Indonesia

Indonesia: Community focus key to tsunami recovery effort

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Five years ago, on 26 December 2004, a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra created a tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean.

Throughout Australia, people watched in horror as the aftermath of the biggest single natural disaster in living memory unfolded on our television screens. Almost 230,000 people lost their lives across 14 countries.

In its wake came extraordinary generosity. Individuals, communities and business around Australia rallied to raise $129.1 million, including interest, for Australian Red Cross' Asia tsunami appeal.

Five years on, the immense task of constructing homes, schools and hospitals is almost complete. This construction of sturdier new homes complete with electricity, clean water and good sanitation is one step in what is known as 'building back better', but genuine recovery also requires a more inclusive approach that addresses people's wider, long-term needs.

Responding to this, Red Cross has conducted training in business and vocational skills to help people establish entrepreneurial small business and ensure their ability to earn income and be self sufficient.

This livelihoods program, which includes start-up capital, often in the form of tools or farm animals, has helped establish small businesses throughout Aceh, providing much needed income for families and boosting the local economy.

Building back better also means creating safer and more resilient communities. Since the tsunami, we have helped create community-based activities that prepare people for future disasters and help them to reduce the risk of new disasters occurring. These are now active in communities across Aceh and Sri Lanka.

Red Cross and community teams map the hazards faced in their communities and carry out small-scale prevention and mitigation activities such as improving drainage systems to prevent flooding. They also learn emergency first aid skills and involve all generations in their community in evacuation drills.

This empowering of communities to take preventative action on their own behalf, without being dependent on external support, is one of the clear lessons learned from the tsunami.

Robert Tickner

Chief Executive Officer

Australian Red Cross

Media contacts:

For media enquiries contact Red Cross media adviser Joe Cropp on 0400 942 861