Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Three Years Later: An Aftermath of Hope

Today marks the anniversary of one of the world's largest natural disasters. It was on December 26, 2004, that an undersea earthquake triggered massive tidal waves that smashed ashore on multiple continents, killing more than 225,000 people in 11 countries and devastating thousands of miles of coastline with waves that reached up to 100 feet in height.

World Vision already had operations and immediately went to work in five of the hardest-hit countries: Indonesia (closest to the epicenter), Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, and Myanmar. It was the largest emergency relief operation in our 50-plus-year history.

While the scope of the disaster boggled the mind, the outpouring of compassion by a sympathetic world rivaled it. World Vision donors contributed nearly $380 million to tsunami relief operations, including $68 million contributed by private donors in the U.S. Some $347 million of the total amount raised went directly to relief needs in the field, with the balance supporting management and fund-raising operations.

Three years later, it is fair to ask: Did this effort make a difference? Did the outpouring of generosity substantially improve living conditions for the tsunami's survivors and lessen the chances of a similar disaster causing this kind of suffering again in the future?

To celebrate the recent closure of our relief program, World Vision's special Asia Tsunami Relief Team released a final report of the results of this effort. The report measured effectiveness on both objective and subjective levels.

Objectively, it pointed to the construction of more than 12,000 homes, 84 schools, 33 preschools, 27 health clinics, and 200 Child-Friendly Spaces — facilities where children can play, draw, sing, share their feelings, and begin to return to normalcy — as well as the provision of 20 ambulances, hundreds of hospital beds, and assisting more than 40,000 people with support and vocational training to get them back into paid work.

On a more subjective level, World Vision's relief work was heralded by a variety of independent organizations. The Fritz Institute — a non-profit organization that monitors the effectiveness of aid delivery — said World Vision was ranked highest by surveyed beneficiaries in Indonesia for the quality of its aid and the fairness of its distribution.

In India, World Vision shared the highest ranking with the central and state governments and a local organization — Social Need Education and Human Awareness. And in Thailand, TANGO International commended World Vision for its swift and enduring response and found that livelihoods in the organization's operational areas were now close to what they were before the tsunami struck.

And at the most subjective level, to understand the impact of the recovery effort you have to talk with tsunami survivors themselves. Murugesh (center child in the photo above) was only seven when the waves struck three years ago. His father died in the tsunami and the family's home was destroyed.

Murugesh, his three siblings, and his mother survived, but without a home to raise her children in the family's chances seemed slim.

What's more, Murugesh had serious physical disabilities.

However, bouyed with the resources provided by generous donors, World Vision was able to construct 40 apartment-style homes in the Hambantota district of southern Sri Lanka, specially designed to meet the special needs of children like Murugesh who have physical disabilities.

After her husband's death, his mother, Saraswathi, attempted to support her family by cooking and cleaning for others in her neighborhood. Because of her new home, however, she now is saving up to purchase a pushcart to sell her baked goods near the school her children attend.

"I have a kitchen now," she says proudly. "I have the freedom to do a lot more; it means everything to me that we have this house."

In addition to the new apartment complex, World Vision also has built a playground just outside Murugesh's front door. Like other children, Murugesh loves to spin on the merry-go-round and play games with his brothers and sisters. Previously, the family had to plan a monthly, all-day outing to a playground farther away. "Now I can watch Murugesh play with his brothers and sisters from my front door," says Saraswathi.

For Murugesh and his family, hope has been reborn in the aftermath of their darkest day.

(For more information on tsunami recovery, view our video updates or interactive page.)


Jen Randall said...

Thanks for this post. Do you have another link to the report you mentioned, initially?

Larry Short said...

Jen, our Asia Pacific site appears to be down at the moment. When it comes back up, the full PDF of the report will be available from this page:

- Larry

Larry Short said...

I've just been informed that service to our Asia Pacific site has now been restored, after a 14-hour outage. Enjoy!

bluesky said...

A great supporter of World Vision is is a dual-purpose site for building an English vocabulary and raising money for under privileged children in the most impoverished places around the world.

Check it out at