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New homes, new towns and new glasses

Ten years on from the Indian Ocean tsunami, we remember how the world worked together to rebuild shattered lives and communities.

Monday December 22, 2014

Photo: IFRC
Children cycle past the new secondary school on Dhuvaafaru, Maldives. Photo: IFRC

The tsunami that cut a swathe of destruction across the Indian Ocean 10 years ago, also gave rise to one of the world's biggest relief and recovery efforts.  

Australian Red Cross played its part in extraordinary events: the relocation of an entire island's population; the removal of 2,000 garbage trucks' worth of dangerous waste from the Maldives; the rebuilding of 1,600 new homes in Aceh; and even the mass distribution of new glasses to people who lost their spectacles to the waves.  

Caused by an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, the massive tsunami affected 14 countries and killed over 226,000 people when it struck on 26 December 2004. In response, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement launched the biggest relief and recovery operation in its history.  

Through the generosity of the Australian community, Australian Red Cross participated with a $129 million relief operation focussing on the Maldives, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.  

The Maldivian island of Kandholhudoo was devastated, leaving 3,600 people homeless. Red Cross helped build a completely new community for these people on the nearby island of Dhuvaafaru. This involved 600 new homes, community centres, schools, roads, and the installation of water and power.  

See how the Dhuvaafaru community has held up »

The tsunami dumped mountains of dangerous waste along the Maldives coastline. Red Cross helped communities clean up in 74 islands, removing the equivalent of 2,000 garbage trucks' worth of waste from the pristine shores.  

In Aceh, where the tsunami hit hardest, Red Cross helped build more than 1,600 new homes and helped people get back to work through training in crop management, carpentry and catering. We also helped stop the spread of water-borne illnesses by building 2,500 toilets and distributing hygiene kits to families.  

In Sri Lanka, Red Cross helped communities solve one of the least expected consequences of the tsunami. Thousands of people lost their spectacles to the waves and could not afford to replace them. Red Cross distributed 80,000 pairs of spectacles and provided sight-saving operations to almost 6,000 people.

Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies have learnt valuable lessons from the tsunami. We are now investing more in disaster preparedness, including early warning systems and evacuation procedures. We consider how to address the needs of women and girls, people with disabilities and other groups in response and recovery efforts.  

Most importantly, we continue to support local communities to have their own emergency response teams. Maldivian Red Crescent grew out of local volunteers who assisted in the relief effort and is now one of the newest National Societies in the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.  

How the Red Cross Movement helped in the tsunami's wake »

The need for our work remains strong. Since the tsunami, the world has seen 6,525 disasters which have claimed over a million lives. Red Cross has been there, whether these disasters have made the headlines or not.  

Donate to Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery to help us be where we're needed next »