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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Tsunami reconstruction assisting Thailand’s most vulnerable groups

© UNICEF Thailand/2005
UNICEF hopes the tsunami disaster will bring attention to Thailand’s most vulnerable groups such as this Moken tribeswoman and her newborn child.

SOUTH SURIM, Thailand, 15 March 2005 - The reconstruction effort following the Indian Ocean tsunami has helped bring attention to situation of people in affected areas who have not benefited from Thailand’s rapid development. These include the very poor, undocumented workers, ethnic minorities, isolated communities, and others. The effort to rebuild also brings new hope and new opportunities for them.

On the island of South Surim, just off the southwest coast of Thailand, lies the village of Moken named after the ethnic minority who inhabit the area. The Moken are a sea-faring people who once spent most of the year on boats.  They are not recognized as Thai citizens, their children don’t go to school and they lack ready access to healthcare.

Putti Klatalay has just given birth to a baby girl in a bamboo-thatched hut. Putti has high hopes for her youngest child: “I want my baby to go to school so she can read and get knowledge. Things will go well for her. All the bad things have been swept away by the waves.” In reality, the waves tore apart their village. UNICEF is helping with the reconstruction, building a much-needed school and a health clinic.

Long-term commitment

UNICEF Thailand’s programme coordinator Andrew Morris recognizes the importance of helping the disadvantaged and emphasizes the need for long-term commitment. “It’s not only about helping people survive the immediate effects of the tsunami but it’s about helping those children come up to a level where they enjoy the rights that all children in the country should be able to enjoy.”

Among Thailand's most vulnerable groups are migrant workers, hundreds of whom are believed to have been killed in the tsunami. The waves also destroyed identity records and registration papers, leaving survivors in a legal limbo. UNICEF is working towards establishing partnerships to assist migrant workers and give their children access to schooling and medical care.




March 2005:
Inese Zalitis UNICEF Head of Office in Thailand discusses how the money donated to UNICEF is being spent to help children.

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