In week 5 of tsunami disaster, UN help ranges from topography to AIDS

24 January 2005

As the relief effort for the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster moves into its fifth week, United Nations agencies are producing topographical satellite maps to aid rehabilitation while raising the alarm for extra vigilance to avoid the further spread of AIDS through people forced into the sex trade because they have lost their other means of livelihood.

Beyond the immediate UN relief work of providing shelter, food and urgent medical and preventive care, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has prepared the Tsunami Atlas using satellite images collected from FAO data bases and completed by major spatial data sources on the web to assist in rebuilding lives and livelihoods.

"The atlas shows the tsunami-affected areas before and after the disaster, thus helping experts in evaluating the damage and estimating reconstruction and rehabilitation needs especially in the agricultural lands, the mangroves areas, as well in the coastal infrastructure that is used by farmers and fishermen," FAO remote sensing expert Dominique Lantieri said.

The atlas is well advanced for Indonesia and Sri Lanka, the areas hardest hit by the 26 December tsunami, which killed at least 165,000 people, injured half a million others, left up to 5 million more in need of basic services and caused incalculable damage. FAO is also working intensively regarding others among the dozen affected countries.

Meanwhile, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has urged the Government of Thailand and its non-government partners to be extra vigilant in promoting HIV/AIDS prevention as it rebuilds its tsunami-stricken coastline.

The main risk factors centre on an immediate lack of prevention resources such as condoms and education materials. Increased vulnerability is mainly due to people seeking unhealthy livelihood alternatives because their principal means of income generation has been destroyed.

"Not just lives have been lost due to the tsunami, but livelihoods as well, most notably in fishing and tourism," UNAIDS Country Coordinator Patrick Brenny said. "For this reason there is a critical need for prevention programmes and sexual health information among this population, not to mention getting people back to work and restoring their livelihoods."

For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that persons affected by a catastrophe like the tsunami are exposed to extreme stressors, such as personal danger and loss of kin, which represent risks of mental health problems. Most of the affected people live in resource-poor countries and this makes the task of providing assistance more difficult, it warns.

 

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