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South Asia: Six months later - a tsunami update from Lutheran World Relief

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Baltimore , MD , June 30, 2005 -- Six months have passed since the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami that took more than 200,000 lives, a tragedy that, as former president Bill Clinton recently noted, "touched the chord of our common humanity." During those six months, Lutheran World Relief supporters have shown their compassion and generosity by donating an unprecedented $18 million to our Wave of Giving™ campaign to help South Asia rebuild and recover. Thanks to these generous donations, and additional resources that have been pledged to LWR by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod, LWR and our partners in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka will be able to fund our long-term recovery effort of up to 10 years.

LWR president Kathryn Wolford notes, "We intend to spend these resources wisely, to respond to the crisis created by the tsunami in ways that address the underlying conditions of chronic poverty and exclusion in the affected communities, and to provide lasting change."

LWR's long-term commitment sets it apart from many other agencies working in the region. We are currently in the second phase of our three-phase plan, transitioning from relief to rehabilitation. We expect that the rehabilitation phase will last the duration of this year until we start seeing our long-term projects up and running.

"When I told people we would be there up to 10 years, there was visible relief in their eyes," said LWR tsunami response team leader Barbara Wetsig. "One woman said to me, 'that's music to my ears.' It really means something to them that we don't have to spend all our money right away, and can make a commitment to thoughtful, long-term planning."

During the first six months of our post-tsunami efforts, LWR has spent about $3 million on items and services for approximately 300,000 survivors such as food, clothing, bedding, mosquito nets, kitchen utensils, tarpaulins, drinking water, sanitation, basic medical aid, health kits, kerosene stoves, construction of temporary houses, boats, engines and fishing nets, and training volunteers to become community counselors. We also delivered approximately $1 million worth of material resources from our warehouses: 3,900 quilts, 15,000 health kits, 10,250 school kits, and 15,300 layettes.

With our local partners in India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka, our work going forward will concentrate primarily on rehabilitation, restoring livelihoods and infrastructure, risk management, and peace-building.

India

LWR has had a long presence in India , and through our local partners the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of India (UELCI) and Church's Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA), we were able to respond within 15 hours of the tsunami. Now that the immediate emergency has ended, our efforts are focused on restoring normalcy and livelihoods, including things like provision of books and school supplies for children; repairing damaged homes and schools; providing fishing boats and nets to fishermen and psychosocial training on trauma counseling to community volunteers. Our work in India has always focused on rural and marginalized communities, and we prioritize addressing the needs of women, children, and Dalit, or "untouchable" communities.

Indonesia

In Indonesia , we are working with Church World Service (CWS) Indonesia , Yakkum Emergency Unit (YEU, a public health foundation) and Yayasan Tanggul Bencana (YTB, a relief and development agency). Some of our activities in Indonesia during the mid-term phase include providing healthcare to people displaced by the tsunami; training volunteers in advocacy, lobbying, and community organizing; creating credit unions for small enterprises; and helping people to restore their livelihoods. We are particularly focused on identifying families who haven't been reached by other aid agencies, to ensure that everyone receives needed assistance.

Sri Lanka

LWR and the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) will work together during the mid-term phase to get displaced people into homes and return to a sense of normalcy; equip students to return to school; provide income generating opportunities to women through micro-credit; and support restoration of livelihoods. We also plan to build several disaster shelters to better equip the region for future crises.

A Word About How We Work

A basic foundation of LWR's work is that we work with and through local partners in the communities that we serve. Our partnerships are based on shared values and objectives, flexibility, mutual trust, respect, accountability, and transparency. This way of working in partnership, which we call "accompaniment," enhances the growth and learning of both LWR and the partner organization, while working toward the ultimate goal of improving the well-being of the poor and finding lasting solutions to poverty and injustice.

WHO IS LWR? Headquartered in Baltimore , Maryland , Lutheran World Relief (LWR) has been responding to emergencies and disasters since its founding in 1945. Working through partners and global relief and development networks, LWR works in 50 countries to provide not only relief but to combat the causes of poverty and restore the dignity it robs from people's lives. We advocate for fair trade that helps farming families earn a better income. We teach people to better care for themselves, their communities and the environment. We teach people how to be less vulnerable to natural disasters. We advocate with them for policy change that more fairly represents them. We counsel them after human and natural disasters, and help them recover with material aid and long-term programs. We do all of this exclusively with partners from the communities we serve.

LWR is supported by the ELCA World Hunger Appeal, LCMS World Relief, individuals and parish groups.