Tsunami, two years later: A Malaysian Overview
The impact of the tsunami that struck several countries in the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 was much less destructive in Malaysia than in other affected countries. The western coastline of the Malaysian peninsular bore the brunt of the impact affecting Penang and Kedah, and to a lesser degree Perlis and Perak. In Malaysia, the tsunami claimed 69 lives while an additional 8,700 odd Malaysians suffered some form of distress due to the destruction of their homes and livelihoods.
UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei and Singapore, Ms. Gaye Phillips shares ways in which UNICEF is supporting the country’s tsunami recovery effort to build back better.
"While we cannot see the physical debris in the way that is evident in some of the other countries, we are still witnessing the remnants of the trauma and the displacement emotionally, made visible in the way children and young people are coping with their daily lives. These children are finding their way back and looking for resources they need to recapture that resilience that existed before the tsunami.
"We are building back in terms of new systems and more comprehensive policies and programs that will enable communities and schools to respond in a much faster and more relevant way to the needs of traumatised children. Our initiatives include a National Child Trauma Response Team. Once set-up, the team can be deployed to new disasters, offering immediate mental health support and helping affected communities care for themselves in the long run.
"The tsunami occurred in an area with a growing number of HIV cases caused by a high prevalence of injecting drug users. The UNICEF supported PROSTAR youth centres in Kedah allowed us to disseminate HIV/AIDS information and life skills among youth irrespective of their enrolment status in schools. From an initial target group of 35,000 youth, tsunami funds enabled the model to be rolled out to six rural districts which will benefit most of Kedah’s 900,000 youths.
"One of the interesting conversations we had early after the tsunami was to listen to the voices of women. We learnt that in addition to its destruction to the fishing industry, the tsunami also destroyed economic activities typically engaged in by women, increasing the vulnerability of children and families. UNICEF looked at how we can help build women's capacity to strengthen their income and their families. If another disaster hits, we want them to be ready economically with a little more stability and little more reserve so they can more adequately manage a disaster.
"UNICEF is working not just to respond to the immediate effects of the tsunami, but focusing on building foundations for life to ensure that children don't just survive, but thrive and can weather trauma, distress and disaster in a way that doesn't destroy their confidence in life."
Tsunami +2: Malaysia
Tsunami 2-Year Update