On Third Anniversary of Indian Ocean Tsunami, UNICEF Reports

NEW YORK, New York, December 24, 2007 – The United Nations Childrens’ Fund counts its blessings in numbers in its new three year report on recovery from the Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people on December 26, 2004.

UNICEF says more than 20,000 water points have been restored, serving over 730,000 people, and over 42,000 latrines have been constructed.

Construction on 59 health facilities has been completed, and is underway on another 115.

The 2007 tsunami report says life-saving insecticide-treated mosquito nets have been distributed, benefiting nearly 3.5 million people.

Young Indonesian survivors of
the tsunami that hit
December 26, 2007
(Photo courtesy Europe Aid
Cooperation Office)

More than 1.2 million children have benefited from UNICEF’s psycho-social activities and HIV/AIDS awareness and education campaigns have reached over 330,000 people.

But the work of UNICEF has in some cases been halted.

In Sri Lanka and Somalia a resurgence of violence in the past year has created much suffering, says UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman.

“An estimated 1.5 million children and their families in Somalia are in urgent need of emergency humanitarian assistance, as some of the worst fighting in 17 years devastates the country,” she said.

“The suffering of children and their families is acute, particularly in the capital, Mogadishu, where fighting prevents families from accessing emergency facilities and from leaving the city.”

“UNICEF staff on the ground report critical shortages of food, water, and medicine – putting children at high risk of disease and malnutrition. Children are also suffering from exhaustion and emotional trauma.”

“In addition to the immediate threats to their lives and health, children’s futures are being damaged because the conflict has severely restricted access to education.”

UNICEF chief Ann
Veneman (Photo
courtesy UNICEF)

“UNICEF appeals to all parties for an immediate cessation of the conflict to enable humanitarian workers access to those in need, especially children. Safe zones must be created where children and families can find assistance and stability,” said Veneman, herself a cancer survivor, and a former U.S. secretary of agriculture.

Meanwhile, construction in Indonesia has been hampered by the lack of new roads and unresolved land titles.

Monitoring and evaluation in the low-lying Maldives island nation is hindered by the dispersed geography.

Its access to help children in Myanmar is hampered by “geography and security,” UNICEF says.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.

The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.

Realizing that lasting recovery will take years, a statement from the organization says UNICEF “tries not only to move quickly, but also to be accountable and ensure its work has lasting impact.”

“The aim is not to find quick solutions that cannot be sustained, but to build back better, involving communities and local governments in the recovery and rebuilding process

Whole communities were swept
into rubble by the giant tsunami
wave. (Photo courtesy Europe
Aid Cooperation Office)

With these long-term goals in mind, UNICEF’s tsunami programs and corresponding funding are planned through the end of 2009.

And a few more numbers…

School construction in the eight countries affected by the tsunami is being accomplished.

Since 2004, more than US$150 million have been spent on education – more than a third of which were put into use in the past year. UNICEF has completed construction on more than 100 schools, and the building process is underway for another 254.

UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC (07:58:53 local time) December 26, 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.

The earthquake triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing more than 225,000 people in eleven countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 meters (100 feet).

This was the ninth-deadliest natural disaster in modern history. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and Myanmar were hardest hit.

With a magnitude of between 9.1 and 9.3, it is the second largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph.

Scientists said this earthquake had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes. It caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 cm (0.5 inches) and triggered other earthquakes as far away as Alaska.

The quake, centered in the Indian Ocean, also created the biggest gash in the Earth’s seabed ever observed, nearly 800 miles long.

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