Statement by Dr LEE Jong-wook, WHO Director-General
Conference on the Health Aspects of the Tsunami Disaster in Asia
The tsunami catastrophe that struck Asia on 26 December 2004 is one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. Although the major impact was felt in India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, several other countries were affected including Myanmar and Somalia, or touched by the tsunami including Bangladesh, Kenya, Malaysia, Seychelles and Tanzania. Over 270,000 people are thought to have died or are missing and some 500,000 people were injured, with many needing urgent medical or surgical treatment. Overall, an estimated five million people have been directly or indirectly affected. Damage and destruction to infrastructure left many homeless and without adequate water and healthcare facilities.
The world - both governments and people - responded with unprecedented generosity, in solidarity with the rescue and relief efforts of the affected communities and local and national authorities.
I can think of no better way to honour the memory of the people who have died and to respect the survivors who continue to grieve and suffer, than to resolve to work hard to learn the lessons from this catastrophe. We must do much more to strengthen national capabilities in disaster preparedness and response and in reducing the overall impact of future disasters, at the same time as seeking improvements in the international assistance system.
I am sure that this conference will help us to move forward in the right way. I am grateful to the Royal Thai Government for their generous offer to co - host this conference on the health aspects of the tsunami disaster.
Dr Lee Jong-wook