The sheer devastation caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami on December 26, 2004, was unprecedented. It hit the coastlines of eight different countries. It killed a quarter of a million people and it wreaked unimaginable havoc on the lives of millions.
Also unprecedented in scale was the global response: billions of Euro were pledged internationally. Trócaire alone received €28.7 million from the Irish public (including Stg£5,561,668.68 from the people of Northern Ireland) for its response. The Irish government, through Irish Aid, gave Trócaire an additional €1.5 million.
Trócaire's initial work focused on the urgent needs of the affected communities and we quickly began providing food, shelter and clean water to those worst-hit.
But the scale of the disaster was enormous and this was only the initial step in what has become a long, five-year process.
Trócaire continued to work with partner organisations long after the media glare receded, and our work has improved the lives of many thousands, despite the often complex political, social and economic situations in which we work. Homes and schools have been rebuilt better than before, and more resistant to future disasters.
None of this could have been possible without the exceeding generosity of the Irish public.
Both Trócaire's membership of the Caritas network (an international umbrella group of Catholic relief agencies) and its previous work in the region meant that good working relationships with local organisations and community groups were already in place. These groups allowed us, through their local knowledge and community trust, to co-operate together on many truly innovative and beneficial projects.
Organic agriculture and community development projects in Aceh, Indonesia, provide sustainable futures for former fishing communities and farmers whose land was swallowed by the sea. And in Sri Lanka, Trócaire funded 6,033 homes, as well as schools, community centres and other vital buildings. In India, educational programmes have enabled communities to be more resilient in the face of other smaller scale disasters affecting their lives.
By the end of 2010, Trócaire will have disbursed all of the funds that were generously given the by public and the Irish Government following the Tsunami in 2004 and we will close our office in Indonesia.
We believe that most of the work we set out to achieve after the tsunami has been completed. For example, we supported the construction of almost 21,000 homes and 64 schools in Aceh alone. In addition, the technical and training support that we have given to local organisations over the last five years has been very successful. That means that much of the work we have invested in will be able to continue without Trócaire and will be sustained into the future.
We are leaving behind a strong legacy in....
In Thailand 8,212 people lost their lives and 6,000 were left homeless.
During the recovery phase Trócaire funded the rebuilding of 289 houses and the provision of 408 new fishing boats to communities that desperately needed them to live. Tools and equipment for a further 482 fishermen were also provided, 1259 children received help to get back to education and trauma counseling was provided for over 3,500 children and elderly people.
Our work in Thailand prioritised marginalised groups, such as the elderly, disabled, single parents, sea gypsies and ethnic groups such as Burmese migrants.
In Thailand we also focused on to strengthen the abilities of vulnerable people and communities to reduce their risk to future disasters by helping them to diversify their ways of earning money and helping them construct their homes and schools in a more disaster-proof way.
Indonesia, the worst affected country, witnessed the loss of 165,945 lives and 572,926 people were left without homes.
Funding from Trócaire enabled the immediate needs of 237,000 people to be met, including food, clothing and medical care. Trócaire funded the repair and building of 20,987 houses and 64 schools.
We have supported over 200 farmers to learn new eco-friendly farming techniques that have increased household food and disposable income, as well as specific income-earning programmes for women. And through our innovative collaboration with No Strings, an international NGO, we funded local-language DVDs for use as tools to help children prepare for natural disasters.
We have also worked to consolidate and protect the Aceh peace process which has been in place since shortly after the tsunami.
In Sri Lanka 1,000km of coast line was struck and 35,322 lives were lost. When the waves receded, over 99,000 houses had been destroyed and an estimated 516,150 people had been made homeless.
Trócaire's contribution helped provide 11,403 people with emergency food supplies and 29,951 with household kits containing essential equipment. 6,755 transitional shelters were built and 18,700 items, such as books, pens and uniforms were distributed to school children to enable them to return to school.
Trócaire's support also funded the construction of 6,033 houses and many other vital structures including health centres, markets and playgrounds.
Trócaire recognises that peace is a requirement of development and we also spent a portion of our tsunami funds for Sri Lanka to communities affected by the long-running civil war and peace-building projects.
In India, 16,279 people lost their lives and 730,000 people were displaced by the tsunami, with the south eastern state of Tamil Nadu worst affected.
Initially, Trócaire's support helped 60,000 families to receive food, medicine, clothing, sleeping mats and clean water. 3,038 temporary shelters were constructed. 3,015 boats were provided to fishermen. Nine children's activity centres were constructed and 12,991 permanent houses were repaired or re-constructed.
Trócaire's continued support of tsunami-affected communities focused on vulnerable and marginalised groups like those lowest on the caste system, women, children, and the physically disabled. This was done through helping communities to prepare for future disasters.