Oxfam closes historic tsunami response

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OXFORD, UK — Oxfam International is preparing to close its response to Indian Ocean tsunami at the end of this month, four years after the disaster. Oxfam and its local partner organizations assisted 2.5 million people in seven tsunami-affected countries in the largest emergency program in its history.

In a report published today, Barbara Stocking, the chair of the Oxfam International Tsunami Fund Board, said: ?What has been achieved is astounding. Hundreds of thousands of people are now living in better conditions than they were in before the tsunami thanks to the generous support we received from the public, the hard work of our staff and local partners and the resilience of the affected communities to rebuild their lives.?

Oxfam received $294 million in donations to help affected people—more than 90 per cent of it from the public. The sum was used in Indonesia for instance where Oxfam was the first international agency to provide housing to tsunami survivors in Aceh, going on to build 1,566 permanent houses. In Sri Lanka, the international aid agency helped to restore the livelihoods of almost 170,000 people. Oxfam also funded, among other projects, the reconstruction of eight tsunami-affected secondary schools serving around 6,000 students each year. In India, Oxfam helped to restore the livelihoods of 660,000 people and create structures to allow them to save money.

?The money we received allowed us not only to help meet the immediate emergency needs of tsunami-affected populations, but also to try to address the factors that made them vulnerable: not least poverty and a lack of influence over their own lives,? Stocking said.

The activities of Oxfam and its partners ranged from the provision of emergency clean water and sanitation to people displaced by the disaster; improving the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of poor and displaced people, especially women; and the construction of permanent houses to better protect communities against future disasters.

?The tangible results, such as the new houses and fishing boats, are only one marker of progress,? Stocking said. ?The less visible interventions are just as important. We have helped to give people better access to markets for their goods. We have helped them gain the knowledge they need to protect themselves against future disasters and the confidence to demand a say in decisions that affect them.?

Oxfam hopes that the world?s generous and speedy response to the devastation wrought by the tsunami will be regarded as landmark and will continue to improve the coordination between international agencies. Oxfam has extracted many lessons from the tsunami response, which have already been applied in subsequent disasters.

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