On 26 December 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami left hundreds of thousands of people dead and many more homeless. Poor and isolated communities were left struggling to survive. Four years on, the immediate response to the disaster is over and the basic needs of children have been met, but UNICEF and its partners remain committed to improving the lives of millions of children across the region.
Jonathan Cauldwell, UNICEF Chief of Tsunami Transition Support, says, “The tsunami, despite being a horrific event, also provided a lot of opportunities for those countries. It allowed those areas to be built up as well, to have investments in the infrastructure in the social sectors, more importantly building the capacities at a local level so that they themselves can take on programming to the longer term."
Preparing for future emergencies
Over the past year there has been accelerated progress in the construction of child-friendly and earthquake-resistant schools. In Indonesia, for example, 61 such schools have been built so far in 2008. This brings the total built with UNICEF’s support in the country up to 140, benefiting over 25,000 students.
Across the region, UNICEF has continued to restore or construct new water points and educate communities about good hygiene. UNICEF has also renovated or constructed healthcare facilities and provided support for equipment and training of new staff.
Tsunami funds have also been used to improve resilience to future emergencies. In Malaysia, UNICEF has supported the Ministry of Education in preparing schools for natural and man-made disasters by developing materials for students and training teachers, counsellors and youth volunteers.