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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Tsunami recovery in Malaysia: Strengthening communities

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UNICEF has been addressing the long-term emotional needs of traumatized children through workshops, trauma counselling sessions, and other means of psychosocial support.

Last year’s Indian Ocean tsunami hit Malaysia less hard than it did neighbouring countries like Indonesia or Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, the disaster did kill 69 people in the country and left 8,700 homeless, and inflicted millions of dollars of damage on coastal communities. Economic activities such as farming and fish processing were brought to a halt as affected villages struggled to get back on their feet.

In this interview, UNICEF Representative in Malaysia Gaye Phillips discusses ways in which UNICEF has supported the country’s tsunami recovery effort.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, December 2005 – “The impact of the tsunami in Malaysia was not as great as was felt in the rest of the region. Sumatra protected Malaysia from the worst of its impact and its effect. However it was the worst-ever natural disaster for Malaysia.

“The immediate impact is barely noticeable now. In terms of physical damage, the repairs have been done, people are back in longer-term houses. We're even seeing some of the fishing villages getting back into full scale employment and we're seeing income starting to flow.

“Right at the beginning we did rapid assessment to understand the impact on children. We saw that the physical infrastructure could be repaired very quickly but the tsunami revealed a real deficit, a lack of capacity within the community to really sustain a protective environment for children.”

To survive and thrive

“We can support communities to strengthen their own ability to care for children traumatized by man-made disaster or natural disaster or even by abuse or neglect. We can help to strengthen those communities with skills, with knowledge, with understanding to provide a fairly fundamental but fairly effective psycho-social counselling support service.

“By that, I mean they can identify children at risk, or in need. They'll know where to refer that child. They'll know how to follow up on that child when that child is back in the community. They'll know how to strengthen parents to manage that child who's undergoing trauma.

“UNICEF has to look at what kind of environment is in place to ensure that children don't just survive, but thrive and can weather trauma, distress and disaster in a way that doesn't destroy their confidence in life."

Sabine Dolan contributed to this report.




UNICEF Representative in Malaysia Gaye Phillips discusses the tsunami recovery process in Malaysia.

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Official updates

Children and the Tsunami, A Year On:
A Draft UNICEF Summary of What Worked [PDF]

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