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Five years after the Asian Tsunami: Red Cross helps reduce the risk of future disasters

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On the fifth anniversary of the devastating Boxing Day tsunamis, Australian Red Cross is in the final stages of recovery work, which has involved the construction of thousands of homes across the region, and the rebuilding of livelihoods and local economies.

In Indonesia, Red Cross has finished building more than 1600 homes for tsunami survivors, complete with vital infrastructure such as roads, healthcare and clean water. Construction has also been a focus in Sri Lanka, where Red Cross has completed major water and sanitation projects. The construction of 575 new homes in the north is now under way after being put on hold due to conflict in the region.

In the Maldives, Red Cross has helped to re-establish an entire community of nearly 4000 people on Dhuvaafaru Island after their original islands were made uninhabitable. In just under three years, the island was transformed into a thriving community boasting 600 houses, three schools, a mosque, health centre, and an island administration block complete with sports stadium and auditorium.

Robert Tickner, CEO of Australian Red Cross, said that over the life of the program more than 100 Australian aid workers - experts in construction, health, water, sanitation, waste management, and small business - had helped to build stronger communities throughout the region.

'We said at the beginning that this would be a long term project, taking between five and ten years, so we are very pleased we have achieved so much,' Mr Tickner said.

'We have worked together with local communities to build strong, safe, earthquake-resistant houses,' he said. 'But a roof over people's heads is only the beginning. We're also building local economies by helping people start small businesses.'

Red Cross has helped women, farmers, fisher people and traders to gain new skills and open new businesses, providing much-needed income for thousands of families and boosting the economy in disaster-affected areas, Mr Tickner said.

Australian Red Cross has also worked closely with local partners and communities to reduce the risk of future disasters.

Now, community-based risk reduction projects are running in villages across Aceh as well as in disaster-prone districts of Sri Lanka. Village-level disaster teams are taking the lead in mapping hazards they face in their communities, as well as learning emergency first aid and organising practice evacuation drills.

Bill Marsden, Australian Red Cross' country manager in Indonesia, said that reducing risks as effectively as possible required the full participation of communities exposed to potential disasters.

'Tsunami funding has created communities that are empowered through new awareness, skills and infrastructure,' Mr Marsden said. 'These communities are now stronger, safer and better prepared.'

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