Five years on from the 2004 tsunami, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling upon the international community to honour commitments tostep up disaster risk reduction efforts in the Asia Pacific region.
Over the past five years, Red Cross Red Crescent partners have undertaken the biggest permanent housing programme in the history of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, funding the construction of more than 56,000 new homes together with community infrastructure in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand and India.
"Out of the tragedy of the tsunami came a unique opportunity - to build back safer and stronger communities," says Al Panico, head of the IFRC's tsunami unit.
"Homes, hospitals and schools have been rebuilt but the recovery process doesn't end here. There can be no excuse for not doing more to protect these communities against future disasters."
Reducing the impact of disasters has been at the heart of Red Cross Red Crescent recovery efforts across all tsunami-affected countries. Tsunami funding has created communities that are empowered through new awareness, skills and infrastructure and which are now stronger, safer and better prepared.
Now, community-based risk reduction projects are running in 500 communities across Aceh as well asin disaster-prone districts of Sri Lanka. Village-level disaster teams made up of volunteers are taking the lead in mapping the hazards they face in their communities, as well as learning skills in emergency first aid and spreading awareness amongst the old and young who take part in mock evacuation drills.
In Sri Lanka, 400,000 people are benefitingfrom a grassroots early warning system run by more than 1,000 volunteers who disseminate warnings and help to safely evacuate people during disasters. 3D digital hazard evacuation maps have been developed for all of the communities involved in the project in collaboration with the government's disaster management centre and UN OCHA.
In Aceh, the Indonesian Red Cross has installed an HF and VHF radio communication network that links the headquarters in Jakarta with local offices. This network allowed the Red Cross to maintain vital contact with its emergency teams following the earthquake that struck Padang on 30 September this year.
"Risk reduction is everyone's responsibility,"says IFRC Secretary General Bekele Geleta. "The legacy of the tsunami is that we have moved significantly closer to this goal, but saving lives in the future means working together and acting now."
The IFRC is calling upon governments in the Asia Pacific region, donors, the media and the global public to come together tosupport and promote preventive action such as early warning early action systems, which are vital to help communities at risk adapt to the increasing number of weather and seismic related threats in the region.
For more information please visit: www.ifrc.org/tsunami
See as well the new multimedia documentary: "Surviving the Tsunami: Stories of Hope"
For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:
In Geneva: Paul Conneally, Head of Media and Public Communications Unit. Tel: +41(0)22.730.4669 - Mobile: +41(0)79.3089809
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Patrick Fuller, tsunami communications coordinator in Kuala Lumpur Tel: +60 3 9207 5705 - Mobile: +60 12 230 8451
Media Service Duty Phone (Geneva) Tel: + 41 79 416 3881
The Geneva-based International Federation promotes the humanitarian activities of 186 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies among vulnerable people. By coordinating international disaster relief and encouraging development support, it seeks to prevent and alleviate human suffering. The Federation, National Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross together, constitute the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.