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Supporting our neighbours: Australians making a difference - ACFID report on the response by Australian NGOs to the Asian tsunami

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OVERVIEW

Two years have passed since a devastating tsunami struck 12 countries in Asia and Africa and shocked the world. The 2004 Asian tsunami claimed over 30,000 lives and left millions of people homeless. It not only destroyed large areas of land and millions of homes, but also destroyed the livelihoods and hopes of the millions of survivors.

The generosity of Australians in response to this human tragedy was magnificent, with over $350 million in public donations to the 30 ACFID member agencies involved. These donations enabled ACFID members to help save lives, provide clean water, food, medical supplies and shelter. It also enabled them to rebuild homes and infrastructure and to help rebuild lives through the health, education and livelihood programs. Together with the many other international agencies involved, the contributions of Australian agencies continue to make a real difference. During 2005, ACFID provided four reports to the Australian public, each of which contained comprehensive details on fundraising and program delivery by our member agencies. This report is different. We provide an update of the financial performance of our member agencies but our main focus is on the human story of this extraordinary response.

This report offers real life testimonies, which demonstrate how Australians made a tremendous difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of tsunami survivors and their families.

The stories in this report illustrate how Australian agencies listened to, and worked effectively with, local people as they sought to provide help. The pattern of this work is distinctive. It is one of quiet collaboration with local people in the complex task of rebuilding communities.

The reconstruction process is a marathon effort and will take at least another 7-8 years. It involves the restoration of millions of livelihoods and homes, as well as reconstructing physical infrastructure and service systems.

ACFID member agencies will continue to work with their partners on this hugely complex set of tasks for years to come. Combined with the work of national governments in those countries, the substantial Australian government support in Indonesia and the contributions of many international agencies across all affected countries, steady improvements are being achieved.

Immediately after the tsunami, ACFID agencies made a commitment to report on their performance publicly. In addition to the four previous reports, this report shows that over 63% of total donations were spent by September 2006 and that the average proportion of administrative costs to total tsunami income across all agencies was 3.66%. Apart from these ACFID reports, the hundreds of thousands of generous donors to ACFID agencies have received regular updates directly about each agency's work. Every agency also complies with the requirements of the independent industry Code of Conduct.

In addition to the track record of accountability demonstrated by ACFID agencies through the four previous reports and the current report, they have taken an active approach to scrutinising their own program delivery and they have contributed to major international evaluations. The reports of the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition (www.tsunami-evaluation.org) and the UN Special Envoy's NGO Impact Initiative (www.tsunamispecialenvoy.org) provide evidence of this.

Those evaluations commended NGOs for significant achievements during the response in very difficult circumstances. They especially noted success in the emergency phase with livelihood support, water, sanitation, shelter and psycho-social support programs. Despite many obstacles, the agencies were also commended for providing tens of thousands of permanent houses.

At the same time, the international evaluations identify the need for NGOs to improve their coordination with one another and to plan more effectively to build the capacity of local communities to implement the main response actions. These reports also urge the international NGO community to adopt a professional accreditation system along the lines of Australia's well regarded industry Code of Conduct. The Australian NGO community is drawing on these evaluation findings to improve its planning for future emergencies.

This report captures some of the human stories from the Australian contribution and uses the voices of local people to tell them. It shows that many thousands of Australians have worked quietly with survivor communities to overcome unimaginable odds and actually helped to rebuild their lives and hopes for the future.

Paul O'Callaghan
Executive Director

(pdf* format - 1.5 MB)