Prof’s film explores aid response to 2004 tsunami in Aceh

Due to what is sometimes called the CNN effect – the rapid transmission of images and news – the media can have a huge impact on global aid response to a disaster. The most dramatic images of suffering attract the most funds and push other, more protracted emergencies, off the radar.

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami represented a dual disaster for Aceh province in Indonesia and for Sri Lanka, both wracked by another kind of disaster – civil conflict – before the waves hit.

In her film Hidden in the Limelight of the Tsunami: Aceh’s Silent Disaster, to be screened tomorrow in 102 Accolade East Building at 6pm, York social scientist and geographer Jennifer Hyndman, who is also a member of York’s Centre for Refugee Studies, explores how media coverage influenced global response and relief efforts following the 2004 tsunami that devastated Indonesia’s northern province. While support poured in for the victims of this natural disaster, the damage caused by a protracted and violent conflict between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement was ignored.

Released five years after the tsunami, Hidden in the Limelight offers valuable lessons for aid operations and presents original research on what happens when environmental disaster comes on top of human-made disaster.

Environmental disasters cannot be separated from human ones, says Hyndman, who studies humanitarian response in conflict and disaster zones. Like the recent earthquake in Haiti, the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami provides evidence that the legacies of conflict, poverty and inequality shape the impact of disaster. Likewise, global media coverage of such emergencies conditions the aid provided.  

Hidden in the Limelight is funded by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada. If you miss the March 2 screening, view the film online. The password is Lhokse.