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Heartbreak and hope five years after tsunami

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Saturday, December 26, marks five years since the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami. The entire UN system and countless NGOs and other global partners joined together to respond to the disaster which killed more than 200,000 people. As Sri Lanka and Indonesia were among the hardest hit countries, we look at some of the progress made there since the tragedy, through stories adapted from our colleagues at UN Television.

NARR: At a government health centre in Batticaloa on the east coast of Sri Lanka, mothers and their babies are eager not to miss out on a keenly awaited occurrence. Food supplements and vaccinations are distributed every two weeks to children at this well baby clinic. Kirupairajah Gowriswaran is a Health & Nutrition Officer with UNICEF:

GOWRISWARAN: One of the nutritious food. And selected children will get. Children underweight. The public health midwife is providing, based on their height and weight.

NARR: The health centre serves a community that is largely dependent on the sea, and which has been re-settled after the tsunami. Recovery has not been easy, but there are signs which offer hope for the future.

NARR: For example, there is a new paediatric extension at the main hospital. Funded by UNICEF, it has dramatically improved the treatment of childhood diseases.

NARR: Meanwhile, not so far away, at an elementary school in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, class-mates Hafidz and Taufik know they are among a lucky few. In their first year at the school the tsunami claimed the lives of most of the other 300 pupils. Taufik recalls that dreadful day.

TAUFIK (Indonesian V/O): I was with my friends when we saw this black water coming up from the river. I got to the mosque where my mother found me and took me to the mountains.

NARR: Like all child survivors of the tsunami in Banda Aceh, the two boys were able to resume their lessons. The overwhelming international response allowed organizations like UNICEF and its local partners to get children back into class quickly. At first children attended temporary schools; now, nearly 350 earthquake-resistant permanent buildings have been constructed. All schools have also introduced improved teaching methods.

NARR: The neighbourhood around Hafidz's school still bears the reminders of the tsunami.

NARR: The young boy even points out how high the water levels rose against a wall. But Hafidz is grateful to be alive.

HAFIDZ (V/O Indonesian): I am very thankful that Allah would give me the chance to live, while so many of my friends were killed.

NARR: Hafidz, a school boy from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, who survived the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004.

Producer: UN Television (Dianne Penn)