A year after the Tsunami of 26 December 2004
On 26 December 2004, an earthquake off the western coast of northern Sumatra, measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale, triggered a powerful wave that swept through the Indian Ocean, wrecking coastal areas in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Maldives, Myanmar, the Seychelles, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Thailand.
The tsunami had an overwhelming human and physical impact. An estimated 183,170 persons were killed and a further 43,320 are still missing. Some 1.4 million people lost their source of livelihood. The 28 March earthquake on Sumatra Nias Island left a further 70,000 people displaced. The disaster caused an estimated USD 10 billion in damages.
One year on, countries affected by the tsunami have recuperated, with the assistance of donors and development agencies, most of their health sector capacities. They are also much better prepared to face similar challenges in the future.
- In Sri Lanka, the rehabilitation of close to 100 health clinics and hospitals is progressing and includes plans to upgrade another 100 non-damaged health centres.
- In Indonesia, of the 122 hospitals and health centres damaged or destroyed, 38 have been fully restored and 51 are under construction.
- In the Maldives, recovery focused on replacing lost equipment and building capacity for reproductive and mental health and emergency preparedness.
- In India and Thailand, assistance was provided for disease surveillance and reconstruction of health facilities.
WHO’s response was coordinated by HAC in SEARO and Headquarters. SEARO led on the overall response, particularly country level planning and activities, while Headquarters assisted with logistics, resource mobilization, international communications and interagency coordination.
For the past year, WHO has worked with affected countries to strengthen the health sector capacity to respond more effectively to potential disasters. Regional meetings were organized, drawing upon the tsunami experience, to support countries in preparing and strengthening health sector preparedness and response plans.
During a recent intercountry meeting on emergency preparedness and response, national authorities and NGOs developed 12 benchmarks for preparedness for countries to address and follow up. These include:
- Legal framework and structure for health emergency preparedness;
- Emergency management plans for health sector including Standard Operating Procedures;
- Emergency resource allocation and accountability procedures;
- Rules of engagement for external humanitarian actors based on needs;
- Community plans for mitigation, preparedness and response supported by training and regular simulation/mock drills;
- Building local capacity for emergency provision of essential services/supplies,
- Health facilities built and modified to withstand expected risks; and
- Early warning and surveillance systems for identifying health concerns.
Response to the 6 January UN Flash Appeal was generous, and more than USD 66.8 million were pledged and donated, or 95% of the total sum requested by WHO.
To maintain efficiency and transparency, WHO organized regular review missions to evaluate its operations.
The health sector recovery is on track, but the momentum for the rehabilitation phase needs to be maintained.