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Tsunami Countries: World Bank Supports Transition

Tsunami Countries: World Bank Supports Transition From Relief To Reconstruction For Countries Hit By Tsunami Disaster

Immediate efforts to focus on health, education, power and telecommunications

WASHINGTON, February 2, 2005— The World Bank expects to provide an initial US$660 million dollars to help Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives make the transition from disaster relief efforts to reconstruction in the wake of the tsunami that devastated many areas in these countries last December.

The funds, which will mainly be provided through the International Development Association, the Bank’s financing arm for the poorest countries, marks the first phase of support for the reconstruction process for those countries, and the amount of financial and technical support is expected to rise over time.

“The Bank is working with the governments of each country and our partners from the development community to quickly begin the process of reconstruction,” says World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn. “There are many challenges we must face together, including critical issues such as the involvement of people at the community level, resettlement, and financial accountability for the enormous outpouring of aid.”

World Bank management presented a paper to the Board of Executive Directors this week outlining the Bank’s plan for working with the tsunami-affected countries, primarily Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, which were the hardest hit. Management said that it will determine potential support for India after a damage and needs assessment is completed in coming weeks.

The Bank also will continue to work with its international partners in providing assistance to Seychelles and Somalia, using relatively small scale, non-operational grant funding.

With more than 200,000 people dead and 1.5 million people homeless and without work, the tsunami ranks as one of the worst disasters in modern history, with the cost falling predominantly on the poorest people in the affected countries. Losses are estimated to total more than US$6 billion - with houses and private businesses representing the bulk of these damages.

Key principles guiding the reconstruction effort include “country ownership” of the reconstruction process, the involvement of communities in designing recovery programs, and ensuring that recovery efforts do not simply return people to the same level of poverty they endured before.

The most urgent priority in the transition from relief to reconstruction is to put money into the pockets of those people left without a source of income, for example through “cash for work” programs. Paying people for participating in the immediate clean up after the disaster puts cash in the hands of families and helps people rebuild their lives.

Other immediate goals will be repairing or rebuilding damaged schools and health facilities, and providing children with new text books and clinics with urgently needed medicines. The next three months should also see some restoration of public services in many of the affected countries, such as telecommunications and power, in addition to health and education.

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