Asia: relief efforts in Indonesia and Sri Lanka
03-01-2005 News Release
The ICRC's efforts to help victims of this disaster are gathering pace. The ICRC is concentrating its relief efforts on Sri Lanka and the Indonesian province of Aceh, areas where it had a strong presence before the catastrophe. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies coordinates the overall relief effort of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement.
Having been present in the North and East of Sri Lanka for many years prior to this disaster, the ICRC is coordinating the response of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement in these areas. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is mobilising efforts in the southern and south-western coastal areas.
Assistance activities were launched within hours of the disaster, with local ICRC and Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) staff helping to evacuate the injured and to recover bodies. They also began distributing essential household items to families who lost their homes or are unable to return there. By 2 January, more than 12,000 families (about 60,000 people) had received kits typically comprising a bucket, three bed sheets, two plastic mats, a cooking set and soap. Clothing and lanterns were also distributed to thousands of families. A further 8,000 families will receive similar assistance over the coming days. In total, the ICRC plans to provide help for about 150,000 people or 30,000 families.
The ICRC also delivered essential medical items such as vaccines, antibiotics and bandages to hospitals in Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi in northern Sri Lanka. Activities are underway to improve access to proper water and sanitation for victims of the disaster in these areas and in Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara in the east. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from across the world are providing valuable support in these areas. Many have sent staff and ad ditional equipment.
The items distributed by the ICRC and SLRCS were either bought locally or brought in by special cargo flights from the ICRC's biggest logistics base in Nairobi, Kenya and from Geneva.
Meanwhile, joint ICRC-SLRCS teams are offering help to disaster victims across Sri Lanka eager to resume contacts with their families. They are given the possibility to telephone relatives in Sri Lanka or abroad. In addition, the ICRC has launched a special website to provide information for people inside the region and around the world concerned about the safety of their loved ones.
In Indonesia, the ICRC is mainly active in the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalem, the area worst hit by the initial earthquake and the tsunamis it caused. The humanitarian situation there is precarious with some areas such as the densely populated West Coast apparently having been almost completely destroyed. More than half of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, has reportedly been destroyed.
Two days after the catastrophe, volunteers of the Indonesia Red Cross (PMI) distributed 1,000 tarpaulins and 1,800 family relief kits provided by the ICRC. The volunteers also helped to recover bodies of victims of the disaster. Both organisations continue to survey the needs of people who have had to flee their homes. Joint teams of the ICRC / PMI and the International Federation have been visiting sites in and near Banda Aceh where thousands of displaced persons are currently staying. Apart from evaluating their needs, the teams are distributing tents and tarpaulins for shelter and basic medical items. The ICRC has also been helping two hospitals in Banda Aceh with urgently needed medical supplies.
The ICRC currently plans to provide items such as buckets, tarpaulins and clothing for up to 300,000 people in Aceh; to set up a 100-bed field hospital; to bring in and install additional equipment to increase the supply of clean water in IDPs camps areas and to provide means of communication enabling the people of Aceh to send messages to their relatives outside the province.
To support its work in Aceh, the ICRC has set up a logistics base in nearby Singapore with the support of the Singapore Red Cross Society and the authorities. In Indonesia, the ICRC will continue to cooperate closely with the PMI and the International Federation and maintain regular contacts with the Indonesian authorities in Aceh and Jakarta.