The tsunami in December 2004 caused a widespread devastation along much of Thailand’s 400-kilometre southern coastline, directly affecting 407 villages. About 1.9 million people, including 600,000 children, were affected in the six southern provinces of Satun, Trang, Krabi, Phuket, Phang Nga and Ranong.
UNICEF was at the forefront of tsunami emergency relief and recovery relief both in the immediate wake of the disaster and in the years that followed after. At the beginning, we deployed a large number of staff to the affected provinces to provide assistance in the areas of health and nutrition assistance, water and sanitation, education, child protection provision and psychosocial support.
Later on, our focus moved from emergency relief to recovery. Our goal was to “build back better”. Our focus was in three areas: child protection, education and the development of local capacity to address to needs of vulnerable children.
In child protection, UNICEF provided support to the establishment of a child protection monitoring and response system in the tsunami affected areas. The system is aimed at monitoring the situation of separated and orphaned children, and other vulnerable children, in tsunami-affected areas. We provided training to social workers from governmental and local organizations on how to identify signs of psychosocial distress, abuse, neglect and exploitation, and to report cases to government agencies when necessary. To help children recover psychologically, we funded counseling for more than 1,000 children and provided psychosocial training for teachers and fieldworkers.
UNICEF also applied its Child Friendly School model in the tsunami-affected provinces in those areas where the initiative had not been taken up before. To ensure that children could go back to school and lean in a safe and healthy environment, UNICEF funded repairs to damaged buildings, installed piped water systems, improved sanitation and provided sports gear and other equipment. We also provided training to both students and teachers on child rights.
In addition, strengthening local capacity to address the needs of children was a major theme of our work in the tsunami-affected provinces. We trained local authorities about child rights and on how to make local plans to address the needs of children and youth.