Views of tsunami-hit communities must be central in long-term recovery plans
By International Federation of Red Cross
Mar 29, 2005, 00:31

It is essential that communities devastated by the tsunami three months ago are at the heart of decisions that affect their long-term recovery and rehabilitation, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the world’s largest community-based humanitarian network, said today.

“Programmes implemented without the consultation of affected communities are doomed to fail,” underlined Federation Secretary General Markku Niskala. “We are making sure that communities are consulted and involved in the design and implementation of our long-term plan of action. This is essential to ensure the programmes we are putting in place are sustainable and adapted to the needs and situation of each country.”

According to official government sources, the earthquake and tidal waves left more than 250,000 people dead, 1.6 million displaced, and millions without livelihood in Asia and east Africa. Since December 26, more than 22,000 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers have been active in life-saving and relief efforts to assist more than 758,000 people in the tsunami-affected countries.

The International Federation is finalizing a long-term plan of action to help tsunami survivors over at least the next five years. This range of long-term recovery and disaster preparedness programmes include rebuilding homes and social centres, reconstructing and upgrading clinics and hospitals, replacing water and sanitation systems, livelihood support (equipment and skills training) for local farmers, fishermen and other artisans, psychosocial support, as well as additional training in first aid and disaster response for Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff.

At the heart of recovery is also helping people overcome the trauma of having lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the affected regions, with assistance from sister Societies, are implementing psychosocial support programmes, not only for survivors, but also their own staff and volunteers who were involved in initial search and rescue efforts, as well as in the ongoing traumatizing task of recovering bodies.

The long-term plan of action, which will be announced in late April, also includes a vital element of disaster preparedness programmes; for example, setting up the community-based component of an early warning system for the region, building or renovating cyclone shelters, as well as providing and re-stocking warehouses.

“Strengthening the resources of communities and training them on how to reduce risks and withstand natural disaster is vital to make sure the impact of natural catastrophes on vulnerable people is substantially reduced,” Johan Schaar, the Federation Secretary General’s Special Representative for the tsunami operation, pointed out. “This region is particularly exposed to devastating natural phenomena and it is essential that people are protected from the effects of recurrent disasters such as cyclones and flooding, and not just for rare events such as tsunamis.”

The Federation Secretariat and Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world have raised more than two billion Swiss francs to date to help tsunami survivors. Although programme budgets have not yet been finalized, an estimated 1.2 billion Swiss francs will be used to support long-term recovery programmes (from 2006 to 2010).
500 million Swiss francs will go to short-term recovery activities, with the rest being divided between immediate relief and disaster management. At least 700 million Swiss francs will be spent in Indonesia and 450 million in Sri Lanka, the two hardest-hit countries.

“The fact that donors were so generous allows us to put into place, on a sustainable basis, wide-ranging disaster preparedness and risk reduction measures which are usually difficult to finance,” notes Simon Missiri, head of the Federation’s Asia Pacific department. “With this strong support, we will help traumatized populations put their lives back together and mitigate the impact of future crises.”

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