Aid agencies report significant progress has been made in helping survivors of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami rebuild their lives and livelihoods three years after the disaster struck. While progress has been made across the region, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says it will take another few years before the job is done. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Red Cross headquarters in Geneva.
Nearly 250,000 people in 14 countries lost their lives in the tsunami. The disaster that struck on December 26, 2004 devastated towns and communities and elicited an unprecedented outpouring of money.
The International Red Cross Federation received more than $2.5 billion. The agency's special representative for tsunami recovery, Jerry Talbot, tells VOA, more than 60 percent of the money has been spent.
He says the largest amounts have gone toward shelter and community construction, emergency relief and health and care. He says most of the money has been spent in the three worst affected countries - Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
A key element in the recovery process, he says, is disaster risk reduction.
"Whatever we do, we must do it in a way that reduces the vulnerability of those people that were affected and makes them better able and more resilient to respond if there are any future disasters. I am not just talking of massive, big disasters like tsunamis, but coping with daily emergencies that happen in many of these very vulnerable communities," Talbot said.
Talbot says one of the biggest programs was that of providing decent shelter for up to 80,000 people in Indonesia who were living in tents or with host families. He says they have been put in good transitional shelters.
But, it will take a few more years to provide them with permanent housing.
He blames this on a variety of bureaucratic problems.
"There were many issues and exchanges around access to land ownership," he added. "Many people lost all their documentation and all their documents that justified and gave them rights, certain legal rights to property. So this had to be reconstructed."
Talbot says there were similar problems in Sri Lanka, but he notes progress in that country has mainly been held back because of the conflict. He says aid agencies have not been able to do as much work in the north and some parts of the east as in the South.
He says funds received must be distributed equitably. So, the Red Cross is setting aside money that will be used for the north when that becomes possible.
About one-third of the Maldives' 300,000 people were affected by the tsunami. A total of 13 islands were destroyed and the fishing and tourism industries were devastated.
Talbot says recovery projects have moved ahead quickly in the Maldives and he expects to complete the work by the end of next year.