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Friday, January 05, 2007

Officials Update Tsunami Recovery Two Years Later

Though the U.S. was among the largest contributors, the global response to the events of December 26, 2004 was essential in meeting the immediate needs of the affected populations of the region and to prevent a secondary disaster due to lack of sanitation and other public health concerns, according to officials who led the effort.

Mark Ward, senior deputy assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), spoke at a tsunami relief and recovery update briefing at theNational Press Club in Washington. The purpose of the event was to provide an update on reconstruction activities in the region in recognition of the second anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Also speaking was Eric Schwartz, the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery.

An undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean occured on Dec. 26, 2004, triggering a series of devastating tsunamis killing more than 275,000 with thousands of others missing, with recent analysis compiled lists a total of 229,866 people lost, including 186,983 dead and 42,883 missing, according to Wikipedia. The catastrophe is one of the deadliest disasters in modern history.

The needed responses were met by the cooperation of the people and governments of the region and by public and private organizations and governmentsaround the world, according to officials who spoke at the Press Club.

In the two years since the tsunami, much work has been done to rebuild lives and livelihoods and U.S. government assistance has totaled more than$840 million in this effort. In addition, U.S. charitable donations haveexceeded $1.8 billion, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

As a result of this generosity, the U.S. is working with the affectedregions to rebuild infrastructure, provide jobs and training (particularly for women), strengthen communities and local governments, and develop early warning systems and effective disaster response programs.

"I'm pleased with our program to date, but more needs to be done," says Ward. "We're building roads that will withstand a tsunami, water sanitation systems, clinics, and homes. We're also providing job training and credit for small businesses. All of this is needed for a self-sufficient recovery."

Ward chaired both the USAID Tsunami Task Force as well as the USAID South Asia Earthquake Task Force and is now leading the U.S. government's Lebanon Reconstruction Task Force.

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