A remarkable amount has been achieved in tsunami-hit countries since the wave smashed its way across the Indian Ocean almost three years ago. The vast amount of money donated by ordinary people around the world has made - and continues to make - a huge difference to the lives of affected communities. Most of the people made homeless in the catastrophe now have a home and are back at work. Threequarters of the way through our tsunami response, we are proud of what we have achieved.
Oxfam received more money than ever before for a single disaster and we are largely on track to spend it as planned. We said from the outset that it would take time to help rebuild shattered lives, livelihoods and communities. Now Aceh, the Indonesian Province worst hit by the disaster, for example, is a vibrant, thriving community where not so long ago there was grief, fear and resentment.
That is not to say there haven't been problems. Lack of access to areas of northern and eastern Sri Lanka as a result of the conflict has meant that many tsunami-affected people are not receiving the help they need. Oxfam and its local partner organizations in all countries have found it a challenge to scale up our programming and we have had to work hard to ensure that adequate financial management and governance structures are in place to ensure accountability.
People living in poverty, especially women, are disproportionately impacted by disasters, and in all the affected countries poor and marginalized people are at risk of falling through the gaps in the tsunami response. Whilst tsunami-affected villages are benefiting from development, it is important to ensure that adjacent communities are not left behind. Wherever possible, we have been targeting the most vulnerable women and men for assistance to ensure that tsunami aid does not create tensions or exacerbate relative poverty.
We want the tsunami recovery to leave a positive legacy, and for people to be left in a better state than they were in before the tsunami. Oxfam always seeks to involve communities in programming to ensure they have the skills and the confidence to build on what has been achieved after it leaves. We also work closely with national and local governments in affected countries to ensure that gains made during the tsunami recovery - in terms of empowering communities, promoting gender justice and mitigating the impact of future disasters - are not lost.
Throughout the tsunami response, we have striven to improve the quality of our programming. The unprecedented funds at our disposal have allowed us to earmark a large amount for research, monitoring and evaluation compared with other humanitarian responses. This has been crucial for driving improvements not only in our own programs, but also the programs and practices of others, as well as providing evidence to lobby decision-makers for change.
Oxfam has learned two principal lessons from the tsunami: we need to work harder with communities on disaster risk reduction; and we need to step up our work with partners and local government to be prepared for disaster response. Lessons learnt from the tsunami response will be vital as the world faces more frequent and bigger disasters as a result of climate change.
- Barbara Stocking, Chair of the Oxfam International Tsunami Fund Board