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Tsunami, two years later: A Malaysian Overview

© UNICEF Malaysia/2006/Nadchatram
Children from the coastal villages of Kuala Muda Kedah, one of the badly affected areas in Malaysia, have returned to play on the beach that was devastated by the tsunami in 2004.

The impact of the tsunami that struck several countries in the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 was much less destructive in Malaysia than in other affected countries. The western coastline of the Malaysian peninsular bore the brunt of the impact affecting Penang and Kedah, and to a lesser degree Perlis and Perak. In Malaysia, the tsunami claimed 69 lives while an additional 8,700 odd Malaysians suffered some form of distress due to the destruction of their homes and livelihoods.

UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei and Singapore, Ms. Gaye Phillips shares ways in which UNICEF is supporting the country’s tsunami recovery effort to build back better.

KUALA LUMPUR, 21 December 2006 – “The situation in Malaysia is radically different from what you would find in countries like Indonesia and Sri Lanka. In Malaysia, the physical signs and scars of the tsunami have almost disappeared in the last two years. Schools were quickly in operation soon after the tsunami struck, hospitals are working and people are back in houses built by the Government.

"While we cannot see the physical debris in the way that is evident in some of the other countries, we are still witnessing the remnants of the trauma and the displacement emotionally, made visible in the way children and young people are coping with their daily lives. These children are finding their way back and looking for resources they need to recapture that resilience that existed before the tsunami.

"We are building back in terms of new systems and more comprehensive policies and programs that will enable communities and schools to respond in a much faster and more relevant way  to the needs of traumatised children. Our initiatives include a National Child Trauma Response Team. Once set-up, the team can be deployed to new disasters, offering immediate mental health support and helping affected communities care for themselves in the long run.

© UNICEF Malaysia/2006/Nadchatram
Students look forward to the School Emergency Preparedness Program by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education.

"The tsunami occurred in an area with a growing number of HIV cases caused by a high prevalence of injecting drug users. The UNICEF supported PROSTAR youth centres in Kedah allowed us to disseminate HIV/AIDS information and life skills among youth irrespective of their enrolment status in schools. From an initial target group of 35,000 youth, tsunami funds enabled the model to be rolled out to six rural districts which will benefit most of Kedah’s 900,000 youths.
"UNICEF is also engaging with children and young people affected by the tsunami to keep abreast with their needs and interests. In the last two years, young people have moved on from their fear of the tsunami, expressing instead their concern for more immediate threats such as HIV/AIDS, drugs and violence. In partnership with a local NGO, Empower, UNICEF continues to organise age-appropriate activities for these children including theatre and art classes to facilitate youth expressions and ownership of these issues.

"One of the interesting conversations we had early after the tsunami was to listen to the voices of women. We learnt that in addition to its destruction to the fishing industry, the tsunami also destroyed economic activities typically engaged in by women, increasing the vulnerability of children and families. UNICEF looked at how we can help build women's capacity to strengthen their income and their families. If another disaster hits, we want them to be ready economically with a little more stability and little more reserve so they can more adequately manage a disaster.

"UNICEF is working not just to respond to the immediate effects of the tsunami, but focusing on building foundations for life 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."






21 December 2006:
UNICEF Representative to Malaysia, Gaye Phillips, discusses UNICEF's work in tsunami-affected communities across the country.
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Tsunami 2-Year Update


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