The tsunami that hit Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern coasts on 26 December 2004 resulted in serious loss of life and substantial material for the small island. The tsunami killed over 35,000 people and initially displaced up to 1 million persons out of a population of 19.3 million.
Against this background, UNICEF supported the Government of Sri Lanka to rapidly respond to the tremendous needs of the tsunami-affected population. With over three decades of experience in Sri Lanka, including a history of responding to drought and floods, and a presence in the north-east of the country to assist war-affected and disadvantaged children, UNICEF Sri Lanka was well-positioned to respond swiftly and appropriately to the tsunami disaster.
Immediately upon hearing news of the massive waves hitting coastal areas, UNICEF staff mobilized for action. The priority objectives were clear: to ensure the survival of affected populations, to alleviate the immediate suffering of children, particularly those who had lost their parents, and to address their most pressing humanitarian needs.
People killed: 35,322
People injured: 21,441
Internally displaced people (IDPs) 515,150
Value of lost assets: US $900 million
Lost livelihoods 150,000
Houses damaged 98,000
Children who lost one parent 3954*
Children who lost both parents 979*
orphaned and affected elderly and disabled 40,000
Schools damaged 182
Schools used as camps for IDPs 446
School children affected 200,000
Source: Post Tsunami Recovery and Reconstruction. Joint report of the Government of Sri Lanka and Development Partners December 2005
* Source: UNICEF Sri Lanka
Tsunami-Affected Children in Southern Sri Lanka Prepare to Return to School in New Buildings