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Somalia One Year After Tsunami

Today is the first anniversary of the tsunami that left nearly 230 thousand people dead and missing in Asia and Africa. The vast majority of the casualties occurred in Asia.

In East Africa, 164 people were reported killed, most in Somalia. For a look at the progress in rebuilding tsunami-hit areas of Somalia, English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua spoke with Maxwell Gaylard, UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia. Mr. Gaylard spoke from New Delhi, India, where is he currently on leave.

“I think you can say that the first thing that was accomplished was to deal with the immediate emergency. And the wave struck on the 26th of December and humanitarian relief was reaching the affected communities on the 28th of December. Now, that emergency phase continued for a few months, probably say around April, May, and you could say quite fairly that nobody died during that period as a direct effect of the tsunami. In other words the emergency was dealt with.”

Since then humanitarian agencies have been operating in a recovery phase. Mr. Gaylard says, “Some of it has gone relative quickly, some of it a little bit slowly. But things are happening in terms of schools, clinics, sometimes where they haven’t been before. Work is being done on roads, on the fishing industry itself.” The tsunami destroyed the northeastern fishing town of Hafun and the UN official talked about progress in relocating and rebuilding the town. “I’ve been to Hafun a number of times over the course of the year and I was there probably about a month ago. In fact, the old village, which was a little bit below sea level and was wiped out, is being relocated just a kilometer or so back towards the hills. That has started in the sense that there’s a brand new school. That’s been done by the UN. Some NGO interests have helped with initial housing. And eventually the whole town will be built a couple of meters above the water line.”

However, he says work on rebuilding the fishing fleet in Somalia has gone more slowly due to the need to survey the damage and determine the type of boats that are needed. But Mr. Gaylard does say, “Hundreds of fishing boats are now being constructed in Somalia and will be distributed to communities down the coastline over the next couple of months.”