation in South Asia is very fluid and changes hourly, I would like to answer some of the basic questions that have come up so far and will continue to provide updates as additional information becomes available.

Tom, from New Hampshire writes:
Administrator Natsios,Thank you for taking questions today. What exactly is USAID and how is the organization you oversee helping with the tsunami victims?

thank you.

Andrew Natsios
USAID is the U.S. Government’s international humanitarian relief and development agency. The agency was founded as permanent successor to the Marshall Plan which was originally founded to assist European nations in recovering from the destruction of World War II. Today, we work in more than 80 countries and provide a wide variety of assistance to the developing world. These services include the wide range of assistance such as medical care including vaccinations, maternal health, agricultural development, micro-enterprise support and HIV/AIDS prevention and assistance, to name but a few. Our budget under President Bush is now over $14 billion annually. We are also at the front lines in our reconstruction and democracy building efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

With the regard to the Indian Ocean disaster response USAID is working in four main areas: providing food assistance; health and medical assistance; shelter; and clean water and sanitation support. Within a few hours of the disaster occurring USAID had already mobilized staff to head to the affected region, generated disaster declarations which unlocked immediate funding to flow to these countries to support emergency services and provided $4 million in immediate relief funding to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. Since that time we have now received assessments from our Disaster Assistance Response Teams (DART) in the region and we have now increased our commitment to an initial $35 million for this phase of our assistance.

Chris, from Rochester NY writes:
Thank you for taking the time to read all of these questions. I have two questions to ask you if you would not mind.

First, what were the largest known waves, in terms of height, recorded in the recent disaster? Second, what is America doing specifically to aid the nations effected by the disaster?

Thank you for your time, and have an excellent day.

Andrew Natsios
We would need to ask the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with the specific heights of waves, but we have heard reports from the field that one of the waves was seen in the Sumatra region to be as high as sixty feet.

With regard to the Indian Ocean disaster response USAID is working in five main areas: providing food assistance, medical care, shelter, water and water purification and sanitation support. Within six hours of the disaster occurring USAID had already mobilized staff to head to the affected region, generated disaster declarations which unlocked immediate funding to flow to these countries to support emergency services and provided $4 million in immediate relief funding to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Since that time we have now received assessments from our Disaster Assistance Response Teams (DART) in the region and we have now increased our commitment to an initial $35 million for this phase of our assistance program.

atthew, from california writes:
where is the best place to help with a donation for the relief effort for the tsunami victims.

Andrew Natsios
“Tsunami Relief” is the first feature on the left side of USAID’s website at and it has a “Click here to donate now” link which provides all the donor information that you may need to make charitable and humanitarian donations directly to organizations that will be working in the region. I have been urging through my various media appearances that the American public should, through their extraordinary kindness and generosity, focus on cash donations to these organizations as opposed to shipments of used clothing, canned goods or other commodities. There is three main reasons for this type of disaster response: First, cash is the fastest and most direct way to get assistance to specific affected areas through non-governmental and charitable organizations who are established and respected in the disaster response field. Secondly, the cost of shipping these types of goods exceeds the value of the goods themselves and many of these goods may not be culturally appropriate or timely in their arrival. Lastly, cash will also be used for the purchase of goods on the ground in the affected areas in order to help jump-start the local economies which were so severely impacted by the tsunami.

Abdul, from Freetown,Sierra Leone writes:
What are the US Embassies required to do in facilitating donotations to the tsunami victims. Thank you.

Andrew Natsios
U.S. embassies serve as the main point of coordination of U.S. response efforts in each affected country. The USAID Mission comes under the authority of the U.S. Ambassador in each nation and also coordinates with the U.S. military on the ground to ensure a coordinated U.S. response with host government officials and the broader international donor community.

Robert, from Portland, Oregon writes:
It would be great to illustrate to the world just how large an effort we are making to help the Southeast Asia Earthquake victims. I read that we are sending not only money, but a navy carrier group, air force planes ect. What a great opportunity to show the world how much we care.

Andrew Natsios
The United States has traditionally been the most generous of the donor governments in providing humanitarian assistance in disaster relief. During the last fiscal year – 2003 – the United States provided $2.4 billion in disaster assistance for emergencies worldwide including the emergency in the Darfur region in Sudan, the Caribbean hurricanes, etc. Our contributions amounted to 40 percent of the total disaster contributions last year. America will continue to be the most generous of nations through our government-to-government contributions channeled through USAID and through donations from private charitable organizations and non-governmental organizations. This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the generosity of the American spirit.

Richard, from Half Moon Bay CA writes:
What are the leading challenges in the effots of saving lives and restoring order for the devasted countries of the Asian tsunami? If the american people and corporations donate close to a half billion dollars (in private donations), what can we expect of our Military? Will they be available to deliver the logistics of air drops and sea support for delivering the goods?

Andrew Natsios
When handling disasters of this nature, which I have been involved in for more than 15 years both in government and as a representative of a multinational NGO, the usual practice is that we usually get adequate support financially in the initial emergency relief phase (i.e. the first three weeks or so after the disaster occurs) because that phase requires less investment. However, the longer rehabilitation and reconstruction phase costs much more in terms of investment and may last up to five years. Thus the second phase will cost more but the world’s attention may be redirected to other issues. What we need is for money to be contributed in a flexible fashion that will allow us to restore water and electricity and sewage systems and rebuild people’s homes and schools with some of this funding. That’s the big risk – too much focus at the beginning and then people tend to forget about it in the later stages of the response.

Alyssa, from Minneapolis writes:
Is there a way to organize volunteers who would like to help with this disaster to be transported to the areas affects and do what we can to assist those in need?

Andrew Natsios
The first responders in any fast-onset natural disaster like this are the people themselves – neighbors, neighboring villages that are unaffected, the national emergency response agencies. They already have a home in the community, they already know the language, they already have a working knowledge of the geography and the indigenous transportation systems. They are the best volunteers that we have and our job is to support them. The more volunteers that come from abroad, the greater the risk that they will fill up the hotel rooms, and utilize critical local resources which may be needed in the response locally. That being said, we encourage you to visit the web site of CIDI – The Center for International Disaster Information which can accessed at This organization is underwritten by USAID and serves as a global clearinghouse of information on disasters, assistance and other related issues.

Ben, from Illinois writes:
What nations are at the forefront in providing relief and aid?

Andrew Natsios
There has been a massive outpouring of support for the relief efforts from around the world. As President Bush announced yesterday, the United States is helping to take the lead along with India, Japan, and Australia as a core assistance working group. Already dozens of other countries are contributing as well including the European Union, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Some are offering cash, some commodities and others technical assistance. The growth in contributions is nevertheless expected to continue.

Jim, from Andrews, Texas writes:
Do we (America) need to worry about this tragedy happening here?

Andrew Natsios
While the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) is a better resource for this question, USAID is aware of several U.S. systems that would alert our coasts to imminent disasters of this nature.

Summer, from Dallas, Texas writes:
Who or what division of the government deals with the disaster aid decisions? Such as, how much is givin and who it is givin to?

Andrew Natsios
The President has designated USAID as the lead U.S. agency in the provision of disaster assistance. In addition, there are a number of other U.S. agencies and departments which contribute humanitarian and disaster assistance in these types of circumstances. For example, the U.S. Department of State is the lead agency offering diplomatic and consular coordination. The Department of Defense provide logistical and delivery support through its many assets in the region. Each agency or department contributes it’s own unique assets, personnel and contributions to the overall U.S. response.

Dennis, from Petaluma, CA writes:
Is there or will there be a list available of all the world governments who provide aid, both economic and humanitarian to the countries effected by the earthquake-tsunami catastrophy? Where would one look to view such a list and will the list include details such as degree of contribution?

Andrew Natsios
There is a daily report produced by USAID for public consumption which can be found on our Tsunami Response web page which you can download and is updated regularly to provide most donor support information you have requested. Go to:

Michael, from Powell, TN writes:
Besides sending money, food, and workers, is there anything else we will do for the people?

Andrew Natsios
I thank you for your question and your impending contribution to this effort. There are three phases to crisis response which we use to marshal our foreign assistance resources. First, in the “emergency needs” phase we focus on food, health, shelter and water & sanitation. These will keep people alive and forestall the onset of communicable diseases. Second, in the “rehabilitation” phase, we seek to restore basic services to pre-crisis levels so that civil unrest will not find fertile ground. And lastly, we will of course be supportive of the reconstruction and long term development needs of these nations. USAID Missions have been working for years in Sri Lanka, Maldives, India, Indonesia and Thailand, and these missions have shifted their dedicated staff, both expatriate Americans and foreign nationals, to assist in each phase of our relief efforts as just outlined above.

Laura, from Illinois writes:
Instead of giving money to charitable organizations for the tsunami relief effort can money be sent to our government for disbursement? If so, to where should we send money?

Andrew Natsios
We request that people offer their kind and generous donations to the various charities and non-governmental organizations who are working in the affected countries in this effort.

Ryan, from Hoffman Estates, Illinois writes:
Besides giving money, what more is the United States doing to help will relief efforts?

Andrew Natsios
We will be involved in many ways but here are three specific things we are doing right now: first, we have already dispatched personnel and technical expertise to the affected areas to help determine the extent and nature of the disaster and to assess what we can do immediately to save further lose of life. Secondly, as President Bush has announced, we will assist in organizing the international community to meet the financial and technical needs for the emergency relief and reconstruction for these nations. Lastly, we expect that we will be equally involved in the longer term reconstruction and development of these nations over the coming years.

Robbie, from Australia writes:
After reading the media in Australia.I have heard Australia will be helping rebuild parts of indonesia the were Devestated by the earthquake and Tsunami.My question is will the USA also help the rebuilding of any of these countries?thank you

Andrew Natsios
Yes. The U.S. will bring it’s expertise as requested by the host governments to assist in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected countries. It is still too early to determine those requirements as such but we will of course be ready to help.

Thank you for submitting your questions today for Administrator Natsios.

Printer-Friendly Version   Email this page to a friend

Issues In Focus

More Issues more issues

  |   News Current News Press Briefings Proclamations   |   Executive Orders   |   Radio   |   Appointments   |   Nominations Application   |   Offices   |   Freedom Corps   |   Faith-Based & Community   |   OMB   |   More Offices   |   Major Speeches   |   Iraq Transition   |   State of the Union   |   Saddam Capture   |   UN Address   |   National Address   |   Iraqi Freedom   |   National Address