Main Navigation

Tsunami reconstruction must now gather pace

Monday December 26, 2005

Embargoed 00.01 - 26 December 2005

Australian Red Cross is predicting that the pace of expenditure will increase in the coming year to help restore communities shattered by the Boxing Day Quake and tsunami one year ago.

'The first months were spent saving and securing lives and that part of the operation was a success,' said the CEO of Australian Red Cross, Robert Tickner. 'In the aftermath of a disaster on a scale not seen for decades, there were no outbreaks of disease or widespread hunger. That was thanks to a swift and decisive response and enough funding to get aid to where it was needed.'

But Mr Tickner said the pace of reconstruction and expenditure must now pick up to help vulnerable people live once again with dignity and hope.

'We have only taken the first steps in what will be a very long process to rebuild lives, livelihoods and the economies of affected communities, who themselves must determine what their communities will look like,' he said.

'It is too soon to judge the success of the recovery effort. It will take years to rebuild much of the area affected by the disaster. Roads are gone, including main arteries for transport. Entire areas of land where once there were homes are now permanently underwater. And with title deeds destroyed, proving who owned what land is still a significant hurdle for the authorities to overcome,' said Mr Tickner.

'Imagine entirely rebuilding Ballarat or Newcastle. While we should move as fast as possible, we must remember that reconstructing tsunami-affected communities cannot be done in a matter of months, nor should it be rushed. This is not a race to spend funds fast but to build back better. It is a challenge to leave the affected communities in a better and safer condition than before the tsunami,' added Mr Tickner.

But despite the enormous logistical challenges, there are a lot of positive signs of recovery. 'In Banda Aceh, Australian Red Cross is committed to build 1,500 houses that will accommodate nearly 8,000 people,' said Mr Tickner.

'And in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, Australian Red Cross is investing $12 million in the reconstruction of four entire villages, including the building of almost 600 houses, community infrastructure such as roads, water and sanitation systems, community buildings as well as income generation projects for up to 2,500 people.'

Australian Red Cross raised nearly $117 million to assist tsunami-affected communities. So far, of the funds raised, $103.4 million or 88% has been allocated or spent on 44 long-term rehabilitation and recovery programs such as disposing of 290,000 cubic metres of tsunami debris and waste in the Maldives, an Aceh-wide ambulance service, health facilities and housing reconstruction in Sri Lanka and Indonesia.