Post Tsunami reports

Post Tsunami reports demand prevention.

More than half of people who lost their jobs following the Asian tsunami are back to work and economies are fast returning to normal, according to a report by Oxfam International.

It is one of a raft of reports from different agencies reflecting on the response to the Asian Tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. The Oxfam report “Back to Work” shows how up to 60 per cent of people who lost their jobs are earning a living again, and by the end of 2006 an estimated 85 per cent of jobs will have been restored. It finds that:

Fisherman on beach after tsunami“One year on, well over half of people who lost their jobs are already back at work, most of the destroyed fishing boats have been replaced and thousands of hectares of farm land have been cleared and replanted,” said Barbara Stocking, Director of Oxfam. “There are problems that remain and continued support is essential if we are to safeguard the progress made. But the public’s generous response and the resilience of local people has made the rebuilding of people’s livelihoods one of the most impressive aspects of the entire aid operation,” she said.

A report from Tearfund argues that the international response to the tsunami shows that governments should reallocate aid funds to disaster prevention. It says that at least 10 per cent of government humanitarian budgets must be re-directed to reducing the risks of disaster faced by people in the developing world. The report, “Learn the Lessons”, states that thousands of lives could have been saved in the tsunami and other recent disasters if simple, cost effective measures like evacuation training and storage of food and medical supplies had been put in place to protect vulnerable communities.

“We are wrongly wedded to aid spending which ‘bandages wounds’ rather than ‘prevents injuries’,” says Sarah La Trobe, Tearfund policy officer for the environment and disasters, and the report’s author. “Rich countries spend billions of pounds protecting their people from floods, earthquakes and droughts. But we spend very little of our international aid budgets helping poor communities to do the same.”

The report warns that during the last ten years, disasters have increased dramatically – killing over 675,000 people, affecting more than 2.5 billion people and costing an estimated $690 billion in economic losses. “Simple, cost effective measures like evacuation and rescue training and storing food and medical supplies can ensure that disaster prone communities are able to cope with disasters when they strike.” said Marcus Oxley, Tearfund’s disaster management director. “Such preparation is vital because most lives are saved in the first 48 hours of a disaster. Very often, as was the case with the tsunami or hurricane Katrina, the first emergency relief from the international community does not arrive for a few days. The local people are always the ones that must respond quickly to a disaster.”

Christian Aid have also released a report demanding greater disaster-preparedness. “Don’t be scared, be prepared” argues that disaster prevention must become part of emergency work if the world is not to experience a repetition of 2005 which saw a litany of disasters: a tsunami, floods, hurricanes, mudslides, earthquakes and severe food shortages. And it warns that the involvement and training of local communities is crucial. While welcoming the multi-million, hi-tech tsunami warning system planned for the Indian Ocean, it says it will be a failure if it is not coupled with training at a local level throughout the region.

“We have seen what the tsunami did to coastal communities,” says Anjali Kwatra, Christian Aid’s Asia specialist. “Unless these communities have disaster management plans and are given effective awareness training, the news of an imminent disaster will not filter down to the local level where it is most needed.” Disaster reduction not only saves lives, it is also cost effective, the report argues. Just £1 spent on disaster risk reduction could have saved a child from being buried alive in the Kashmir earthquake. For an extra £500 a school on the Indian subcontinent can be built to withstand earthquakes.” Some 500 children are believed to have been crushed to death in Kashmir when their schools collapsed.

Woman in sari“Community based, low-tech methods have been proved to work,” says Anjali Kwatra. “In Bangladesh, Christian Aid partner organisations built cyclone shelters after the 1991 cyclone killed some 140,000 people. Six years later there was an even more lethal cyclone but only 100 people died because they knew how to take refuge.”

The role of children in disaster situations is also highlighted in a report from the international children’s charity PLAN, which says that thousands of children could have survived the tsunami if they had had more information on disaster response procedures.

Despite an unprecedented worldwide relief effort, it says that governments and aid agencies failed to involve children during last year’s tsunami relief effort, and instead imposed imported solutions upon them. The report, “Children and the tsunami” argues that involving children should not be separate from the relief effort – but an integral part of all programmes. It also highlighted the need for relief operations to understand the emotional impact on communities caused by overlooking children in post disaster operations. By ignoring children’s energy, strength, and optimism, a great opportunity was missed to reduce the impact of the disaster.

The report cites aid agencies’ need for efficiency and speed of delivery as the main reason for the lack of children’s involvement, but faults the logic of the approach. “Children and young people are often stronger, better educated, more adaptable, and more optimistic than adults” said Marie Staunton, Plan’s UK Chief Executive. “Children are a valuable and willing resource, not defenceless and vulnerable victims, and it is time the international community recognised that.”