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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

UNICEF looking to restore normalcy to the lives of children in the disaster area

© UNICEF/ HQ05-0023/Holmes
Fariza Nadia stands by a tent she is sharing with her family in a relief camp. The army-run encampment in Banda Aceh accommodates some 2,500 villagers displaced by the tsunami as well as army staff.

NEW YORK, 5 January 2005 – After more than a week of bringing basic relief supplies to survivors of Asia’s tsunami, UNICEF is turning its focus to the longer-range project of restoring normalcy to the lives of children.

UNICEF’s initial reaction to the devastation caused by the tsunami was simply to keep the survivors alive. Now the organisation is working to reopen schools in all countries caught up in the disaster. They are also distributing recreation kits, including drawing blocks, toy cars and soft toys, amongst children in the Maldives.

“Our immediate concern was to keep the children alive,” says Gerry Dyer, chief of UNICEF’s Emergency Response Unit. “Many had sustained physical injuries which needed tending to. The second concern was to reunite children with parents or relatives or to find a foster family for those who’d been left without anyone. Now we need to look towards their future and provide psychosocial support. In a school you are able to have a lot of interaction with other children but also you have an environment which is quite protected. So in all of the countries which have been affected by this we’re trying to get the schools open this month.”

UNICEF is distributing ‘school-in-a-box’ kits around the region. These include pencils, exercise books, chalk boards and geometry sets. In Sri Lanka, where 1,000 teachers were killed and 151 schools damaged by the tsunami, more than 3,000 kits will provide supplies to over 270,000 children.

© UNICEF/HQ05-0019/Holmes
Survivors share a tent in a relief camp in Banda Aceh. UNICEF is bringing basic supplies to the camps, as well as supporting nutrition, immunization, and water and sanitation programmes.

UNICEF has pledged to have every school in Sri Lanka open by the 20th of January.

UNICEF will continue to provide support to countries where emergency survival aid is still needed.

In the early days of the emergency, more than 30,000 blankets, sleeping mats and articles of clothing arrived in the region where thousands of people were left with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing when the tidal wave hit.

In Indonesia and Sri Lanka alone, more than one million people were left homeless by the disaster.

Providing shelter is one of UNICEF’s priorities. UNICEF has helped deliver 20 tons of tarpaulin and tents, donated by the Belgian government, to Sri Lanka. A further three planeloads of aid will be added by the end of the week. UNICEF employees and local volunteers have handed out 24,000 tarpaulins in Indonesia.

In the worst hit areas, the sanitation infrastructure has been left in tatters. Aid workers feared the spread of disease but the rapid delivery of medical supplies and fresh water has so far helped keep survivors healthy. Two truckloads of water storage tanks have been taken by UNICEF to the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu to provide relief for women and children living in crowded refugee camps.

In India, UNICEF is working alongside Medecins Sans Frontieres from Holland to help transport supplies to the more remote parts of the country. An immunization drive is planned for children living in the coastal villages. UNICEF is sending 25 tons of cholera supplies for the drive.



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5 January 2005:
Rachel Bonham Carter reports on the distribution of tsunami aid across Asia

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