Tsunami recovery effort: 'They're going to be there for a long time'

News and Press Release
Originally published
By Chris Niles

NEW YORK, 20 June 2005 - Six months after the tsunami which caused widespread death and devastation in the Indian Ocean region, UNICEF has helped to win an important battle against preventable disease and remains committed to long-term recovery.

UNICEF and its network of partners have immunized approximately 1,200,000 children against measles and provided nearly 850,000 with vitamin A supplements. More than a million people a day are being reached with safe drinking water and hundreds of thousands have been provided with sanitation facilities.

Three quarters of a million children were back in school within two months of the disaster, equipped with essential classroom supplies. For children, returning to school was an important part of returning to normalcy after the disaster.

Most significantly, despite early fears of widespread disease, no children have died as a result of preventable diseases attributable to the tsunami crisis.

Children and families affected by the tsunami can once again dream of the future - a future that wouldn't be possible without the co-operation and support of governments, other UN agencies, and the millions of individuals throughout the world who gave so generously.

Community needs

UNICEF's focus has shifted from emergency relief to working with governments and other local partners in planning for the medium and long term recovery effort. Before rebuilding can begin in earnest, issues such as land rights and safety regulations need to be addressed and the reconstruction done in an equitable and sustainable manner.

"Now is the time when we have to talk to communities and say, 'What do you need? Where do you need it?' and make sure we start to rebuild that," said Dan Toole, UNICEF Director of Emergency Operations.

Health and education facilities destroyed by the tsunami are being replaced, and new facilities are being built. UNICEF is committed to giving children and their families better opportunities by ensuring that all facilities meet modern standards.

Maintaining the momentum

The organization and its partners will also use the relief effort to address wider issues such as malnutrition, inadequate supplies of safe water and child trafficking.

December's tsunami was among the worst natural disasters in living memory and prompted an astonishing outpouring of generosity from around the world. UNICEF requested $306 million to fund its programmes for the first year of the relief effort. It has received an additional $216 million to make sure recovery continues uninterrupted over the next three to five years.

"We've kept up the momentum," Dan Toole said. "We've kept up the work. We have very good teams on the ground. They are working hard and they know they're going to be there for a long time."