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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

60 Days later: tsunami survivors have received 2000 tonnes of UNICEF aid

© UNICEF/Indonesia/2005
Two girls carry a large cooking pot full of water at the Lampeuneurut internally displaced persons camp, Banda Aceh Besar.

NEW YORK, 1 March 2005 - Sixty days ago, the Indian Ocean tsunami struck coastlines as far apart as Thailand and Somalia after an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale, struck near Sumatra.  Initial reports suggested 23,000 people had been killed by the tidal wave.  Official UN figures now show the number of dead at more than 162,000 with almost another 143,000 people missing and presumed dead.  Added to that, nearly 943,000 people around the region were made homeless on 26 December 2004.

UNICEF responded to the crisis immediately, with many country office-based staff already on site.  At the main warehouse in Copenhagen planes were loaded with emergency relief supplies within 48 hours of the disaster.

© UNICEF/Indonesia/2005
Vivi Soviani, wearing a UNICEF T-shirt, plays with a group of children at the IDP settlement in the TVRI television station compound in Banda Aceh.

The initial response which focused on keeping survivors alive, saw cargo planes loaded with emergency health kits, tarpaulins and tents.  A large portion of the supplies were ‘school-in-a-box’ and recreation kits.  As UNICEF’s Senior Programme Officer for Education during this period, Dermot Cary, explains that one of the organisation’s first responses is to help children get back to school or at least into some sort of educational environment as quickly as possible:

“Experience has shown that doing this helps children recover from the trauma of an event that may have affected their lives.  When they get into a normal environment where they can meet other children of the same age, they get into a normal routine, have opportunities for play etcetera.”

Upwards of 600 UNICEF staff have been on the ground in affected countries assisting the humanitarian relief effort and guiding local authorities and NGO’s in their efforts.

© UNICEF/Sri Lanka/2005
Jesfara Niyas, 7, holds a some UNICEF exercise books in Akkaraipattu Zone in the eastern Sri Lankan district of Ampara.

“Quite typically, in an emergency context, many people look to UNICEF to provide leadership and guidance across education, water and sanitation and child protection,” explains Carty. “ UNICEF’s role is to co-ordinate meetings between all players in that particular area.  Initially, in Banda Aceh for example, we ran the education programme but as soon as the local authority was back on its feet we ensured that they were in the driving seat with UNICEF in more of a supporting role.”

Since mid- January, UNICEF has been focusing on the long-term needs of survivors including the psycho-social recovery of children, through play, song and discussion to help them come to terms with their horrific experiences.   Health surveys have been carried out to monitor youngsters’ well-being as children are especially vulnerable to disease and malnutrition during emergencies. 

UNICEF is also training volunteers to make sure this important work continues in the months to come. The priority at first was to keep these children alive.  Now it is to secure their future.




1 March 2005:
UNICEF’s Rachel Bonham Carter reports on what UNICEF has done for tsunami survivors during the past 60 days.

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