Reflection of December 26 tsunami
June 26 will be a day of reflection for the Red Cross and Red
Crescent Movement as it marks six months since the Indian Ocean tsunami
"The day is an opportunity to remember the tragedy, take stock of the
operations, which is the largest Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
operations in the world, and plan for the future," President Sri Lanka
Red Cross Society Jagath Abeysinghe said at a media briefing.
Within a few hours of the disaster, thousands of Sri Lanka Red Cross
staff and volunteers were in the field, rescuing people, evacuating the
wounded, retrieving the dead, and giving assistance to survivors. More
than 70 Red Cross and Red Crescent societies from around the world have
pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for the reconstruction and
rehabilitation of lives and livelihoods in Sri Lanka alone. An
assessment team estimated that the operation would cost USD$375 million
(CHF450 million) over six years.
This unique response, together with committed and trained volunteers
from the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, and international emergency
response units, enabled the International Red Cross and Red Crescent
Movement to meet the immediate needs of people in tsunami-affected
Volunteers and staff provided food, shelter, sleeping mats, mosquito
nets and other goods to more than 250,000 people, gave out more than
110,000 items of clothing including school uniforms, produced more than
three million litres of safe water a week and gave health care to more
than 100,000 people.
Of the US$58.3 million (CHF70 million) budgeted by the International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for spending in Sri
Lanka this year, by May, almost half had been spent.
At this stage, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is still
making sure people have water and the basics of life, such as hygiene
kits and clothing. But as the operation moves out of the emergency
response phase, the focus is changing. The Red Cross and Red Crescent
Movement has agreed to start building transitional housing, so families
waiting for permanent housing can have a more comfortable home.
Planned program include reconstruction and rehabilitation of 34
health facilities, construction of 15,000 permanent houses, livelihood
assistance for fishermen, tailors and carpenters, water and sanitation,
debris clearance and first aid.
The International Federation's experience of managing more than 2000
international relief operations over the past 85 years has taught the
vital importance of systematic and diligent planning for long-term
rehabilitation program said head of delegation Tony Maryon for the
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which
is working with the SLRCS and more than 23 Red Cross and Red Crescent
societies presently in the country.
This is a huge operation that requires planning, co-ordination,
consultation with local communities and accountability. These things
take time to be done properly. Our slogan is "Build back better", Maryon
Ongoing psycho-social support, where trained Cross volunteers conduct
community activities for survivors, is an essential part of the planned
operation, expected to continue for the next five to eight years.
"Tragedies like this often don't hit home until months afterwards.
Families are still coming to terms with the loss of loved ones, often
children. We need to keep supporting them," said Maryon.