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Tsunami in the Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean tsunami was caused by an undersea earthquake on December 26, 2004, its epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The resulting tsunami most affected the countries above and had devastating impact across much of south and southeast Asia.
The earthquake that struck Indonesia in December 2004 triggered tsunami waves that affected more than 12 countries in Southeast Asia and Africa. The waves wiped out homes and entire communities, killing more than 200,000 people. The world responded to this unprecedented global disaster with an outpouring of aid. Yet it was not the millions of dollars in aid that determined how relief and recovery were carried out — but the underlying social, political, and economic inequalities in each country.
In Aceh, Indonesia, the government would not let aid be distributed in tsunami-affected communities in the conflict zones near rebel areas. They insisted on relocating those villagers to displaced camps under the control of government security forces. Years later, recovery in those villages lags behind. Undocumented Burmese migrants working in rubber plantations and construction sites in the tsunami-affected coast of Thailand were deliberately excluded by the Thai government from relief aid. In Sri Lanka, the government prohibited construction within 100 meters of the coastline; however, hotels are going up along the beach while fishing communities are forced to relocate from the coast, where they had been living and working for generations.
After three years of global response and huge investments of funds and resources, the recovery still seems a long way off for these vulnerable tsunami survivors.
» Read more about the background and ongoing impacts
UUSC's Rights in Humanitarian Crises Program focuses on the cause-and-effect relationship between predisaster socio-political inequalities and the unequal distribution of disaster relief and recovery resources. Our interventions in Indonesia focused on helping widows claim their rights to land and assets, and supporting the rebuilding of conflict-affected villages. In India, support focused on the socially excluded Dalits (formerly untouchables) by creating opportunities for alternative livelihoods to help them restore their lives with dignity. By working with our partners on the ground to analyze the way the levers of injustice operated in the tsunami response in each country, we were able to identify those groups left behind and figure out programs that answered their specific vulnerabilities.
» Read more about UUSC's approach and the ongoing work
Featured Stories About Our Response to the Tsunami
Relief organizations too often see the sewing machine as a solution for income generation for women. But the reality in Aceh is that most women farmed the land with their husbands. They don't need sewing machines; they need to get their land back.
When Kousar Parveen sets her mind to doing something, it happens. A young woman living in the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Parveen promotes education and justice for Pakistani women — a challenge, but one that she is up to.