Three years after the Indian Ocean tsunami international aid agency Oxfam has spent over NZ$280m on disaster recovery work, helped over 2.3m people in seven countries and is on track to finish its programmes in December 2008.
Now Oxfam is using lessons learned from the tsunami to help poor people who are facing larger and more frequent disasters due to climate change.
The agency has learnt that it must work harder with local people, organisations and governments on preparing for disasters and reducing their impact.
Oxfam has concentrated its work on the most vulnerable women and men to ensure the aftermath of the tsunami does not make the poor even poorer. For example, it has funded a tailoring workshop for abandoned women and people cured of leprosy in Pondicherry, southeast India. Many former leprosy patients are left disabled and ostracized by their families and society, and the workshop allows them to earn a dignified living producing fine fabrics, which are exported to Europe.
Barbara Stocking, Director of Oxfam, said: “The vast amount of money donated by ordinary men and women around the world has made a huge difference to the lives of those affected by the tsunami.
“The tsunami was a tragedy, but in responding to this disaster we found literally hundreds of opportunities to improve poor people’s lives. We could give women new jobs, help farmers find new markets and build people better houses than they had before. People are now less vulnerable to future shocks and disasters.
“There have been challenges, such as lack of access in northern and eastern Sri Lanka due to the conflict, which have left some tsunami-affected people without the help they need. However, three quarters of the way through our tsunami response we are proud of what we have achieved.”
Some of Oxfam’s major achievements include:
- In Aceh, Indonesia, Oxfam’s wells, latrines and water systems have benefited over 40,000 people. A partner organisation funded by Oxfam has completed 28 schools. Oxfam has worked hard to include marginalised people in the recovery work, such as getting more women involved in agriculture. In Indonesia it has planted mangroves as coastal defences, a project which provides employment and improves the ecosystem.
- In Sri Lanka, 240,000 people have benefited from livelihoods programmes, including loans and vocational training. Oxfam continues to supply clean water and emergency food. However security problems and movement restrictions have slowed work - particularly house building - in the north and east of the country.
- In India, Oxfam has worked with poor fishermen and agriculture workers, helping them to become better organised and less reliant on middlemen. Oxfam partner organisations have provided 48,000 people with clean water and safe sanitation.
- In Burma, Oxfam has helped more than 55,000 people and constructed or renovated 34 schools. In Thailand the agency has worked with marginalised migrants and in Somalia it helped 83,000 people with education, water and sanitation.