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Aid Groups Examine Tsunami Efforts 5 Years Later


Save the Children releases report detailing results of its five-year-response

As the world prepares to mark the five-year anniversary of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, aid groups are reviewing the lasting impact of their efforts. One such organization, U.S.-based Save the Children, has released a report detailing the results of its five-year response plan.

More than 200,000 people were killed in December 2004 when a 9.1-magnitude earthquake beneath the Indian Ocean sent giant waves crashing ashore.

South Asia was the hardest hit region, though the tsunami's effects were felt from Australia to South Africa. Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Somalia saw the most damage and destruction, and have been the main countries of focus for international aid groups.

Save the Children, the U.S. branch of the International Save the Children Alliance, has focused both its immediate emergency response and its long term recovery efforts on these five countries. Indonesia alone accounted for at least half of the disaster's death toll.

The group's deputy director for programs in Indonesia at the time of the tsunami, Emily Elder, says Save the Children responded to the disaster within hours, providing emergency relief and shelter for thousands of victims. However, she says the most important work by Save the Children has been done in the years since. "We have the community work together to develop an early warning system, and Indonesia's been quite successful in this since the tsunami. But they now look at when an earthquake occurs, how does it rate on the Richter scale? And will that potentially trigger a tsunami? And for what areas? And even through cell phones. messages are sent out via text message. And within communities, there's a communication system to warn people of this happening again," she said.

Elder says the most important lesson learned from the tsunami has been preparedness. In addition to working toward earlier warning and disaster alerts, she says Save the Children has focused on educating both children and adults on emergency readiness.

This includes teaching children to map their communities, recognize danger-prone areas and plan escape routes. It means instructing adults to prepare a package of important identification documents they would need to take if evacuated. The group is also working with community leaders to plan and prepare for the worst should disaster strike again.

The tsunami-affected area is part of what's described as the "Pacific Ring of Fire," or the arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin. Elder says Save the Children's regional preparation and risk reduction efforts will be critical to saving lives in the future.

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