South Asia: Back to work - How people are recovering their livelihoods 12 months after the tsunami
A year has passed since the tsunami, and it is time to remember the many who lost their lives. It is also time to assess the effectiveness of the relief and reconstruction operations so far.
This report is intended to outline the work that has been undertaken to restore and improve the livelihoods of tsunami-affected people. It recognises the poverty in which many people were living before the tsunami. It describes how the tsunami destroyed what meagre livelihoods these people had, and how it threatened to plunge millions more into poverty.
Men and women affected by the tsunami are determined to be economically self-sufficient. The extraordinary generosity of people and governments around the world has allowed agencies, including Oxfam, to begin helping people and communities to recover their livelihoods. People are beginning to go back to work and there are clear signs that local economies are beginning to function.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that the rapid aid and support received after the disaster is likely to result in 50 -- 60 per cent of workers being able to earn a living again by the end of 2005. Moreover, economists believe that 70 per cent of those dragged into poverty by the tsunami -- 1.4 million people -- will be out of poverty by 2007. The drive to restore livelihoods has perhaps progressed more than some other areas of the tsunami response, such as building permanent shelters (see Oxfam's companion report, 'A place to stay, a place to live').(1)
However, Oxfam believes that it is not sufficient that people simply return to the poverty in which they were living in previously. We are committed to helping people affected by the tsunami to create sustainable, improved livelihoods, as well as to preventing more people becoming trapped in poverty. This 'reconstruction plus' will require continued input and effort over many years.
On 26 December 2004, an earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami that hit the coasts of India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Maldives, Malaysia, Burma, the Seychelles, and Somalia.
Within the space of a few hours, the giant waves devastated thousands of kilometres of coastline and the communities that lived there. While the final death toll will never be known, official estimates indicate that at least 181,516 people perished,(2) and maybe many more.
A further 1.6 million were displaced into temporary camps or took refuge with communities that were unaffected. To put this into perspective, if all of the displaced people were considered a 'country', this country would have a population equivalent to that of Botswana and would be more populous than one in three actual nations.
The Indonesian province of Aceh, Sumatra, was the area that was hardest hit. Approximately 132,000 people here lost their lives, and another 37,000 are still classified as missing. A large proportion of them (as many as two out of three in some locations) were women and children. Many villages were decimated, and the survivors moved into temporary camps in public buildings or took refuge with unaffected communities. Over 572,000 people were displaced, and the total losses in infrastructure, housing, and productive capacity have been estimated at more than $4.6bn.
Sri Lanka also suffered heavily, with over 31,000 deaths, 4,000 missing, and over 500,000 people displaced. Overall damage here was assessed at approximately $1bn.
In India, at least 12,400 people died, 5,600 are missing and about 647,000 were displaced. The affected areas included the southern and eastern states of mainland India (particularly Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Pondicherry, and Tamil Nadu), as well as the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
(1) A. Renton and R. Palmer (2005) 'A place to stay, a place to live: challenges in providing shelter in India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka after the tsunami', Oxford: Oxfam International. Available at www.oxfam.org.uk/what_we_do/issues/conflict_disasters/papers.htm.
(2) All information on fatalities, missing and displaced persons is taken from the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery. Source: www.tsunamispecialenvoy.org/default.aspx.
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