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Oxfam mobilises in the disaster area

Friday 31 December 2004

Donations pour in as Oxfam mobilises in the disaster area

International agency Oxfam has recorded an overwhelmingly generous response across the globe for the millions affected by the Tsunami – as of 6am this morning, Oxfam had raised a record $22.5 million dollars and donations continue to pour in.

The response in New Zealand has been unprecedented, with donations now exceeding $190,000. A number of businesses, including Tradeaid, The Body Shop, The Warehouse and ANZ Bank, have agreed to accept donations on behalf of Oxfam and Trade Me is linking its website to the agency. A number of city councils have also given permission for Oxfam to fundraise at New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Barry Coates, executive director of Oxfam New Zealand said: “People and corporations around the world have reacted incredibly quickly to the devastation and given very generously. We have never seen such a response. It is now vital that the aid gets through quickly and that the world does not forget survivors faced with the long-term task of rebuilding their lives.”

Oxfam is now operational in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India and is assessing needs in the Andaman and Nicobar islands and Maldives. In Sri Lanka, many of Oxfam’s local staff were themselves hit by the tsunami, but have put aside their personal loss to work on providing aid to their communities.

To donate to Oxfam New Zealand’s EARTHQUAKE TSUNAMI EMERGENCY FUND call 800 400 666 or donate online www.oxfam.org.nz

Situation update

Relief operations by Oxfam staff on the spot are under way in countries worst hit by the massive tsunami wave.

Sri Lanka: The latest (30th) report says: “Oxfam staff have done a heroic job. Most staff are local and live in the communities in which they work. Many had their homes and possessions destroyed, barely escaping with their lives and their families. Despite this, they immediately got to work to provide aid to their communities. The existence of the network of Oxfam offices means we were able to respond quickly, with local knowledge and expertise”.

Oxfam and Oxfam partners like the Sewa Lanka Foundation are providing cooked food to 6,000 families in Batticoloa and 2,000 in Killinochchi, and have set up 1,000 litre water tanks to provide clean water to people in 23 places so far. Where we cannot bring in tanks because of destroyed bridges or roads, we are distributing bottled water. We received a donation of 100,000 bottles from a local brewery, just one example of how local businesses and people are doing all they can to respond to the crisis.

One problem is fear of another tsunami or “Sea Attack”. Turbulent seas mean that people going back to their villages to search for belongings regularly run away again.

Drinking water and medical supplies are major priorities. An Oxfam aid flight left on the 29th carrying 27 tonnes of emergency water equipment worth $270,000, going first to Sri Lanka and then to Indonesia.

In Trincomalee buildings have collapsed, crops are devastated and bridges washed away. Oxfam’s office was badly damaged. Much equipment was lost and supplies stockpiled to help the victims of floods earlier this year were destroyed. Oxfam staff helped get injured people to hospital. They have hired a ferry to get supplies to an isolated Muslim community cut-off south of the town.

In Batticoloa too, staff were involved in rescue and medical assistance, taking a number of people to hospital. Oxfam staff are already providing temporary latrines, roofing sheets, plastic sheeting for shelter, mats, bed sheets and sanitary napkins. In Killinochchi staff provided cooked food to people waiting for the release of the bodies of their relatives.

Oxfam is preparing 25,000 packs of food locally, containing rice, flour, dhal, fish, sugar and cereal, plus 10,000 packs with soap, sanitary towels, candles and matches.

In places the wave went 2 km inland and because heavy floods had already hit people half the rice paddy crop may be lost.

India: We are concentrating on Tamil Nadu, the worst-hit state. We think that some 800 villages have been badly hit along a 700-kilometre long coastline. It is reported that 147 villages have been wiped out in Nagaputtinam district. In Cuddalore district alone more than 75,000 houses have been washed away. Oxfam staff visited 15 villages in Cuddalore and in each village more than 50 people had died, over 700 in total. Most of the dead are women and children. Many survivors are in deep shock. Wells have been contaminated, possibly permanently, with sea water. Two Oxfam assessment teams are active in Tamil Nadu; they say the urgent needs are for clean water, sanitation, utensils and clearing of debris. We have started to distribute hygiene packs. People are receiving cooked food from local charities.

Alerts and rumours of another tsunami on its way are causing panics, interrupting assessments and eroding people’s confidence about returning to their coastal villages.

In Andhra Pradesh Oxfam has provided a list of villages where the state government will need to desalinate the wells.

Andaman and Nicobar islands and Maldives: A two-person Oxfam team has done a rapid assessment and confirmed big drinking water problems, shelter and food needs. The local administration says that 10,000 people died on the Andamans. There have been several severe aftershocks. Oxfam will also send a rapid response team to the Maldives.

Indonesia: Oxfam has a team in Medan and we are about to set up in Banda Aceh, which has been badly damaged. We aim to distribute non-food items to 10,000 families plus hygiene kits, water tanks and latrine plates. There is still little information from the west coast. It seems clear – from aerial assessments - that some of the towns there are up to 80% destroyed. We are funding two assessment missions to the west by a group of local non-governmental organisations. They started on the 28th, using staff previously trained in disaster assessment by Oxfam GB. Oxfam will work with local organisations but they are at full stretch and facing problems with fuel and transport. Many bodies still lie unburied.

Thailand: Oxfam has given funds to a local partner organisation which works with fishing communities to purchase immediate relief supplies and do a more detailed assessment.


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