Press Releases

                7 January 2005

    In Jakarta, Secretary-General Launches Appeal for $977 Million to Aid Tsunami Victims

    Says December Tsunami Is Largest Natural Disaster to Which UN Has Responded in its 60 Years of Existence

    NEW YORK, 6 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Special Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leaders’ Meeting on the Aftermath of the Earthquake and Tsunamis, in Jakarta, Indonesia, today:

    We have started the new year with a singular chance to prove our humanity. A chance to prove that when calamity strikes, we are equal to the task of uniting to protect and assist our fellow human beings in need.

    What happened on 26 December 2004 was an unprecedented, global catastrophe. It requires an unprecedented, global response. For the United Nations, it is the largest natural disaster the Organization has had to respond to on behalf of the world community, in the 60 years of our existence.

    From the nameless fishing villages of Sumatra to the modern tourist resorts of Thailand; from the beaches of Sri Lanka and India to the coastal communities of the Maldives and Somalia; the disaster was so brutal, so quick, and so far-reaching, that we are still struggling to comprehend it.

    It seems at times like a nightmare from which we are still hoping to awaken. Except that for millions of people in twelve affected countries spanning two continents, and for tens of thousands of visitors from forty nations around the world, this nightmare is devastatingly real.

    We will never know the exact magnitude of how many men, women and children perished on 26 December, and in the 11 days that have passed since then. The real figure is likely to exceed 150 thousand.

    We do know that at least half a million people were injured; that more than a million people are displaced; that nearly 2 million people need food aid; and that many more need water, sanitation and health care.

    Millions in Asia, Africa, and even in far away countries, are suffering unimaginable trauma and psychological wounds that will take a long time to heal.

    Families have been torn apart. Whole communities have disappeared. In countries where religion, spirituality and culture lie at the heart of human existence, places of worship have been wiped out. The very things that defined people’s identities and values have been swept away.

    So as we grieve for the dead and pray for those still searching for loved ones, we have a duty to the survivors:

    -- To treat the wounded;

    -- to prevent further suffering as a result of polluted drinking water, destroyed infrastructure, lack of food, clothing and shelter;

    -- to stop the tsunami from being followed by a second wave of death, this time from preventable causes;

    -- and in the longer term, to prevent a third wave of despair, where people cannot recover their livelihoods, homes or communities.

    Although we were powerless to stop the tsunami, together, we do have the power to stop those next waves.

    Since the catastrophe struck, we have seen an outpouring of pledges and contributions from countries large and small.

    To protect the maximum number of lives, to restore dignity and hope, our assistance must be timely and well coordinated. Many of the pledges have come to us in cash and in kind. We need the rest of the pledges to be converted into cash quickly. We also need more people, and more material, to get the aid to those who are most in need, often in remote areas.

    The governmental response has been matched by unprecedented generosity from the general public. Consider the six-year-old boy in Shenyang, China, who donated his life savings of 22 dollars. Or the citizens of Sweden, a country of nine million inhabitants, who have raised more than 70 million dollars for the relief effort in Asia, while struggling to cope with the fact that almost 2,000 of their compatriots are still missing in the tragedy.

    So the goodwill and concern around the world are enormous. So are the challenges facing us. There are daunting logistical constraints. But they are not insurmountable. It is a race against time, but together with the host governments, we are overcoming them. I want to thank those governments who have offered major logistical support to make it possible for us to move aid to the needed areas and to be able to distribute it, with the U.S. Government in the lead. Every hour, we are seeing more goods reaching those in need.

    As the UN spearheads the international coordination of the relief effort, Member States are supporting us in every possible way, including by providing indispensable military logistics assets.

    Above all, allow me to commend you, the governments and people of the directly affected countries, for all you have done for your populations so far, and for all you have done to help us assist them.

    As this conference shows us, the primary response to the catastrophe has come from you and your people. And you have not only risen to your responsibility; you have reached out to one another.

    The United Nations is here to support you.

    Today, I am launching an appeal for the immediate international relief effort which the United Nations is undertaking in Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Seychelles and Somalia. This initial appeal is in addition to the 59 million dollars which our partners in the Red Cross and Red Crescent have asked for.

    In the six-month period covered by this appeal, we will need 977 million dollars to cover the humanitarian emergency needs of an estimated 5 million people.

    We will need 229 million dollars for food and agriculture.

    We will need 122 million dollars for health care.

    We will need 61 million dollars for water and sanitation.

    We will need 222 million dollars for shelter and other urgent non-food items.

    And we will need 110 million for the early restoration of livelihoods.

    The UN humanitarian effort is led by my Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland; and within the affected region, by my Special Coordinator, Margareta Wahlström, who is here with me today.

    Also with me is Mark Malloch Brown, who, as Chair of the UN Development Group, will be coordinating our recovery effort with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

    As you know, the total sum already pledged and contributed exceeds the amount I am asking for today. This appeal provides for a focused set of programmes, agreed with you, the affected governments, that can start now. They must set the stage for efforts in the longer term, as we move from saving lives to recovery and reconstruction.

    The United Nations will be there to support you in that work too.

    We must also draw and act on every lesson we can, to prevent tragedies like this occurring in the future. As you have made clear, Mr. President, prevention and early warning systems must become a priority.

    The United Nations will be there to contribute.

    The past 11 days have been among the darkest in our lifetime. But they have also allowed us to see a new kind of light.

    We have seen the world coming together.

    We have seen a response based not on our differences, but on what unites us.

    We have seen an opportunity to heal old wounds and long-running conflicts.

    We have seen everyone pull together -- North and South, East and West, governments and citizens, the media and the military, business and religious leaders, non-governmental organizations and international institutions.

    Let us now show that we are committed for as long as it takes.

    When I hear the heart-rending stories of those struck directly by the disaster, I am moved by one thing, time and again: their will and ability to recover seems to be determined not only by how they were affected themselves, but by what they were able to do to help others.

    It is as though, in that way, they were able to prove their humanity and give themselves hope.

    Let us now ask the same of ourselves.

    Together, we will restore strength and faith. Together, we will rebuild. Together, we will recover.

    * *** *