27 June 2005

Six Months after Tsunami, UN Agencies Say Hardest Work Lies Ahead

Special UN Envoy, Former US President Bill Clinton, Praises Relief Effort but Urges Renewed Momentum

GENEVA/NEW YORK, 23 June (OCHA) -- Six months after the tsunami ripped through communities across the Indian Ocean last December, the development agencies most involved in the recovery effort said the toughest challenges still lie ahead -- including the complex issues of where to re-establish housing, how to quickly restore livelihoods, and what to prioritize now that the immediate relief phase is over.

Speaking on behalf of the United Nations agencies involved in ongoing recovery efforts, former United States President Bill Clinton said that, while the immediate relief effort had been extraordinary, the magnitude of the job ahead remained daunting.

“The tragedy brought the world closer together”, said President Clinton, who is the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery.  “For a period of time, everyone focused on saving lives without regard to nationality, politics or anything else.  But while the immediate relief effort was unprecedented in its scope, we cannot underestimate the enormity of the job that remains.”

President Clinton urged the United Nations and its partners to keep up the momentum they have built up during the first six months.  Tsunami-recovery efforts, he said, are at a particularly difficult transition phase where planning for long-term reconstruction in the different countries is nearly finalized, but is still far from being implemented.

“Our work to help these nations and communities recover will be marathon for us”, President Clinton said.  “But we have to run that marathon at a sprinter's pace, moving in a coordinated and accountable manner, to accomplish our mission.  Many millions of lives depend on our efforts over the next year.”

President Clinton noted that coordination between bodies, including United Nations agencies and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, had helped to significantly alleviate suffering. 

“Bringing lasting relief to tsunami-affected countries will continue to be extremely complex, and that is why all those involved must work together strongly.  Coordination between bodies, including the International Federation and UN agencies, has to date contributed significantly to the alleviation of suffering”, said Johan Schaar, Tsunami Operations Special Representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Thanks to the generosity of donors from across the globe, the UN agencies and the International Federation provided life-saving materials to millions of tsunami survivors across the region.  For example:

-- Two million people received World Food Programme (WFP) food aid in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives; 1,051,200 people are being provided with drinking water daily by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

-- The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies provided humanitarian assistance to over a million people; covering relief distribution (food and relief supplies), shelter, preventative and curative health care, water and sanitation and psychological support. 

-- To prevent malaria, UNICEF provided nearly 240,000 people with bed nets.

-- More than 1.2 million children aged six months to 15 years have been vaccinated against measles with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.  Nearly 847,000 children have received Vitamin A.

-- More than 120 experts from the WHO and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network worked with the ministries of health and national and international non-governmental organizations to rapidly detect, investigate and respond to outbreaks of communicable diseases in affected areas.

-- Health kits were shipped for the primary health care needs of 1,910,000 people for three months; surgical kits were distributed for 10,000 surgical interventions, and diarrhoea kits were provided to respond to up to 4,000 severe cases (WHO).

-- More than 30,000 people are benefiting from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s cash-to-work programmes in Aceh and Sri Lanka.  Programmes by the UNDP, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have begun to assist fishermen and farmers to rebuild their businesses.

-- More than 561,000 children are learning again with the help of UNICEF's school-in-a-box kits; UNICEF has paid for the rehabilitation of 1,573 schools.

-- About 1,500 temporary housing units for 7,500 people have been constructed in Sri Lanka and Aceh by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

-- An estimated 211,000 children have benefited from psycho-social support organized by UNICEF.

-- Transparency and accountability:  All UN system expenditures have been posted on the Internet at http://ocha.unog.ch/ets/.

Looking Ahead

As the operation moves from life-saving relief to long-term recovery, President Clinton outlined four urgent priorities that need to be addressed in the coming weeks:

First, an action plan needs to be in place for the recovery effort where all actors -- UN agencies, non-governmental agencies, donors and affected governments and the corporate sector -- agree on who is going to do what, when, where.  They need to coordinate and be held accountable for doing their part.

Second, livelihoods need to be restored through vocational training.  And, across the board, the capacity of local structures -- governmental and non-governmental -- need to be strengthened.

Third, the displaced need to be moved from tents to adequate transitional shelters.

Fourth, greater efforts are needed to protect the most vulnerable, including women and children, as decisions about the long-term priorities are made.

He noted that full recovery in the hardest-hit areas will take at least two to five years, and in some places up to a decade.  Complete reconstruction is expected to cost an estimated $8.9 billion, according to the affected governments.

The UN agencies working on the ground report that already-stretched government structures need to resolve many complex and time-consuming policy issues, including the determination of land titles, zoning of land, and the size of coastal buffer zones, among other things.

Recovery Plans

Within the next six months, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, working with government authorities, will:

-- Housing:  Tens of thousands of housing units will be built across the region;

-- Early Warning System:  Plans to establish an Indian Ocean early warning system are under way.

-- Critical infrastructure:  Key ports in Aceh and in the Maldives will be rehabilitated, along with essential roads and other infrastructure.

-- Water:  Access to safe water and sanitation will be improved for at least 80 per cent of the population in parts of Aceh and North Sumatra and for significant areas of the Maldives.

-- Livelihoods:  Temporary jobs have been provided to 17,000 people in Indonesia and efforts to rehabilitate livelihoods are under way, particularly in the hard-hit fishing sector.

-- Health:  Health centres, hospitals and regional supply centres are being rebuilt or rehabilitated in all affected areas.

-- Schools:  More than 200 temporary schools are being built in Indonesia.

For more information, please contact:

-- Office of the Special Envoy:  Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, tel: +1 212 906 6904, e-mail: jehane.sedky@undp.org  

-- UNICEF:  Damien Personnaz, tel: +41 22 909 5716, web: www.unicef.org  

-- Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:  Kristen Knutson, tel: +1 917 367 9262, e-mail: kristen.knutson@un.org, web: www.reliefweb.org 

-- UNDP:  Bill Orme, tel: +1 212 906 5382, e-mail: william.orme@undp.org, web: www.undp.org.

-- WFP:  Anthea Webb, tel: +39 6 65132411, e-mail: anthea.webb@wfp.org, web: www.wfp.org

-- IOM:  Chris Lom, tel: + 662 068 530, e-mail: clombkk@iom.int, web: www.iom.int

-- WHO:  Marko Kokic, tel: +41 79 217 3411, e-mail: kokicm@who.int, web: www.who.org

-- International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies:  Pete Haydon, tel: + 41 22 79 308 9804, e-mail: phaydon@ifrc.org, web: www.ifrc.org.

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