Six years after disaster struck Asia, the sizeable aid programme mounted by the Finnish Red Cross is nearing completion in those countries hit by the Boxing Day tsunami.
On December 26, 2004, an earthquake beneath the ocean floor off the west coast of Sumatra caused enormous waves. More than 200,000 people were killed by the tsunamis that swept across the Indian Ocean. At least 1.8 million people in southern and southeast Asia lost their homes. The disaster also affected Boxing Day celebrations in Finland, as 179 Finns were among those who lost their lives. After the initial period of emergency aid, the Finnish Red Cross started a long-term aid programme in Finland and several of the stricken Asian countries. The tsunami aid programme has been in operation from 2005 to the present.
Water system after 50 years of drought
Among the tsunami-hit countries in Asia, the main recipients of Finnish Red Cross aid have been Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia.
Over the past year the aid programme has continued to build hospitals in Sri Lanka. In July 2010, a hospital was completed in Pottuvil in the Eastern Province and handed over to the local authorities. Deliveries of hospital supplies will be complete by the end of the year.
July also saw the completion of a water project in the Hulannuge area of the Eastern Province. More than 20 kilometres of water pipes were laid to provide tap water for 700 homes, a school and a hospital.
John Ekelund, who until the autumn of 2010 was in charge of the aid programme in Sri Lanka, says, ‘Hulannuge has suffered from a lack of water for more than 50 years. During the last quarter century over 20 different projects have been set up to find a reliable source of drinkable water and provide access to it for the inhabitants. The Finnish Red Cross is the first organisation to have actually achieved it.’
A project to build a hospital in Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka will continue into 2011, and is expected to be finished in the spring.
‘Two ward buildings are being added to the Chavakachcheri District Hospital in Jaffna. The buildings will house an operating theatre, a first-aid clinic, separate treatment wards for women, men, and children, and a dental surgery. A building to house hospital staff is also part of the project,’ says Ekelund.
In Indonesia, the tsunami programme is now complete. The summer of 2009 saw the beginning of a school-building project in Sigli in Aceh province. The school was finished and handed over for use in July 2010. This project, funded by the Finnish and Swiss Red Cross Societies, also included building two student halls of residence.
In Thailand, the tsunami programme continued throughout 2010 with support for sea rescue programmes and a blood transfusion unit. The budget for the support measures was EUR 200,000. Both projects are now complete.
The blood transfusion service created in Thailand was one of the largest undertakings of the Finnish Red Cross tsunami programme. The regional blood transfusion centre in Phuket may receive more aid in the form of a small investment in 2011, but apart from that the Finnish tsunami aid in Thailand is now complete.
Donation money almost spent
By December 2010, some EUR 30.3 million of the Finnish Red Cross tsunami aid donations were spent, leaving EUR 1.1 million. By the end of 2011 an estimated EUR 31.4 million will have been spent on tsunami aid. Most of next year’s money will go towards the hospital building in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.
In response to the tsunami, the Finnish Red Cross Asia Collection generated a total of EUR 26.7 million. The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs provided EUR 4.5 million for tsunami aid and the Ministry of the Interior contributed a further EUR 0.2 million.
The aid was distributed among the affected countries as follows:
Sri Lanka EUR 18.4 million
Thailand EUR 6.6 million
India EUR 0.5 million
Indonesia EUR 0.4 million
Bangladesh EUR 0.4 million
East Africa EUR 0.4 million
The Maldives EUR 60,000
Myanmar EUR 20,000