2004 tsunami: emergency aid - then and now

TSUNAMI 10TH ANNIVERSARY: WHAT HAS CHANGED SINCE THEN?

What has Welthungerhilfe learned from the tsunami? How is the earlier aid still having an effect today?

(17/11) It was ten years go that a tsunami erased whole sections of the coast of Asia and claimed the lives of 230,000 people. It was the worst disaster the world had ever seen. We take a look back at events, experiences and effects.

Simone Pott, press spokesperson for Welthungerhilfe, travelled to Sri Lanka and Indonesia with the emergency response team shortly after the tsunami. In her review, she answers the questions: What have we learned from the tsunami? How is earlier aid having an effect today?

Simone Pott with school pupils in the Silavatai temporary school in Sri Lanka.
Simone Pott with school pupils in the Silavatai temporary school in Sri Lanka. © Maedje
Simone Pott shortly after the tsunami in Mullaittivu, Sri Lanka.
Simone Pott shortly after the tsunami in Mullaittivu, Sri Lanka. © van Heerden
Simone Pott and Martin Baumann, project advisor in Sri Lanka, in conversation with employees from the partner organisation Sevalanka in Trincomalee.
Simone Pott and Martin Baumann, project advisor in Sri Lanka, in conversation with employees from the partner organisation Sevalanka in Trincomalee. © van Heerden
In Indonesia, fishermen received new nets and boats, in order to be able to return to their work quickly.
In Indonesia, fishermen received new nets and boats, in order to be able to return to their work quickly. © Lohnes
On the island of Simeulue, Indonesia, new earthquake-proof houses were built in collaboration with residents.
On the island of Simeulue, Indonesia, new earthquake-proof houses were built in collaboration with residents. © Lohnes

 

What has Welthungerhilfe learned from the tsunami?

Our work has become more professional. In 2004, our emergency response team consisted of three people, now there are six members who can depart immediately in the case of an emergency. Since then, they have also been increasingly training local partner organisations in their own capacity building, so that they can better respond to disasters. That is particularly the case for logistics, as well as the purchase and transport of relief supplies. In addition, at the Bonn headquarters there is a core team of employees who can travel at short notice to provide backup.

The next big disaster where you were on the ground was the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Was your team better positioned that time?

Everything happened more quickly. The first four emergency aid workers were there two days after the quake. We linked up immediately with the local authorities and other aid organisations. Another thing we learnt from the tsunami: To fight a disaster alone does not work. You have to exchange and coordinate with partners.

How is aid from after the tsunami having an impact today?

For example, house building. We asked the local people what they needed and then implemented it together. We didn’t ignore the needs of the people by building grand houses that would never be inhabited. And that happened. Our small, robust huts still stand in Indonesia today. A symbol that our aid remains.

The unabridged article can be found in the magazine for donors 4/2014 (in German only).

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2004 tsunami
Map: coastal regions affected by the 2004 tsunami.
Coastal regions affected by the 2004 tsunami. Click on the image to enlarge it.

The tsunami caused disasters in eight countries - more than 1.7 million people became homeless.

Sri Lanka today

10 years after the tsunami. How do the people in Sri Lanka live with the danger from the sea today?