A report to the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) identifies lessons learned from the humanitarian response. Recommendations stress the need for national ownership and leadership of disaster response and recovery, improved coordination, transparent use of resources, civil society engagement and greater emphasis on risk reduction.
In the understandable rush to provide assistance to the survivors of the tsunami insufficient attention has been devoted to protecting the human rights of those forcibly displaced by the disaster.
At a meeting in the Maldives convened in April by the International Centre for Migration and Health, public health specialists from tsunami-affected states assessed lessons learned from the humanitarian response.
The tsunami has reminded us of the need for a rights-based approach to post-disaster reconstruction. If housing, land and property rights are put at the heart of a post-disaster plan – rather than cast aside as too complicated or expensive – the chances are that it will succeed. If these rights are ignored or, more ominously, systematically violated, not only will rights be abused but also reconstruction will fail.
Many aid practitioners have expressed concerns that the tsunami has diverted funds away from other emergencies. Similar fears arise whenever there is a ‘major emergency’ but are they justified?
The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has now programmed approximately £68 million of relief assistance pledged in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Though the agency’s Humanitarian Response Review is not yet completed, preliminary lessons have been learned.
Half a million Acehnese – 12% of the province’s population – became IDPs as a result of the tsunami. For humanitarian actors, gaining access was a major challenge. Important lessons can be drawn in order to improve access to IDPs in future emergencies.
The opening up of Aceh to the international community in the aftermath of the tsunami offered a glimmer of hope to the Acehnese. However, as rehabilitation and reconstruction plans start to be implemented, hopes for peace and development are being dashed by government insensitivity to local needs.
There is increased awareness that (RH) care is a lifesaving necessity in the early stages of an emergency. An evaluation in Aceh has highlighted current shortcomings and the need for greater training and awareness raising.
Although the humanitarian community is aware of the value of coordination, field experience in Indonesia in the first few months after the tsunami provides some salutary lessons.
The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement clearly state that those forced to flee natural disasters are to be regarded as IDPs. However, some agencies in post-tsunami Aceh have been reluctant to use the term and to address protection issues.
Humanitarian agencies must find a balance between acknowledging people’s abilities to help themselves and delivering appropriate assistance.
In a country with a de facto dual state structure, is it possible to build a conflict- and peace-sensitive recovery framework?
In Sri Lanka psychosocial interventions became a priority for emergency response largely led by the concerns of the international media and aid agencies . Interventions were quickly launched but coordination was poor and lessons learned from years of pre-tsunami conflict-related psychosocial programmes were not heeded.
Livelihoods in Sri Lanka have not only been affected by the initial devastation of the tsunami but also by the policies and practices of the government and the humanitarian aid community’s post-disaster response.
Since 1987 UNHCR has provided protection and assistance to those displaced by the twenty-year-long civil war in Sri Lanka. UNHCR has extended its role to assist in the post-tsunami humanitarian crisis.
The impact of the Asian tsunami was unprecedented and the logistical challenges of meeting the needs of those affected was enormous. Had the tsunami happened even five years ago, World Vision would not have been able to respond nearly as effectively as it did.
In Sri Lanka, the values of participation and decentralisation were undermined by many international agencies in the post-tsunami rush.
The human rights imperative that should underpin all humanitarian response was denied to large numbers of people in the tsunami crisis in South and South-East Asia.
A symposium of academics and human rights activists organised by the Calcutta Research Group assessed the extent to which relief and rehabilitation initiatives in Tamil Nadu and the Andaman and Nicobar islands have recognised the rights of those affected to receive aid without discrimination based on caste, religion or gender.
Many vulnerable people in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu lost homes, livelihoods and access to schooling in the tsunami. Assistance to these already marginalised groups must be more sensitive to their particular needs.
While relief organisations are now reviewing their post-tsunami operations, few evaluations include multiple organisations. Rarer still is an assessment of the views of those at the receiving end of rescue and relief services – the ‘beneficiaries’.
The December 2004 tsunami thrust the Republic of Maldives into the public eye, changing its image overnight from idyllic honeymoon destination to disaster zone.
The tsunami reminded us that the world is a global village with common vulnerabilities but also that the needs of Africa often take second place.