Friday, April 21, 2006

Gumruk frees Belgian aid, or not

And in an update to an earlier post, almost three months after its arrival at Bole airport, the Belgian cargo donation of almost a tonne of clothes, toys and school equipment collected in five Belgian cities and destined to orphanages in Ethiopia has been released. Applause, whistles, cheers...No, not quite, after all this is an Ethiopian story. Customs Authority (Gumruk) has released the cargo only to be shipped out of Ethiopia, instead of its destined distribution to orphanages in the country. Some public official apparently feels it's better to let the kids shiver in the cold this rainy season, rather than let them wear imported second hand clothes. Such government policies really need to be revised to allow exceptions for specific not-for-profit charitable donations, which really have negligible impact on domestic garment industry, compared to second hand clothes sold for profit. The only solace here is that Gumruk has not destroyed the cargo (the standard norm), which is now destined for Burundi. The aid organization, Actie Ethiopiƫ (site in Dutch, check photos), is still looking for funds to pay for transport, and let us hope they find it before the authorities finish what they started.

...The clothes had been collected in the Flemish provinces of Antwerp and Limburg as part of four projects to help underprivileged youngsters.

Flemish aid freed ( 10 April, 2006