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South Asia: Five years later - Direct Relief International tsunami disaster relief advances local medicine

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December 23, 2009, SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - When the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami struck Southeast Asia on December 26, 2004, the results were horrific, the devastation complete. An estimated 1.69 million people were left homeless, close to 230,000 people were killed and over 45,000 are still missing. On the eve of this fifth anniversary, Direct Relief International is proud to be supporting advances by local healthcare practitioners in the countries hardest hit by the 2004 tsunami - India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand - that are benefitting people who had no or little access to medical services before.

Among the first international groups to respond, Direct Relief has provided nearly $60 million in medical relief and recovery to the region, comprised of $13.5 million in targeted cash grants and $45.4 million in medicines, supplies, and equipment sent to nearly 90 local partners. Initiatives have been focused on seven health-related areas: disease prevention, health facility construction and rehabilitation, health and medical services, medical and technical equipment assistance, psycho-social services, shelter, and water and sanitation.

"As we look back on these five years, we are in awe of our partners in this region. In the face of this kind of devastation, and born of that devastation, it is miraculous that, in this time frame, they have gone beyond recovery to profound health advances to care for their citizens," said Thomas Tighe, Direct Relief International President and CEO.

"Direct Relief's mission is to strengthen local health systems so that local health professionals are able to care for those in their communities," said Tighe. "Our supporters should be immensely proud of the work that has been accomplished and the lives that are being improved in this region every day."

Full summaries of activities by country, including grant distribution reporting, are available on Direct Relief's website. The following stories are a sampling of the many successes achieved with Direct Relief's support:


Direct Relief immediately sent medical supplies and financial support to India, the country hardest hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, after Indonesia. As Direct Relief immediately responded to health centers along the Indian Ocean, one particular Indian hospital began to stand out due to its level of sophistication: Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences & Research Center (AIMS). As time went on, Direct Relief asked AIMS exactly what the Institute needed to continue to serve people in the region. AIMS told Direct Relief that there were a great number of people geographically cut off from quality medical care and if they had a way to bring the medical services to those people, rather than asking the people to come to AIMS, it would help immensely.

The resulting $288,895 grant paved the way for the most sophisticated telemedicine vehicle in India. This state-of-the-art van is equipped with diagnostic tools including an X-ray suite, a lab, endoscopy, cardiac and ophthalmic equipment and an ISRO satellite to transmit video and images to specialists at other health facilities. AIMS began to use the van to serve people in the region. In fact, the Indian government sends the van to pilgrimage sites

Today, the telemedicine van provides medical services and supplies to those affected by other major disasters in the country, revolutionizing care for those in rural, hard-to-reach areas. A second hospital in India, the Meenakshi Mission Hospital, has replicated the van and uses it to serve people in its region.


Following the earthquake and devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in the Banda Aceh region of north western Sumatra, Yayasan Bumi Sehat (YBS), village-based organization that ran a donation-supported community health center in Bali, decided to actively participate in the immediate relief response and recovery activities.

With assistance from Direct Relief and other non-governmental organizations, YBS was able to open a family health clinic in the village of Samatiga, Aceh, very close to the epicenter of the disaster. In contrast to the non-governmental organizations that provided extremely effective support immediately following the 2004 tsunami but gradually left the area, YBS has grown and developed its capacity to serve the population.

In addition to the provision of support to pregnant women and their families, which was their main focus before the tsunami, their relief response and recovery services included clean-up of debris, recovery of bodies, re-unification of family members where possible, provision of emergency food distribution and basic healthcare delivery.

As its services expand and their reputation grows, more and more people utilize the YBS Aceh clinic as an alternative to the local district hospital.


Since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Direct Relief has worked with the Sustainable Development Foundation to provide support to fishing villages and nomadic fisherman populations in the area. Direct Relief has worked on a select number of redevelopment projects outside the health realm, like helping to rebuild fishing villages and helping tsunami-affected communities build and improve sanitation and water delivery systems.

Sri Lanka

Through its work in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, Direct Relief has helped the Guardian Foundation construct two community healthcare centers, serving populations that were previously forced to travel approximately 15 miles out of the area for medical services. Direct Relief also worked to implement water and sanitation improvements in displaced persons camps and affected neighborhoods.

About Direct Relief International

Founded in 1948, Direct Relief is a Santa Barbara, California-based nonprofit organization focused on improving quality of life by bringing critically needed medicines and supplies to local healthcare providers worldwide. Direct Relief has provided more than $1 billion in privately funded humanitarian aid since 2000, including more than $150 million in assistance in the United States. It is one of two charities ranked by Forbes that received a perfect fundraising efficiency score for seven consecutive years and is ranked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as California's largest international nonprofit organization based on private support. For more information, please visit

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