Almost three years after a tsunami wreaked havoc along the rim of the Indian Ocean, survivors in the hardest-hit countries -- Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand -- are still trying to put their lives back together.
A broad range of governments, nongovernmental aid groups and individuals continues to provide resources and expertise to help them in the process.
The tsunami, one of the worst natural disasters of modern times, was spawned by a massive ocean-based earthquake that struck on December 26, 2004, centered off the northwest coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. With a magnitude estimated between 9.1 and 9.3, the quake was among the largest ever recorded.
Waves created by the massive displacement of ocean water swept ashore. Before it was all over, an estimated 180,000 persons in eight countries had been killed, tens of thousands more had been injured and over a million others had been left homeless. Coastal communities, and especially fishermen throughout the region, particularly suffered.
The United States and other governments, as well as the International Red Cross and other humanitarian aid agencies, swiftly swung into action, starting by providing lifesaving food, water, medical care and shelter. That initial effort was mounted to head off a situation in which, the World Health Organization warned, deaths from diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, dysentery and typhoid could match the death toll from the tsunami itself.
Later efforts aimed at reconstruction swelled the total amount of assistance provided into the billions, as measured in U.S. dollars. As of October, the United Nations' Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported, total worldwide contributions and commitments have reached more than $6.2 billion, with another $575 million in nonbinding pledges. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other U.S. government agencies have provided a substantial share of that funding.
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE GIVING
In May 2005, Congress and the president approved $656 million for a comprehensive reconstruction program via the Tsunami Relief and Reconstruction Fund. By the second anniversary of the disaster, USAID reported that, including funds spent by the Department of Defense on emergency recovery and relief assistance and food provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. government assistance totaled $841 million.
An October update issued by USAID showed that by far the largest portion of the U.S. government's $656 million contribution had been earmarked for the hardest hit areas -- Indonesia, at $405.7 million, and Sri Lanka, at $134.6 million.
The American people pitched in as well. By the two-year mark, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University said, U.S. private tsunami donations -- both cash and in-kind -- had reached more than $1.8 billion.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) played their traditional and effective role.
The American Red Cross, for example, combined rebuilding housing and sanitation facilities with providing psychosocial support programs for women and children suffering from continued emotional trauma.
The agency has been working with Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies that have established local networks to identify and respond to community needs; it formed partnerships with NGOs like Mercy Corps and CHF International in Indonesia to restore markets and provide residents with small grants to promote economic opportunities.
Gerald Anderson, senior director of the Tsunami Recovery Program for the American Red Cross, termed engagement with -- and listening to -- local communities "one of the most important aspects to ensure a successful, long term recovery."
USAID reported that it had broken ground on the final element of the Sri Lanka Tsunami Reconstruction Program -- a water supply project for the town of Pottuvil, near Arugam Bay, expected to be finished by July 2008. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is co-funding the $4.7 million project, providing $1.5 million toward the $4.7 cost of constructing wells, a water line and a water treatment plant.
USAID also reported breaking ground on a project to install new water purification systems on two tsunami-damaged islands in Maldives. And USAID Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator Mark Ward came back from Sri Lanka with word of "good progress" on bridge and vocational school projects scheduled for mid-2008 completion.
In Indonesia, the USAID update noted, the agency has funded a $3.2 million program designed to better educate young women -- and broaden their employment opportunities -- to help combat trafficking.
In Thailand, the Post-Tsunami Sustainable Livelihoods Program completed its work in the Kamphuan area in September, but will continue to provide guidance to the new Kamphuan Community Learning Center through March 2008. Thanks to the USAID program, the update said, "Residents have adopted alternative livelihoods, better community governance, and disaster preparedness."
And in India, USAID has arranged exchange visits between officials of the cities of Nagapattinam and Cuddalore and city managers from coastal communities in Florida that have carried out successful recovery efforts after natural disasters struck.
A USAID statement termed the success of its efforts "a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, learning from experience and the power of partnerships between nations."Source: Reliefweb