Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The 2004 Tsunami

It's difficult to believe, but it's been three years since the tsunami tore apart lives all through Asia, Indian costal cities and even spread to parts of Africa. Us modern people forget that whatever we do to warp the environment, the world's climate and politics, nature can take over and wipe everything out.

While life has returned to normal in most places, there are still wounds.

And people have forgotten. Maybe that's good, it can be a sign of recovery, returning to 'normal.' When I meet tourists who have visited Phuket, the resort area in Thailand that was severely hurt by the tsunami, I ask them what it's like now. They often stare at me blankly, not realizing the scope of the devastation just a few years ago. I haven't had a chance to go down there, though I've looked at the web site of the Chamber of Commerce, which emphasizes that the beaches, and the services that support going to the beach, are all back to normal.

One of my friends used to work with an NGO in Aceh, the province in the northern tip of Sumatra, where she had trained many health care and education staff. When she was able to get in contact with her old staff members, she learned that, by luck, some people had been visiting families or had been out of town on that day. Other people were not so lucky. Along with the 300,000 estimated deaths during that time, there are also the indirect impacts of natural disasters, which last much longer. Teachers who died leave students with knowledge, doctors who died leave a health care gap. Parents who die leave orphans who will always have a hole in their beings.

What happens after that? A crisis can be devastating, or can spur communities to pull together and help everyone. In the aftermath of the tsunami, there have been spots which have one response and places with other.

In other news, the World Bank has a report about its assistance together for Sri Lanka. The amount that it provided - 150 million USD is modest but seems to have made an impact. On the web site, it mentions that there are still 15,000 people who still need homes, but this will take more funding. There are also human interest stories that show the human impact of this natural disaster.

A lot of people have not yet received assistance though, even now. Although there was a great outpouring of aid throughout the region, local people often did not see the results. There were 'bottle necks,' where the funds were available but between local capacity (limited number of construction workers to rebuild houses) and logistics (lack of vehicles to transport supplies), people have been waiting for their lives to return to normal.

Some links:

Indonesia, Thailand mark Tsunami with Prayers

Asia Marks Anniversary

World Bank Support to Sri Lanka

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