Emergency Relief Archive: look back at the Asian Tsunami

Looking back on the Asian Tsunami

Just after midnight GMT on Boxing Day 2004 an earthquake (known as the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake) hit in the ocean off the coast of Sumatra. The result was a tsunami (sometimes called a tidal wave) which killed in total around 225,000 people across 11 countries. The hardest hit countries were all ones where SOS Children has been established for decades: Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

The exact picture of devastation and the response of the Western world to it unfolded over the months and years which followed. It was one of the worst natural disasters in history in terms of deaths but generated one of the largest amounts of humanitarian aid ever (over $7 billion in total).  Some aid agencies collected more money than they were able to spend, the wisest stopped collecting and after the event significant negative coverage for NGOs occurred. With hindsight although there were many things which some NGOs should have done much better, the event was outside collective experience; in particular donations of over $1000 per victim dwarfed the $5 per victim typically received by NGOs for humanitarian disasters in other parts of the world (especially Africa). The worse criticism was concerning the time between donations being made and the victims being helped (although local planning laws certainly did not help with this either).

The fact that the tsunami was a new experience for NGOs makes learning from it especially important so we have decided to put the various field reports we received in the four countries SOS Children worked in together into this archive.

UN Review of post-tsunami NGO work

School rebuilt post tsunami Faced with all the criticism of NGOs, in the first quarter of 2006 the UN (via the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat) commissioned Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, to carry out a study of the reconstruction of villages in the regions of Indonesia that had been destroyed by the tsunami. The study looked at 74 Aid locations where a total of 35  NGOs had worked on rebuilding housing for victims.