The earthquake and tsunami of December 26, 2004, killed more than 260,000 people across the Indian Ocean perimeter, making it one of the deadliest disasters in history.
Save the Children's five-year humanitarian response represents the largest in the agency's history. Our staff members were on the ground in many coastal areas when the disaster struck, and their work has benefited an estimated 1 million people in over 1,000 towns and villages.
Save the Children responded immediately in the countries hardest hit, including Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, as well as in Somalia. The agency provided emergency food, water and medical supplies; set up community kitchens in temporary shelters; created safe play areas and temporary classrooms for children; distributed educational materials; provided cash-for-work opportunities and offered other immediate relief activities. It also reunited more than 1,300 children with their families.
During the past five years, Save the Children has helped transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and their families affected by the tsunami, while successfully shifting its efforts from emergency relief to long-term development. Lasting examples of the agency's work are evident throughout the region:
- Children are attending schools that have been rebuilt or newly constructed;
- Families left homeless by the tsunami have moved into homes they can call their own;
- Children and parents have access to new health clinics within easy walking distance of their homes;
- Fishermen have returned to their livelihoods in new boats built with our support;
- Teachers, healthcare workers and small-business owners have received training to do their jobs more effectively; and,
- Disaster-prone communities are better prepared and able to manage future emergencies thanks to Save the Children disaster risk reduction programs.
One of the biggest challenges was making the successful transition from emergency relief to long-term sustainable development programs. Not only did Save the Children staff help save the lives of tens of thousands of children and family members immediately following the tsunami, but they also helped hundreds of thousands of children and family members rebuild their lives in new or redeveloped communities, complete with homes, schools and health clinics.
One of the greatest lessons learned from this response is the value of being prepared for emergencies. The tsunami was a watershed event that highlighted the importance of disaster preparedness. Save the Children's responses today are faster, more efficient and more effective because of what was learned from the tsunami and the advance preparations and emergency training the agency now has in place.