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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Lifesaving supplies starting to reach the children of the tsunami disaster

© UNICEF/HQ04-0876/Ami Vitale
A girl sits in a railway station waiting room that has become a camp for people left homeless by the tsunami disaster, in the district of Nagapattinam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

NEW YORK, 31 December 2004 – Life-saving UNICEF supplies are starting to reach survivors of the tsunami disaster in countries around the Indian Ocean.

In a massive logistical operation, UNICEF medical supplies, water kits, tarpaulins, plastic sheets and other essential items are being flown and trucked in to the disaster zones for delivery to children and their families.

“We can respond very quickly because we were in all of the countries before the emergency so we could deploy staff and supplies which were already there,” said Dan Toole, UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Operations.

“Our first concern is making sure that children survive, so the first supplies comprise immediate requirements for the civilian population, such as shelter and water purification materials, oral rehydration salts to prevent diarrhoea, basic drugs and medical supplies,” he said.

“UNICEF’s job is to respond to emergencies, emergencies have always been our business and will continue to be our business,” he added.

© UNICEF Indonesia/2004/Budd
UNICEF aid boxes arrive in Jakarta

At Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta airport this morning, 3.8 tonnes of UNICEF supplies were cleared through customs for onward transportation to Aceh, where half a million people have been directly affected by the massive tsunami which killed tens of thousands and destroyed 80 per cent of the buildings last Sunday.

The shipment includes emergency medical kits – comprising anti malaria tablets, water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts to combat dehydration in children suffering diarrhoea, and a first aid kit -- sufficient to last 200,000 people for two weeks.

John Budd, UNICEF’s Communication Officer in Indonesia, said another $10 million dollars worth of supplies are on their way over the next few weeks.

A UNICEF team is on the ground in Aceh coordinating activities and two more flights are expected over the weekend.

The influx of relief aid to the country is stretching Indonesia’s logistic network to breaking point, with serious bottlenecks developing in Jakarta, Medan (a major centre south of Aceh undamaged by the earthquake), and at the airport in Banda Aceh.

© UNICEF Sri Lanka/2004/Dawes
Young survivors of the tsunami in Sri Lanka

A UNICEF-chartered cargo plane touched down in Colombo on Thursday bringing essential life-saving supplies for Sri Lankan children and their families.

The cargo plane, which left Copenhagen on Tuesday night, brought 15 emergency health kits (containing medicines, medical supplies and basic medical equipment to cover the health needs of 150,000 people for three months), 150,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts to combat diarrhoea, and 20 tents.

School-in-a-box kits (containing education materials for 8,000 pupils and their teachers) and recreation kits were also included in the shipment, to help ensure that children can return to their studies as quickly as possible and regain a sense of normality.
“We are really thankful to UNICEF, the World Health Organization and other international agencies who have responded to us,” said the Honourable Nimal Sripala de Silva, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Health. “They have sent us a lot of pharmaceutical items and food for our displaced people.”

The items will be transported from Colombo to the ravaged coastal areas for the children and their families who are in desperate need of help.

© UNICEF Sri Lanka/2004/Dawes
Wrecked homes along the Sri Lankan coast

In Sri Lanka, roughly one million children, women and men have been displaced from their homes. At least 27,000 have died and over 4,000 people are missing. 

UNICEF Sri Lanka is continuing to procure and distribute water pumps, bowsers (mobile water tanks), buckets and water purification tablets in the affected areas. 100,000 bottles of drinking water have already been distributed.

In India, a 24-hour UNICEF emergency operation is underway in the worst affected state of Tamil Nadu. UNICEF staff have deployed 1,500 water tanks with a capacity of 500 litres each, three million chlorine tablets, 50,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts  and more than 48,000 sheets and blankets.

UNICEF India is also sending a fleet of mobile vans to three disaster-hit districts of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry to help families in relief camps prevent and treat any outbreak of dairrhoea, especially among children. The 40 vans will cover 225 relief camps.

“Diarrhoea is a child killer, but we can stop dehydration with ORS and good information,” said Cecilio Adorno, UNICEF’s Representative in India. “That’s why we are taking urgent action to give families in the relief camps the information they need to act immediately if their children get sick.”

To support UNICEF’s emergency operation in Asia please click here.



View video report

31 December 2004:
Dan Thomas reports on the delivery of life-saving UNICEF supplies to survivors of the tsunami disaster

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