The disaster in Southeastern Asia in 2004 began one of the largest aid operations in the history of the Red Cross. The aid workers of the Finnish Red Cross helped in evacuating Finnish people from the tsunami area and offered emotional support in Finland. After the acute phase, an aid project, which lasted for seven years, began. In Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Indonesia, thousands of buildings were built and healthcare was improved.
Sri Lanka received the most extensive of aid and rebuilding. The Finnish Red Cross sent a clinic offering services on the level of a health care centre to Komar, Sri Lanka, on 28 December 2004. From Finland, 15 aid workers left for the clinic and in addition 50 hospital beds, for example, were also sent there.
Three hospital projects were conducted in the Ampara region. The Ninthavur hospital was damaged badly in the tsunami, and a local hospital serving 50,000 inhabitants was built in its stead. In Pottuvil, the Finnish Red Cross built an extension to the regional hospital. It serves approximately 100,000 inhabitants. In addition, the rural clinic of Panama was renovated.
New homes for hundreds of families
In Sri Lanka, 120,000 houses were destroyed and half a million people lost their homes. The rebuilding was difficult due to a lack of building supplies, professional builders, and suitable building land. In addition, the civil war that has raged for 30 years significantly increased the difficulty of the Finnish Red Cross aid work.
The Finnish Red Cross has had a significant role in having new homes built to replace the destroyed ones. In South and North Kalmunai, in the Ampara region, two whole areas of apartment buildings were built, offering homes to 420 families. Building the apartment buildings is one of the greatest building projects of the Finnish Red Cross. The Finnish Red Cross funded and offered technical support to 216 families to allow them to repair and rebuild houses.
In addition to hospitals and residential buildings, the Finnish Red Cross built water systems and composting toilets in the Hulannuge area in Ampara. A water system of over 20 kilometres in length, offering clean water to 700 households, as well as to schools and hospitals, was built in the area.
Thousands of Finnish people were celebrating Christmas in Thailand when the waves following an earthquake struck the land. Immediately, on the day following the tsunami, an evacuation group formed of Finnish aid workers left for Thailand. A total of 45 Finnish Red Cross aid workers worked in the country for a week after the great wave. The aid workers treated the injured, many of whom had lost their loved ones, and coordinated the evacuation of the Finnish back to Finland.
In the first days of the disaster, 12,000 litres of bottled water, shoes, first aid supplies, and four bales of women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing were delivered to Phuket. Bandaging and medical equipment were also packed into the first aid loads.
The largest project is developing the blood service
The Finnish Red Cross created a blood service system in Thailand. The blood service of the hospitals in the Phuket area did not work well enough and required improvement. The Finnish Red Cross, together with the Red Cross Blood Service, helped the Thai Red Cross to implement a blood service where the local Red Cross sees to collecting blood and producing blood products for the hospitals.
The regional blood centre of Phuket started operating in August 2009 and a mobile blood service was also founded in the city. In the Phan Nagan area, seven hospitals, badly damaged by the tsunami, were repaired and donated new hospital equipment. Ambulances, boats, and refrigerated containers were procured for nine hospitals.
Together with the Norwegian and Swedish Red Cross societies, the Finnish Red Cross improved the sea rescue of Thailand. Hundreds of local volunteers and workers were trained in sea rescue and first aid, in addition to which, communication devices were procured for the sea rescue centres.
The tsunami destroyed a large portion of the hospitals, clinics, and health centres in Indonesia. Many health care professionals lost their lives in the disaster as well. Therefore, the International Red Cross organised dozens of various health projects, supported by the Finnish Red Cross. A Finnish aid worker was involved in coordinating the projects.
Hospitals and clinics were built and over 40 health centres were repaired in the areas that were harmed by the tsunami. The Red Cross supported the basic health care of the country e.g. by training new care personnel, giving additional training to health care professionals, and organising vaccination campaigns. New equipment was delivered to the hospitals and the local care personnel were trained in their use.
An important part of the health projects was training the local volunteers and offering emotional support for recovering from the destruction.