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Tsunami: An unprecedented humanitarian response

Two months on from the Tsunami: An unprecedented humanitarian response

The unprecedented humanitarian response to the tsunami has been one of the most effective and successful responses to an emergency in recent times, said Oxfam international today, two months after the tsunami hit.

There have been no large-scale outbreaks of disease, no widespread food shortages, and rebuilding work in many places is already underway. Oxfam's humanitarian program alone is already reaching over 300,000 people across the tsunami-affected countries, providing water and sanitation and working on shelter and livelihoods projects.

In the first week of the disaster the aid effort was lead by local people and local organisations who responded to the needs of the survivors. In each of the countries affected, large sections of the public mobilized in response to the disaster.

"The local, national and international aid effort has saved thousands of lives – there is no doubt about it. Though the aid effort has in many ways only just begun, the response so far has to be one of the most effective in the history of aid,” said Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director, Barry Coates.

In the first days following the tsunami, there were real fears that many more people would die if urgent assistance wasn’t provided. The public and donor governments responded more quickly and generously than in any previous crisis and aid agencies were quickly on the scene.

“The scale of the disaster, the lack of warning and having to coordinate simultaneous relief efforts across the affected areas has been a real challenge. However the massive public response and money from donor governments shows what can happen when a crisis is quickly and properly funded. There will of course be future obstacles to overcome, mistakes will be made and some things will not go as we would wish. Nevertheless, the aid effort funded so generously by the public has seen massive progress. If similar funding was available for emergencies such as Sudan and northern Uganda, a massive difference could be made to the lives of millions more,” added Coates.

Oxfam is working with local partners and other international agencies to ensure that local people's needs are met and their voices are heard. In some places, such as Matara in Southern Sri Lanka, Oxfam has helped people build new temporary houses and they are already moving into them this week. Even in the worst affected areas of Aceh, work on building new houses has already begun.

Coates: “The aid effort has a long way to go. The emergency phase of the relief effort is almost over but the reconstruction has only just begun. Oxfam is working collaboratively with other international aid agencies, local organisations and governments to ensure that the development effort needs local needs. If we are to maintain and build on the successes already achieved, consultation with local people must be routine and quality standards must be achieved wherever possible. Speed must not come at the expense of quality.” ENDS

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