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NZ Red Cross aid worker to lead Maldives recovery


19 January 2005

New Zealand Red Cross aid worker to lead Maldives recovery

Former head of the New Zealand Red Cross Jerry Talbot will fly out this week to lead the tsunami relief operation in the Maldives.

Mr Talbot will spend six months in the Maldives, leading a team of eight international Red Cross delegates as the island-nation recovers from the tsunami that killed 82 and seriously affected one in three of its 300,000 inhabitants.

The Maldives is made up of 1,190 coral islands stretching 820km North to the South and 120km East to West. 202 of the Islands were inhabited before the tsunami.

Because the average height above sea level of the islands is about one metre, huge swathes were flooded in the tsunami, including the capital city, Male.

"The Maldives may not be capturing the same headlines in terms of the enormity of the disaster as Aceh, Sri Lanka and India, but for the Maldives their economy has been devastated," Mr Talbot says.

A challenge for Mr Talbot and his team will be distributing relief to the scattered islands - which largely have to be accessed by boat.

His team includes experts in construction, relief, health, water and sanitation, disaster preparedness, and logistics.

The Red Cross has made a commitment to assist in the Maldives with the provision of temporary and then permanent housing for 2000 families who have lost their homes and assist with repairs for 3500 families whose homes have been severely damaged. Many of these families have been relocated from their home-islands and are living in public buildings.

The Red Cross has also committed to provide 5000 people with safe water, to restore health clinics that have been damaged or destroyed, to re-provision medical supplies, provide psycho-social counselling and to provide electricity to 30,000.

Mr Talbot's team will also assist the Maldives with disaster preparedness measures to minimise the impact of any future disaster.

"The Maldives is one of the few counties in the world that does not have a Red Cross/Red Crescent society so one of the challenges is to create that institution as part of the disaster preparedness response. Having a national society will link them to international resources that can help them strengthen their disaster preparedness capacities, and a critical part of that capacity is a strong, trained volunteer network," Mr Talbot says.

Mr Talbot, a Napier volunteer budget advisor, has been a New Zealand Red Cross delegate since 1968 and was Secretary General of the New Zealand Red Cross between 1975 and 1989. From 1989 to 1997 he headed the Asia and Pacific Department of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva

Mr Talbot's mission is funded from the New Zealand Red Cross South Asia Tsunami Appeal.

The New Zealand public have so far donated $6.5 million to the Red Cross South Asia Tsunami appeal.

Donations can still be made by dialling 0900 31 100 (an automatic $20 donation), by cheque to the South Asia Tsunami Appeal, PO Box 12-140, Thorndon, Wellington, at the Red Cross website, www.redcross.org.nz , at Woolworths, Countdown and Foodtown supermarkets and at all major banks.

All money raised will go directly to the appeal, as New Zealand Red Cross appeal administration costs for special appeals are covered by income from Red Cross shops and first aid training.


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