Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

The tsunami, three years on

‘Building back better’ brings positive results for millions of children

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Indonesia/2007/Estey
Children at the newly built Cot Meuraja elementary school in Aceh Besar. The school meets earthquake-resistance standards and follows UNICEF’s child-friendly education approach.

By Chris Niles

NEW YORK, USA, December 2007 – In the three years since a tsunami devastated entire regions around the Indian Ocean, UNICEF has improved the lives and health of millions of women and children affected by the December 2004 disaster.

Through its ‘building back better’ recovery initiative, UNICEF has constructed and rehabilitated 107 schools, established teacher-training resource centres and improved education programmes. It has built 59 health facilities and 28 child care centres, and developed water facilities serving about 700,000 people.

At the same time, over 1.2 million children in the tsunami zone have been immunized against measles, and essential drugs and vitamin A have been provided to more than 3 million.

A more effective response
The lessons learned from the tsunami, a disaster unprecedented in scale, have led to sweeping changes in the way UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies work – paving the way for more efficient and effective emergency responses.

“It was a key factor that led to a whole humanitarian reform agenda,” said Jonathan Cauldwell, UNICEF’s Chief of Programme, Humanitarian and Transition Support Section.

“We’ve learned that we need to be quicker. We’ve learned that we’re not on our own. We’ve very clearly learned that the first line of response is the national level, and much more effort still needs to go into building the capacity of the national level,” he added.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Indonesia/2007/Estey
Children in Banda Aceh enjoying the fruits of UNICEF’s ‘building back better’ policy, which has given a new start and the promise of a better future to millions of children in the tsunami zone.

Construction moving forward
Despite ongoing challenges such as violence in Sri Lanka and Somalia, and logistical problems in the remote regions of Banda Aceh and the Maldives, reconstruction in several countries is expected to be completed in early 2009.

UNICEF’s goal has been to construct better facilities than those that were destroyed by the tsunami. In this sense, the disaster has led to an opportunity to help the tsunami-affected countries plan better futures for their children.

“We looked at what was needed to lead us towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and we took it to a different stage,” said Mr. Cauldwell. “Where do we want this country or countries or populations to be in a decade’s time, and how does this response fit into much bigger, broader support for those countries?”

Not a patchwork solution
UNICEF’s work in the tsunami zone is a commitment that will last for many years. It involves tracking and measuring progress for children, protecting the rights of the most vulnerable, increasing community involvement and giving young people a voice in the recovery and reconstruction process.

“The lessons we’ve learned from the tsunami will go on for decades and decades to come, because we should continue to look back and continue to improve,” concluded Mr. Cauldwell.


 

 

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December 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on how millions of tsunami-affected children are benefiting from UNICEF’s ‘building back better’ initiative.
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December 2007:
UNICEF's Chief of Early Warning and Preparedness, Everett Ressler, talks about the importance of preparing for natural disasters like the tsunami.
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