Five Years Later: Indian Ocean Emergency Response


The images are unforgettable from that December 26 five years ago, when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami caused such destruction to countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Direct Relief, thanks to a generous outpouring of support from donors, has provided almost $60 million in medical humanitarian aid to help people affected by the tsunami live healthier, better lives.

The reach of Direct Relief tsunami-response programs has been enormous in scope and geographic range. In total, more than $13.5 million in targeted cash grants and $45.4 million in medicines, supplies, and equipment have been deployed for tsunami relief to nearly 90 local partners in India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. Initiatives focused on seven specific responses: disease prevention; health facility construction and rehabilitation; medical and technical equipment assistance; health and medical services; psycho-social services; shelter; and water and sanitation.

For example, Direct Relief’s support helped to rebuild fishing villages in Thailand as well as build latrines in a refugee camp in Sri Lanka. In the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands off the coast of India, 34 health clinics have been constructed and outfitted with supplies and equipment, replacing the facilities destroyed in the tsunami. And in Chennai, India, Direct Relief has funded training for more than 700 nursing assistants through a program sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline. The program pays tuition and living expenses during a two-year course that prepares young women for careers in the medical field. These young women often come from very humble backgrounds and are able to make a living wage while contributing to health care service in India upon graduation.

Our tsunami response has proven strong in subsequent emergencies. For example, when floods struck India earlier this year, a telemedicine van that Direct Relief provided to Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences immediately after the tsunami was able to bring sophisticated, necessary medical aid to populations displaced by the floods. Based on the success of the first telemedicine van project, a similar van is now being constructed for another partner in India, the Meenakshi Mission Hospital. This new state-of-the-art vehicle will also be able to reach rural, remote populations with sophisticated medical care, screenings, and consultations via satellite connection. Direct Relief provided Meenakshi Hospital with $50,000 in 2008 as initial funding for the new van’s construction, and another $50,000 will be allocated in early 2009.

Direct Relief is providing ongoing support to medical facilities in the tsunami-affected region, especially in communities where health care was not adequate before the tsunami. Yayasan Bumi Sehat (YBS) provided emergency services in Aceh, Indonesia, one of the hardest-hit regions. A nonprofit, nongovernmental organization with a staff of mostly nurses and midwives, YBS established a clinic and mobile services in Aceh following the tsunami. YBS has spent almost 15 years operating a safe motherhood and infant survival clinic in Bali, and after the emergency worked to bring in trained medical professionals, recognizing that a lack of primary and prenatal care was a serious concern for a population of more than 10,000. Its vision, dedication, provision of care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, and respect for the community in which it works has made YBS a valued Direct Relief partner for more than two years.


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