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Tsunami Recovery Continues

Two years after a massive tsunami devastated the Indian Ocean region, a top U.N. official working on the cleanup effort says recovery is moving along with continued international cooperation. VOA's Sean Maroney reports from Washington.

Looking back to the December 2004 tsunami, United Nations special envoy Eric Schwartz says much work still needs to be done in order to bolster efforts to help the hundreds-of-thousands of people struggling in the affected areas. "Progress does not diminish the importance of exploring the myriad challenges encountered in the recovery process, examining gaps in performance and considering lessons learned," he said.

Schwartz says one of the lessons learned is that, whenever possible, the power to rebuild rests within the region. "What we discovered is that where the recovery process works best, it was because there were local authorities who were empowered and were capable," he said.

During the last two years, foreign governments and private donors have pledged about $13.5 billion in aid.

However, there have been widespread complaints from tsunami victims that they have not been getting the aid fast enough, with many still living in temporary shelters. Last month, only a third of the displaced people had been placed in permanent homes. Some critics say billions of dollars may have been misappropriated or even withheld from devastated areas.

The U.N. envoy acknowledges the complaints but says efforts are being made to prevent corruption. "We can't guarantee that there won't be stories about corruption and that there won't be acts of corruption in this recovery process. But what I can say is that the mechanisms that have been put in place help to make more likely the fact that misbehavior will be either deterred or uncovered," he said.

Schwartz says one of these measures is the ability to track financial contributions on the Internet.