World Bank in Thailand: Helping communities cope with longer-term needs from the tsunami

The World Bank is responding to the needs of affected communities and vulnerable groups hurt by the tsunami in Thailand with new projects to help with long-term livelihood rehabilitation and coastal and marine resources restoration.

These grants, funded by the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) , will be implemented through civil society organizations during 2005-2007, and target the six southern provinces of Thailand. They include:

Response to the Tsunami Affected Communities in Southern Thailand, focused on working with community groups to strengthen their abilities to provide support and leadership in traumatized communities, and support sustainable management of the coastal and marine ecosystem. Sub-grants will be provided to communities to fund specific and unique needs not met from other sources, and identified by the community themselves - these activities can include those that address specific needs of the community resulting from the crisis such as trauma counseling, facilities for disabled victims, support for widows and orphans; activities to replace or rebuilt social, cultural, economic assets lost in the disaster; and activities that help to restore the coastal and marine ecosystem.

Post-Emergency Response to the Effects of the Tsunami on Vulnerable Populations in Southern Thailand to assist vulnerable populations (migrant workers, ethnic minorities, the disabled, elderly, orphans and vulnerable children, extremely poor households, injecting drug users and other potentially marginalized groups) and help them recover economic means of survival, access services which they are eligible for, and cope with psychological trauma. This component will cover the cost of training for people working with affected communities to help them provide support and counseling to traumatized children and adults. Participants in the training will include facilitators, community leaders, teachers, health workers, government staff, and NGO staff.

A third project, to provide legal aide services for poor and vulnerable survivors of the tsunami to help them rebuild their lives, is also being developed.

Mr. Ian Porter, Country Director for Thailand, commented, "These projects build on experience gained in the implementation of other community driven development projects in Thailand and are adapted to respond to a crisis situation. They will complement the government's assistance packages by giving local communities additional flexibility to adapt the response to their own specific cases, and to address those losses that, while not life threatening, are important to restoring the social and cultural fabric, and rebuilding damaged confidence and sense of well-being. At the same time the projects will use the opportunity to help put in place a better system for managing the natural environment."

These programs emerged from a close partnership established by the government through the Joint-Subcommittee on Livelihoods and Ecosystem Rehabilitation, who were tasked with focusing on longer-term needs of coastal and marine resource management and livelihoods and ecosystem rehabilitation, with a strong community empowerment approach in the rehabilitation measures.

After the tsunami, the government's efforts in restoring major public services and infrastructure were unprecedented, with roads, electricity, as well as the communication network restored in a few days. With the Thai government able to respond, both financially and technically, to the impacts of the tsunami with infrastructure rehabilitation and establishing of temporary and permanent housing, they invited international organizations, including the World Bank to work with them on longer-term rehabilitation needs. The Bank team is also closely collaborating with the United Nations country team, the Asian Development Bank and civil society organizations to respond to needs as they emerge.

The damages from the tsunami were immense, with loss of lives, houses, livelihoods, fishing boats and equipment. The Bank of Thailand has estimated that the number of tourists visiting the six provinces could drop from 3 to 2 million persons leading to a USD 1 billion decline in the tourism revenue. In addition, the damage costs to both private and public assets (excluding houses) were estimated to be around USD 400 million. Property rights disputes have increased. And as with any disaster of this magnitude, the psychological impact is likely to be long-lasting. Widows, orphans, disabled people, migrant workers, and other vulnerable groups have been especially affected, as they have limited resources to cope with the problems created by the tsunami. The extent of damage to the coastal and marine resources has yet to be comprehensively evaluated.

The World Bank and Thailand have formed a series of partnerships - in Governance, Financial and Corporate Restructuring, Social Protection, Poverty Analysis and Monitoring, Education, and Environment - aimed at facilitating knowledge sharing and providing policy advice on medium-term structural issues. Through the Country Development Partnership for Environment focused on the Government's environmental priorities, the Bank will also assist with an environmental monitoring study on coastal resources, expected later this year.