One year after a series of earthquakes triggered a massive tsunami which claimed some 200,000 lives in the Indian Ocean region, United Nations officials are calling for continued aid to the survivors and secure funding for future relief operations.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan emphasized in a video message marking the anniversary that while “tremendous” progress has been made in assisting the devastated areas, huge challenges lie ahead.
“If we are to ‘built back better’ than what was there before, we need to strike a balance between quick results and sustainable development,” he said. “And we need to keep building on the courage of the communities who are valiantly taking charge of their recovery, despite the losses they endured and the conditions they live in.”
The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, noted in a recent op-ed that the tsunami “was only the beginning in what was to become the Year of Disasters.”
Writing in the Sunday edition of The Independent, he urged the international community to build on the generous outpouring of aid provided for disaster victims over the past year and to provide humanitarian agencies with the funds they need before tragedy strikes.
“Imagine if your local fire department had to beg the mayor for money to turn on the water hoses every time a fire broke out. Now imagine numerous fires occurring simultaneously all over the globe, but no money on hand to turn on the hoses. That's the situation faced by aid workers whenever a major crisis erupts.”
Mr. Egeland hailed the recent establishment by UN Member States of a $500 million Global Emergency Fund to jumpstart relief operations within 72 hours of a crisis. About $200 million has already been pledged. He called on all governments, as well as the private sector, “to contribute the balance for this vitally necessary fund.”
In a separate development, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today reported that a married couple separated for nearly a decade is now happily reunited after finding joint housing in the wake of the tsunami.
Feleela Hameed and her husband M.I. Mohamed Mubarak took their first steps towards reconciliation when she tried to find stable accommodations after months of temporary housing. The local rural development foundation “came to me asking why our family had applied for two shelters, so I explained that my husband and I had been separated for many years,” Ms. Hameed said. “They said this was not good, you must unite for yourselves and the children.”
A counselor from the foundation helped the couple to reunite, and they now live with their four children in a UNHCR-run shelter in Chavalakadai, Sri Lanka.