Americans' Generosity Brings Relief to Disaster Areas
DATE: January 7, 2005
On December 26 a massive earthquake off the west coast of Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, triggered massive tsunamis that affected several countries throughout South and Southeast Asia, as well as Somalia, Tanzania, and Kenya in East Africa thousands of miles from the epicenter. Within a few hours, beautiful beaches and ocean side villages were reduced to piles of debris. It is sometimes difficult to fathom so much loss: over 150,000 lives lost and many more still missing and the complete destruction of homes, businesses, places of worship, and farms.
The images shown on the news are both shocking and devastating. The sudden tragedy has affected hundreds of thousands of families around the Indian Ocean. In the midst of such chaos it is difficult to know where to begin to rebuild. The United States, along with many other nations, has already begun delivering much needed aid to the affected nations. Thus far, the U.S. has pledged $350 million for emergency relief activities, grants for water and sanitation efforts, and food aid.
U.S. military forces continue to work in coordination with other nations to deliver food, water, medical supplies, and personnel. Currently, over 13,000 servicemen and women are involved in relief operations and have provided more than 610,000 pounds of supplies to the region. U.S. military helicopters and ships are bringing aid to inaccessible areas, especially in Indonesia.
Unfortunately, the size and scope of this disaster continues to grow. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 3 and 5 million people throughout the affected region are lacking basic survival requirements. The WHO reports that millions of people in these areas are at risk for disease due to sea water contamination, damaged water and sanitation systems, and overcrowded conditions. Improving access to clean drinking water and working sanitation facilities, as well as access to medical treatments, is essential to staving off a widespread epidemic.
My strong belief in the generosity and good will of the American people was reaffirmed by the immediate outpouring of compassion and earnestness to help. Humanitarian organizations continue to receive thousands of donations for relief operations. The most effective way to help assist the relief efforts is by making cash contributions to humanitarian organizations. For a list of humanitarian organizations accepting donations for the tsunami relief efforts, visit www.usaid.gov on the web.
Providing relief is only the first step on a long road to rebuilding the areas devastated by this natural disaster. The reconstruction of homes, businesses and urban infrastructure may take many years. And while we cannot replace the loss of loved ones, we can help the survivors as they begin to rebuild their homes and lives. It is important that we continue to support the ongoing humanitarian efforts in the region even after the news reports subside.