News

Asia Gears Up for a Massive Relief Operation

Anjana Pasricha

Indian Ocean countries and international aid agencies are putting together what the United Nations says may be the largest relief operation the world has ever seen in response to Sunday's earthquake and tsunamis. The task is especially challenging in smaller countries such as Sri Lanka where the gigantic waves claimed the most victims.

From India to Indonesia, governments and volunteers have begun distributing food and clean water to hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in schools, temples and public buildings.

For many desperate survivors, aid has been slow in coming. Some countries face shortages of supplies, others need trucks and ambulances to ferry the injured and aid. Still others must repair broken roads and telecommunications to reach jungle villages and remote islands.

Alan Bradbury at the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in South Asia says the geographic reach of the disaster poses a challenge on a scale never seen before. Sunday's earthquake and tidal waves killed tens of thousands of people from Indonesia to East Africa.

"It is a massive disaster. I think I can't emphasize that too much," he said. "It is the extent of the area that has been affected, it is quite unprecedented. The needs are clearly much, much greater than we had initially estimated."

At least 11 countries in Asia and Africa are affected - the worst hit are Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and Thailand.

The United Nations says the relief operation will cost many billions of dollars. The Red Cross is already planning to triple its initial call for $6.5 million. Assessments of needs are still being made.

Aid agencies say in the coming weeks people will need food, clean water, clothes, blankets and medicines. In the long run, they need help to rebuild flattened homes and shattered lives.

In Sri Lanka, roads are jammed with dozens of trucks loaded with food and water packed by volunteer groups and local residents. But that is barely enough to cope in a country where more than one million out of its population of 19 million is now homeless. Some of the first relief planes from overseas are heading to the island.

Authorities in smaller countries such as Sri Lanka and the Maldives say they are struggling to cope with the disaster.

The deputy director of health services in the Maldives, Sheena Moosa, says the government is unable to meet the needs of thousands of people washed out of their homes.

"We do not have enough personnel to go and deliver [supplies]," she said. "And there's diarrheal disease outbreak occurring in these sites. We do not have equipment to attend to the major injured."

In Indonesia, the government has allowed U.N. staff access to Aceh province, where foreign aid workers had been barred. The U.N. workers will provide relief to about half a million people in a province that already had been battered by a separatist insurgency.

In Thailand, a naval ship headed to the devastated resort island of Phuket to attend to the many injured people.

In India, Oil Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer is supervising relief operations. He says the focus will be on rebuilding the hundreds of fishing communities that bore the brunt of the disaster.

"The highest priority has to be given to restoring the livelihood of the fishermen community. So that means boats, that means nets, that means enabling them to get back to work as soon as possible," he said.

Countries from around the world have stepped in to help, pledging everything from money to plastic sheets and tents. Governments have pledged nearly $70 million in initial aid. But coordinating the relief operations could stretch the resources of the battered countries and aid agencies.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs