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Tsunami generation of children see hope for the future

BANGKOK, 22 December 2005

One year after the tsunami dramatically changed their lives, children in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand feel hopeful about the future, while children in Indonesia are recovering at a slower pace, according to a survey of tsunami-affected children released today by UNICEF. 

In the survey, UNICEF Tsunami Relief Study – The Views of Affected Children, 1,633 children in four countries were interviewed about their thoughts and feelings on the disaster and their future. The survey polled children 8-17 years old, all of whom where directly affected by the tsunami, in four countries: Indonesia (400 children) Thailand (400), Sri Lanka (400) and India (433). 

Using both a questionnaire and focus groups, the UNICEF survey, conducted by TNS, a global market information company, provides a unique glimpse of what life is like for children one year after the calamity that dramatically reshaped their lives.

The survey indicates that while children’s lives continue to be affected by the tsunami disaster, more than two-thirds of the children feel that their situation has improved and they are better off now compared to the weeks immediately following the tsunami. 

"It is uplifting that many children, in the wake of tremendous loss and destruction, are confident about tomorrow,” said Anupama Rao Singh, Regional Director of the UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office.  “But fear and anxiety persist, and children themselves express the need for continued education, healthcare and psychological support.”
 
Other key findings:

  • Some 80 percent of tsunami-affected children polled in three countries (India, Sri Lanka, Thailand) are positive about their future.  “Hopeful, happy, confident” are the words they use to describe their feelings. In Indonesia, children have the least optimistic view of the future; one-third believe their lives will not improve.
    This may reflect the fact that a staggering 69 per cent of children surveyed in Indonesia had lost a family member.
  • Yet the survey revealed that many children are still afraid.  More than half the children surveyed in India and Sri Lanka fear another earthquake or tsunami, and 76% of children interviewed in Thailand fear the loss of a loved one.  More than one-third of children polled in Indonesia said they often feel alone.
  • Virtually all children interviewed were aware they benefited from relief assistance, but also felt that additional aid was needed.  The children identified several key needs, most often mentioning support to stay in school.  The need for money, housing, clothing and jobs for their families followed. The percentage of children in each country that said they would like to see more support for education was high: Indonesia (76%), India (66%), Sri Lanka (88%), Thailand (81%).
  • Despite this, more than 9 out of 10 children identified themselves as back in school in Indonesia (97%), Sri Lanka (94%), and Thailand (95%); in India, 88% reported being in school.  Lack of money and the need to work to help support their families were the top reasons given by children who are not going to school.  The findings suggest that while children are attending school, they feel the need for greater support to continue.
  • In India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, the surveyed children indicated that during free time, they feel cheerful and content, but in Indonesia, feelings of loneliness and boredom occur more often in playtime. 
  • Some play activities have resumed for children, such as listening to music and reading, but other activities are much altered; 58% of the children in India said they cannot spend as much time with people as before the tsunami, and 52% of the children in Sri Lanka said they can not participate in beach related activities, like swimming unafraid or playing on the beach.
  • In Indonesia, 24% of the children interviewed said they often felt hungry and 19% said they were not eating as regularly since the tsunami.

In focus groups, children from different countries and different ages were brought together and shared in their own words their fears and their hopes for their lives.

One child from India said, “We want to work hard, study hard … but sometimes we worry about whether we will be able to study further.”  A child from Sri Lanka expressed a wish for a more secure future: “I want my father to have tools and equipment to go back to work.”

“Schooling gives us activity so we don’t think about unpleasant things,” said a child from Indonesia – a statement that reinforces the importance of school as a place for emotional relief as well as learning.

UNICEF commissioned the study to better understand how surviving this tragedy has affected children, to provide an honest and authentic perspective directly from the children and to improve programs that meet the needs of the tsunami generation. 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 157 countries to help children survive and thrive from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

Note to broadcasters:
Video footage of UNICEF programs in tsunami affected countries is available online at www.thenewsmarket.com, and from regional and country UNICEF offices.

For further information, please contact:
Madeline Eisner, UNICEF EAPRO
Tani Ruiz, UNICEF EAPRO
Shantha Bloemen, UNICEF EAPRO

 

 
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