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Malaysia’s casualties fewer, but major reconstruction still needed

© UNICEF Malaysia/2005/Nadchatram
UNICEF Malaysia volunteers packing bottled water, soap and infant food for relief centres in Kuala Muda Kedah and Langkawi

NEW YORK, 24 January 2005 - Four weeks after Malaysia’s worst natural disaster, the relief effort is beginning to focus on rebuilding lives and livelihoods.

When the tsunami struck the Indian Ocean region on 26 December, Malaysia had fewer casualties than neighbouring countries such as Indonesia or Sri Lanka. An estimated 69 Malaysians lost their lives and 8,000 people were either made homeless or had their livelihoods disrupted. Most of the fatalities were local picnickers and anglers.

Malaysia was spared the full impact of the tsunami because the island of Sumatra shelters it from the Indian Ocean. In addition, lifeguards and an observation tower system provided warnings at the resorts and hotels in Penang and Langkawi.

Soon after the tsunami struck, UNICEF distributed bottled water, infant food and soap to around 5,200 survivors in the thirteen relief centres in Kuala Muda Kedah and Langkawi districts.

A month later, the people whose homes were destroyed have moved from relief camps to temporary accommodations. The 12 affected schools in Kuala Muda and Langkawi have reopened. UNICEF is working with the Malaysian Ministry of Health and other organisations to assess the counselling needs of the children traumatised by the tsunami.

© UNICEF/2005/OBoye
Subang airport crew helping to load UNICEF school-in-the-box kits onto a flight bound for Medan.
In view of the massive emergency and relief operations required in Sumatra, and the closer proximity of Kuala Lumpur to Medan and Bandar Aceh (as compared from Jakarta to these two destinations), the Malaysian Government has allowed for a special UN Joint Logistic Centre (UNJLC) to be set-up at its Royal Malaysian Air Force military base in Subang. UNJLC partners include the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF); United Nations Joint Logistics Centre (UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR and WHO) as well as the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service.

UNICEF supplies have arrived at the Centre via chartered (and commercial flights) from various destinations in Europe. Flight arrivals happen both at the Centre and via the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang. Cargo to KLIA is transported to the Centre in Subang via trucks before being loaded into two Hercules C-130 aircrafts on loan to UNICEF from the RMAF. 



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