Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Why did Sweden miss the Tsunami risk?

On 1 Dec the Swedish National Tsunami commission reported that Swedish government and authorities were late to rescue 20 000 Swedish tourists in Thailand. the repot rightly concludes that swifter Swedish actions would have reduced the sufferings inflicted on Swedes on the Thai beaches. The debate that followed miss, as debates on sudden impact emergencies often do, what prevention could have done.
Sweden is safe due to costly but evidence based preventions in all spheres of life: Lowest rates of child deaths due to injuries and lowest rates of traffic deaths. However, today about 5% of Swedes stay abroad in each moment. Annually 400 die abroad. Estimates indicate that up to 150 die from injuries, mainly in traffic, i.e. about 20% of Swedes dying in traffic abroad. Sverel folds higher risks than at home. Yet no Swedish preventive resources are geared toward lowering these traffic deaths. Such resources could be spent in collaboration with countries where many Swedes reside. Sweden now wisely co finances Tsunami warning systems in Indian Ocean and the tsunami tragedy should make us think beyond national limits in preventing deaths and suffering among Swedish citizen. Today there is not even yearly routine statistics available for the cause of deaths of Swedes abroad.
Not one Swedish Tsunami death would have been avoided by swift rescue from Sweden. But had just a minimum of Tsunami awareness existed among Swedes on the Thai beaches many of the 500 deaths could have been avoided.
The difficult question is: Why did Sweden?s immense resources for prevention not identify that Swedes spent a lot of time on Tsunami prone beaches? Is this too much to ask for? No not in a country that has reduced domestic risks to extremely low levels. It is not even good use of resourcs for Swedes to continue to only reduce risks in Sweden. Sweden should use more resources for reducing human risks outside Swedish boarders. This will be cost-effective for both Swedes and other nationalities. This is not said to reduce the critics on slow rescue, on the contrary, it is to increase the critics against the slowness of Sweden in adapting to the changes of how Swedes themself live in the world.