By the fifth anniversary of the 2004 Asian tsunami on December 26th, international agency Oxfam will close the last few remaining tsunami aid projects having helped approximately 2.5 million people. The tsunami response was the largest aid effort Oxfam has ever undertaken in its 67-year history.
This enormous aid effort was made possible by the overwhelming and unprecedented level of public generosity. Oxfam raised $294 million to carry out its aid program – 92 percent of this came from public donations.
However, the agency warned that future emergencies might not attract the level of funding needed. Oxfam projects that, in six years, the number of people affected by climatic crises could rise by 54 percent, to 375 million people, threatening to overwhelm the humanitarian aid system. Ongoing conflicts in places such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo will also need substantial and sustained humanitarian support.
Oxfam worked in seven tsunami hit countries; Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Thailand, and Somalia. In the wake of the disaster, which killed 227,000 people and left 1.7 million homeless, Oxfam first concentrated on immediate needs, emergency shelter, water supply, and public health. As the programs grew, work focused on helping people make a living and also on efforts to address some of the obstacles survivors faced such as land rights. There was also a particular emphasis on supporting women, not only with material help but also assisting them have a say in the way their communities organized themselves.
“The tsunami was an awesomely destructive event matched only by a truly monumental expression of public generosity and compassion. This allowed local people, local organizations, governments, and aid agencies to come together in an extraordinary aid effort. The disaster was on such a massive scale that it raised huge challenges to the aid world. The hard work of Oxfam staff and local partners and the sheer fortitude and resilience of the tsunami survivors helped us rise to those difficult challenges. As we close the final part of our response, we are leaving behind people and organizations in better shape. This was possible because, for the first time, we had the resources to stay with communities long enough to help them rebuild their lives and leave a legacy that we can be proud of,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.