Ten Years Later: 2004 South Asian Earthquake and Tsunami


South Asian Earthquake and Tsunami 2004

2004 South Asian Earthquake and Tsunami destruction
2004 South Asian Earthquake and Tsunami destruction

This week — December 26, 2014 — commemorates the 10-year anniversary of the South Asian earthquake and tsunami, one of the most devastating natural disasters in recorded history. This unprecedented event affected populations in five time zones and 14 countries, killing over 225,000 people, injuring hundreds of thousands, leaving 1.7 million people homeless, and destroying infrastructure and livelihoods.

A boat is grounded on a house

As is often the case in emergency situations, the poorest and most vulnerable groups suffered the greatest from the lack of access to quality medical services, as well as the loss of land, shelter, and employment opportunities.

Tsunami Destruction

Thanks to a strong partner network in the region, as well as an incredibly generous outpouring of support from donors, Direct Relief was able to provide almost $60 million in medical humanitarian aid to in response to the massive disaster. In order to most effectively utilize the unprecedented financial and in-kind resources received in response to the tsunami, Direct Relief developed a comprehensive strategy that allocated resources per country as well as per specific relief, recovery, and rehabilitation activity.

Please see Direct Relief’s aid distribution map for a detailed view of where resources have been delivered.

The Response

Loading Bay with Trucks Transporting Direct Relief Medical Supplies

Response efforts focused on a number of health-related areas of need: emergency and on-going medical services; disease prevention; health facility construction and rehabilitation; emergency transport; medical and technical equipment assistance; psycho-social services; water and sanitation; shelter; and the restoration of livelihoods. These varied but interconnected activities enabled the support of immediate and long-term healthcare services, as well as helped to realize the important goal of “building back better”.

In total, more than $13.5 million in targeted cash grants and $45.4 million in medicines, nutritional products, supplies, and equipment were deployed for tsunami relief and recovery to nearly 90 local partners in the hardest hit countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.


Working with in-country organizations that had the greatest stake in the success of response and recovery efforts, Direct Relief supported projects that improved the overall quality and availability of both urgent and on-going healthcare services such as the building of community healthcare centers in isolated or underserved areas that previously had little or no access to medical services; the reconstruction of physically stronger, more disaster-resistant, and larger medical clinics (often adding accommodations for a trained healthcare provider); the purchase of ambulances including a specialized vehicle for the care of neonates; the purchase of medical equipment including emergency, intensive care, and diagnostic items; the design and building of customized mobile telemedicine units that can use the expertise of physicians in tertiary care facilities to diagnose and treat people in more remote areas; the cleaning and rebuilding of proper wells, toilets, and septic tanks; and the training of local healthcare providers.

The Recovery

Over the years, many of the activities that proved particularly effective have been expanded or duplicated in other areas of high need, permanently strengthening and improving access to healthcare services for millions of people.

It is still difficult to comprehend the extent of loss and destruction suffered by the individuals, families, and communities affected by the South Asian tsunami. But the strength, resilience, and steadfastness of survivors determined to rebuild their lives over the past 10 years has been, and will remain, an inspiration for Direct Relief and the world.

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