On December 26, 2004, just after 8am local time, a tsunami rolled from the sea and across the land, killing thousands of people in Indonesia.
It affected 12 countries in all, with around 230,000 people losing their lives and a further 1.5 million people made homeless.
Local footage of the tsunami shows its speed and scale in Indonesia, the worst-hit country. In Aceh, in northern Sumatra, 170,000 people died, a third of the population lost their homes, and 800,000 people lost their livelihoods. Schools, hospitals and health clinics were wrecked.
With offices already in Indonesia, our emergency work started the day following the tsunami. We supplied ambulances and mobile health clinics and two cargo planes packed with medical and hygiene supplies – 30,000kg of medical supplies and 28,000 of hygiene kits. In the days following the tsunami, we handed out 48,000 litres of water every day.
Syed Abdul Razak, country director of our Indonesia office, said: “We already had an office in the area and had emergency response systems in place, so we were able to use these to respond immediately by delivering life-saving relief activities including the provision of humanitarian supplies and emergency healthcare services. We were one of the first charities on the ground following the tsunami. There was so much to do, with homes destroyed and people desperately searching for loved ones who had been caught in the tsunami. In most cases, these loved ones were never found. In giving emergency shelter, food, water, basic hygiene and medical supplies and healthcare, we were able to meet some of their immediate needs.”
When April arrived, Islamic Relief had cleared land and identified plots which were stable enough to build on, so we started to build replacement homes for the tsunami survivors. By June 2005, we had repaired two damaged schools, held health and hygiene training in nine places to help prevent the outbreak of disease, started our cash-for-work scheme to help people get back on their feet, organised and funded long-term care for 300 orphans, and began work on 100 permanent homes.
Islamic Relief continued assisting Indonesians to rebuild their shattered lives and communities. In the year following the tsunami, we trained more than 100 midwives, built eight schools and 12 health clinics, immunised 3,500 children against disease, provided food packages to 17,000 families, and donated buses to help the government transport displaced people.
Syed Abdul Razak added: “It is strange looking at the figures of the many of thousands of people we helped. They were not just numbers; each of these people had a terrible story of loss and suffering to tell”
“As well as humanitarian assistance, Islamic Relief made a significant contribution to recovery and development efforts. In our efforts to build back better we initiated the reconstruction of schools and offer vocational training to tsunami victims to help them generate income. Within three years of the tsunami, we had built 27 clinics and a hospital, and trained 200 health professionals and a further 116 midwives. We built 23 new schools, repaired nine others and provided books, furniture and equipment to 30 schools and nurseries. We were able to see people’s lives steadily improving as they got back into work and routines, and made their newly-built houses their homes. Our livelihoods activities are not limited to individuals, we provided sustainable income generation support to 11 orphanages and traditional boarding schools in Aceh through aquaculture, vegetable and poultry farming activities. Supported orphanages have increased their incomes manifolds and the proceeds are used to provide improve living conditions and learning environment to the poor children enrolled in these institutions.
“Ten years have passed since the tsunami, and Indonesia is barely recognisable now from the one left behind after the tsunami. Of course, many people will never forget the tsunami and what it took from them, but the incredible response from all across the world significantly minimised the consequences of the enormous damage it caused.”
This week, we look back at the arrival of the tsunami, and share stories of some of the brave people we worked with following the devastation.