Year after tsunami conditions remain critical in many areas UN agency warns

Year after tsunami conditions remain critical in many areas UN agency warns

With the first anniversary of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami fast approaching, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today that many areas on the west coast of Aceh, Indonesia, the worst affected region, were still in a critical condition.“Half a million people in Indonesia are still living in temporary shelter. Entire communities were destroyed,” FAO’s post-tsunami operations coordinator Alex Jones said, noting that there was a danger that international attention and donor support would come to an end before the recovery was complete. “Sustainable recovery requires a five to 10 year effort.”One of the lessons learned from the disaster, which killed over 230,000 people and displaced some 1.5 million more in 12 countries, is the need for establishing a contingency emergency fund, for which Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed between $500 million and $1 billion, in order to accelerate relief.“The donor response to the tsunami disaster was huge, but there were still delays in getting help to the people who needed it most,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said. “What the world needs is a standby global disaster fund that would make immediate intervention possible.”Mr. Jones stressed that while preparedness for such a disaster is virtually impossible, there has to be a faster response. “For this to happen, funds need to be available within 30 days of the disaster, not six months, as is usually the case,” he said. “So there is a need for the creation of a well-financed global emergency fund so that aid agencies have sufficient resources to begin work immediately in the wake of disasters like this.”FAO has been active in all the affected countries, playing a lead role in advising governments on rehabilitation in fisheries and agriculture as well as helping repair and replace lost and damaged boats and equipment and restoring damaged farmland.“Our biggest challenge is the scale of the reconstruction effort. Millions of people were affected,” Mr. Jones said. “It was an unprecedented level of destruction. In Indonesia and Sri Lanka, around 100 miles of coastline were destroyed – not just a couple of areas or towns.”Summing up the relief effort one year on, he added: “The overall message is a positive one. A large amount of attention, funding and adequate human resources to address the needs of these countries has resulted in exceptional performance to date.”

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