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Seven Years Later, Life is Better

News and Press Release
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Monday, December 26, 2011 — Seven years after the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, clear signs of recovery and rebuilding abound in south Asia.

Homes, schools, businesses and cultural centers have been rebuilt and communities have become better prepared for future disasters. Survivors in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives and elsewhere have been able to rebuild their lives after receiving shelter, clean water, vaccinations and psychosocial support from the American Red Cross and its partners.

“The impact of our work and the lives it touched remains,” says Vanessa Deering of the American Red Cross in a firsthand account of Sri Lanka today.

The story was much different shortly after the disaster struck on December 26, 2004, when the 9.1 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami killed more than 230,000 people in 12 countries. The earthquake in the Indian Ocean was less than 100 miles from the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, and Indonesia was the most heavily impacted, with 167,000 people lost and coastal communities obliterated by waves reaching 98 feet in height. Celebrity Designer Nate Berkus recalled that awful day in a recent interview with CNN.

“After surviving the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, I found myself without food, water, shelter…the most basic needs required to survive,” Berkus said. “Suddenly my livelihood hinged on the one hope shared by all survivors, 'please let help be on the way.' For me, that help came in the form of the Red Cross. When I saw their volunteers, I knew it meant safety, clean water, a meal…not just for me, but for thousands of other survivors too.”

The magnitude of destruction caused by the Indian Ocean Tsunami resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of generosity from donors worldwide. During the six months after the disaster, the American Red Cross provided relief assistance, such as food, supplies and emotional support services to more than 1.6 million people and emergency vaccinations for more than one million children. This type of assistance addressed immediate needs, but survivors needed critical intermediate and longer-term support as well. Rebuilding entire communities completely destroyed by the tsunami required complex programs with significant strategic planning and coordination. In June 2005, the American Red Cross launched the Tsunami Recovery Program, a five-year recovery program, to address the continuing needs of survivors.

Although the Tsunami Recovery Program ended in 2010, the American Red Cross continues to work with the Indonesian Red Cross and tsunami-affected areas to ensure that communities have access to clean drinking water and are better prepared for future disasters. The American Red Cross also partners with the Indonesian Red Cross to help build local capacity, so that they are more effectively able to provide services to communities.

In the seven years since, the American Red Cross and its partners have helped more than 4 million people rebuild and recover from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. In addition, because of your support, we have:

  • Built 16,600 transitional shelters and permanent homes for tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Maldives.
  • Provided access to clean water for 260,000 people.
  • Protected more than 111 million people against diseases such as measles, malaria and polio.
  • Helped 783,500 survivors deal with their emotional trauma through our psychosocial support programs.
  • Helped 620 communities and schools become better prepared for future disasters.

Seven years later, life is indeed better.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or join our blog at

American Red Cross
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is provided at no cost, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. The Red Cross also supplies nearly half of the nation's lifesaving blood. This, too, is made possible by generous voluntary donations. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. To donate blood, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543), or contact your local Red Cross to find out about upcoming blood drives. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.