Emergency response

Indian Ocean tsunami

© UNICEF/HQ05-1660/Mohan
The Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004 inflicted massive destruction on eight countries – India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Thailand – and affected several others bordering the Indian Ocean. More than 200,000 people, over a third of them children, were killed or remain missing.

Within two days, survivors began receiving life-saving supplies, measles immunization, malaria prevention, and safe water and basic sanitation. And through the coordinated efforts of governments, UNICEF, other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, the general health of hundreds of thousands of people was protected and major outbreaks of disease were prevented.

Private donors and governments contributed $660 million to UNICEF’s relief and recovery efforts by 31 December 2005; $215 million was spent by that date, 96 per cent of it for direct tsunami relief and recovery in eight countries and 4 per cent to headquarters and regional offices for tsunami-related activities. The remaining $445 million is allocated for ongoing recovery activities, most to be completed before year-end 2007.

Donors’ generosity has allowed UNICEF to work closely with governments and communities in long-term reconstruction in education and all sectors – which will reduce disaster vulnerability and improve children’s lives for generations to come.

Building back better schools

In the disaster’s immediate aftermath, more than 1.5 million children benefited from emergency education supplies and 662,000 received textbooks. Tent schools were set up quickly, and within 90 days of the crisis, 90 per cent of children in tsunami-affected areas were back in school. By year-end, education accounted for 27 per cent of UNICEF tsunami-related expenditures; over 213 semi-permanent schools were built and 375 schools were repaired.

UNICEF is working with several governments to establish guidelines for construction of child-friendly schools that offer more teachers and space, access for disabled students, safe drinking water, and separate toilets for boys and girls. These new schools will have foundations that resist seismic vibrations and will benefit children even in areas that were spared by the tsunami.

In Indonesia, UNICEF is working with local communities and provincial and national authorities to construct, rehabilitate or rebuild 367 schools in Aceh and North Sumatra, at a cost of $90 million. In collaboration with the United Nations Office of Project Services, construction of the first permanent school started in September 2005.

To ensure equitable access, schools are being built in both easy-to-reach and remote districts, with locations jointly determined by communities, parents, teachers and local government education officials. The basic design incorporates six classrooms, toilets with washbasins, a teachers’ office and a landscaped outdoor play area.

In Sri Lanka, devastation has also paved the way for rebuilding schools. A three-year recovery plan supported by UNICEF includes construction of 26 child-friendly schools and repair or construction of 60 children’s social-care centres.