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UNICEF's Response

In response to the tsunami disaster, rapid action was taken to meet the UNICEF Core Commitments for Children in the ten most severely affected districts, ensuring the provision of safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene; the provision of essential health and nutrition services; the restoration and provision of child-learning opportunities; and the protection and psychosocial support to children and women. Coordination and implementation was enhanced due to well-established partnerships with Government Departments, local and international NGOs, and other UN agencies.

UNICEF’s initial assistance focused on the procurement and delivery of essential supplies in order to respond to the needs of the displaced population. Staff members were assessing the situation within 24 hours and supplies reached affected communities immediately in nearly all districts where UNICEF zone offices were located and within days across the country.

  • UNICEF prioritized the identification and protection of children who lost parents due to the tsunami. All 979 separated (children without parents but with the extended family) and unaccompanied children (those without parents residing in an institution or with non-family carers) were rapidly registered. UNICEF advocated with the Government to utilize the existing legal mechanism for the assessment and issuance of legal fostering, allowing extended family members to become official guardians. Now, all except 12 children reside with extended families
  • Priority was given to facilitating children’s return to schools by supporting the construction of temporary classrooms and the restoration of damaged schools as well as by providing school supplies, desks and chairs, and school uniforms. Schools re-opened within a month and 85 per cent children were back into a learning environment within a few months following the tsunami. As of end of December 2005, the figure had increased to 95 per cent.
  • Within a few weeks of the tsunami disaster health services, including vaccination, were restored and there was no major outbreak of disease; Vitamin A supplementation coverage of the target group of children under 5 increased from 33 per cent in January to 98 per cent in April 2005.
  • Information was collected on children, particularly on children who had lost one or both parents and surveys were conducted on the nutrition status of children as well as on water and sanitation coverage in camps and transitional shelters. By the end of December 2005, 90 per cent of the residents in temporary shelters had access to water and sanitation.
  • The tsunami response strengthened sector coordination mechanisms and partnerships. UNICEF assisted the Government to coordinate the emergency response at the national and district levels in education, child protection/psychosocial care and water/sanitation.

Water and Sanitation


Health and Nutrition



For every child
Health, Education, Equality, Protection