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Aid Flow Begins as Governments Plan for Long-Term Recovery in Tsunami-Stricken Areas

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International relief efforts to reach millions of survivors of southern Asia's earthquake and tsunami are gaining pace. The improving aid flow comes as the death toll from the devastation nears 140,000.

Increasingly, aid is reaching the isolated areas battered by a massive earthquake and tsunami waves eight days ago.

The U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP) already has reached 210,000 people in Sri Lanka. WFP aid also is likely to go to the Maldives and parts of Burma's west coast.

Tony Branbury, the WFP regional director in Bangkok said Monday that progress is being made despite distribution "constraints and bottlenecks." Even in Indonesia's battered Aceh Province, where two-thirds of the deaths occurred, the WFP is reaching victims.

"We have succeeded in getting enough food into Banda Aceh to feed everyone for two weeks and now that food is being distributed to the people who really need it," said Mr. Branbury.

The death toll is expected to top 150,000, as rescuers give up hope that any of the thousands of missing people will be found alive.

Aid had been slow to reach many of the 11 countries hit by the quake and tsunami partly because of poor infrastructure and the fact that many of the worst-off communities are very isolated.

Mr. Branbury says the goal is to get food to all those in need within two weeks. "Our capacity to feed people who desperately need assistance now is increasing everyday."

Troops, navy ships and military aircraft from half a dozen countries are helping deliver aid.

The U.S. military is using Thailand's Utapao air base as a staging area for aid flights.

"The idea is that we're going to do this long enough for the host nation governments to basically get back on their feet to be able to provide their own support," said Gunnery Sergeant Charles Albrecht, a U.S. Marine Corps spokesman in Thailand.

 

The devastation has increased calls for a regional tsunami warning system. On Monday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for international cooperation to establish a system. Thailand's government also has endorsed the idea.

Long-term recovery efforts will be the focus of an emergency relief donors' summit in Jakarta, Thursday. Several regional heads of government and foreign ministers of the assistance countries are attending.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was arriving in Thailand late Monday, and on Tuesday is to travel to areas hit by the tsunami before attending the Jakarta conference.

New Zealand's ambassador to Thailand, Peter Rider, says the summit will help lay the ground for recovery.

"The donors' conference is a chance for leaders to really grapple with the sheer size of this disaster and try to allocate out to the various countries who is best at doing what to help in the longer term," he said.

Aid agencies are warning the victims will require long-term aid and psychological support as the region struggles with the slow task of recovery from the tsunami's devastation.

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