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Tsunami - five years on: shelter after the storm

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The 2004 tsunami left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Providing shelter was a key priority

One of the most successful aspects of the post-tsunami international aid effort was the speedy construction of transitional shelters in many of the worst-affected areas.

In Sri Lanka alone, the tsunami destroyed over 100,000 houses - particularly in the north and east - and left many other public buildings destroyed or damaged.

UKaid from the Department for International Development supported a range of NGOs in their efforts to erect shelters, including ZOA Refugee Care (2,000 families), Norwegian Refugee Council (2,111 families), Christian Aid (2,500 families) and Islamic Relief (shelters, cash for work and housing repairs).

It was clear that many people who had lost their homes were reluctant to be moved to tents or temporary camps.

Many had taken refuge in public buildings such as temples or with host families.

The 200ft² shelters gave quick relief to those without homes and provided a strong enough structure until more help could be delivered.

John Adlam, DFID's humanitarian team leader in Sri Lanka, said: "The shelters were one of the strongest interventions made after the tsunami.

"No one wanted to live in tents. The shelters were the best way to keep momentum going.

"They have since been developed and used in other disaster responses including in Sumatra following the earthquake there in September this year."

In the case of some families the shelters would become home for years.

One project focused on sheltering 1,000 families in a coastal area linking 27 villages.

Within one month of the tsunami hitting, the first shelter materials had been delivered.

The simple, lightweight metal-framed shelters were set up on land already owned by families or on land specially negotiated from land owners.

Part of the challenge for aid agencies was finding suitable plots outside the Sri Lankan government's buffer zone - which banned any construction within 100 metres of the high-tide mark in some areas and 200m in others - to make sure people would not be relocated too far from their livelihoods.

Nine months after the disaster, the project had housed 90% of its amended target of 850 families.

The bigger picture

The UK's response to the tsunami was concentrated in the two worst affected countries; Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The UK government, through DFID, pledged £75m for emergency humanitarian aid as part of the global response. Of this, some £55m was targeted towards Indonesia.

In Indonesia we worked in close partnership with the government of Indonesia, the World Bank's Multi Donor Fund and NGOs such as Muslim Aid. In Sri Lanka we worked with the government, UN agencies and NGOs.

In addition we worked with the Disasters and Emergencies Committee and international NGOs to help ensure that over £390m donated by the UK public was targeted effectively and made a real difference to the lives of the more than 500,000 people made homeless.

Read more about how we respond to humanitarian emergencies and find out how you can help.