Six months after tsunami, Clinton, UN agencies say hardest work lies ahead

23 June 2005
Former US President Bill Clinton

Six months after the tsunami ripped through communities across the Indian Ocean, United Nations agencies involved in the recovery said the toughest challenges still lie ahead – including the complex questions of where to re-establish housing, how to quickly restore livelihoods and what to prioritize now that the emergency relief phase is over.

"For a period of time everyone focused on saving lives without regard to nationality, politics or anything else," said former United States President Bill Clinton, the special UN envoy for tsunami relief. "But while the immediate relief effort was unprecedented in its scope, we cannot underestimate the job that remains."

As the operation moves from life-saving relief to long-term recovery, Mr. Clinton said an action plan was needed to ensure that all actors – UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, donors, affected Governments and the private sector – agree on who is going to do what, when and where.

As a matter of urgency, he said that local institutions need to be strengthened, livelihoods need to be restored and the displaced need to be moved from tents to adequate transitional shelters. At the same time, greater efforts are needed to protect the most vulnerable, including women and children, as decisions about long-term priorities are made.

Having provided 123,000 tons of food to over two million people in the six months since the 26 December tsunami, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it was continuing its role as the lead logistics agency for the UN in the tsunami crisis, shipping food, medicine and even vehicles. It is shifting its focus to long-term recovery as well.

"We have managed to prevent hunger and malnutrition by getting food on time to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people," said Mohamed Saleheen, WFP's Country Director in Indonesia. "Now we're helping families focus on rebuilding, without having to worry about whether they'll have enough to eat."

The UN Food and Agricultural Agency (FAO) said it was determined to make sure that the unprecedented resources available for recovery build back better livelihoods for those hardest hit, particularly farmers and fisherman, following its first six months of technical assessments and early recovery assistance.

In addition, in the next six months UN agencies, working with government authorities, plan to establish an Indian Ocean early warning system, rehabilitate key transportation infrastructure, provide safe water and sanitation for at least 80 per cent of the population in affected areas of Sumatra and the Maldives, and continue building schools among other efforts, the agencies said in a joint press release.


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