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Chris Herlinger

With Courage, In Hope Five Years after the Tsunami


With Courage, In Hope


With Courage, In Hope Five Years after the Tsunami By Chris Herlinger Tomm Kristiansen, editor/ACT communications officer William Sage, project advisor and researcher Callie Long, consulting and photo editor Elizabeth Haak, copy editor Paul Jeffrey, photo consultant Gilberto Domingues Lontro, design Cover photo by Paul Jeffrey Printed by Naturaprint Copyright Š2009 ACT International www.act-intl.org All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without permission is prohibited. ACT International 150 route de Ferney P.O. Box 2100 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland


With Courage, In Hope Five Years after the Tsunami by Chris Herlinger


Table of Contents Foreword

3

Introduction

7

South Asia Earthquake and Tsunami

9

The end of the world

11

The day the sea died

19

Meeting chaos with care

35

Tarps and trauma

61

The year’s advances

91

Courage despite conflict

119

Evaluating the effort

137

Ongoing dilemmas and opportunities

159


“Saving Human Lives is No Place for Amateurs” an interview with Jan Egeland

175

Afterword

181

Author’s Acknowledgements

185

The supporters

187

About ACT International

191

Bibliography

193

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With Courage, In Hope


Foreword

T

he tsunami that slammed the coastline of Indian Ocean countries on December 26, 2004, was to result in the largest humanitarian relief operation by the ACT International alliance ever undertaken. ACT’s greatest strength is its structure. Working in the very communities they had served for years, ACT members were able to start picking up the pieces before word of the disaster had reached other parts of the world. The complexities of responding to this disaster of unimagined scale were massive and yet members of the alliance did everything possible to assist, galvanizing the alliance as a strong family. As well as being an account of the ACT alliance’s relief and humanitarian response, this book is a tribute to those people who died and to the strength of character

SEAN HAWKEY, ACT Development


of those who survived. ACT’s humanitarian imperative to save lives took on additional meaning when it became clear soon after the tsunami that among the lives lost were those of our own member organisations’ staff. In the days immediately following the tsunami, surviving staff worked tirelessly and courageously to save lives and provide relief as they mourned the loss of loved ones and sometimes entire communities. In responding to this vast humanitarian emergency, the ACT alliance was faced with many challenges at all levels including coordinating office level, funding member level and implementing member level. Some of the issues and challenges from the ACT members’ response took four years to resolve. Many important lessons were learned, some of which are highlighted in this book. The magnitude of the emergency revealed shortcomings in the alliance’s appeals mechanism. The amount of money coming in simply overwhelmed smaller implementing organisations. One member that worked with an annual budget of US$300,000 almost overnight found itself working to a US$9 million budget. With the deluge of funds, that organisation had to swiftly upgrade its response but organisationally found the situation very challenging. It took time to get things working effectively. Some implementing members received funds directly from other members, as well as through the ACT appeal mechanism. In other cases, members that were expected to have been part of the appeal were silent when it came to requesting funds because they were receiving funds directly from other members. At the end of the appeal, a

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number of implementing members were left with unused balances. However, these members were later able to request surplus funds for rehabilitation programmes. Since the tsunami, the alliance has made deliberate and successful efforts to learn from these experiences. Five years after the tsunami, it is time to look back and reflect: on the devastation caused in a multitude of countries miles apart, immediate relief efforts, rehabilitation efforts and long-term programmes to return communities to normal and dignified livelihoods. It is a tribute to the efforts of humanitarian workers and to the tremendous courage of local people to rebuild their lives. It is a humble story of ACT’s successes, shortcomings and learnings. John Nduna

Geneva, November 2009

Foreword

5


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Introduction

M

embers of the global alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) International supported communities after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004 — an event whose sheer size, scale and magnitude still defies belief. In India, Indonesia, Somalia and Sri Lanka, ACT members worked tirelessly — though never alone. Their joint efforts were mirrored in the work those in affected communities took to rebuild their lives — work that continues five years later. Due to the constraints of time and space, this account of the ACT response — much of it based on the original reporting and accounts from ACT members — is, and can only be, a partial snapshot of the network’s recovery and reconstruction efforts. Not every member’s response has been noted here, and even if that were possible, numbers, photographs and stories alone cannot, and will never, tell the full narrative of an event that tested the ACT network and the communities it assisted. This is a story of resilience and determination. But in an alliance with members of different sizes and strengths it was also a story of pressures and tensions. The northern


members were flooded with an unprecedented amount of donations; the implementing members in the global south felt the daily pressure on the ground: to get aid as quickly as possible to those trying to rebuild their lives. ACT members accompanied these communities even when, as in the case of the Nias, Indonesia earthquake, other disasters struck — compounding problems and making the response to the tsunami all the more difficult.Yet no matter how challenging that proved to be, ACT members, motivated by compassion and service, reached out to people in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 3:9: “For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.” Working side by side, both survivors and responders acted together with courage and in hope. A word about the narrative. This is a collective, collaborative project, and the “spine” of the work is the reporting and news gathering of ACT-member communicators and staff during the initial years of the tsunami response. Some of the original language from those stories has been retained, though throughout I have tried to credit the work of ACT members in the text. Just as this is a story of the survivors, this book is also a tribute to the work of a dedicated, committed and talented group of journalists and humanitarian workers within the ACT International network.

Chris Herlinger

New York, November 2009

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With Courage, In Hope


South Asia Earthquake and Tsunami

India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Seychelles, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Thailand OCHA Situation Report no. 7 Issued 30 December 2004 Produced by ReliefWeb Map Centre Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs United Nations - 30 December 2004


Paul Jeffrey, ACT International


The end of the world

W

hen I visited Banda Aceh nearly a year after the tsunami, I was immediately drawn to the ocean itself. Not to fish or to swim but merely to look and marvel at the earth’s — certainly the ocean’s — destructive power. At that point, November 2005, the Indian Ocean was giving away few of its secrets: spotting a rough channel here and there could only begin to give an idea of what happened a year before. For the most part, the ocean seemed languid and peaceful. Unfortunately, the real effects of the tsunami could be felt not far inland, on the coastline of Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, located on the northern tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island. There, neighborhoods like Kampung Mulia and Lampaseh Kota took the full brunt of what happened. A year later, surviving residents, living in tents and awaiting permanent housing, were still struggling with memories of an accursed day. I met Afifuddin, 26, a quiet, friendly but shy information technology graduate, who acted as a community representative for Lampaseh Kota, a once-vibrant neighborhood that had been laid waste and was something of “ground zero” for the tsunami


in Banda Aceh. The urban village was recovering from an almost indescribable loss of life. Out of an original population of 5,000, Lampaseh Kota had lost all but 1,000 of its residents — a loss caused by death, displacement and homelessness. Wherever the tsunami did not kill instantly, it caused havoc. When Afifuddin spoke of December 26 and its aftermath — of the panic, confusion and pandemonium — he did so quietly, almost dispassionately. He made the disaster more understandable. To the outside world, deaths by the hundreds, by the thousands, by the tens of thousands, when repeated by government and humanitarian officials, start to become abstractions. But when Afifuddin spoke of specific losses — of his brother, his sister, his grandmother, nephews and nieces, all dead — the scale of the tsunami became more understandable. It certainly became more heart-wrenching. Afifuddin and his nephew were his family’s sole survivors. After initial pleasantries and greetings, Afifuddin, a bit warily, showed me what had been his home for most of the last year: a tent neatly outfitted with a sleeping bag, a mat and boxes of relief supplies. As he opened the flaps of the tent, Afifuddin’s eyes — strikingly sad for a 26-year-old — looked far in the distance, toward the ocean; it was a crisp, windy day in Aceh and there were few clouds in the brilliant blue sky. Yet even on a day that seemed peaceful, something of the threats of the last year seemed to be in the air, never far away. Afifuddin told me he and his neighbors were grateful for the humanitarian assistance they received in the first year. But three things were needed before any of them could take the next steps toward anything approaching full recovery: a home, a job and ways

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to deal with trauma. Perhaps the most urgent step was moving into permanent housing. “People may have the basics, but they [eventually] have to have housing,” he told me, gesturing and making it clear that he was tired of living in a cramped tent. Not far from Lampaseh Kota stood another urban village, Kampung Mulia —”noble village” in Indonesian. Kampung Mulia was home to Marzuki Arsyad, then 34, a pedi-cab driver and fisherman. Arsyad’s immediate family had fared better than many in his neighborhood — Arsyad’s wife, Hamidiah, a physics teacher, worked in another

The end of the world

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Hege Opseth, NCA-ACT International


Orla Clinton, Church of Sweden-ACT International

A woman runs toward a helicopter delivering relief supplies.


city and was not in Banda Aceh on December 26. But Arsyad lost brothers, sisters and other family — 13 in all — and he acknowledged his memories of that day refused to lie dormant, and were never far from the surface. “We were like people losing our minds.We saw these bodies — women, children, older people — all around us, and we couldn’t do anything.” I spoke to Arsyad several times during my stay in Aceh. Like Afifuddin, he was focused on the future, and told me frequently that Aceh’s ultimate recovery depended on developing the region’s economic base. In one sense, Arsyad was better off than Afifuddin — he was about to move into a new home not far from where his fishing vessel was docked. Arsyad felt a sense of relief and gratitude but he also could not deny the reality of continued stress, bitter and baleful memories. “We lost everything,” he said. One afternoon I talked to Arsyad and his friend Ibrahim Daud as the two sat drinking coffee and tea in a spot not far from where, only a year earlier, they had buried bodies and walked amid mangled body parts. “How do you cope with that?” I asked. By praying, they said, and trying to keep bad memories at bay. “If you keep busy,” said Daud, “you’re fine.” Arsyad was occupied with preparing to move into his new home. He showed me the outside — an unfinished but handsome brick structure. Yet the promise of the future seemed a bit stuck in the past: parts of surrounding Kampung Mulia remained mired in mud. There were still signs of lives lost and worlds destroyed — pieces of dishware and silverware, for example, remained visible, embedded in the wet, dark soil.

The end of the world

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For some that evoked bad memories: many of the fishermen were on boats far out on the Indian Ocean on December 26 and had no clue of the disaster. When they returned to shore, they walked amid mangled bodies and buried them wherever they could find the space. Compounding that trauma were the difficulties in reclaiming their livelihoods. First there was the actual destruction, on December 26, of boats and fish markets. Then there was an unforeseen result of the response itself. In this case, so many boats were donated by relief groups that the shores off of Aceh were becoming “fished out” — too many boats had begun depleting the waters of the fishermen’s catch. Arsyad and his colleagues had recently returned to shore with little to show for nearly 18 hours of labor. In short, the intervening year had not brought much in the way of peace, and whatever idyll they could find was interrupted by bad memories of that first day. “If you didn’t experience it, you couldn’t even imagine it,” Arsyad said. “We thought it was the end of the world.” It was not — even for those like Zainal Arifin, a fishing friend of Arsyad’s who lost his wife, two children and a sister. His boat was adorned with the phrase “Hidup Damai” — live in peace. “This life is short,” Arifin told me cheerfully from the edge of his boat. “We should live in peace.”

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Days after the tsunami hit Indonesia’s Aceh province, there was no respite. People, so many of whom had lost loved ones when the giant waves struck, were filled with grief and despair.

The end of the world

17 YEU-ACT International


Hege Opseth, NCA-ACT International


The day the sea died

M

any of those living along the Indian Ocean the day after Christmas 2004 were living in peace, at least for that moment. It was a weekend day that for many dawned warm, lazy and sunny — an uneventful Sunday, it was assumed. A morning for chores, shopping or sleeping in a bit. But that changed rapidly. At first, the tremors came — though in many places they were so imperceptible and slight that many people hardly noticed. Then, almost without warning, the ocean pulled back. In some places, it was as if time stood still. With unimaginable force not witnessed in centuries, the waves slammed into the coastline, roaring inland. It was not a singular event — the tsunami and its aftereffects unfolded in different ways along the coasts of Indonesia and Thailand, in Burma and Sri Lanka, in India and Somalia. But the tsunami’s destructive power was a shared, common experience. So powerful was its force that some felt the Day of Judgment was upon them. A few years later, a village chief in El Dhirdir, Somalia, would remember it this way:


Mike DuBose, UMNS-ACT International

A man picks through the wreckage of beachfront homes in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, devastated by the December 26 tsunami.


Paul Jeffrey, ACT International

The tsunami left behind a mess where the railway tracks pass through the southwestern Sri Lankan town of Ambalangoda.


It was a calm midday, things were all normal. Then the sea disappeared, it went three miles back. The beach was full of fish, lobster and shrimp so everyone ran to the beach to collect the catch. But after 15 minutes we heard a roaring noise so loud and terrifying you would not believe it. Then the wave came, we could see it coming towards us. It was 10-

Survivors of the tsunami describe how their homes in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, were destroyed by the massive waves. They are staying at a center for displaced people in Medan, Indonesia.

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With Courage, In Hope

Mike DuBose, UMNS-ACT International


15 meters high and coming straight to our beach. Everyone ran, they ran as fast as they could up the hill. People were screaming and terrified. It destroyed our houses. It destroyed our fishing nets and boats. It destroyed everything. The next day people tried to catch fish and lobster for food but there was nothing in the sea. The sea died. In Aceh, Indonesia, the very idea that the sea could die was unimaginable. Adi Arisnadi was one of many people enjoying his Sunday morning at home.When the earthquake struck, Arisnadi’s 4-year-old son was playing on the beach. Hearing and feeling tremors, Arisnadi’s wife, Melinda, screamed and told her husband to find the child on the beach. He did, and then went right away to the nearby harbor where he worked to check if everything was all right. Seeing nothing amiss, Arisnadi returned home and began eating breakfast. Melinda then asked Arisnadi if he could go and buy some goods for her market stall. As he headed over a bridge, Arisnadi noticed people were staring at the sea. In the next instant, he found himself running with them: everyone was trying to escape the huge, black waves racing toward the shore. Arisnadi tried to turn back and retrieve his family, but then moved by instinct. Get away, he thought. Get away! In the next moment the water was upon him. Luckily, though, Arisnadi grabbed a coconut tree and held onto it with all of his might. He began to pray. “The water was whipping me, ‘round and ‘round. Everything was falling down with the huge, black wall of water, and people were screaming and crying for help. I thought it was the end of the world. All the dead were floating around me. I prayed my family had been saved but realized there

The day the sea died

23


was little chance. Once I reached safe ground, people started saying how thousands had been washed away where I live.” Padmal Widanagamange, 26, a Colombo garment worker, told his story as if in a daze — his eyes constantly moving, unable to fix on anything. He recalled this much: he was a passenger on a train near Galle, just along the coast of Sri Lanka. An enormous wave approached; the train halted.Then chaos. He saw a baby floating toward the train and a woman clinging to a nearby palm tree. Trained as a lifeguard, Widanagamange jumped into the water, trying to save people. The train car was overrun by people; all was pandemonium. In the next instant, a second, even larger wave approached. The wave pushed the train off its tracks, causing the train to roll over into the water. Widanagamange tried to cling to the train; he resurfaced briefly and saw trees and debris being washed away; unfortunately, he also saw people being killed.The memory of the scene haunted him in the days and weeks that followed. With the help of a railway guard, Widanagamange used his swimming skills to rescue about 25 people from the train but he could not find his sister, uncle or aunt who were traveling with him. The bodies of his sister and uncle were later retrieved. His aunt’s body was never found. Basriadi was at home in North Aceh, Indonesia, but when he and his friends heard the tremor, they fled. As happened in Somalia, the water chased out to sea, withdrawing, exposing the shore’s life. However, it was not long before the tidal wave appeared. Basriadi recalled later that he and his friends ran with all of their strength.Yet even in the moment of panic, Basriadi still remembered his family. He grabbed two younger siblings who had been standing in front of the house.The next moments were frenzied:

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Basriadi ran so quickly he felt he was running “outside the realm of reality.” When he encountered a ditch about seven meters wide, he crossed it with ease. But Basriadi saw his mother being carried away by the swift current that pummeled the family’s village. She was not the only family member to perish. Basriadi would also grieve for the youngest of his three nieces and nephews — an 8-month-old infant. A few stories ended better than others — though even those contained elements of horror. Muhibbon, a peddler, had moved to Calang, Aceh, in 2002, with his wife and four children, ages 4 to 12, to escape the province’s ongoing war and conflict. The family ended up renting land — good land that did not disappoint. It was that land where Muhibbon found himself on the morning of Dec. 26. Like other villagers, he heard and felt the rumbles of a giant earthquake — nothing unusual in Indonesia. At first, he and others did not pay it much attention. And indeed, there was no immediate cause for alarm because they saw no noticeable damage. People went back to their chores; Muhibbon even invited a friend in for a cup of tea. Having no sugar, Muhibbon asked his eldest child to go to the market. When the child went to the store, vendors were already closing up because they saw the wave coming. Luckily, another villager saw Muhibbon’s child, rescued the child and rode up a hill on a bicycle. Muhibbon and his family lived only 300 meters from the sea and heard the commotion in the street; they soon understood what was happening and fled on Muhibbon’s motorbike. From atop the hill, in safety and reunited with the child, they stood by helplessly as they watched the waves lay waste to Calang, killing threequarters of its inhabitants.

The day the sea died

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A grandmother weeps when she speaks of her oldest son, Rajama, who was killed in the tsunami. She speaks of her grief for a future that is no more.


The day the sea died

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Hege Opseth, NCA-ACT International


Destruction did not spare India — though India was also the site of some of the most hopeful events that day. Evacuations in the state of Tamil Nadu were made possible because of early warning systems put in place through the work of Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action and its local partners. Arumugam, a trained volunteer in early warning systems who lives in Madhakoiltheru Village, later recalled the morning’s panic. He and another villager were able to contact the CASA Cuddalore office to confirm the news. Soon afterward, megaphone warnings sounded and residents began evacuating. “This type of information was not there before,” he said. Warnings of other catastrophic events had taken place through government announcements that were much slower. Mayaperumal, a fellow Madhakoiltheru villager and a search and rescue volunteer, recalled that the evacuation to higher ground was done in a systematic way — first those in coastal waters and next those in low-lying areas. “As far as my knowledge, this was the first time the people were evacuated before the worst situation,” he said. A volunteer in shelter management from another village recalled another key element: the multipurpose shelters that CASA had constructed. “Everyone in the village started moving to the multipurpose shelter with their valuables in hand.” The village was soon flooded — but the shelter “was our asylum,” the volunteer said. Those in Madhakoiltheru and Kumarapettai were luckier in more than one way — they faced the task of the immediate response and cleanup with their communities largely intact. Others faced the same daunting task but as isolated survivors, suffering loss, trauma and physical and mental anguish. Their family and communities were

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scattered, grieving and, in many cases, dead. As the horrific first day continued, they walked around in shock. “For three days we ate only cassava leaves,” recalled Muhibbon, the survivor on the hill in Calang, Aceh. “And coconut, and we drank from the coconut too, of course.” They dug up cassava, and shared fruits and vegetables with the others on the hill. On that first day, in those first hours, they had no idea how long this would last. In fact, the family lived for five months in a cowshed, surviving on cassava and other things growing on the hill, as well as relief items. In those initial hours, Basriadi in North Aceh found a group of friends who helped to evacuate survivors. They began the task of finding bodies; in those first three days, they found about 200. They were not able to find the body of Basriadi’s mother until the fourth day. While relieved to find the body, Basriadi felt enormous grief, in part because of guilt that he had not been able to save his mother. He felt as if he had lost his way — that his life was bereft of meaning. Basriadi had lost 13 people in all: not only his mother but also three nieces and nephews, three grandparents, and relatives of his parents. As they peered out into the ocean that first day, fishermen who depended on the sea for their livelihoods felt fear. For Chinnaiyan, a life-long fisherman on the coast of India, the tsunami was wholly unexpected and unknown. “We were sitting with our nets on the beach. Then the waves started coming in. We had never seen anything like it before. We ran and ran.” Several days later, Chinnaiyan spoke to a visi-

The day the sea died

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tor in Karikattukoppam, a small camp several miles from the beach. He and his wife, Kalphana, peered out from under a blue plastic sheet, as Kalphana cooked a small meal in pots she and other survivors had received. Just down the way were the remains of the village of Kokkirammedu. Some 120 families had once lived there; the tsunami had killed about a quarter of its population. Hege Opseth of Norwegian Church Aid, who visited shortly after the first day, recalled that a thick odor hung in the air: “a blend of rotten palm leaves, fish, rubbish and animal corpses. Women burn what they can on the beach. Anxiously, they watch the horizon. The sea is calm now.” Though calm, the ocean now evoked new and strange feelings — a fear of the water itself. The Indian Ocean no longer seemed like a friend, but rather like an unwanted enemy. A foe. Fishermen wondered how they would feed their families in the days ahead. Looking out anxiously toward the water, survivors took in what it meant to suddenly fear the sea, once a source of connection, sustenance and life. Eleven-year-old Kokila, from the village of Tranquebar in southern India, summed up the dueling and contradictory feelings in a poem, translated from Tamil:

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Paul Jeffrey, ACT International

In Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, a ravaged building opens onto the sea. The day the sea died

31


In Galle, Sri Lanka, a mosque survived amidst the rubble.

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With Courage, In Hope

Paul Jeffrey, ACT International


If feelings can be words, I will be able to tell you, My dear ocean, How much I loved you! How many times I came to play with you Even without getting permission. I cried for the beatings I got. You made me alone to cry that day. But today you made thousands of people cry, Taking away their houses, household articles, kith and kin‌ You have deserted us! You, the sustainer of our lives, have taken away our lives. So I hate you! I hate you so much! Yet, I want to thank you, tsunami! You know why? You brought so many people to take part in my life. So many people whom I had never seen before or even dreamt about Helped us to rebuild our lives. For this I thank you, tsunami! Now I am not angry with you. I love you, my dear ocean!

The day the sea died

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Emily Will, MCC


Meeting chaos with care

A

lmost at once, those on the ground grappled with words to express what they saw, heard and even smelled. As she prepared to attend Sunday church services in Chennai, India, Sheila Jones, CASA’s chief zonal officer, heard “talk abuzz about the sea gushing in and killing many walkers along the beach.” She switched on the television and saw scenes of damage. It was surreal. Harsh reality sunk in. I was perplexed. But we immediately alerted our staff and by the evening, 27 people were acting on different operations of the eastern coast in rescuing and removing the dead bodies. Headquarters also plunged into action within three to four hours of the disaster, trying to make available resources for initial feeding.We in turn also contacted the various churches for volunteers to help people with food packets. S.K. Xavier, an emergency officer at the time with the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka, provided Geneva with some remarkable reporting for ACT in the initial hours and days. “I can’t describe the disaster that has hit Sri Lanka very unexpectedly


and has thrown millions of lives into complete disarray,” Xavier wrote in one of his first dispatches. Any thoughts of extended Christmas vacation were over. NCCSL staff members were working at full speed to assist the survivors. His communiqué ended with a plea: “Please help us.” One reason for the plea was because fear in Sri Lanka and the other affected countries was palpable, as eyewitnesses were at pains to explain. Xavier had “traversed Galle Road (one of the most important highways of Sri Lanka) and people are there in utter panic. Pockets of crowds are gathered to listen to the stories of those relating the horror they experienced. They are utterly frightened. I received a text message saying that the Batti situation is worsening,” he said about an area not far from the capital, Colombo. “People are utterly confused. A few churches that were close to the coast were submerged. One church pastor called to say that there are only 50 more meters for the sea to reach his church, which is [normally] quite far from the sea.” In his contacts with clergy, Xavier tried to gauge the extent of the damage. The dimensions — certainly the global dimensions — of what happened were still not fully clear. Those on the ground could see that it was a catastrophic event unlike anything they had seen or witnessed before. In Sri Lanka, for example, Xavier determined that a sea surge triggered by the under-sea quake caused massive inland tides, in some instances up to 2.5 kilometers long, in a number of coastal areas. In fielding telephone calls from member clergy, he feared “that the death toll may rise; since the exact number of those who went fishing is not yet known.”

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The north of Sri Lanka was hardest hit, although there were as yet no casualty figures available. It was a highly militarized area — the site of fighting between the Sri Lankan government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, known as the Tamil Tigers. Even so, Xavier reported: “In Thirukovil, three whole villages (were) drowned. In a hospital in Kinniya, Trinco, which is within 500 meters from the shore, the [sea swept out] some 25 patients.” Parts of Colombo — where the Sri Lankan church council has its headquarters — had itself been badly hit. Among the worst-hit were coastal areas where many of the city’s poorest residents lived. The tides swept most of their homes and belongings out to sea. From the outside, too, it was quickly obvious this was no ordinary disaster — but casualty figures remained murky and relatively small, with initial deaths reported only in the thousands. For example, the headline from the initial report from ACT International staff members in Geneva, released only hours after the tsunami hit the beaches, read: “Thousands killed as tidal waves wreaked havoc to islands and countries in south and south east Asia.” The final figures were considerably grimmer: according to the July 2006 Tsunami Evaluation Coalition report, more than 227,000 were either dead or missing — with the three largest locales of casualties being 167,540 in Indonesia, 35,322 in Sri Lanka and 16,269 in India. However, in a disaster of this magnitude, no definitive source can ever really know down to the last person how many perished. Hence, there are differing casualty numbers. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for example, has used a figure of 34,627 killed in India; ACT has used a figure of 20,400. Other

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Residents of a seaside village queue to receive relief kits.

LWSI-UELCI/ACT International

sources have placed the total number of dead in all affected countries at between 230,000 and 250,000. With a Geneva dateline, the December 26 report began: An 8.9-magnitude earthquake off the west coast of the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra set off massive tidal waves on Sunday morning, which slammed into coastal towns and villages across south and south east Asia, killing thousands of people. It continued: The quake — the world’s most powerful in a century — first struck at 7:59 a.m. with multiple tremors felt in the Andaman islands. The quake

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Distribution cards were given out to ensure fair distribution of relief items such as blankets, cooking pans, candles and basic foods.

Hege Opseth, NCA-ACT International

triggered tidal waves, which swept across the Indian Ocean, striking coastal regions of Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh and Malaysia. The tsunami also swept across the low-lying islands that make up the Maldives. Reuter’s (humanitarian web site) AlertNet reports that over 1,600 people have been killed in India and 1,500 in Sri Lanka. Hundreds of people have also been reported missing, and the death toll is expected to rise. Casualty figures are also rising. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced throughout the region, with millions affected throughout the region. The report could only hint at what had actually happened. One reason for that was due to so much uncertainty among survivors and humanitarian workers alike. In an early report for The Christian Science Monitor, Robert Marquand,

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In Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, emergency food aid is loaded at the Methodist Church.

Paul Jeffrey, ACT International

Bob Granke, LWF-ACT International

Kerosene stoves are prepared for their distribution in relief kits to people affected by the tsunami..

Bob Granke, LWF-ACT International

Registration cards in hand, several women queue to receive their relief supplies.

Orla Clinton, Church of Sweden-ACT International

A fishing boat that was washed up on land lies in a thick layer of debris.


reporting from Galle, Sri Lanka, noted that situations, information and knowledge itself were “undergoing daily and sometimes hourly changes” with local officials facing a confusing brew of “homegrown rumors, local media reports, and even astrological predictions … intermixing with sketchy government estimates and an onrush of international aid efforts.” Chaos was the norm; estimates of the numbers of those killed and displaced, the amount of aid that was arriving, where it was going, and reports of types of medical problems were often unreliable, Marquand wrote. “Along the coast, residents conducted a silent boycott of fish, since it came from water contaminated by many corpses. In village after village, police reported that new tsunami rumors remained a security risk, since they were creating instability.” While authorities were eager to declare that the post-emergency phase of the tsunami had begun, a “paralyzing mentality of fear” was still evident. In a later story, Marquand reported from Hikkaduwa, one of the villages along the Sri Lankan coast: “On the street, rumors of another tsunami are rife, and there is little official information broadcast to counter it. Speculation swirls about outbreaks of disease, and mixes with newly confirmed reports of scattered riots and banditry. There is no community spirit yet of picking up the pieces and getting on with life. Instead, some 1.5 million displaced persons are heading inland in a coastal exodus that is creating new logistical problems.” In another example reported by Marquand, a radio station in Tamil Naduu, India, broadcast an inaccurate report that an aftershock had caused a second tsunami. Some 200 people who were assisting in salvage operations “ran away and did not come back.” Perhaps even more disturbing for survivors was the fear that “fish had fed on

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human flesh and would be contaminated” — a charge that health officials said was not true and not scientifically proven. Rumors of this sort were not unusual, said humanitarian workers at the scene, given the reality of survivors’ “profound disorientation.” Because of that, the “question of the mentality of victims should not become something abstract,” said Daniel Glinz of the International Committee of the Red Cross, quoted by Marquand. “Even I’ve been having trouble figuring out a strategy for this. So I can sympathize with the kind of trauma people here feel. And I think trauma is the right word. People here don’t let you see what they are feeling. But it is serious.” Work within the ACT network began almost immediately. On the first day, the NCCSL in Sri Lanka dispatched money for food parcels and sent three pastoral teams to the affected regions of Trinco, Batticaloa and Down Southern coasts. The requests had only just begun, as Xavier of the NCCSL tried to juggle professional duty with family concerns. “We kept receiving requests from all over, from the churches in the coastal area while I myself kept calling my home to update myself about my family in Mount Lavania, on the coastal stretch of Colombo.” As the NCCSL prepared to respond throughout Sri Lanka, other ACT members girded for response in other affected countries: CASA and Lutheran World Service India announced they would work with United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India to assess needs in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. CASA said it would send two assessment teams, 15 to a team, to the coastal areas the next day. Initial reports from

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local media indicated widespread destruction in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala and Orissa. Initial reports indicated that the single worst-affected region was the Indonesian province of Aceh on Sumatra’s northernmost tip and the area closest to the earthquake’s epicenter. That region had become increasingly isolated because of a long-standing insurgency between rebels and the Indonesian government. Still, even with those attendant problems, ACT members in Indonesia — including Church World Service, Yayasan Tanggul Bencana and Yakkum Emergency Unit/CD Bethesda — were already coordinating their response. At first, however, the specifics remained cloudy. “There was no mystery why the information from Aceh was so sketchy at first — communications were down and were poor,” recalled Maurice Bloem, then director of CWS Indonesia. “We from CWS had people already on the ground within 24 hours, but we were not able to communicate properly with them because of these problems.” Also uncertain was how to aid the impoverished island of Nias, an area of some 700,000 persons where YTB had a long history of working. As December 26 ended in ways unimaginable 24 hours earlier, one hopeful fact stood out: several European ACT members told Geneva that they were pledging financial support to fellow ACT members in the region. The pledge from European ACT members bespoke a post-Christmas touch of hope and solidarity — about the only optimistic thing that could be said. What began in many places as a quiet, post-holiday Sunday had ended in sorrow, agony and tears.

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At night, very few electrical lights could be seen in Gunungsitoli, not to mention the other parts of Nias Island. Therefore, many oil lamps and lanterns were in use. Because of the earthquake, there was electricity only in some parts Meeting chaos with care 45 of the capital. The local government was trying to restore electricity to 30 percent of Gunungsitoli by the end of April. Petteri Kokkonen, FinnChurchAid-ACT International


Within 24 hours one thing had noticeably changed: casualty figures. Although the count would still be only a fraction of those who died, on that second day combined numbers stood at 20,000 for all of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Maldives and Bangladesh. Those figures were astonishing enough but the ACT report acknowledged that thousands remained missing.The full extent of the disaster was still not known in more remote areas in Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia, where ACT members were already responding. Initial efforts continued apace; two truckloads of essential food and water departed to the badly hit regions of Sri Lanka. But in areas that had been dealing with armed conflict prior to the tsunami, the legacy of war and militarization were added burdens. Compounding the problem in Sri Lanka was rain — heaps of it.Though forecasts said monsoon rains had ceased, torrential rains were hitting a number of areas. “Muttur is very badly hit,� Xavier reported, noting that some areas remained inaccessible. As is often the case, local conditions of poverty and poor infrastructure hobbled the response; Pia Hollenbach of Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, who assisted the ACT response in Sri Lanka, recalled that during the initial weeks, the main struggle for humanitarian efforts was poor access. After many years of war and no decent infrastructure development after the peace agreement in 2000, the roads or other possibilities to reach there, were difficult. The struggle to provide enough and sufficient material or first aid/basic need goods became a logistic problem, as heavy vehicles could not reach some of the most affected and poor areas.

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In many cases affected areas had less-than-pristine hospital facilities, often with a severe lack of medicines and medical supplies. Yet even with all of the attendant problems of insecurity, poverty and washed-out roads, signs of kindness and solidarity crept through. Many people, on their own initiative, collected cooked food parcels to be distributed to those who had taken shelter in the Buddhist and Hindu temples, mosques and church halls. Some of these sanctuaries housed families in thousands.The NCCSL sent teams to the affected areas of Batticaloa and Trincomalee to assess immediate needs. The normal post-Christmas functions and celebrations were cancelled so that money could be channeled instead for relief work. Individual Protestant and Anglican congregations initiated and performed their own relief activities. Other services included transporting the displaced and preparing meals for survivors in the capital of Colombo. The situation in India was not much different, although ACT members there were gearing up for efforts that would outnumber those in Sri Lanka. By the second day, CASA had deployed 12 assessment teams in various locales: two in Tamil Nadu at Trichy and Drinamvenny, one in Andhra Pradesh and another one in Kerala. The issue of hard-to-reach populations — a continual problem — was apparent in the early days. While the death toll in India on the second day was reported to be more than 4,000 people, churches with ties to CASA reported “more deaths as news trickles in from smaller and more remote villages and areas.” Indian churches began their own emergency feeding programmes, as those seeking sanctuary sought refuge and succor in both churches and schools. CASA planned an initial emergency feeding programme for at least three to five days, and additional efforts included distributing blan-

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kets, clothing, cooking equipment, candles, matches and emergency shelter tarpaulins. Food distributed included dhal, rice, spices and salt, while water tankers were used to supply clean drinking water. Looking ahead, CASA said it hoped to rebuild homes for some 5,000 families. Also touted was the construction of flood/cyclone shelters, similar to those that had been built in the 1990s, and had proved, as we have already seen, to be life-saving in a number of coastal areas. But these efforts would have to await grimmer tasks. Human and animal bodies needed to be removed, and that took considerable effort in all locales. Given the limited communication from Indonesia, all that could be reported from Geneva was that at least 4,400 people had died and that ACT members there were coordinating their response. Though Geneva did not have much information from Indonesia, ACT members were already responding in Aceh. Needs were considerable: YTB reported a figure that, at an early stage, proved disquieting: there were already an estimated 150,000 displaced people. On December 29, three days into the emergency, ACT Geneva-based staff took stock of the gravity facing alliance members. “The most shocking element of the emergency was the scale of the disaster, which quickly became apparent,” said Callie Long, ACT’s communications officer at the time, recalling those initial days spent working with Jenny Borden, interim ACT director, and Mieke Weeda, ACT programme officer. “No sooner had we had reports of estimates of people affected, when these numbers would triple or quadruple. It was mind-numbing and deeply disturbing.”

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In its news update for the day, Geneva noted that ACT members were still “struggling to come to grips with a regional death toll that has risen to more than 60,000,” and noted that alliance members were mobilizing on two fronts. First, in organizing their own humanitarian relief operations, and second in “launching appeals in their own countries and providing financial assistance to members of the global alliance of churches and related agencies in the affected countries.” Indeed, ostensibly the report’s purpose was to announce a combined US $8.2 million appeal to fund the ACT humanitarian efforts. (That first appeal was released with the proviso that an updated target appeal would be forthcoming as more information became available. On January 7, 2005, ACT Geneva issued a targeted appeal, ASRE51, for nearly US $41.8 million. The appeal was subsequently revised five more times during the next three years. On the last revised appeal, the amount was revised downwards from US $120,801,096 by US $7,557,513 to US $113,243,583 because CASA had to disengage from the Andaman and Nicobar islands reconstruction plan.The total amount raised for the appeal as of September 2009 was US $92,952,566 or 82 percent of the target.) The boldness in issuing such a large appeal so quickly was a signal of the grim, underlying reality facing the ACT alliance: the death toll kept rising — 18,000 alone in Sri Lanka — and survivors were “paralyzed with grief and trauma. Grim scenes of apocalyptic destruction are everywhere,” said one report. But the response was intensifying: an airlift with supplies from European and North American ACT members arrived in Sri Lanka. It carried the requisite supplies common at the early stage of an emergency: basic medicines, shelter kits containing family tents and plastic sheeting, as well as

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Jannerson Girsang, ACT International

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Paul Jeffrey, ACT International

With Courage, In Hope LWSI-UELCI/ACT International


Top Left Many people slept outside their houses because they were afraid of the aftershocks of the big earthquake on March 28, 2005. Top Right Survivors clean out after the South Asian tsunami in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. The December 26, 2004, tsunami left devastation behind along most of the island nation’s coastline. Bottom Preparing relief items for distribution in Nalavadu village.

blankets.The NCCSL said it had mobilized all of its staff and hundreds of church volunteers to assist relief efforts. Needs were acute, particularly medical needs, and the confluence of already-poor hospitals and medical conditions met up with a growing problem: disease caused by decaying bodies.The NCCSL’s Xavier told Geneva that in Tangalle several bodies were torn and wedged amidst the debris and that consequently, diseases would multiply. This prompted worries, Xavier reported, “that communicable diseases could exact an equally devastating toll on human life.” The BBC, quoting United Nations officials, said, “disease could double the death toll after Sunday’s earthquake.” Meanwhile, the missing remained a deep concern: it was as if the wave had taken out whole communities at once. This insidious reality — the mounting death toll and thousands upon thousands

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of people still unaccounted for — prompted Kathryn Wolford of U.S.-based Lutheran World Relief to issue a stark statement: immediate emergency relief would be but one component of what was required.The challenges facing affected families and communities in the coming weeks and months were monumental. “Decaying bodies, polluted water sources, destroyed sanitation systems and, in some cases, having lost literally everything,” she said, “will make day-to-day existence every bit as challenging as surviving the tsunamis themselves.” As New Year’s 2005 approached, the news from India was brief: CASA had mobilized its assessment teams, staff, partner churches and network organisations, saying, “Distribution kitchens are up and running, providing food to people in the stricken areas, which include Kerala, Krishna Godawari in Andhra Pradesh, Madras Diocese and Chennai city.” In all, CASA planned to assist some 50,000 families. Of continued concern, however, were tsunami survivors in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Because of poor communication and isolation, this hard-to-reach and isolated archipelago proved to be a difficult place in which to respond and work. Meanwhile, LWSI continued its distribution of relief items to families in Tamil Nadu; an enormously challenging task given the still-reigning chaos on the ground. “Since people barely had time to save their lives from the gigantic tidal waves that washed away their homes within 15 minutes, a large number of families were unable to take any possessions with them when they fled,” noted LWSI’s information officer, Rina Chunder. “People have no utensils to cook or eat their food.” LWSI provided blankets, saris for women, lungis for men and children’s wear, as well as household utensils.

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Counselors speak to survivors of the tsunami.

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Orla Clinton, Church of Sweden-ACT International


Hege Opseth, NCA-ACT International

Amutha with her youngest child, 2-year-old Jedis. Jedis and Amutha’s other child, 4-year-old Habinesh, were sick from the shock of the disaster and from dirty water and insufficient food. Amutha was standing outside their house when the waves came - just as she is now, she said. She picked up her youngest child and took the other’s hand, and they ran for their lives.


As in Sri Lanka, much of the initial response depended on local groups working together. The Rev. Chandran Paul Martin, the executive secretary of United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India, noted that ACT partners were all opening feeding centers in Cuddalore and Pondicherry. In Chennai the Christian community had organized feeding programmes on its own. Shock and grief continued to grip the affected areas: Members of UELCI’s assessment teams “saw people fear-stricken with hundreds of families taking shelter on the roads.” Meanwhile, grief continued to mount in Indonesia, where the death toll, by the third day, had risen to an alarming 32,000 people. Geneva’s report about the ACT response in Indonesia contained only the barest information because communication from Aceh to Jakarta remained difficult. However, like the Sri Lankans, the Indonesians noted one of the saddest realities of the response: their own emergency workers were in deep mourning. Most of the staff had themselves lost family members. In the coming days, the difficult task of providing succor and relief would fall to those who, like those they were seeking to help, were also experiencing profound mourning and grief. That had become a baleful reality throughout the region. Arisnadi, one of the Aceh survivors we previously met, sat in Blang Cut, one of the thousands of shelters that had been established for displaced and grieving survivors. His wife was among the dead; he lost 10 relatives in all; one member of his wife’s family was the sole survivor. Arisnadi’s home village, Ulee Lheue, was flattened by the waves, ruined. The water swept away everything in its path, and the scene resembled the aftermath of an atomic bomb blast, observed communicator Orla Clinton of the Church of Sweden.

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All that remained were the barest foundations of the few houses that had been built better than others. Once entire families had enjoyed their Sunday mornings on the beach. Now the scene was pitiful: A few people scavenged among the ruins here and there for belongings, Clinton reported. Piles of corpses were wrapped in plastic on open ground awaiting collection; body parts could be seen among the debris. In a culture that prized the dignity of the dead and the need for proper burial, many of those who perished would be afforded nothing of the sort. Families had been scattered like the fragments on the beach. In another part of the shelter, not far from Arisnadi, sat another survivor, Ama Bisalamah. When the earthquake hit, she was enjoying her morning cup of milk. Like others from Aceh, she was no stranger to earthquakes but this time she sensed something different. She told Clinton that she hopped into the shower, believing that if the worst happened, she would at least be clean. Bisalamah had just finished when her sister-in-law shouted that everyone was running in a panic. “When I ran outside, I saw everything falling down around me and saw water coming from everywhere. I thought of my two girls, aged 10 and 13, who were in my mother’s house. So I ran there but saw from a distance that the house was covered in water, and I knew they were all dead,” she said, weeping quietly. When the water came upon her, Bisalamah thought for sure that she was dead. But she survived, only to be plagued by sleepless nights and nightmares. “This disaster is a very bad dream. I cannot just accept it, and I don’t understand why it has happened,” she said. “If I keep thinking of it I will go mad.”

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Hege Opseth, NCA-ACT International

“I lost my husband,� said Tavanashi. All other words were beyond her. She could barely speak, her gaze empty and full of fear - deeply traumatised by what had happened to her.


Andaman and Nicobar Islands

One of the tsunami’s least-publi- — mainly mud huts with thatched cized stories was the effects felt on roofs — were either damaged or the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, destroyed. The loss to crops and an archipelago in the eastern livestock was enormous. Indian Ocean that make up the Union Territory of Andaman and CASA noted that relief was slow Nicobar Islands. The island chain in getting to the islands “as the is located some 1,300 kilometers existing infrastructure and servicsoutheast of the Indian mainland. es could simply not cope with the At least 6,000 people on the is- overwhelming needs generated lands are believed to have died in by this catastrophe.” A small fleet the tsunami, and it took weeks for of aging vessels and limited heliresponders to determine how se- copter service were all that were verely the islands had been affect- available for getting to the islands. ed. That prompted CASA to note Even in the best of times, the links that the “remoteness and vulner- between some of the remote isability of the islands … exacted a lands and Port Blair, the islands’ terrible personal cost from the in- main city, were “tenuous and spohabitants.” The picture was grim, radic. The tsunami wrecked ports CASA said, noting that most of and piers and in many places siltthe islands “of the Nicobar group ed up approaches, making access witnessed devastation on a scale even more difficult.” This led to a comparable to the worst in any situation with initial chaos durof the other affected countries.” It ing the response, with “all kinds reported that of houses of agencies providing relief mateWith Courage, In Hope 58 thousands

rial and getting engaged in doing whatever activities they deemed fit for the people.” From the beginning, however, one fact guided CASA’s response: tribal, indigenous people, and the “felt needs of the local people,” had to take priority. Luckily one of CASA’s member churches, the Church of North India, had a presence on Car Nicobar Island, where nearly 85 percent of the population are Christians. Based on CNI’s proposal on reconstruction, CASA began long-term rehabilitation work. It was not easy. One of many sticking points was that, due to protection of tribal habitats and security problems, the government administration would not open up some of the remote, protected islands for NGOs like CASA. The construction of houses also suffered initial setbacks as the government insisted


that its house design should be used, rather than the design proposed by CASA and the tribal community. The typhoon season halted work for a time. Negotiations eventually continued, and all along CASA remained committed to local participation in recovery efforts. CASA had hoped to build homes for 1,200 families in Andaman and Nicobar. But eventually CASA realized it had to make what it called a “partial but substantial disengagement” from its work on the islands. In an October 31, 2007, appeal revision, ACT said that CASA had “played a significant role in projecting the aspirations and desires of the local Tribal Council to the local and national governments. Unfortunately, lengthy negotiations with the government for approval of the structural design of houses and other infrastructure

in the Car Nicobar island, developed by CASA in close consultation with the local Tribal Council of the island, failed.” As a result, CASA felt compelled “to withdraw completely from the housing and certain other infrastructure construction components of the planned programme in Car Nicobar.” As a practical matter, that meant that housing construction was cancelled except for 11 prototype houses that had already been constructed. The construction of three disaster shelters in the entire Andaman and Nicobar Islands was reduced to one. CASA had planned to undertake construction of eight schools, including seven in Car Nicobar, to be implemented by the Church of North India. CASA had already undertaken construction of three schools with pre-fabri-

cated materials. However, the local administration asked CNI that the remaining schools be made of concrete, contrary to the steel structure promoted by the government. In turn, CASA proposed building four concrete structures instead, to include a secondary school and three primary schools. Another school was constructed in the islands in collaboration with the Orthodox Church. CASA also proposed to undertake construction of three community centers on Kamorta Island (one of the Nicobar group) with prefabricated materials that were to be used earlier for the schools. This request was made on behalf of the tribal council of Kamorta Island — a sign that despite problems, CASA had earned good will in this difficult, delicate and complex response.

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Paul Jeffrey, ACT International


Tarps and trauma

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n the early media accounts of the disaster, television news and other media focused on the tsunami’s destruction of coastal resorts because vacationers had captured initial images on their cell phone cameras – images that were repeated again and again as if in a continuous video loop. Tomm Kristiansen, current ACT International communications officer who at the time covered the tsunami for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation as a senior correspondent, later noted some of the situation’s complexities and contradictions. Along the beaches all the simple houses were washed away. Even the newly constructed hotels looked like ruins. It took just a few days before the Thai population started the renovations. Streets were repaired, and so were their houses.What struck me with fascination was a generosity I had never before seen. At a hospital a Scandinavian woman was treated for some minor cuts. Everything she owned was lost: money, credit cards, shoes, clothes. One of the staff gave the woman her dress, explaining, ‘I have another one at home.’ I saw a poor taxi driver give


his slippers to a barefoot tourist who couldn’t pay the ride. Those who lost their loved ones were hugged and cared for by local people. Did they ever understand that these comforting Thais had lost much more than they had themselves? Kristiansen was right. By the first week of January, it was obvious that those most affected by the tsunami were the most marginalized. Humanitarian veterans were hardly surprised. As communicator Gesine Wolfinger of Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe put it: “Death and destruction came from the very ocean that provided the only source of income to the poorest of the poor in India’s southern coastal regions. The fishermen, who with their families lived next to shoreline, close to their boats, now have nothing.” As grieving continued, numbed survivors recounted their experiences. All one woman,Verammal, could do was weep: her grief was overwhelming. Another woman, 26-year-old Anandavel, who lost both her children, had a body that “trembled as in tears,” Wolfinger reported. Relief provisions alone would not suffice. Sushant Agrawal, CASA director, said survivors required trauma counseling, and this needed to be a priority for the ACT family. “We want to give them hope and strength for the future,” he said. Still, as Agrawal and others surveyed the damage around them, it was clear the task ahead was enormous. “Whatever we give them, no matter how much,” he said, “it can never be enough.” That was already evident in Sri Lanka, where survivors were living in hundreds of temporary shelters. The NCCSL was now providing care of some sort to nearly 1 million people and its staff had to be increased. Assisted by an initial US $50,000 grant from

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YEU-ACT International

Above This woman lost 11 family members when giant waves swept over her village in Muara Batu, Aceh Utaraq, Indonesia. Right A broken fishing boat on the beach at Annappanpetti. Many people along the coast made their living by fishing. When the tsunami destroyed their boats, it dealt a serious blow to their livelihoods.

LWSI-UELCI/ACT International


Geneva, the council used its ties to local Anglican, Methodist and Church of India congregations to distribute food, water, water tanks, medicines and cooking utensils. Given logistical difficulties in reaching the very far north of the country, the council had to send funds to the Christian Union in Jaffna to provide assistance to shelters in a remote lagoon area. Funding for supplies was also provided in an area of the country under the control of the Tamil Tigers. Pia Hollenbach of Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe recalled some of the difficulties and challenges in responding in both government-controlled and Tamil-controlled areas: Deliveries to the (Tamil-controlled) north needed a lot of paper work and time. One example: DKH was to deliver bicycles and school material to the north. The transport existed out of two lorries. The transport took almost two days, as the lorries had to be unpacked more than three times. Each checkpoint entering the northern region wanted to check the goods and determine if there was any material not registered on the papers. To get the paper work done required work days in advance. The struggle with the double administration in Colombo and the Tamil-controlled regions in the north was a huge obstacle to deliver goods. These were not the only complexities facing responders in Sri Lanka. Early on, the issue of post-trauma counseling proved to have a different twist than in more peaceful nations. The Rev. Sumithra Fernando, a Methodist pastor who headed the NCCSL’s women’s commission, helped provide pastoral care for those responding along the country’s eastern coast. Fernando told ACT journalist Paul Jeffrey that dealing with

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trauma caused by conflict did not necessarily translate to dealing with trauma caused by the tsunami. “When refugees run away from armed conflict, they usually do so with something in their hands,” Fernando said. “But this is an unexpected disaster, and they’ve escaped only with their lives. In war, people can go back home in a few days but this is different. They don’t have houses to go home to.” Other issues began to appear. It had taken time for the NCCSL and its partners to coordinate their efforts. Nobody, S.K. Xavier said, could ever fully prepare “for this big a calamity.” Exhaustion was starting to set in — though Xavier cushioned the concern by calling it a “pleasurable exhaustion because it comes from serving our people.” Perhaps more troubling was the fact that coordination between government authorities and groups like the NCCSL were as yet unsettled. “The government is still getting organized and we’re hoping its response accelerates in order to better meet the demands of the people,” Xavier said. Part of the coordination problem was simply one of manpower. As the Rev. Lokendra Abhayaratne, the Anglican archdeacon of Galle in the devastated south of Sri Lanka, observed, the government’s slow response was at least partly due to so many government officials themselves either having died or having been displaced. Amid the difficulties, however, were encouraging signs about one aspect of the response: Christians and Buddhists were working well together, and Abhayaratne noted that some of the NCCSL relief supplies had been sent directly to a Buddhist temple. Still, the response in Sri Lanka had perils — again, the result of the country’s unresolved political crisis. The tsunami had washed loose thousands of land mines onto

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Paul Jeffrey, ACT International

Outside a refugee camp near Palattadichchenai, Sri Lanka, for people left homeless by the South Asian tsunami, Sri Lankans begin to return home to rebuild their homes and lives. Refugees in this camp, located inside territory controlled by the Tamil Tigers separatist group, received assistance from a variety of organizations, including the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka.


shore.The disaster put a huge dent into the country’s tourist and fishing industries, and could only worsen morale in a country racked by war and civil conflict. But one minister thought there might be a “silver lining” to the tsunami. The Rev. Jayasiri Peiris, an Anglican cleric who had assumed the helm of NCCSL less than a week after the tsunami struck, said this: This is a good opportunity to bring the different religions in Sri Lanka closer together, to bring the different communities — Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian — together to concentrate on the entire Sri Lanka, not just the lack of peace, not just the problem of self determination for the Tamils, but rather all the issues that confront us. It’s a great opportunity for all Sri Lankans to come together, to mobilize around rebuilding our nation and our people. We’ve got to do more than just rebuild buildings. We’ve got to rebuild a people [who have been] left traumatized by this disaster. But, that’s a process that’s going to take years and years. Peiris reiterated the importance of dealing with trauma as one way of showing solidarity with survivors. The NCCSL set up a special branch for psychosocial work. This was important not only because it was needed but also because the churches could not forget the spiritual dimension of their work — work, Peiris added, that needed to be done across lines of religious affiliation. Five years later, it is still hard to convey the sheer amount of destruction that caused such trauma. But something of its scale emerges through the experience of Abdul Mahid. The Sri Lankan shop keeper lived in the Muslim Quarter of Kattandkudy,

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Batticaloa. He told Rainer Lang of Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe that it was useless going through the rubble. What was most glaring for him was losing 50 neighbors – an astonishing number but only a fraction of the 1,000 people who perished in his immediate area. How to deal with the overwhelming loss was the job of the Rev. Nadarajah Arulnathan, a Methodist pastor helping coordinate relief efforts. Arulnathan lost a sister and 18 other family members and found himself taking care of two orphans.While the event had caused Arulnathan to fear the sea, there was little time for him to brood or reflect on what had happened. In fact, the pastor simply had to act — every day, every waking hour. On the ground, Arulnathan helped coordinate the distribution of medical and other assistance to 10 camps in the Batticaloa area. Half of the ten were based in churches, and all of them were packed with people sleeping on thin mats covering bare floors. Feeding people proved a daily challenge, Arulnathan said, amid complaints that there were never enough supplies — never enough mats, clothes or baby bottles. Still, that was a logistical issue. Other problems could impede relief efforts — issues of caste, ethnicity and religion. People, it was true, had helped each other. Muslims, Buddhist and Christians had, for a moment, come together as one to respond. But aside from the challenges of relief, trauma remained the overwhelming problem. Some people had been so traumatized that they had not even been able to ask for assistance, he told Lang. “People do not talk much at the moment,” Arulnathan said of the quiet that often pervaded the camps. “Some ask themselves why they could escape.” As Arulnathan looked along the shoreline, he noted the staggering difficulties: a people already trau-

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Petteri Kokkonen, FinnChurchAid-ACT International

Above & Right One ship arrived in Lahewa harbor carrying more than 30 tons of rice as well as noodles, dried fish and cabbage. These supplies were for five villages. It took some time for men to carry all 600 rice bags - 50 kilograms each into the trucks waiting in the harbor.

Petteri Kokkonen, FinnChurchAid-ACT International


Paul Jeffrey, ACT International

In Galle, Sri Lanka, a television crew helped inform the world of the tsunami’s destruction.


Hege Opseth, NCA-ACT International

Mike DuBose, UMNS-ACT International

Paul Jeffrey, ACT International

Top Left Villagers receive provisions and plastic sheeting for shelter.

Top Right The Rev. Tahir Wijaya, pastor of the Methodist Church in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, takes a break from clean-up duties at the church to recall how he survived the December 26 tsunami.

Bottom In the northeastern village of Velore, Sri Lanka, a clock stopped at the moment that the tsunami swept over the village.


matized, even before the tsunami, by war and flooding in the months preceding the disaster; those who were still missing; the bodies still at sea or on shore; inaccessible areas where landmines would make recovery efforts difficult. There was a stark reality here, Lang noted. Beyond the church compound lay a wasteland. What did the relief work actually look like? Wolfinger described the process at a makeshift emergency distribution center at K.C. Kulam Village, not far from Pondicherry, India. CASA helped coordinate the distribution and Paul Luther, the local project officer, said community leaders identified those who most needed assistance. Different colored identity cards — blue for plastic sheeting, for example — helped make the process more efficient, prevent duplication and guarantee all would receive something. “We target the poorest of the poor like female-headed households, orphaned children and people with disabilities,” said M. Jebasingh Simeon, a senior CASA staff member. Such a system belied the other hazards of emergency response. Perennial shipments of used clothing waste time in two ways: no one wants the items and they tie up needed logistical channels. To immediately reclaim their lives as useful and productive people, people wanted the basics. While a tarp was appreciated, Ravi, a 25-year-old fisherman and father of three, said all he really needed was a boat, a net and a bit of cash to reestablish his business. Unlike other friends and fellow fishermen who vowed not to return to the sea, Ravi said that the waters held no terrors for him. “If I could, I would go out at once,” he said.

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In marked contrast to the amount of news and reporting from ACT members in Sri Lanka and India, the news from Aceh, Indonesia, remained sketchy until the second week of January. Nearly two weeks after the event ACT finally had a story from Indonesia that contained something of the human drama of the disaster there — though Maurice Bloem of CWS stressed five years later that that problem was not due to the response; it was the fact that Indonesia was hardest hit. He said there was understandable pressure from Geneva for more information. But he recalled that “we were trying to do our work… we worked around the clock to get the aid and support flow-

In Camps, Survivors Could Feel Defenseless and Vulnerable What did people who lost homes do, day in and day out, especially those who decided not to go into displacement camps — those who built transitional shelters on the site of their destroyed homes? Daniel Fekete of Hungarian Interchurch Aid reported the story of Sajantha Peiris, 33, a fish seller, who lived with his wife and two children in a house that was 100 meters from the beach

in Katakurunda. Along with the homes of 50 other families, it was destroyed. Some of his neighbors were killed; he and others like him went initially to a displacement camp. However, Sanjantha said he disliked being in a camp because it made him and his family feel defenseless and vulnerable. So he left and built a wooden cottage on the ruins of his home. While such freedom offered a degree of

comfort, it also presented problems. As Fekete noted, those like Peiris who left the camps rarely benefited from the type of assistance normally distributed there: food, clothing, hygiene items and the like; nor would they normally be registered as beneficiaries to receive assistance in rebuilding their homes. Tarps and trauma

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Orla Clinton, Church of Sweden-ACT International


ing.” Bloem also remembered that “the phones were ringing continuously, making it very difficult at times to focus on the job.” An early January ACT report confirmed the worst fears about fatalities and missing persons in Indonesia. The country was facing “incomprehensible numbers of deaths and amounts of destruction — and its people struggling ‘to live irreparably-changed lives.’” In the first extensive report of what ACT members were doing in Aceh, communicator Orla Clinton noted the astronomical death toll: 116,000 and rising. Some of the grim realities on the ground included heavy rains hampering relief and rescue operations; the excavation of 2,200 bodies alone on January 9 in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh; an overall situation that remained unclear. Indeed, Clinton wrote, “Banda Aceh is a scene of death and decay with the everpresent stench of rotting corpses, a persistent reminder of the massive human trauma inflicted on the local population here by the earthquake and floods.” ACT members working in Aceh had appointed a regional coordinator and had set up a response office in Medan. Church World Service had been operating in Banda Aceh since 2002 and had worked closely with Mamamia, a local developmental organisation. Maurice Bloem noted that many of CWS’s partners not only lost most of their staff — in some cases they lost beneficiaries from previous programmes. “Getting additional staff to the affected places was already a challenge, let alone getting commodities,” he said. “And communication was still enormously challenging in the places where we worked.”

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ACT members were identifying displaced persons and providing medical and food assistance. But the distribution of such items as blankets and health kits had been slowed because of the difficulties in getting items to Aceh. Norwegian Church Aid, another ACT member that had worked with CWS in the past, was assisting CWS with water and sanitation planning. Two Norwegian water engineers assessed possibilities for water-purification sites. NCA also initiated a solid-waste management programme in one of the camps, home to 3,000 displaced people. Trauma remained a major concern and responding to it would require much time and effort; shattered lives, Clinton wrote, “will slowly have to be rebuilt.” The challenge was illustrated by Dr. Julia Suryantan, a CWS staffer who noted: “Physically people may look alright but most people here are in shock. I met a 3-yearold boy who lost both his parents and is now staying with an uncle. He thinks his parents have left him. Adults have lost all they have — families, belongings. These are the people who will need help,” she said. The CWS mobile medical team, which already worked with a psychosocial counselor, was planning to add additional licensed psychologists to the unit. Given these steps — and the fact that Aceh was a war zone and Indonesia was still a nascent democracy after years of dominance by President Suharto — some in the ACT network believed the response was handled well. Still, it was marked by real frustrations. The huge volume of air and sea traffic — military, humanitarian, commercial — that had come in and out of Banda Aceh meant that many NGOs were still awaiting

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equipment and supplies. And while authorities hoped to optimize sea access, including using floating warehouses to transport relief items, an insufficient supply of fuel within Aceh itself slowed down food distribution. In a January 7 report, The Economist noted that the questions of coordination and effectiveness would eventually come to replace “the raw displays of generosity.” It quoted the late Fred Cuny, a pioneer of disaster relief, who warned that during any natural disaster, a second disaster looms — resulting “from well-intentioned but illconceived aid.” Relief camps, for example, are convenient for aid providers, but can be disastrous for the recipients, separating them from the communities that can best support them and exposing them to communicable diseases. Food aid, while essential in the short term, can put local farmers out of business if dumped on the market for too long. In most disasters, the scarcest resources are co-ordination and information. Efforts are duplicated, agencies get in each other’s way. For the moment, these concerns, indeed the issue of food delivery itself, remained in some ways secondary; the primary quest for many survivors remained finding lost family members, either alive or dead.The picture Orla Clinton painted was almost unmercifully grim: “Rows and rows of corpses line roadsides with many small black plastic bundles… obviously those of children. “It will be a long time before any sense of normality returns here.”

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Given the glare of international media attention on the cities of Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, and the outpouring of global compassion, it was easy to believe that humanitarian assistance was getting through. In fact, the reality was markedly different, as Clinton noted: Three weeks after the tsunami hit the Indian Ocean region, there are still people stranded in areas of Indonesia, particularly on the west coast, where roads and bridges are out and where helicopters cannot land. Efforts are being made to reach these places. But there are also other areas where the tsunami ravished communities — perhaps (ending their existence) forever.These pockets of tragedy seem to be forgotten in the gaping holes of destruction of Banda Aceh and Meulaboh. The issue of getting aid to geographically isolated pockets remained a serious problem. In remote areas such as Sirombu on Nias island, the tsunami’s effects had been catastrophic and were made worse by isolation in already-impoverished areas.The tsunami’s effects in Sirombu were considerable: 119 people killed and more than 4,000 displaced; homes, schools, churches, mosques, health centers and bridges all destroyed. Compounding the problem were 800 fishing canoes destroyed on Nias, putting a halt to the region’s fishing industry in a region that already faced numerous problems. Nias was something of an anomaly within Indonesia: predominately Christian, it was not a place outsiders visited. Even before the tsunami, Clinton observed, life in Nias was marked by a “continuing cycle of poverty and neglect where women die in childbirth, the majority of people are illiterate, and where malaria and other diseases kill.”

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Given these dynamics, a key question for responders was how to help survivors return to normal lives. “The tsunami stole what little these communities had, pushing them further down the poverty line,” Clinton wrote. “Life is simple here, and people earn barely enough to sustain their families. Whole fishing and farming villages in Sirombu and Mandrehe have been wiped out for good. The market, which so many livelihoods depended upon, was also destroyed.” Nearly a month after the event, “the scale of the disaster on all sectors is just beginning to hit home,” Clinton observed, noting that thousands of bodies were found en masse — 5,000 were found in a single day on Aceh’s west coast — and authorities changed the status of tens of thousands of “missing persons” to “dead.” In one of the more graphic examples of casualty figures more than 28,000 of Meulaboh’s 97,000 residents were killed. And those figures hid a tough reality. Thousands of those who would have been able to respond quickly to such a disaster — doctors, nurses, police officers — were among the dead. This confounded ACT efforts in Indonesia. “We have been assessing the scale of the problems and the capacity of our local partners to carry out the work,” said Jakarta-based ACT coordinator Sjoerd van Schooneveld, in acknowledging the response’s difficulties and challenges. He noted collaboration was under way but added that more work needed to be done on coordination, quality control, finances and accountability. In the midst of persistent challenges, churches became centers of refuge and hope. Churches became full-day and full–night places of safety and refuge. Communicator

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Nias Earthquake

By any measure, the March 28, 2005, earthquake off the coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia, was by itself a catastrophic event, killing some 1,000 people, most of them on the small, impoverished island of Nias. The quake damaged or destroyed more than three-quarters of Nias’ largest city, Gunung Sitoli. But coming almost three months to the day of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Nias earthquake -- both in popular imagination and in the response -- became part of the larger tsunami narrative.

on the Richter scale, killed almost 1,000 people and left over 100,000 homeless on the island of Nias. While Nias and the other islands off the northwest coast of Sumatra suffered relatively fewer casualties, they actually bore the greatest economic brunt of the disasters. The destruction of housing, fishing boats and gear, cropland and plantations, and even fresh water supply, was most widespread. It also struck particularly impoverished and isolated populations, with little access to outside relief and reconstruction supplies. These islands and their people remain critically vulnerable and isolated.”

Though the worst of the quake’s effects were not felt in the same areas hit badly by the tsunami, some areas were affected by Moreover, access to Nias, hard both disasters, making the re- enough in the best of times, besponse difficult. As the revised came even more difficult. The ACT appeal from 2006 noted: earthquake put additional pres“The earthquake measured 8.7 sure on already-overworked ACTWith Courage, In Hope 80

member staff in Indonesia. Still, within 48 hours, ACT members in Indonesia, including Yakkum Emergency Unit, Yayasan Tanggul Bencana and Church World Service, had coordinated their response and prepared shipments of relief supplies. As Abdi R. Tarigan, an ACT staffer noted, Nias faced a variety of external challenges. Nias, a predominately Christian area and grossly extremely impoverished when compared to the rest of Indonesia has high rates of illiteracy, poverty and poor access to health care. That was the base from which the island was recovering; the tsunami and the following earthquake had further wiped out livelihoods and left many people traumatized. One of them, Kartini, was recovering from injuries caused by the earthquake. When she returned


to her home briefly to look for her child, a wall of her home collapsed, pinning her and paralyzing both her legs. (The child escaped safely.) Kartini found comfort in what she described as the excellent rehabilitation care she received at the clinic. “I am very thankful to the YEU medical staff. I was treated very well here,” she said in a report about the first year of the recovery effort.“I am able to move more and more and to use the wheelchair.” From January 2006 onward, Kartini was at a YEU rehabilitation center in Gunung Sitoli where she and other patients spent their free time making handicrafts for sale. “Our patients make handicrafts here to give them the opportunity to earn their living,” said Jaimun, a physiotherapist, “and show that they are still a meaningful member of society.”

Jan-Åke Thorell of Church of Sweden noted in a story about the Rev. Surangika Fernando of Tangalle, a town on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, that the Methodist pastor’s task was not easy. Thorell’s profile hinted of understandable burnout. “After a few months of hard work and dealing with endless needs, Fernando is getting tired. Almost all of Tangalle was damaged by the tsunami, and hundreds of people come every day to Fernando’s church hoping to get some assistance.” While Fernando had received trauma counseling as part of clergy pastoral training, it had proven limited for the task ahead. “None of us has been through anything like this. What can we say?” Still, Fernando affirmed, the church had to be a witness and do what it could — even if it meant doing modest things like distributing items to small businesses: scales to market vendors; carpentry tools; bicycles for


those seeking to get around now that buses and cars had been lost in many areas. “We can assist with these small-scale projects,” Fernando told Thorell. “But we are ordinary people and can’t write proposals for million of rupees. We don’t know how to do it.” Certainly Fernando had reason to be pessimistic: survivors were still living in displacement camps, and residing in such camps was hard, even debilitating. Still, there were small glimmers of hope. Despite overwhelming needs, Thorell wrote, “churches are still one of the best institutions to offer assistance” because they remain grounded in local communities and realities. And as places of day and night-long activity — not to mention centers of respite, relocation and rest — they had become indispensable. Inevitable questions of effectiveness about the entire global response were being asked. A report by Scott Baldauf of The Christian Science Monitor examined some of the response’s strengths and weaknesses. In the positive corner, Jan Egeland, the UN humanitarian coordinator, made clear that the global response was unprecedented: “an extraordinary effort, probably unique in the history of humankind.” The report noted that US $4 billion had been pledged by donor nations and international development banks, while private donations, from both charities and individuals would raise the figure to $6 billion. Also hailed was the work of military personnel from nine countries, including U.S. servicemen based on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and other hospital ships. More critically, however, residents of affected countries said the promised assistance was “coming much too slowly, and is poorly coordinated when it arrives.” And in iso-

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Paul Jeffrey, ACT International

A family left homesless by the tsunami, living in St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka.


Paul Jeffrey, ACT International

Above The writing on the board asks passersby not to steal from what remains of this house at Moratuwa, Sri Lanka.

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With Courage, In Hope Hege Opseth, NCA-ACT International

Left Chinnayan’s family of four found shelter in Karikattukoppam, a small camp several miles from the beach. A blue plastic sheet offered shade, and Kalphana had received cooking pans so that she could prepare a little food for her family. Along the coast outside the city of Chennai, people are talking about the monster wave that swept their lives away, smashed into their villages, dragging people, fishing boats and houses out to sea.


lated areas of Aceh province, Baldauf reported, “absolutely no relief has arrived.” The entire region, Baldauf ’s report said, was beset by localized flooding that was hampering “travel and food distribution; seaports and airports remain disabled, and those that are operational are overloaded with traffic.” The disaster’s most salient fact was its geographic magnitude. The reach of the tsunami marked it as something unusual: “There’s no country or organisation in the world that has handled this kind of disaster,” said Mans Nyberg, an official with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, quoted by Baldauf. “The slow progress is normal given the situation. And it’s improving day by day. The delay is because we’ve had to survey first, establish an office, and send personnel and support.” Another story from New Delhi, also by Baldauf, noted that if past experience proved correct — for example, the experiences of the survivors of flooding in the Philippines and Bangladesh in 2004 — international pledges would not be honored fully. “Relief organisations,” he reported, “say they are bracing for the moment the news media drifts to other stories. If the past is a predictor, promises of aid will be delayed, diminished, or forgotten.” The tsunami had “already proved to be a history-defying event, with donations topping previous records” — to date, the UN had received $717 million of the promised $4 billion pledges by donor nations. But aid groups would need “to harness the unprecedented public interest and involvement to keep pressure on donor governments over the long haul,” Baldauf reported. Sustaining “the world’s attention and keeping momentum going through the rebuilding process” could prove to be “the stiffest challenge to any major relief effort.” Elizabeth Griffin, a spokeswom-

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an for U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services, said: “When a natural disaster strikes, and there is immediate media attention, then people get mobilized to act.When the media leaves, people think the problem has been resolved, but that is when our job begins.” This pointed to the problem of the “CNN factor” — sometimes called the “CNN effect.” As John Tulloch, a New Dehli-based consultant to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, noted: “Slow onset disasters, such as famines or drought, are seen as more common events and they don’t have the same news value. The challenge for the aid community is to get news attention for these issues as well as something extraordinary, like a tsunami.” What could be said about the initial ACT response and the emerging recovery efforts? Certainly ACT members had reached tens of thousands of people in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand and Somalia. Through their relief work, the ACT network had distributed food, water and non-food items such as blankets, clothing and cooking utensils. This was done with 89 percent of the funding received for an initial appeal of US $75.3 million. In many areas, ACT members had helped in the restoration of hope. All could agree that the staff, many young and untested, often rose to meet day-to-day challenges — though sometimes, because of inexperience or sheer exhaustion, they did not. Still, the obstacles they faced were considerably greater than in previous disasters. Reflecting on the successes and trials, failures and shortcomings, CASA’s Sushant Agrawal said that in past disasters in India, the most number of families CASA could

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assist was about 38,000. But during the initial “crisis” phase of the tsunami response, CASA assisted 50,000 families — some 300,000 people. “We covered them within four weeks’ time, which was unprecedented.This shows we had potential and capacity that was under-utilized in the past. “We were not looking for financial assistance but we were looking for support from the ecumenical family — that we were not alone in working there.That was a big morale boost to us,” he said. “The phone calls — all the support we got — have boosted our morale and confidence. That is what it means to be part of one family, that we show we share and care.” The challenges ahead in what is often called the “mid-term rehabilitation phase” were obvious. Beyond taking care of the survivors’ immediate needs — an obviously crucial part of the work ACT members do in any emergency — was the work of building permanent housing; of helping those who need jobs go back to work; and of preparing communities to respond to future disasters. It came down to this: more intensive and comprehensive work was needed in rebuilding the lives of those who even before the tsunami were the most vulnerable, whose hopes had often been dashed by poverty and governmental inattention to their lives. “It will have to be done in a strategic, managed way in a long-term framework,” Agrawal said. “We have to ensure people have life with hope. ACT and CASA and the other ACT members will have to engage themselves to ensure that in three to five years we will still be able to offer new hope to people.”The world had never seen a di-

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Hundreds of thousands of people had been affected by the disaster along the length of the coast, like in the village of Kokkirammedu, where 20 people lost their lives out of a small population of 120 families. Women burned what they could on the beach. Anxiously, they watched the horizon. The sea was calm. People would need to recover from the shock, clear their coastline and find the strength to carry on with their lives.

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With Courage, In Hope Hege Opseth, NCA-ACT International


saster like this, he said.The tsunami caused the human family — which in recent years had come together in unprecedented ways through communications and other interactions — to ask, “Can we reach out, can we do something for the victims?” “The media helped people become engaged emotionally,” Agrawal said. “By doing so, they became part of the total response.”

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Orla Clinton, Church of Sweden-ACT International


The year’s advances

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he hopeful news as the world prepared to mark the tsunami’s first anniversary was that the relief effort was commensurate to the event’s shattering effects. “The world’s response to the tsunami was the best ever,” is how Jan Egeland termed the global reaction. “Governments, the private sector and individuals around the world opened their hearts and their wallets.”Within weeks, hundreds of international aid agencies were working in Aceh — though often, it must be acknowledged, with overlapping programmes. Still, one humanitarian worker I spoke to in rural Aceh in late 2005, Heinrich Terhorst of Caritas Germany, said the world had yet to understand the severity of the disaster. “Only a war is comparable to a tsunami,” he said in an interview in the agency’s busy office kitchen — echoing what a CWS colleague who visited Aceh soon after December 26 told me:“The mind can barely grasp what these people have been through and what they will need to begin to recover.” Still, whether or not the world understood the dimensions of what had happened, high expectations — particularly as the benchmark anniversaries like the one-year mark approached — caused friction and tension.


One problem heard repeatedly as December 2005 neared was the perceived slow progress in moving the displaced out of tents and other temporary shelters into permanent homes. The pressure on relief groups and the Indonesian government was growing. “The whole world was expecting it would be done in a few months,” said Simon Sengkerij, ACT Indonesia coordinator. Sengkerij argued those hopes were always unrealistic: gaining land permits and settling issues of property rights are never easy, particularly when land and property records have been lost; relief groups were also under pressure not to use wood gathered from illegal logging, a perennial problem in Indonesia. Moreover, how much could realistically be accomplished in a year’s time? Terhorst, who grew up in postwar Germany, noted that it took his country at least two decades to fully recover from the devastating losses of World War II, and that it was likely to take five years or more to rebuild areas in the United States affected by Hurricane Katrina. In late 2005, he told me, it was unfair to expect impoverished and war-torn Aceh to reconstitute its housing stock very quickly. Still, as the one-year mark neared, homes were being built, and a quiet sense of optimism — admittedly hard-earned — could be felt in places. One such locale was the village of Meue, three hours south from Banda Aceh, where CWS Indonesia was constructing homes. Meue was spared the large loss of life common in other villages. But the disaster took a toll on the village’s economic life: its fishing fleet was wiped out, most of its houses flooded or destroyed and nearly all of its livestock lost.

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With the sound of hammering surrounding us, Nurdin, a village spokesman, said: “We’ve faced the last year with patience and a determination to move forward.Working has helped with the sorrows we’ve faced.” Syaraini, 31, a mother of three young children, said that preparing to move into her house was but one example of a community whose worries and fears had “calmed” a bit. At the least, she said, the housing made “everyone feel more secure, so they can focus on earning an income.” I asked her about her hopes for the future. “All I want,” she said, “is for my children to be useful and resourceful for themselves.” That remained a singular hope throughout Aceh — a hope that persists five years later. Indeed, the success of ACT’s response in the village of Meue and the other villages and cities of Aceh, Sri Lanka, India, Somalia and elsewhere can only be measured by that simple benchmark: did the ACT response prepare communities to meet future challenges and disasters? There were clear signs that was happening in many of the regions where ACT was working. In a November 2 report from Aceh’s coastal Pidie district, Jannerson Girsang noted that fishermen and their families involved in a CWS shelter and livelihood-recovery programme not only received boats in order to reclaim their jobs but also were involved in all phases of their new homes’ construction, from planning to building. “I myself participated in interior design and also the supervision of the construction,” said new homeowner Zakaria, a father of three. “I am satisfied with my house-to-be.”

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One of the cornerstones of the programme was to see communities holistically. In cooperation with PASKA, a local foundation, the CWS response included a provision that those, like Zakaria, who received a boat participate in a community-based revolving loan system as a sign of social accountability. The idea was simple, explained Evy Kaban, the CWS livelihood-recovery programme coordinator in Banda Aceh: “Every time the earnings of a fisherman are more than Rp 50,000 [US$5], he or she contributes 15 percent of the excess earnings to this community-based revolving fund system, compiled (administered) by chosen members of the community,” Kaban said. “The money collected from all fishermen will be used as a revolving fund to the 16 people who haven’t had earnings yet. They can use the money as seed capital for small enterprises.” A similar idea proved to be the foundation for a farming initiative in Lam Reh, Aceh. Lisa Bonds of Lutheran World Relief told the story through the eyes of Mahmud Djalel, a 50-year-old chili farmer whose “sun-wrinkled skin, gray hair and likely the losses he suffered due to the tsunami make him look much older than his 50 years.” The tsunami took “everything that mattered to him — his wife, his children, his home and the ability to farm the land he had worked so hard to own,” Bonds wrote. To add insult to grievous injury, the tsunami not only saturated the land with salt, but covered it with a thick coating of mud. Luckily, a no-interest loan, valued at about US $300, was enough for Djalel and several other farmers to rent land elsewhere, buy seeds and tools and hire farm helpers to raise and harvest cucumbers and chilies to sell in local markets.The proceeds from the local markets were enough to pay off the loan in small

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In Blang Ulam, Aceh, tsunami survivors are living in new homes constructed by YEU.

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Paul Jeffrey, ACT International


installments, purchase essentials like food and medicine, and put money aside so that Djalel and other farmers could eventually pay for mud removal and reclaim and refertilize their damaged farm fields. The collective nature of this response was crucial. Mahmud and his fellow farmers met monthly with YEU staff to share ideas, learn and pool resources — all in the quest to recover as quickly as possible. Djalel, who once grew only chilies, said that expanding with cucumbers was helpful because cucumbers grow more quickly than chilies — and as a result could be sold faster. “So, the investment we make in seeds and growing cucumbers pays off quickly.This is one of the new things I’ve learned from working with YEU and other farmers, something I wouldn’t have done before the tsunami,” he said. Even after Djalel was able to reclaim his own land, these new ways of thinking inspired him to continue to work the rented land as a way to repay his loan more quickly. “Once the loan is paid off, I will be able to rebuild my house and, hopefully, rebuild my life,” he told Bonds, adding that he was eager to have a home of his own again. As he reflected on how the response had gone, Djalel said, “I am thankful that YEU is working with me and other farmers to make us stronger and to help us make our lives even better than they were before the tsunami.” In an aside, he said while he deeply missed his wife and would always mourn her absence, “I have to admit that lately I’ve been thinking it might be good to visit one of the groups of widows that YEU runs!” Djalel was not the only one with a sense of humor and playfulness. Bonds took note of ACT member Yaysan Tanggul Bencana’s support of a school and youth center in the

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small city of Meulaboh. As part of the center’s work, members of the community offered to teach teenage girls, including 13-year-old Nemi Nasita, traditional Acehnese dancing and singing.The girls become so proficient that they were asked to perform at village events and celebrations, such as the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. They even began to make some money. Nasita told Bonds and other visitors from Lutheran World Relief that her dance group had already received, and saved, some 600,000 Indonesian rupiahs — about US $60 — for their performances. Before the formation of the troupe, “the girls had lost their sense of joy and fun,” Bonds observed. “The dance classes have offered the girls an opportunity to talk about their experiences, their fears and their futures in a setting that is safe and warm. By learning the dances, the girls have gained pride in their culture while also becoming an important part of the preservation of Acehnese culture.” One of the dance teachers noted: “These girls and their families were traumatized by the tsunami. When we started the classes, it was common for many of the girls to withdraw and sit in a corner crying. Now, they are stronger and have begun to heal some of their wounds.” If, at the one-year mark, recovery was a palpable reality in some places, it still seemed distant in others. In a report in late November, Jan-Åke Thorell profiled Methodist pastor Anil Silva, whose work in Matara, southern Sri Lanka, earned Silva a wellspring of support, good will and admiration in his community. Silva was constantly asked, “Why are you doing this? Why are you working for us, day after day?” Silva’s reply: “It is my duty as a Christian.” Even if “the gate to the church building is closed,” the Rev. Silva told Thorell, “the work is going on. The body (as he calls the church) is in

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YEU-ACT International

Lisa Bonds, LWR-ACT International

Top Muharman,YEU’s nurse, conducting health services in Meulaboh.

Petteri Kokkonen, FinnChurchAid-ACT International

Bottom Left Dr. Thiru Krishnan, an optometrist and eye surgeon who works at a monthly clinic for hypertension and diabetes screening, nutrition education, and blindness prevention in Pondicherry.

Bottom Right Noibe Waruwu, 45, was brought to a YEU clinic with her husband and a couple of other patients on a helicopter from Asawa. Waruwu broke her right leg in the earthquake when she tried to rescue her children from collapsing walls.


action.”The church was also assisting people without exception, regardless of religious, social or ethnic considerations. While Silva was justifiably proud of that record, the year had taken its toll. Perhaps because of the church’s commitment to helping all, requests for assistance never ceased and with time became even more extensive. People no longer asked for small things — health kits, food and the like — but for larger requests: boats, houses and land. Silva recalled the story of a local school teacher who had finished work on a new home shortly before the tsunami struck. “The only thing that remains of his home today is his mortgage,” Thorell wrote, noting that the man’s bank still wanted him to make monthly loan payments. The teacher asked Silva for advice and the pastor had neither a solution nor an answer for him. “I gave him a cupboard and a table for his temporary house. That’s all I could do.” As the first-year commemoration approached, another problem related to housing loomed: land. Silva noted that some 300 local families still lived in displacement camps. Silva’s church sought funds to buy land for 15 displaced families and initiate a programme allowing families to build their homes on land the church purchased. But land in Matara was scarce and old communal ways of living faced challenges. “The problem is that before the tsunami, several families stayed in one house.The owner may now get a new house from the government or an NGO but the other families who had shared the home get nothing,” Silva said. “The authorities cannot control the situation and [then] many of the affected people come to me.”

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A similar problem existed in Hambantota, Sri Lanka. As Thorell reported, many still resided “in temporary houses constructed from wood, stained gray now after months of sun, rain and dust.” The problem of land allocation was partly due to a government directive that no new houses be built within a 100-meter buffer zone next to the coast. That came up against old customs and habits. Despite their tsunami experiences, vendors and fishermen still wanted access to the beach and the sea — the very stuff of their livelihood. Many had chosen to remain in their temporary shelters — often makeshift structures of wood, or tents standing near the sites of their old homes, marked by piles of bricks and stones. It was as if survivors, caught between the potential force of nature and new laws governing their land, were saying, “This is my only piece of land, please don’t take it away from me.” The stubborn refusal to give up hope for even the smallest bit of land was easy to grasp given the conditions within the displacement camps. While visiting the Angulana camp south of Colombo, Thorell met Priyantha Peiris, his wife, Suwarnalatha, and the couple’s 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Sadini. The family lost everything in the tsunami and the intervening year had not been easy. “Life is a bit difficult but we are alive,” Suwarnalatha said. Part of the difficulty they faced was space. In the camp, Suwarnalatha and her family had been allocated a single room: less than ten square meters, with a “kitchen” tucked into one corner. “A bed, two plastic chairs and a table are the only pieces of furniture the family have,” Thorell observed. The buildup of heat made it impossible to stay in the structure during the day and made sleeping uncomfortable at night. “We have been suffer-

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Two women who live in a fishing village near South Chinnoor, in Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore district. Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) worked with local fishing communities to assist in reviving livelihoods disrupted by the December 2004 tsunami.

Chris Herlinger, CWS-ACT International

ing a bit and now we really want to move somewhere else, so we can live our own life again,” Suwarnalatha said. When December 26, 2005, finally arrived, the one-year commemorations were, as an ACT headline noted, marked by both “emotions and community spirit.” Emotions were by turns somber and pensive and, in spots, cautiously hopeful.The Rev. Chandran Paul Martin, executive secretary of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India,

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noted in his report for ACT that “the continued struggle of moving forward” needed to be acknowledged. For survivors, the commemoration was “an emotional journey as they remembered those who had died and their own plight.” Despite the various services in India — processions, concerts, candlelight vigils, unveiling of memorials and planting of tree saplings — the individual survivors and communities felt continued vexation. Martin wrote: Some survivors continue to speak of the emotional wounds they still carry. The arrival of the day that marked a year since the tsunami hit and the events that were held to commemorate it brought up painful memories and renewed grief among many survivors. Sundari, who lost her husband, Deivasigamani, to the tsunami last year, is still angry and feels hopeless. Since the tragedy, the family has been through severe hardships. Added to this, she has been diagnosed with a heart ailment. Her four children look lost and gloomy. For them, putting their lives together again seems impossible. The community of Angalamman Kuppam in Cheiyur Thalk, Kanchipuram District organized a prayer meeting with a Hindu priest who performed rites to remember the dead. Special homage badges were pinned on every garment, and the village flag flew at half-mast. The community seems dazed and sad.Their grief loomed large even in their hope. The community took an oath not to fish on the 26th day

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of every month to remember those who have died. They observed this throughout 2005. Mr. Shekar, a leader of the panchayat (village council) suspects that ‘the tsunami may have changed their lives for the worse.’ He said the sea has changed in its behavior and that the huge waves continue to challenge their hope for a full return to the sea. Many who were gathered nodded in agreement. They feel the tsunami has changed some serious ‘sea realities’ in terms of the movement of the fish and the fishing practices. A fisherman explained that ‘the communities have not been able to get a decent catch for a long time, and therefore the communities are not able to make ends meet.’ Another fisherman feels the government and non-governmental organisations need to accompany communities until they are able to restore their livelihoods. Dilli Rani, a leader of a self-help group whose members fish for a living, summarized the past year ‘as one of difficulties and hopelessness.’ The women in the fishing communities play a key role as providers and managers of the resources of the family. Dilli said she has not been able to sell a decent catch all year and so the women are seeking alternate employment opportunities to manage the big gap in their incomes. However, Kalai Selvi, another self-help leader, said,‘They still have faith in the sea and that the sea will continue to sustain their lives.’ YAKKUM Emergency Unit in Indonesia hosted a “Grand Expo” in a football field in Lamreh, Aceh, as a way to provide a space for reflection, demonstrate the ACT members’ continued commitment to survivors and encourage members of the Aceh

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Lisa Bonds, LWR-ACT

Girls in a dance class crowd around a laptop computer to see photos from their last performance.


community to become self-reliant. Organized with 92 community members, the twoday event included the display of products made by displaced persons involved in a livelihood-recovery programme. The event featured speeches as well as exhibits of art, poetry, photographs, films and video. A free medical clinic offered services. The reports from India and Indonesia reflected not so much a contrast — certainly not a right or wrong way to commemorate a tragedy — but rather the continued challenges that faced both communities and individuals, as well as the ongoing demands facing the responding humanitarian agencies. A summary produced by ACT at the first-year mark did not shy away from any of this. In the aftermath of a disaster of such massive scale and scope, “it quickly became clear that relief and rehabilitation and long-term development programmes would be fraught with challenges and difficulties, given the unprecedented loss of life and the destruction,” the report said. The story of the humanitarian response was still “a difficult one, as thousands of people are still without permanent homes and many more are struggling to make ends meet,” said Jenny Borden, ACT International’s interim director. “Despite great needs in these complicated situations with multiple donors, consultation processes with governments and beneficiaries have taken longer than anticipated.” The initial relief efforts “were mobilized very quickly,” but Borden added that “the development of long-term plans with full consultation with beneficiaries and agreements with local governments and coordination with other donors is a lengthy process.” The ACT appeal for assistance to survivors in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Somalia included relief and rehabilitation activities “in the sectors of shelter, livelihood, education, water and

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sanitation and disaster preparedness. Assistance had covered, among other things, distribution of food, clothing, bedding, kitchen utensils, kerosene stoves, boats, engines and other equipment, fishing nets, helping repair boats and motors, initiating food and cash programmes, and providing facilities and counseling for children.” Long-term plans focused on “strengthening local capacity, thereby alleviating the suffering of the most vulnerable tsunami survivors. Building resilient communities by assisting people in re-establishing livelihoods and through income generation is an important goal that goes beyond taking care of people’s immediate needs — a crucial part of the work ACT members do in the crisis phase of any emergency. Key areas of work are now focusing on long-term recovery, such as the construction of permanent housing, assisting people in getting back to work, preparing for future disasters and helping the most vulnerable.” The report did not understate some of the problems inherent in both the overall situation or the response: tensions between fishermen and other groups; still-emerging reconstruction policies and plans and not enough official recognition of the need for long-term rehabilitation; tensions over the need to re-construct more safely, away from the ocean but often without the land on which to do it. The ongoing, underlying problem of trauma was also stressed: “The scope of the devastation and loss of human lives had never before been experienced. It left those who survived deeply traumatized.” The ACT report had as its basis the experiences of real communities, like the one Peter Høvring visited in February 2006. His report on the village of Kaluthavalai, along Sri Lanka’s eastern shore, illustrated the many challenges facing a community that, among

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other things, had to find new ways to feed itself.The local house gardens were no longer productive because of the salinization of the soil. (In India, villagers noticed that even goats died after eating grass that had become saturated with salt.) But the main problem, as the villagers marked the first-year commemoration, was that things were simply stuck. The issue of land — where to build, how to pay for it, the ins and outs of the so-called buffer zone – was unresolved, as was renovating the temporary shelters in which residents lived. Each set of actors — the villagers, the national government and the local government — waited for others to move the process forward. Given the stalemate, the villagers themselves, who had begun to lose confidence in promises made, realized that ultimate success depended on their efforts. The result was an interfaith success story: the villagers asked both the local Hindu temple and the Methodist church — whose pastor, Rev. Selvarejah, had been involved in the ACT response — for assistance in purchasing land to build a new school. The temple and church both helped pay for the land (at a cost of US $4,750) and that unlocked the logjam. Authorities began planning; UNICEF offered to fund the building of the school and the purchase of equipment. A small step, but as Høvring noted: “The challenges facing communities such as the one of Kaluthavalai are huge. But their experiences are showing that when survivors work together, often across religious lines, and empower themselves, the process of rebuilding a community can move forward in a positive way.” That proved to be the case in July 2006, when residents of several communities in West Aceh began returning home after a year of living in tents and temporary quarters. As

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Abdi Tarigan reported, the ceremony at Lampu Kawat village was notable not only for the number of houses built — 124 in all — but also for the warmth and appreciation expressed by those receiving the houses. In an agreement with CWS, village leaders declared their thanks for a project that allowed the community some sense of normality. “We lived in emergency tents and barracks for eight months. There was no privacy, and [they were] uncomfortable,” said one community leader, who praised ACT members for the food, blankets and medicine received early on. The leader also noted the religious character of the village. “You know we are Muslim, but you helped us very sincerely,” he said. Another village leader added: “The difference of religion does not make human beings separate from each other and unwilling to help each other. We are very proud that ACT helps us truly. Its work is evidence that humanity does not always see the difference.” The declaration was welcome though not surprising: All ACT members have agreed to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief that states: “Aid is given regardless of the race, creed or nationality of the recipients and without adverse distinction of any kind. Aid priorities are calculated on the basis of need alone.” The code also states: “Aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint.” Also on hand for the ceremony was Ramli Ibrahim, the general secretary of the Indonesian government’s Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency in Aceh-Nias. He said ACT members had carried out their work according to key principles, two of which were “community participation and helping the people regardless of religion

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Transitional shelters being built for 900 families in Tayagatha Pura Modra, a settlement 30 km south of Colombo. They were for families who lived on the coast and whose houses were completely destroyed.

Daniel Fekete, HIA-ACT International

and race.” Appropriately, the ceremony ended with a Muslim cleric sprinkling water and rice on one of the new homes — the Acehnese tradition of Peusi Jeuk, which Tarigan noted “blesses the house and its occupants and calls for it to be stronger and a pleasant place to live.” The ACT tsunami appeal ran through 2007, and in an interview with Lesvi Roselim during a 2006 visit to Indonesia, ACT director John Nduna took stock of the alliance’s response.The ACT network had raised more than US$100 million for the response, providing significant assistance “not only in terms of material support, but also at the level

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Crew members of the new fishing boats display their catch after returning from their first fishing trip out to sea. The new boats allowed the fishermen to return to work and earn a regular income again. LWSI-ACT International

of psychological support through our many psychosocial interventions.” ACT’s mandate was clear: “We respond to emergencies — emergencies meaning that we are involved in relief and rehabilitation.” But the alliance’s work could lead to long-term sustainability for affected communities. ACT’s work could be the pillar — should be the pillar — “on which the ongoing development work can rest.” One part of that long-term work, of strengthening the sustainability of communities, was emergency preparedness. Nduna explained: “When I say ‘prepared,’ it doesn’t mean we should stock up on blankets and tents and relief items... But in practical terms, in terms of the kinds of shelter we provide

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Thailand

The early global media coverage of the Indian Ocean tsunami focused on the tourist areas of Phuket and Phi Phi in Thailand because the images from those regions were so ubiquitous and the experiences of tourists caught in the tsunami captured the Western media’s imagination. The villages along the Thai coast, including the hard-hit predominately Muslim fishing communities of the Chao Lay people, received less attention. Among those responding to their needs was the Church of Christ in Thailand, a member of the World Council of Churches but not formally of ACT. Initially the CCT was to be part of the ACT response; however, it eventually decided not to be part of the response because both organisations concluded that their respective approaches were

not compatible. As noted in the January 31, 2006, revised appeal, the disagreement focused over the “integration of Christian witness and ministry” in disaster response. ACT adheres to the International Code of Conduct that proscribes proselytizing; the Thai church felt it had to honor its commitment to its ministry. As a result, there was an amicable parting of ways. CCT proposals were taken out of the ACT appeal. Still, CCT’s work was highlighted occasionally by the ACT coordinating office in its tsunami programme updates. One of the church’s first responses was to respond in the provinces of Phang Nga and Krabi — chosen because of the extreme need of destruction and because CCT already had a presence in the area. Within 48 hours of the tsunami, the church

was providing emergency food, water and cooking supplies; in addition, a medical team and a team of trained pastors and elders providing trauma counseling were dispatched to affected communities. In later months of the response, the CCT assisted a number of families in repairing their boats and with fishing equipment.

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for instance, we should also make sure that we provide shelters that are much more resistant to the kinds of natural disasters that occur here in this region. But, our preparedness should go far beyond that. We should be able to prepare the community to be able to cope, to handle the situation to their best ability when emergencies happen and be able to minimize the disastrous effect on the community itself.” Disaster preparedness became a key part of the final stages of the ACT member response — part of a “three-legged stool” that also included housing construction and livelihood development. The Indian state of Tamil Nadu became the site of several ACT member-initiatives in this area. As one example, in every community in which it worked, LWSI provided community-based disaster preparedness training — in tandem with its income-generation work. Strengthening ties between village organisations and groups, both governmental and non-governmental, led to more stable village structures. A key component in these efforts was in ensuring that women’s voices were heard and respected. Empowering women had to be a primary part of long-term recovery efforts because of women’s vulnerable social status. A report by DanChurchAid noted that historically “women are allowed little say in the decision-making process, [and less] so in traditional social settings …. Interactions with women folk in fishing communities have revealed that they are virtually excluded from the community decision-making process, though in [some] places they have their own groups which meet separately.”

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Callie Long, ACT International

The Rev. Ramesh of the Tangalle Methodist Church with young students on the last day of the school year. The Montesori school for young children is one of several projects run by the Methodist Church in this area in response to the tsunami of 2004. All the children in the class had in one way or another been affected by the tsunami, and all their parents who survived had suffered severe losses when the tidal waves struck their part of the coast on December 26. This day was cause for celebration, as not only was it the last day of school before the long holiday, but it was also the day that Rev. Ramesh would take the class photo, which meant that every child was there.


But that began to change with the programmes combining women’s empowerment with disaster preparedness and livelihood development. Mrs.A. Mala, from Ayyampettai village said: “Before the tsunami we did not come out of our houses. But now there is a great change. We have the confidence to come out, talk and even fight for our rights.” Rina Chunder concluded: “The overall feeling is that by being part of the self-help groups, women have gained the confidence to meet with government officials and NGO staff to advocate their own causes. At a family level as well, they are now able to explain matters to the men-folk, and feel that their points of view are better understood.” How did the men react? Surprisingly well, said Mrs. M. Danamani, another villager. “Before they would not have allowed us to come out and participate in meetings,” she said. “Now they encourage us to attend even if they are unable to, so that they can get the information being shared. A very positive attitude is noticeable among the men.” Part of that change, it has to be said, stemmed from practical concerns. As part of recovery efforts, local women had joined together to make, and then sell, candles. Each woman earned about a half-U.S. dollar per day, and the extra income, however small, was noticed by the men. Certainly not all long-standing gender issues were resolved. Discrimination and sexism continued, as did the dowry system and the pernicious effects of domestic violence. But something of a change had occurred, as Mrs. Shanthi noted: “I will not force my daughters to marry. I want them to do what they want. A mother should be a friend to her daughters.”

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Despite its physical violence and the many tragedies it caused — dislocation, loss and death — the December 2004 tsunami had changed the communities it affected. In an April 2009 report, Nina Ellinger, regional representative of DanChurchAid, said the long-term benefits of work by DCA and its partners following the tsunami had included the improved status of women, particularly Dalit women. “Though the tsunami was a disaster,” said Mrs. Mala, “it brought some positive changes also.”

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Proselytizing

Proselytizing in disasters is a be- in predominately non-Christian deviling issue. As Jane Lampman environments were further inof The Christian Science Monitor flaming tensions was real. “There’s noted in a story during the height a power imbalance when peoof the tsunami response, for coun- ple are in dire need,” said Vince tries “with thousands left home- Isner of the National Council less and bereft by the tsunami, the of Churches (USA), quoted by outpouring of help from around Lampman. “When others offer aid the world is a godsend. Yet in and ask, ‘By the way, do you know some nations, the growing pres- why this happened to you? There’s ence of faith-based agencies dis- a better way,’ it becomes a delicate pensing the aid is posing anoth- power struggle.” er challenge — stirring tensions already simmering around evan- Writing from Anichankuppan, gelism and anti-Christian vio- India, in June 2005, Peter Høvring lence.” Such violence was be- of DanChurchAid noted that the coming common in Sri Lanka, issue of proselytizing was somefor example. As Lampman noted, thing of a closed book for ACT churches and Christians had been members: as ACT signatories, they subject to violent attacks, even be- had agreed to the Code of Conduct fore Buddhist politicians charged for the International Red Cross Christian groups with offering re- and Red Crescent Movement and lief assistance as a means of reli- NGOs in Disaster Relief. A corgious conversion. The concern nerstone of the code calls for prothat outside116 evangelical Christians viding relief without favoritism of With Courage, In Hope

any kind. Høvring noted that “in many parts of India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, countries where followers of the world’s major religions often live side-by-side, ACT members motivated by the teachings and values of Christianity have been offering humanitarian assistance to people irrespective of their faith background — Christians, Muslims, Hindus and non-religious people alike.” But how did ACT members responding to the tsunami put that code into practice? Høvring noted that the acceptance of all religions was “sometimes modeled in the employees of ACT members.” He told the story of Prakasham (a Christian), Thulasi (a Hindu) and Tulu Rehman (a Muslim): three young people working for Lutheran World Service India and living in a village along India’s east


coast that had been ravaged by the tsunami. Only a few houses on the beach remained intact, “and these three live in one of them.” LWSI, with a long history of relief and long-term development work in parts of eastern, southern and western India, had no trouble working in a predominately Hindu area. Even after the tsunami, the village of Anichankuppan remained peaceful. “This is India — even if we are different, we live peacefully side by side,” said Tulu Rehman. “Here in Anichankuppan we are doing humanitarian work, and in this connection politics and religion do not mean anything.” The three staff members, living and eating together in a small brick house on the beach, worked for the reconstruction of a village, where 318 of the 364 families in the village were directly affected by the disaster. Fifty-five houses were de-

stroyed while the rest were seriously damaged. “For these three young people who are implementing one of the ‘commandments’ of the Code of Conduct of humanitarian assistance,” Høvring wrote, “being accepting of the religion of the people they work with daily is not only part of their work, but is part of their life at home as well.” Elsewhere, ACT members responding to the tsunami incorporated people’s religious practices into response. In Banda Aceh, YAKKUM Emergency Unit encouraged readings of the Koran and supplied one of its partners with copies of the Islamic sacred text. Yayasan Tanggul Benkana provided Muslim prayer accessories, including prayer mats and cloths, along with other essential food and non-food items to inter-

nally displaced people in various locations. In addition, YTB had a novel approach toward integrating the Code of Conduct’s main principles into its work: it set them to music for use in congregations responding to the tsunami. Why? Because the ACT member wanted to underscore the need for “aid with no strings attached.”

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Paul Jeffrey, ACT International


Courage despite conflict

I

mprovements for women were not the only change the tsunami and its response brought. When, in 2005, I visited Krueng Kala, a village south of Banda Aceh and the site of a resettlement programme for internally displaced people, I spoke to Siti Mariam, a quiet but determined humanitarian. She helped coordinate a psychosocial support programme for children. It was sometimes hard to speak to Mariam, given the din of dozens of laughing children as they made crafts. Once afraid of noises that suggested the roar of the tsunami — even the sound of helicopters sent the children cowering in fear — the young people were relaxed, laughing and not afraid to express their emotions. Of course, there was another reason the sound of helicopters had once caused the children to cower in fear: Aceh was, in effect, recovering from a double crisis — not only from the tsunami but also from a 30-year civil conflict that had only recently ended. Before the tsunami, war was a part of life in Aceh and the province had been battered by a conflict that pitted the Indonesian government against the Free Aceh Movement


(Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, or GAM), a rebel group that championed independence for the resource-rich province. But the tsunami and recovery efforts had one benefit: it forced the Indonesian government and GAM rebels to recognize the need to end a war that, prior to 2005, showed no signs of abating. How did that happen? The tsunami’s staggering impact, as well as the sudden arrival of outside help, transformed Aceh’s political and social landscape. The warring parties realized that if Aceh were to be rebuilt, the two factions would have to stop fighting. A ceasefire agreement was signed in August of 2005. As reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts continued and as Aceh marked the one-year anniversary of the tsunami, the word “security” had particular poignancy. That did not happen overnight:Aceh’s peace was hard-earned. Interim ACT director Jenny Borden recalled that the conflict in Aceh was one reason the transition from initial relief to reconstruction was particularly hard for ACT members. Aid agencies were working in a war-torn province where, prior to the tsunami, outsiders were prohibited. It was a closed militarized zone. That dynamic, coupled with bureaucratic logjams, “stalled the second phase of the response,” Borden said. “We couldn’t move on and we needed to.” Eventually, of course, the situation improved. A July 2006 report by the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition, an international grouping of NGOs and donors, concluded that the impact “of the international presence on the peace and governance situation in Aceh is deemed to have been positive, albeit not explicitly planned nor commensurate with the scale of funding.” Certainly there was a sense of optimism in Aceh which

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Peter Høvring, DanChurchAid-ACT International

Everybody in Idinthakarai had been affected by the tsunami - some of the people more indirectly, like for instance grocery shop owners and the owner of the shipyard. The demand for new boats were high but prices had gone up on the material he was using to make the fiberglass boats. Also, he claimed, people were not able to pay.

was hard to miss, even for an outsider. After traveling for several days to visit Aceh’s recovering coastal areas, including villages undergoing massive reconstruction projects, CWS staffer Ejodia Kakunsi told me: “This is not just about building homes but building for the future.” The situation in Sri Lanka was far thornier. The TEC report noted that what happened in Indonesia did not replicate itself in Sri Lanka, where the Tamil Tigers fought

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Abdi R Tarigan, ACT International

Ramadhan’s mother, Kemala Anshari, said there had been a positive change in her son’s behaviour since joining the CWS FEAT program. “He used to be a lonely child due to his terrible experience in the tsunami. He was without friends. Now, as you can see, he looks joyful…”

YEU-ACT International

Days after the tsunami hit Indonesia’s Aceh province, there was no respite. People, so many of whom lost loved ones when the giant waves struck, were filled with grief and despair. The landscape around them, a constant reminder of the frailty of human life and infrastructure, when confronted with the full force of nature’s fury.


a long-standing insurgency against the Sri Lankan government. That civil conflict killed some 60,000 and flared anew during tenuous, on-again, off-again cease-fires that rarely held.The contrast between Aceh and Sri Lanka could not be starker. One scholar, Darini Rajasingham Senanayake, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, an autonomous research institute based at the National University of Singapore, has studied the peace process in Aceh. She notes that the agreement mediated by former Finish President Martti Ahtisaari, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008 for his efforts to resolve international conflicts, including Aceh, was “regarded as one of the most successful internationally mediated peace accords in the world.” On the other hand, the collapse of the Norwegian-facilitated peace process in Sri Lanka saw renewed fighting, which was brought to an end by the military defeat of the LTTE in May 2009.… (T)he LTTE was defeated by Sri Lankan armed forces and its leadership killed. The root causes of the ethno-national conflict in Sri Lanka remain largely unresolved and the sustainability of peace in Sri Lanka remains a question since it is likely that militants may regroup and return in the absence of redress of the demand for power-sharing by the Tamil minority in northeast Sri Lanka. Among other factors in the differences between Sri Lanka and Aceh was that peace talks, under Ahtisaari, had already begun prior to the disaster. That was not the case in Sri Lanka. But that alone cannot explain the dissimilarity. Deeper forces were at work; Senanayake argues that the Aceh peace process was successful because it addressed “economic and identity issues in a comprehensive manner.”

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Both the conflicts in Aceh and Sri Lanka were struggles of marginalized ethno-religious groups for equal rights to economic development and self-determination in the post-colonial state building project. The Aceh conflict has a substantial resources element insofar as Aceh is Indonesia’s third richest province and fourth poorest because of the concentration of oil and gas revenue generated in the province, finding its way to the central government in Jakarta. In Sri Lanka, the resources dimension of the conflict stems from the under-development of minority regions in the post-colonial state building period and the marginalization of Tamils from state-sector jobs, and the economic travails of a community whose traders have been under siege during periodic anti-Tamil urban riots. None of which is to say the Aceh conflict was easily resolved. Thirty years of prolonged armed conflict in Aceh made it difficult for those on all sides to fully trust each other, noted Dita Novirani of Yakkum Emergency Unit. One of the problems facing Aceh was that ex-combatants had no work experience except as military fighters or insurgents. “They lived in the woods, carried weapons and learned to shoot and fight but never learned how to maintain a farm, cattle or other means of income,” Novirani wrote, making a life as a “normal villager” difficult. That is why many ex-combatants searched for jobs that required them to carry guns, such as working as security guards. Even so, excombatants “are ordinary people with dreams no different than those of anybody else,” Novirani said. That is why in its response in Aceh,YEU believed the problems faced by ex-combatants needed to be addressed. In the assistance given to the tsunami survivors, YEU staff tried to involve ex-combatants, at all levels. “The programmes were designed

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together with the villagers,” Novirani wrote, so that everyone in a community realizes the gifts and abilities of all, including ex-combatants.The goal? “To be able to transform them into agents of development, at least in their own villages.” The need for transformation was considerable.When he visited Tamil-controlled northern Sri Lanka two months after the tsunami, Daniel Fekete of Hungarian Interchurch Aid noted the extremes of poverty and the anguished conditions wrought by war: poor roads made travel difficult and land mines in pastures and farmland continued to dot a landscape that the tsunami had further blighted. Even the tops of palm trees, Fekete noted, had been “burnt by the salt from the waves of ocean water washing over them.” Still, the war had, in an even limited way, proven to be good preparation for tsunami emergency response.The Rev. Lakshendrakumar of the NCCSL told Fekete that international NGOs had been working in that part of the country for years, supplying assistance to displacement camps and reconstructing the districts of Killinochchi and Mullaittivu. As a result, Lakshendrakumar said, “we could react quickly and effectively.” Fred Robarts, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, quoted by The Christian Science Monitor, said the effects of war had steeled the civilian population for post-disaster realities. What was striking, he said, was the “efficient way in which people organized themselves just hours after the event. They did not have to be told to go to schools and community centers, they just did.” They did so, Robarts said, “because they have had to go through the drill in different ways during 20 years of war.” Even so, during the first months following the tsunami, Sri Lanka remained a brutalized place. ACT communication officer Callie Long’s reporting in February 2006

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In Somalia, ACT provided access to clean and safe water in 15 villages, assisting close to 44,000 people.

NCA-ACT International


showed that the trauma wrought by the tsunami, followed by subsequent flooding and other natural disasters, added new layers of difficulty to an already-traumatized people. Long visited Sri Lanka at a time of escalating political violence compounded by abductions and attacks on humanitarian aid workers in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. This was a lethal brew, prompting Sri Lankan church leaders, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, to call for an end to violence that they said was “spreading dangerously and indiscriminately.” This was not the ideal environment in which to work on continuing tsunami recovery. Still, it was in this “complex political environment” that Jaffna Diocese of the Churches of South India was forced to labor. Its work was difficult because conditions were hard. The community of Chillipurum, some 115 families in all, found itself displaced several times, due to natural disasters, land struggles and a need to create a “high security zone” spanning Sri Lanka’s northern coastal region, Long reported. Compounding the situation was the fact that many of the community’s residents, already impoverished and of a lower caste, were then further ostracized for having leprosy.The tsunami caused the community to lose all of its boats.Though spared the worst of the disaster’s effects because they lived inland, the villagers felt a loss of income. To worsen matters further, torrential rains in December 2005 flooded out their homes. JDCSI was working to rebuild the community in a new area, Katapulam, not far from where residents had been staying in a displacement camp. The various issues overlapped: forced to leave their original land because of government security concerns and now displaced because of one natural disaster after anoth-

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er, many families of Katapulam vowed to one day return home. Others opted to agree to new and safer housing at the new locale. Dr. Preman Jeyaratnam, a retired anesthetist from Great Britain and a native of Jaffna, said that the tsunami had dealt poor communities yet another unwelcome blow: the sudden demand for land where NGOs could build new housing had caused land prices to rise. “A small plot of land, which would have cost Rp 1,000 before the tsunami, now sells for close to Rp 100,000,” said Jeyaratnam, who was volunteering with JDCSI. Life was pinched in this besieged part of Sri Lanka. “Communications can be difficult, as telephone lines and mobile networks are not reliable, which also means that access to the Internet is sporadic,” Long wrote. “The recent violence and attacks on government forces in the area have also meant extra security and long lines at military checkpoints. Movement around the peninsula is sometimes constrained, with most people ensuring they are back home and indoors well before nightfall.” How best to cope with all of this? The Rev. Joshuva, working with the diocese, urged a pragmatic approach. “Some people blame God, while others thank God that the disaster was not bigger,” he said. “Others blame Satan.” For Joshuva, however, “death is natural. God simply takes us from one life to another. From a life of hardship into his own hands.” He paused. “… (L)ike the war has taken us.” Those who have lived and worked in conflict-ridden places like Sri Lanka can attest to the “surging” and “stopping” nature of things: life can seem almost normal and then is stopped cold when conflict flares anew. Linda Tiongco, in Sri Lanka to coordinate

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Reverend Gnanaragah Manoruban of the Anglican Church in Killinochchi, had been involved in assisting people in his community since the disaster struck. Boats, nets and bicycles were only some of the relief given to those who lost everything on that fateful day.

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Callie Long, ACT International


ACT-member tsunami-response work, reported in late 2006 that the biggest threat to the tsunami recovery was the resurgence of armed conflict between the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers. The NCCSL said clashes in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka forced ACT-related work to slow or cease, including the construction of housing by the JDCSI in Tamil-controlled areas. “People in these areas were affected by the conflict before the tsunami, then they were hit by the tsunami, and now they are affected by the conflict again,”Tiongco wrote. “Some people have been living in camps for some 20 years.” The combined tensions of living in camps and the ongoing conflict put continuing burdens on civilians, ranging from the closure of supply routes to jamming of communication networks, affecting cell phone usage. The hardships of civilians became the work of Sri Lankan clergy who continued to identify tsunami survivors who had been passed over for assistance. “Churches working on the ground know the area and can make sure people who are in need get assistance and that others are not left out,” Tiongco said. That was not the sole role of clergy: another was fighting battles on behalf of besieged communities.The Rev. Ramash Fernando, a Methodist pastor, said that, on the surface, some semblance of normalcy had returned. But digging deeper, it was obvious serious problems remained. One battle concerned relocating fishing families in housing the families thought was much too far away from the sea. “If you’re forced to live 8 to 10 kilometers away from the sea, it’s difficult to do your job. These are people who know only how to fish,” he told ACT journalist Paul Jeffrey in 2007. “And there are indirect effects, as well. Many of the women who lived near the harbors earned money stitch-

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ing nets but they can’t do that now if they live far inland. Many fishing families were doing fine but lived in a poor house before the tsunami, and now after the tsunami they live in a nice house but have hardly any income.” Fernando and other religious leaders, both Christian and Buddhist, petitioned local authorities to relax new restrictions on rebuilding houses along the coast but nothing came of it. That frustration was mirrored in new restrictions on fishing itself. Susantha Jayalath survived the tsunami, although he lost his boat and fishing nets. Thanks to the ACT response, Jayalath had been able to resume his livelihood. But the realities of the ongoing conflict — the shaky cease-fire in Sri Lanka ended in January 2008 — kept interfering. Military officials told Jayalath to stay within a contained area and not to go too far out into the water. “Before the

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Top The Rev. Ramesh and the chief monk of the Buddhist Temple in Tangle, Miresse Dammavansa Thero, who both headed up the Inter-Faith Committee in Tangalle as cochairs. The two religious leaders believed it was crucial to work together, not only when it came to the tsunami response, but in general. Bottom Left The YEU team helped children to prepare for natural disasters in ways they could understand. Bottom Right Heni, 23, a nurse with the YEU health clinic checking the blood pressure of a patient, Aisyah, a resident of Lhok Puuk village, sub-district of Seunuddon, North Aceh Regency. The clinic treated 30 to 40 patients daily. “Lhok Puuk people prefer to go to our clinic because the community health post is very far from here. Medical service is free here. We provide patients with a medical card. But if they do not bring the card, they have to pay a fine of 1,000 Rupiah. We make this regulation to make them become disciplined,” said Heni.


Callie Long, ACT International

YEU-ACT International

Abdi R. Tarigan, ACT International


tsunami, there were lots of fish. But since then, everything has changed. It’s much harder to earn a living fishing today,” he said. Indeed, any “sense of national unity the tsunami generated had clearly evaporated,” Jeffrey wrote, noting that “thousands of civilians, including many displaced by the tsunami and resettled in new homes, have been uprooted from their homes by the renewed fighting.” The Rev. Jayasiri Peiris, NCCSL general secretary, reflecting on the situation in his country, said: “We lost a good opportunity in December of 2004.When the waves were crashing down on Sri Lanka, both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government protected the people. They both carried out rescue operations without bothering about religion or ethnic affiliation.” Luckily something of the spirit of that interfaith moment remained. P.H. Nandasini, a Buddhist fisherman living near Tangalle, received a new boat motor from the NCCSL, which he shared with the owner of a boat. The two split the catch. Nandasini said the only significant assistance in his village came from the council. “Other groups from other countries come here and ask thousands of questions about our needs, then they come back and take pictures of us, and then we never see them again,” he told Jeffrey. Despite that dynamic, inter-religious cooperation during the response was deemed a success in easing tensions between majority Buddhists and minority Christians. “We have always communicated with the religious leaders of an area that we had no intention of converting the people. We were there simply to provide them assistance. As a result, there are fewer tensions today than in the past, because they’ve seen that

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our work was done to help them, not to convert them,” said Kishani de Vaz, the director of the council’s tsunami recovery programme. Still, de Vaz had serious worries about what some dubbed “the second tsunami” — the effect outside influences had on Sri Lanka. “We’ve unfortunately become a more dependent society. In our work, we’ve tried hard to help people move away from wanting handouts, from waiting for someone else to come and solve their problems, and instead learn to study and work to set themselves up in a way they can support their families,” de Vaz said. “We got too much too fast, and that took people’s minds away from how they could help each other.” That was not the only troublesome dynamic in the wake of the tsunami response. “Many of us ask why so much attention got focused on this disaster. Is the world only compassionate when there are dramatic catastrophes? That’s an even greater catastrophe,” Peiris said. “There’s something wrong with the world.”

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Emily Will, MCC


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id the ACT response better prepare communities to meet new challenges in the future and to uphold dignity for the most marginalized? Not everywhere and perhaps not always. But there were clear successes. In March 2007, on the beach at Kumarapettai, Tamil Nadu, CASA director Sushant Agrawal spoke with me and other staff of ACT members visiting tsunami-affected areas about both the recovery’s successes and continued challenges in India. Agrawal hailed the work that went into the construction of some 4,000 permanent homes, as well as the building of multipurpose disaster shelters, which double as community meeting centers. At a housing dedication in the village of South Chinnoor, Agrawal singled out the disaster shelter there as one of the ways communities could now better prepare for disasters in the future. Taking note of the ways communities must take ownership in preparing for future risks and potential disasters, Agrawal said that “any disaster must be taken as an opportunity to change and improve and prepare for the future.�


As he spoke to us on the beach, Agrawal returned to that theme but was also explicit that much work still needed to be done in affected areas. The challenges facing coastal communities remained daunting, and would be so for some time. The key issue was, not surprisingly, that of fishing. Anecdotal comments from fishing laborers — called laborers, because they do not actually own the boats used in fishing — varied about the tsunami’s effects on fishing. But there was general agreement that one common — and at the time, necessary — post-tsunami response of providing replacement fishing boats to those in the trade had created a surplus of boats. Many laborers — those who had been employed by owners of large boats — were provided with boats to help them become their own bosses and potentially earn more. But this greatly increased the number of boat owners. And as a result, limited local fishing stocks were depleted. The situation was so serious that a “13-year-old boy (who traditionally would become a fisherman) will now have to decide whether to continue the trade,” Agrawal told us. Given such realities, CASA’s rehabilitation programmes, had to emphasize the need for communities to diversify their local economies, “in part by making use of sea and coastal products that otherwise might get unnoticed. Alternatives need to be developed,” Agrawal said. “People want to stay in their communities but are often afraid to work in a non-fishing sector.” A few days later, we saw concrete examples of the steps being taken to overcome such fears.With CASA’s support, a women’s group in the village of Sonangkuppam in Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore district developed a crafts programme to sell shell-based decorative items to visitors and tourists who had begun returning to the coastal areas. While

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it was still too early to tell if the shell project would ultimately succeed, the visit with the women affirmed the group’s determination and new-found confidence. The visit was also proof that in small coastal communities, women — who until recently were rarely given a voice in the public life of their villages — had kept community life alive and moving, despite great difficulties since 2004. CASA’s support of the women, said chief southern zone officer Sheila Jones, was just one example “that social equity is one of CASA’s principles,” as is the need to “rebuild lives with dignity.” One of the leaders who spoke to us, Kanimozhi, 30, said that, paradoxically, “in the tsunami, we found our courage.” Those words were hard to shake when I returned to the region seven months later. During my absence, CASA’s continued work seemed to have solidified. Newly constructed homes felt lived in and comfortable. Members of the affected communities were taking real, palpable pride in efforts like future disaster-preparedness and mitigation activities. All-purpose community-centers — doubling as emergency shelters — appeared to be popular and well-used. As well, those who have suffered the brunt of discrimination in Indian society — women, of course, and marginalized groups like the Dalits — were well-served by CASA’s programmes. The first of a two-day visit to CASA projects coincided with the same week CASA celebrated its 60th anniversary in some of its regional offices. Mathi Kanniyappan, in the village of Kumarapettai, in Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore sector, was preparing lunch in the house she and her family lived in since October 2006. Hers was one of 93 homes CASA constructed in the fishing village. Kanniyappan found it a more solid, secure

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and livable structure than the damaged home she and her family had to vacate after the tsunami. In particular, Kanniyappan praised the new home’s flat, concrete roof — an improvement over a thatched roof that afforded little shelter in case of floods. “It’s a very good house,” Kanniyappan said, as the smell of peppery curry wafted through her sunny, airy home. “We can feel the breeze.” Just doors away from her home was the village’s community center and shelter. Kanniyappan’s daughter Praveena, now a community organizer working with CASA, told me this structure is being used most days of the week — for festivals, nursery school and family reunions. Down the road a ways was Chinoor South, a village I saw during my previous visit. In the half year since, the exteriors of the new houses — 53 in all — took on individual character, with fencing, decoration and planted hedges. The village looked greener with new tree plantings. Chinoor South was taking the notion of disaster mitigation and preparedness seriously. The young people had formed a disaster-preparedness task force and demonstrated newly acquired rescue and mapping skills: Just yards away from the village’s shelter and community center stood a giant map the size of a small billboard to be used during any future evacuation. In another region, the Nagapattinam sector, a similar group of young people in the fishing village of Koolaiyar practiced rescue and roping skills with the help of Mr. Arumugam, a civil defense trainer on the CASA staff. But perhaps most striking was a young women’s empowerment group that was taking tangible steps together. Like the CASA-supported groups in Cuddalore, the members of this group were using their skills — in this case cooking for wedding parties and other events —

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David Barnhart, PDA-ACT International

Lesvi Roselim, CWS-ACT International

Top Left Two of the children reading their letters to children affected by Hurricane Katrina in the United States. Bottom Left Hezisokhi Zebua, a carpenter, has been with the Church World Service (CWS) livelihood-recovery program since April 2006. He is working on some orders from the community, making window frames in the workshop, which he built some eight years ago. Unlike his half-brick, half-wooden house that collapsed and can no longer be occupied, his workshop, which stood next to the house, survived the earthquake in Nias on March 28, 2005. The powerful quake struck just three months after the catastrophic tsunami had devastated many other parts of the main island to the north of Nias. Bottom Right The Code of Conduct translated into Bahasa Indonesia (left) and a language used on the island of Nias and posted so beneficiaries can read and understand it (photos taken in Sisarahili II village, sub-district of Mandrehe, Nias).

YTBI-ACT International


to establish a small business they hoped would eventually branch out into making and selling candles and other crafts. If the scale of these projects seemed small, uniting young women in common purpose was nonetheless a large step. Given traditional cultural norms that made it hard for women to come together, they had never had substantial interaction with each other. Members of the group now met once every two weeks to discuss common problems and aspirations. In the process, they found a new purpose and grounding. “They’re going to flourish in their lives,” leader Sudaroli Gunadevi, 22, told me. “They never had contact with each other before. Now they do.” Down the road from Koolaiyar was another social reality: the smaller village of Velu Nagar, where a community of 15 Dalit families resided. The community of 86 people had always lived precariously but the tsunami disrupted their fishing and agricultural labor. Their livestock was destroyed but, with CASA’s help, new goats had been brought in. Now the community could sell some of the animals at a local market.With support from CASA, new permanent homes had also been built, replacing temporary, rickety post-tsunami shelter that had been partially destroyed by fire. “We’re now living safely,” said R. Ramanujam, the village’s leader. “We’re happy.” Problems were far from over, of course.The community’s economic situation remained a challenge because residents of Velu Nagar had no land to call their own.They earned a living as fishing and seasonal farm laborers, work they could not always depend on. Still, the story of Velu Nagar was a microcosm of some of the dynamics of post-tsuna-

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mi relief and rehabilitation: challenges mixed with change, and in many cases, a more secure basis for the future. Given these encouraging dynamics, did the ACT response enable communities to meet new challenges? In Tamil Nadu, it appeared so. But the question has been asked more broadly, both in formal evaluations and as individuals involved reflected on the work. One of the analysts is Jenny Borden, ACT International’s interim director during the initial year of the tsunami response. Reflecting in September 2009 on what had happened nearly five years earlier, Borden said she believed, as objectively as possible, that “ACT did pretty well.” It certainly did as well as could be expected of a complex global alliance of members with varying strengths and weaknesses. Borden was unstinting in her praise of ACT coordinating office staff members during the initial “frantic” days: programme, communications and finance staff all performed admirably at a time when most expected to be on Christmas holiday. “The staff really rallied,” Borden said, recalling a frenetic pace of constant telephone and email queries during those first days. “It was a great test. We were exhausted but it brought us together.” She praised initial efforts in the field. The early reports to Geneva — particularly from Sri Lanka — gave ACT members a fairly cohesive picture of the extent of what faced the alliance. Borden also praised members who quickly realized this was no ordinary disaster and that the response would not, and could not, be ordinary, either. “This was a whole new ballgame,” she said. For once, Geneva did not have to ask for money — “the money

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Both Mrs. and Mr. Amarasingha barely survived the tsunami. Mr. Amarasingha was swept away by the waters, but saved himself by hanging onto a coconut tree, while his wife was able to flee to the local temple on higher ground. After the waters receded, life presented a whole new set of challenges. Everything in their store was washed away destroying their only source of income. Mrs. and Mr. Amarasingha were given weighing scales and other provisions to help them begin earning an income again. While assistance to families has helped them generate income, the ongoing conflict in the eastern and northern parts of the country has impacted the tourist trade and overall economy in the entire country. Mrs. Amarasingha said, “Our business is growing again now and we are able to make a living, but our income is much less than before the tsunami.


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Michelle Yonetani, ACT International


was flooding in,” she said. (As just one telling example, Christian Aid reported that the British public donated £400 million to the nationwide Disasters and Emergency Committee appeal. As a member of the DEC, Christian Aid received £37 million from that appeal, as well as raising more than £10 million from its website and individual church appeals.) Borden also noted, proudly, that the disaster demonstrated, perhaps for the first time on such a massive scale, that so many members “really needed ACT at that moment” — and in many ways perhaps the northern giving members even more so than southern members because of the high amount of donations being received.The giving members needed a coordination body for their donations, particularly since, for a number of ACT members, Indonesia had not been seen as a “priority country” prior to tsunami, and the connections to Sri Lanka were not particularly strong. “So for once, they really, really needed ACT,” Borden said. Not surprisingly, the response brought to the surface tensions common in other disasters, including frayed relations between southern and northern ACT members. Early on, some northern members wanted to come into Sri Lanka and establish their own programmes. That prospect unsettled Sri Lankan church leaders who argued that, given Sri Lanka’s unsettled colonial legacy, such a move would be neither appropriate nor welcome. Borden recalls one Sri Lankan church leader as saying: “We don’t want to be seen as a colonial church.” While praising the behind-the-scenes work of such ACT members as Christian Aid, FinnChurchAid and Norwegian Church Aid in some of the tensions over the response in Sri Lanka, Borden said the issue “was never completely resolved. A lot of difficult negotiations went on.”

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Many of the tensions were, not surprisingly, over money and what money represented. Borden recalled that the Rev. Jayasiri Peiris, the newly elected general secretary of NCCSL, had just begun his term.This well-respected theologian expected to work on Sri Lankan social justice issues. Instead, he was faced with a massive humanitarian crisis with which he and most other church leaders had no experience. Tied to the crisis were huge amounts of Western money suddenly flooding in. “It was all a bit tricky,” Borden said. “Partnerships are supposed to be equal, but in that kind of situation, when the north has so much money to spend, it is all a great challenge.” Many northern members “came to realize this was something totally different,” she said. “They were dealing with too much money, and too many expectations.” As a result, some “cowboy humanitarian operators” appeared on the scene, insensitive to local needs and realities and to “the careful building of relationships.”There were a few staff, within the ACT family, “desperate to be seen to be doing something. Of course there were also lots of ‘cowboys’ outside the family.” There were instances of what Borden called “bad behavior” — displays of an unwelcome colonial attitude she satirically described as going something like this: “We want our village; we want to build our 200 homes and we want to build them now.” She added: “It’s a terrible attitude in someone else’s country, these pressures from donors over issues like public relations (visibility). There were huge pressures.” But Borden added, the stresses “were all along the chain, and that included ACT. ACT was trying to hang it all together.” Some of that work involved coordinating among, and meditating between, northern and southern members. It also meant “trying to match certain skill sets with needs in certain places.”

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Callie Long, ACT International

Mr. H.P. Ranjith, from Tangalle, fishing for bait in one of the many small bays on this part of the coastline. Earlier in the morning, he had been out to sea for the first catch of the day (a good one, by all accounts) and was now catching bait for the next fishing trip later in the day.


Of course, inevitable pressures came up against the realities on the ground — where survivors were dealing “with overwhelmingly huge problems” — and where local capacities were being stretched to the limit. Borden said the Sri Lankan churches did a remarkable job the first week in simply distributing aid. But many of the churches did not have the capacity to go much beyond the charity model, particularly given pressures to adhere to international humanitarian standards raised by donors. By contrast, she said, ACT Indian members did “fantastically well,” in part because institutionally they could absorb greater funding. That, in fact, caused some difficulties for Geneva, because the level of appeal askings for the Indian members were so much higher than those of Sri Lanka and Indonesia. “The northern agencies were anxious to give more money to Sri Lanka and Indonesia than could be properly absorbed, because of the public perceptions that the needs were greater in these countries than in India.” When asked about ACT’s disappointments and successes, Borden did not hesitate. One disappointment: nearly a decade after ACT’s formation, large northern agencies still felt impelled to start their own operations.That was due to problems of limited capacity — an issue that remains unresolved in many countries where ACT members are present. “One disappointment was that Sri Lankan and Indonesian capacity was not built as much as we’d have liked,” she said, referring to capacity built after the disaster. Borden suggested this was in part due to “church politics that got in the way” — and politics were not unexpected. In many places, church workers responding to the disaster — all dedicated, hardworking, committed people — were not properly trained or equipped for what they needed to do. That was no fault of theirs; it was simply the

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reality of “what is needed in that kind of operation, on that kind of scale.” As for success, Borden said ACT — and in particular ACT staff in Geneva — could be justly proud of “getting all the players together. Here was a global alliance, concerned and involved, with nearly all members playing some sort of role in something of a scale that was unprecedented — and has not been equaled since. They all needed to be part of it, and were. That was a success for ACT.” Successes and failures are part of any disaster response, and they were surely part of what the ACT alliance experienced in responding to the Indian Ocean tsunami. Formal evaluations are required, as a matter of ACT policy, for any ACT response over US $5 million. ACT International included evaluator Eberhard Gohl, a German economist and sociologist, in the evaluation process. Gohl took a large

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Mr. Mahalingam on a waterway that separates a main road from the village of Nochikadu in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, India. ACT member, United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India (UELCI), provided the new boat to reconnect the tsunami-affected village to the main road.

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Sidney Traynham, ACT International


The crews of two new fishing boats haul their nets ashore after the boats and crews return from their first trip to sea after the tsunami.

LWSI-ACT International

view, noting some of the common problems. The detailed evaluations of the four countries where ACT responded — India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Somalia — do not flinch from some of the serious problems that marked the relief effort. One example is the real tension between local church structures and non-Sri Lankan ACT members. The National Christian Council felt the outside NGOs were insensitive and did not “comprehend the challenging position of how the NCCSL related with the government and communities.”

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Other issues Housing Gohl found that major steps were taken toward improved living conditions, with families and individuals satisfied with the quality of the buildings and in many cases, feeling that there had been significant, positive changes to their lives. This was particularly the case for the most vulnerable, including India’s Dalits. In critique, the country evaluations found that housing construction was not always synchronized with accompanying water and sanitation programmes; young recipients often enjoyed the benefits of assistance more than elderly people; women’s needs were not fully respected in all cases; and the “potential for promoting self-reliance and for creating new livelihoods in the construction sector was not optimized.” Livelihood and Income Recovery Such programmes were implemented very efficiently and quickly with generally positive outcomes, the evaluations concluded. The programmes were successfully built on existing structures and rehabilitation activities were wisely focused on traditional vocations, and reached a wide number and groupings of persons. On the other hand, though, overlap and “over-supply” of programmes were common; interventions were often not accompanied by proper market analyses; the benefits of certain livelihood projects began to dissipate as soon as the assistance and accompaniment stopped.

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Gender Equality Women’s participation and gender equality and equity were promoted in all of the projects; emphasis on women as targeted people for assistance was upheld. The importance of women in the recovery efforts became increasingly obvious and their role was recognized. Women became more vocal in decision-making. Because of the ACT tsunami response, the gender gap between men and women decreased, the evaluations concluded. Despite these successes, however, women’s involvement in livelihood programmes was mostly limited to traditional roles. Implementing members were also faulted for not developing gender-sensitive monitoring and reporting systems. The Elderly There were problems in the response to the needs of the elderly who, the evaluation said, were severely affected by the loss of key assets such as houses and other property. The elderly are more vulnerable from a psychosocial perspective, and yet ACTmember assistance tended to focus mainly on the younger generations, young children and their parents. Unfortunately, in many cases, the response caused something of a generation gap, the evaluations concluded. Political empowerment Those receiving assistance were involved in needs assessment, project design, implementation, monitoring knowledge and grew in their self-confidence and the awareness of their own rights. Villagers became more confident in managing relationships with others and expressing their views, opinions and demands.This was a success for the ACT network.

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Mrs. Pachaivalli, age 50, lives in Indiranagar village. Her home was destroyed by the 2004 tsunami and her husband later abandoned her and their four children. Many times rural Indian women in similar circumstances are made outcasts in their communities. But Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) was committed to building Mrs. Pachaivalli and her children a new home – part of what CASA director Sushant Agrawal calls a commitment to “human dignity.”

Chris Herlinger, CWS-ACT International


Poverty Reduction/Equality The mechanisms were put in place to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable were addressed. As a result, disparities between different social and economic groups decreased. Women were able to improve their status vis-à-vis men.

ACT Efforts in Somalia Focused on Water, Sanitation Lost in the tsunami media glare tsunami; thousands of homes were were the tsunami’s effects on destroyed and some 50,000 peoSomalia, a country plagued by ple were displaced. ACT memchronic instability and poverty. ber Norwegian Church Aid, with Somalia is so impoverished that a history of working in Somalia, it does not even appear on the opted to focus efforts on water and United Nations’ development sanitation work in 15 villages, inindex of 177 countries because cluding 15 water projects in coastno data has been available from al areas directly affected by the Somalia since 2001. Nearly 300 tsunami. Other efforts included died in Somalia a result of the Courage, In Hopeconstruction of 96 ventilated pit 156 asWith

latrines. Because of NCA’s efforts, communities no longer needed to pay for costly transport of water, according to the evaluation of the Somalia ACT response. With the savings, community members could purchase necessities like food and fishing equipment that were lost in the tsunami.


Exit and transition strategies Here there were problems, the evaluations said. Often strategies were not planned at the beginning of the project activities but developed only at a very late stage. Frequently, they were not sufficiently explained to the communities. The strategies were often driven mainly by financial considerations and in some cases, positive impacts of some interventions began to decline. In his conclusion, Gohl said the final evaluations provided “a window for understanding the impact” of how well the alliance responded. While the final evaluations “alone can not do justice to all the achievements, challenges, new knowledge and lessons learnt,” they did provide ACT members “with an excellent range of insightful material” so that the alliance could improve its ongoing work, for the “development and preparedness of the alliance itself.”

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Mrinal Srikanth Lankapalli, UELCI-ACT International


Ongoing dilemmas and opportunities

T

he 2004 tsunami was perhaps the most studied disaster ever. ACT’s evaluations were part of a larger mix of studies and reflections that assessed how well the international community responded to an unprecedented event. The foundational study from the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition, released in 2006, made a number of conclusions, though they all stemmed from two unassailable facts. The first, as we’ve seen repeatedly, was the geographic scale and magnitude of the disaster. The second was that responders dealt with “pre-existing vulnerabilities, whether socioeconomic, environmental, political, psychological, age- or gender-based.” This resulted in “multiple impacts.” The TEC report added: “Chronic poverty, environmental degradation (such as over-fishing and de-forestation), displacement, inequalities, weak respect for human rights, and long-running armed conflict compounded the impact of the disaster.” Among the TEC report’s recommendations: the “international humanitarian community needs a fundamental reorientation from supplying aid to supporting and facilitating communities’ own relief and recovery priorities.” This theme was championed by


former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who served as the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for tsunami recovery. In his preface to the TEC report, Clinton noted that the international community’s efforts to respond to the tsunami “have placed in sharp relief both strengths and weaknesses in the way we organize ourselves when faced with such massive challenges.” The study and analysis of the overall global effort, Clinton argued, “does us all a great service.” Clinton made three key points.The first was raised by ACT members in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka who felt outsiders should have listened more carefully to those already working in the affected regions: that all responders “must do better at utilizing and working alongside local structures.With nothing but good intentions, the international community descends into crisis situations in enormous numbers and its activities too often leave the very communities we are there to help on the sidelines.” Clinton added:“Local structures are already in place and more often than not the ‘first responders’ to a crisis. The way the international community goes about providing relief and recovery assistance must actively strengthen, not undermine, these local actors.” The second point stems from the first: The global community, Clinton argued, “must find the will and the resources to invest much more in risk reduction and preparedness measures. Local structures and local measures — whether part of national or provincial government efforts or embedded in the communities — need to be strengthened to reduce vulnerabilities to tomorrow’s disasters. And international and local actors need to forge solid partnerships between and among themselves, well in advance of their being tested in crisis.”

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The third point echoes Gohl’s observation of the need for the ACT alliance to practice what it had learned: that good intentions “must be turned into meaningful reform.” The world continues grappling with the lessons of humanitarian crises from the 1994 Rwanda genocide and the 2004 tsunami, Clinton said. The fact that “we continue to struggle to turn these principles into practice,” he argued, “demands that we set about on our shared agenda for reform with the courage and commitment necessary to see the process through to full implementation.”

Helping Communities Build Back Better and Safer The formal ACT evaluations mirror some of the satisfactions and concerns of ACT-member staff who worked in the relief efforts. K. G. Mathaikutty, who worked with Lutheran World Service India, said that, many beneficiaries “took ownership” of the response; proved “quite happy” with their new housing; and felt increasingly empowered political-

ly and socially. On the downside, ACT members realized it was imthe “over-distribution” of boats portant “to ensure community proved to be a considerable prob- ownership in all the initiatives,” lem, and the overall international which enhanced the ability of effort focused too much on fish- communities to become more reermen and not enough on the silient. “This integrated and inclueven more marginalized, such sive approach in the rehabilitation as the Dalits. Luckily, LWSI and and reconstruction programme others in the ACT network real- has helped the communities build ized this, and initiated projects for back better and safer.” Ongoing dilemmas 161 them. Overall, Mathaikutty said, and opportunities


In Kuala Bubon, near Meulaboh, Aceh,YEU helped tsunami survivors rebuild their homes and re-establish their livelihoods. Here, Wadi (like many Indonesians, he uses only one name) patches holes in a fishing net. Paul Jeffrey, ACT International


Clinton’s was not the only voice to raise concerns; others were even more critical. Writing in The Christian Science Monitor in early 2005, Graham Wood of Ockenden International, a humanitarian and development aid organisation, pointed out the problem of “media convergence.” He argued that while the tsunami aftermath required “an immediate, compassionate response from us all,” he noted some of the global contradictions involved. If the event was placed in context, “then it is indeed among the world’s top 10 recent natural disasters, in terms of numbers killed. It has not, though, caused the amount of death and destruction seen in many of the world’s conflicts.” For example, the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, up until early 2005, “had claimed more than 3 million lives, in Sudan more than 2 million, Rwanda more than 800,000 in 100 days. Afghanistan, Cambodia, and many others have seen war deaths over time in much higher numbers than those killed by the tsunami.” Arguing that the tsunami was “a great media event, marked by dramatic footage and pictures from different countries,” and coincidentally occurring during the Christmas holiday season, Wood called the disaster “easy news, requiring a lot of sympathy and human interest but with little to analyze and debate.” But, he pointed out, the poverty “and human tragedy wrought by this disaster is … not just for anniversary coverage, but (will exist) for years to come. So, too, is the poverty of tens of millions of others not at all affected by the tsunami.” He concluded: “We need a more thoughtful, balanced approach to such disasters and to ensure that media convergence isn’t the guiding principle for the direction of humanitarian aid.”

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Maurice Bloem of CWS agrees. But recalling the influx of outside NGOs into Aceh following the 2004 disaster, he sees the tsunami and the media attention and international response that followed as exposing the challenges of humanitarian assistance in the information-saturated 21st century. “This is a time in which the funding partners, those implementing relief assistance and beneficiaries are all closer to each other than ever before,” he said. “People in the United States might be aware of an earthquake in North Sulawesi before someone living in Jakarta.” One way to meet such challenges, Bloem argues, is to acknowledge, head-on, the complexity of disaster response, in which both funders and implementors are familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses and understand the context in which both operate. Despite the difficulties posed by these dynamics, and the hard lessons learned from the tsunami response, Bloem calls himself an optimist about the future. “The tsunami has taught us that we are more connected than ever before, and that we have to face the challenges ahead together. The tsunami was just the beginning.” Much more about the 2004 tsunami requires exploring, reflection and action — particularly in how disaster response converges with other social, political and economic realities. As just one example, writer Naomi Klein, in her 2007 study The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, noted that the tsunami occurred at a critical moment for Sri Lanka, as there had long been tensions and debates in the country even before the tsunami about government-fueled plans for evicting small businesses along the nation’s coastline in favor of developing beaches for high-end tourism. Klein said that lying underneath “the rubble and the carnage was what the tourism industry

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had been angling for all along — a pristine beach scrubbed clean of all the messy signs of people working, a vacation Eden. It was the same up and down the coast: once the rubble was cleared away, what was left was … paradise.” Disaster survivors were caught in this new battle for land grabs. That proved to be a kind of second disaster in which the tsunami, Klein argued, was used as an “opportunity for disaster capitalism” — the implementation of radical free-market principles that threatened any hope of achieving “a genuine peace dividend — the resources to imagine a more equitable country, to repair shattered communities in ways that would rebuild trust as well as buildings and roads.” Rebuilding trust is a long process, and as Bill Clinton has argued, the final story of the tsunami recovery process has yet to be written. As the fifth anniversary of the 2004 tsunami is marked, there are still communities in need of repair; memories still waiting to be exorcised; mourning still gripping those who ache to see a lost husband or wife, son or daughter, mother or father, beloved and special friend. Such mourning does not end but, as ACT International director John Nduna has suggested, people are not, and should not, be defined solely as being survivors of a disaster, even one as large as the tsunami. The operative word here is dignity. “Disasters, as devastating as they are, are only ever one part of people’s lives, in other words, a small, but significant part, if one measures a whole life,” he said. “It is often something that people want to deal with and leave behind, so that they can return to their normal lives.” Of course, for some, normality will never return. “It takes a long time to put people’s lives back in place,” Lesley Schaffer, former senior officer of the tsunami unit of the

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Paul Jeffrey, ACT International

In Blang Ulam, Aceh, construction of new homes for tsunami survivors continued, while others, such as Nazir could start a bicycle repair shop.

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Paul Jeffrey, ACT International


International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in June 2009, reflecting on the events of the last five years. “And in some cases, lives are never fully put back together.There will be families who don’t recover, there are some communities that won’t ever be whole again. But we have to keep working at it.” Part of that work means recognizing real faults and failures. As this book neared its completion in late 2009, Geneva-based Ecumenical News International reported that the Church of South India had instigated legal action against its former general secretary for fraudulent use of funds intended to assist tsunami survivors. “Though it is embarrassing, we decided to go ahead with appropriate action when we were convinced about the fraud,” said the Rev. Moses Jeyakumar, the current CSI general secretary, quoted by ENI, about the allegations and legal proceedings against former CSI general secretary Pauline Sathyamurthy and others, including some of her family members. The report said the synod took action after U.S.-based Episcopal Relief & Development, an ACT member, noted inconsistencies and irregularities following a 2008 audit. The allegations centered on the spending of nearly 80 million Indian rupees, some US $1.7 million, from the 176 million rupees the Episcopal agency had transferred to CSI for its tsunami response, ENI said. CSI established a commission of inquiry headed by a retired judge who is also a church member. That investigation led the current CSI leadership to instigate proceedings – a much-needed and appreciated move, said the Rev. Jeyakumar. “The people have welcomed this step,” he said.

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If we are honest about the partial and imperfect nature of efforts, we also can recognize that occasionally disasters can open opportunities — or at least allow us to see the world anew. In her 2009 study of the effects of disasters on communities, A Paradise Built on Hell, writer Rebecca Solnit argued that existing systems of power are built on fear and scarcity. But such systems are “mitigated every day by altruism, mutual aid and solidarity, by the acts of individuals and organisations who are motivated by hope and by love rather than fear.”They are akin, she argued, to a shadow government — another system ready to do more were they voted into power. And they are, in effect, “voted in” by disasters, because in emergencies, be they natural disasters or man-made afflictions, the skills and ties needed for communities and individuals to recover and heal actually work, while fear and divisiveness do not. However terrible it is, disaster, Solnit argues, “reveals what else the world could be like — reveals the strength of that hope, that generosity, and that solidarity. It reveals mutual aid as a default operating principle and civil society as something waiting in the wings when it is absent from the stage.” Disaster sometimes “knocks down instabilities and structures and suspends private life, leaving a broader view of what lies beyond,” she argues. “The task before us is to recognize the possibilities visible through that gateway and endeavor to bring them into the realm of the everyday.” Rebecca Solnit’s wisdom harks back to an earlier figure, who reminds us, as people of faith, that it helps, “now and then, to step back and take a long view.” Oscar Romero, the martyred archbishop of El Salvador, a hero to ecumenical Christians of all stripes — Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox — and a towering figure for those who

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Fisherfolk near Tangalle, on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, go to sea again in a boat provided by ACT.

Paul Jeffrey, ACT International


have worked for the achievement of peace and justice for the world’s poor, has been attributed with composing this prayer:

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, It is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction Of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No programme accomplishes the church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. This is what we are about, we plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

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We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation In realizing that.This enables us to do something, And to do it very well. It may be incomplete, But it is a beginning, a step along the way, An opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference Between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen. This prayer reminds us that there is no shame in recognizing that the results of ACT’s work in responding to the 2004 tsunami were by definition partial and perhaps unfinished. The only thing ACT members could do was to respond as best they could, laying foundations of work that “may be incomplete,” but represented “a beginning, a step along the way.” And the next step will, by definition, be taken by the tsunami survivors themselves. One of them, Amuis, a Banda Aceh village leader, said that assistance

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from ACT members — in this case, the gift of a fishing boat — helped his group of 10 struggling fishermen unite and work together to help their community’s recovery.The men are now working in equal shifts, sharing the proceeds from the catch and helping feed their entire village.“Assistance from the international world has been amazing.We are very grateful for what we have been receiving,” Amuis said. But in the end, recovery depended on Amuis and his community: on their commitment, their work, their efforts of solidarity. Certainly, ACT assistance helped, as did the signing of the Aceh peace accords. But ultimately, the success of the response was theirs, and theirs alone, to claim. The result? A degree of optimism. As Amuis said: “Things are well, and will be better.”

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“Saving Human Lives is No Place for Amateurs� An Interview with Jan Egeland Jan Egeland served as the United Nations UndersecretaryGeneral for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator when the tsunami struck in 2004, leading what was, in effect, the largest global humanitarian operation ever in history. In a June 24, 2009, interview in New York City, Egeland recalled that for him, the first days of the response were not made any easier because he was trying to recover from a Christmas bout with the flu. The author of the humanitarian memoir A Billion Lives, Egeland is currently the director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and also teaches at the University of Stavanger.

Edgar MWAKABA, IRIN


Q What was the role of the faith community in the response to the tsunami? It was an important role, even if it was not the most dominant. In a huge, breaking catastrophe like the tsunami, the Red Cross and the UN have the resources given their access to resources and links with governments. The churches and other religious groups came in that second wave. In relative terms, they were most important in the rebuilding phase. Churches and church networks such as ACT International have certain general qualities: they’re grass-roots based and oriented; they’re already on the ground, close to local parties and players. ACT and members like Norwegian Church Aid were all very good in focusing on local needs, and assisting local implementing partners. Of course, the faith-based groups were only a part of the UN-coordinated response. In all, there were about 300 or more NGOs involved — most were not faith-based. But I think the faith-based groups performed well. Some suffered from the same problems that many of the groups experienced: they had an infusion of money, a lot of it, and many wanted to implement themselves, rather than working with local groups. In fact, a problem here was that many groups did not have local partners.That was an overall problem — too many organisations, too many people doing their own implementation. But generally, the faith groups did well; they did effective work. In fact, the response showed the importance and necessity of networks like ACT, which understood the need for coordination and the fact that not all agencies can be operational in such a situation. In recent years, ACT and its member churches have understood this need for global coordination.

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Q Was the response an overkill? Overkill? I’ve reflected on that, and yes, compared to events unfolding elsewhere, it was too much. There were other natural disasters and wars at the same time that got a fraction of the response and attention that the tsunami received. I was acutely aware that we were mobilizing a response unlike anything that mankind had mobilized in a natural disaster before. So many countries were hit. I don’t know of any other disaster that affected two continents thousands of miles apart.There have been equally bad natural disasters that affected individual countries or regions — in Bangladesh, in Africa. But the tsunami was unique in the range of its destructive power. Q And that has created problems of expectations? It is true we’ve had situations, such as the Congo, where the death toll every six months has been enormous and no one seems to care. So in that sense, the tsunami-response established the bar we’ve now set for huge catastrophic events. We should now have the same level of response for other disasters. That has led to problems of expectations, true, and in an ideal world, we would not have the problem of a single disaster, a tsunami, taking up 80 percent of the world’s response at a given time. Of course, Doctors Without Borders eventually diverted funds to other disasters, something that may not be possible for groups like the Red Cross or the UN because of their broader mandates and local presence. Still, in conclusion, I’m proud of the response effort as it unfolded. We got, for once, enough funding for everyone’s immediate needs and for reconstruction.

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Q Why did the tsunami trigger such an emotional response on the part of donors? I think there were numerous factors here. One, it was a natural disaster of enormous proportions, and we know from experience that sudden events, like earthquakes, always trigger more of a response, and attention, than slow onset disasters like droughts. Second, it occurred during the holiday season, at the slowest time of a yearly news cycle. And the holiday season is a reflective period — for Christians it’s Christmas, for the whole world, it’s New Year’s, and people were saying, “We’re doing fine, but the survivors of this event are not.” There was the element of people aware right away of a response, of operations being undertaken to assist. Of course, the experience of Western tourists in the disaster, as portrayed by the media, certainly made Western donors feel close to the event.The tourists were able to provide dramatic video-imagery — imagery that was repeated again and again. Q What were the problems with the overall response? Aceh in Indonesia was, of course, an active conflict zone, like Sri Lanka, and these were the worst-hit areas. The initial emergency response there saved a lot of lives: that’s undeniable. But the general response, globally, was so large that it became a lost opportunity to empower local communities. And it took too long to get to the rebuilding stage. I was there 10 months after the event and people were still living in tents. People there felt there really had been too many actors and that the overall response was not as coordinated as it could have been. Of course, no one denied they had emergency re-

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lief available: food, temporary schools, medicines had all been provided. But there were delays in the second phase; in some ways it was painful to witness the first and even second anniversaries, when people still had not received permanent housing. Luckily, by the third and fourth anniversaries, they had gotten it. If we had had more robust coordination at the rehabilitation phase, some of the reconstruction could have happened at a more rapid rate. Q The tsunami and its response helped end the conflict in Aceh, but did little to end a similar situation in Sri Lanka. How would you assess the differences? Part of the difference was due to the very different devastation that occurred in both places. In Sri Lanka, a wall of water wiped away buildings, but in Aceh it was like a nuclear bomb had gone off; a much, much larger part of Aceh was destroyed than any single part of Sri Lanka. I think in Indonesia, a wise decision was made when faced by this destruction. Both sides of the conflict realized nature had put the dimensions of war into perspective. “Our petty conflict looks ridiculous in light of this common enemy,” they realized. In Sri Lanka, very initially, the Tamils and the government worked together, but then an unwise decision was made to continue the quarreling and the conflict. It was a horrific mistake, an opportunity was really lost. They could have settled the issue, as they did in Aceh, but both sides were hell-bent on a military solution.

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Q You’ve said in your book, A Billion Lives, that the response showed “humanity at its best.” What do you mean? We saw people in 90 countries respond, and military forces from 36 countries came with relief. Tens of thousands, rich and poor alike, donated money and time to response. That showed the potential for good in the world, which is seldom ever mobilized on such a massive scale. In fact, nothing before or afterwards has elicited that kind of global compassion. This capacity for good is striking: we have resources like no other generation of humanity at our disposal — better telecommunications, better tools, better organisations and organisational skills. Of course, we must learn lessons as well — the lessons of responding to “utter chaos.” Here is there a special lesson for the churches — the faithful that want to help, to do good in the world. There were instances where the response was untested, chaotic, amateurish, doubled up, overlapping, done by “Mom and Pop” operations. That’s why it’s important to have ACT — a large, professional church network that has the same self-discipline as the UN and the Red Cross. Because if you’re not a professional in this game, you have no right to descend on someone in their moment of crisis and do on-the-job training. Saving human lives is no place for amateurs.Why is that? Because the poor, dispossessed and disaster-prone should have at least one basic right left to them: to be protected from incompetence.

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Afterword

T

he enormous strain on ACT members from the north and the south, the expectations placed on them - and on themselves - had not occurred before. It was an unprecedented event that required an unprecedented response. Indisputably, everyone was trying their best under arduous circumstances to support the devastated communities. What did we learn from the tsunami and how has our experience enriched the alliance? At the time of the tsunami – as presently – I was director of Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action, based in New Delhi. Those of us on the ground were not only looking for financial assistance, but for moral support, prayers and solidarity from the ecumenical family. We needed the assur-

SEAN HAWKEY, ACT Development


ance that we were not alone in our work. Everyone needed confirmation that we were responding as a family. Yet, for both northern and southern members – and for CASA – an important learning was that while we all have the same determination to help people affected by disasters, and while our purpose and mission may be the same as a family, our roles are necessarily different. The support boosted our morale and confidence. Today, we are encouraged by the huge support for the implementing agencies when implementing the work. Disappointingly, the tsunami opened the door to disaster tourism. After the initial emotional response to the event, everyone wanted to see what had happened. This sorely tested the capacity of implementing members to host people. In the days following the tsunami, northern organisations sought publicity to raise resource support from within their countries and constituencies, and wanted to witness immediately the effects of the tsunami. The capacity of the southern members’ to respond to the calamity and arrange for logistics to host international visitors was pushed to the limit. Under such circumstances, a certain amount of confusion and lack of coordination was understandable. Today, such visits are better coordinated and timed to allow for maximum exposure to a response with minimum disruption to operations. It was a pertinent reminder that members of these communities were traumatized by the disaster and people who needed to be treated with sensitivity, compassion and dignity.

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Disaster response can be lengthy process. Initially there was a feeling that if money is forthcoming, then we should spend it speedily to help restore the status quo. However, I appealed that if we were to be engaged in rebuilding lives, it would take not less than five or even seven years for the recovery process to be complete. Today, we are still engaged in the recovery. Time will be required to truly rebuild the lives of the people – with emotion, sensibility and dignity. Although people have largely recovered from the tsunami, the process of building capacity is an essential and unending process. If the context changes and we do not change ourselves, we become irrelevant. Even now, as the frequency and intensity of disasters are increasing, we should have a united vision for disaster preparedness and risk reduction. This understanding has grown over the last five years, with members appreciating much more the importance of disaster support. If this capacity is not strengthened, the ability to respond – speedily and effectively – becomes difficult. The new ACT Alliance will be one of the world’s largest alliances. The world will be watching us even more closely. The need to increase our potential and capabilities and make ourselves relevant is imperative. I had the privilege of personally witnessing the level of commitment and passion with which ACT coordinating office were able to provide an effective co-ordinating support and solidarity to the members – implementing and funding – in relation to the ACT Tsunami Appeal. It was a kind of ‘tsunami’ itself in the family of ACT. However, I had the feeling, since we were all travelling in the same boat with the same purpose in sharing the love of God with the people, that in solidarity we would manage. Also,

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I am very pleased that our combined efforts have been witnessed by the world as the global church’s response in taking care of the tens of thousands of people affected by such a large and unprecedented catastrophe. Let us not forget that we are the servants of God and hence we should be ever ready to serve the communities, and especially the poor, who require our support at difficult moments like the one they had experienced during the tsunami. We should accompany them as they re-build their lives, which has been given to us so abundantly by the Almighty. In justice, peace and dignity, Sushant Agrawal

New Dehli, November 2009

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Author’s Acknowledgements

A

s noted in the introduction, this was a collective, collaborative project, and it is a tribute to the reporting skills of ACT member communicators and others that it was difficult leaving out much good material, and I regret that we were able to use only a portion of it. Although I compiled and wrote the text, it was based on reporting I and others did. Aside from my own work, those whose stories were cited included: Lisa Bonds; Rina Chunder; Orla Clinton; Daniel Fekete; Jannerson Girsang; Peter Høvring; Paul Jeffrey; Rainer Lang; Callie Long; Dita Novirani; Hege Opseth; Lesvi Roselim; Abdi Tarigan; Jan-Åke Thorell; Linda Tiongco; Gesine Wolfinger; and S.K. Xavier. Also helpful, aside from the original ACT news stories, datelines, reports and appeals that contained reports and news from various ACT members, were materials from members Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action, DanChurchAid, Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe and Yakkum Emergency Unit. Thanks goes to Geneva-based ACT staff members both past and present, including John Nduna, Jessie Kgoroeadira and Michelle Yonetani and communicators Tomm


Kristiansen, Sandra Cox and Sidney Traynham. All made key contributions to this work, as did current and past staff of ACT members and of the ACT coordinating office who shared their memories and experiences. These included Jenny Borden, formerly of ACT; Maurice Bloem of CWS; Pia Hollenbach of Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe; Sheila Jones of CASA; Callie Long, formerly of ACT; and K. G. Mathaikutty, formerly of LWSI. A word of thanks, as well, to ACT moderator Sushant Agrawal for his support, and to Jan Egeland for graciously agreeing to be interviewed on his perspective of the tsunami response. A round of thanks to my fellow North American team members, Bill Sage and Callie Long, dear colleagues both, who have taught me much about humanitarianism. Bill deserves praise for his wondrous organisational skills. Callie brought her customary passion and knowledge to the project. Thanks, also, to Elizabeth Haak, whose editing skills I deeply appreciate. Finally, a word of thanks to my cherished Church World Service colleagues and friends, particularly my communication and emergency response comrades who make work a daily pleasure. A very specific and heart-felt word of thanks to Donna Derr, with whom I have worked for nearly a decade covering international emergencies for CWS and who showed flexibility and understanding as I completed this project. Donna and my colleagues at CWS and throughout the ACT network are gifted and compassionate professionals. I dedicate my portion of the book to them and to their daily commitments to humanitarianism.

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The supporters During the tsunami crisis, 51 ACT International members from around the world, funded the programs. • African Methodist Episcopal Church, USA • American Baptist Church, USA • Amity Foundation, China • Anglican Board of Mission Australia • AngliCORD, Australia • Australian Lutheran World Service • Baptist World Alliance, USA • Canadian Lutheran World Relief • Christian Aid, Ireland • Christian Aid, UK • Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, USA • Christian World Service, New Zealand • Church of Brethren, USA • Church of Sweden

• Church World Service, USA • Conseil Missionnaire ECAALERAL, France • Council of Churches, Malaysia • Council of Churches in Zambia • CWS/National Christian Council Australia • DanChurchAid , Denmark • Diakonie Auslandshilfe, Austria • Diakonia, Sweden • Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, Germany • Christian Church (Disciples of Christ: Week of Compassion), USA • L’Union des Eglises Protestantes d’Alsace et de Lorraine, France


• Episcopal Relief & Development, USA • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America • Federazione Delle Chiese Evangeliche in Italia • Federation Protestant de France • FinnChurchAid, Finland • Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission • Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen (HEKS), Switzerland • Hong Kong Christian Council • Hungarian Interchurch Aid • ICCO en Kerk in Actie, Netherlands • Icelandic Church Aid • Iglesia Evangelica Española • Interchurch Medical Assistance, USA • International Orthodox Christian Charities, USA • Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church • Lutheran World Relief, USA • Marthoma Syrian Church, India • Mennonite Central Committee, Canada • Methodist Relief & Development Fund, UK • National Christian Council Japan

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• National Council of Churches in Kenya • Norwegian Church Aid • Presbyterian Church of Korea • Presbyterian Disaster Assistance/ Presbyterian Church (USA) • Presbyterian World Service and Development, Canada • Primate’s World Relief & Development, Canada • Reformed Church America • Tokyo Union Church, Japan • United Church of Canada • United Church of Christ in Japan • United Church of Christ/Wider Church Ministries, USA • United Methodist Committee on Relief/UMCOR, USA • World Council of Churches • Y CARE International - UK


The funding of ACT operations after the tsunami also came from governments. The funds were distributed through the national ACT members. • Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA • Danish International Development Agency, Danida • Department for International Development Disaster Emergency Committee, DfID, UK

• Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland • Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway • Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, SIDA • Samenwerkende Hulporganisaties, SHO, Netherlands

National ACT members implemented the programs together with international members in the area. INDIA • Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) • Lutheran World Service India (LWSI) • United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India (UELCI)

SRI LANKA • National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) • Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India (JDCSI)

INDONESIA • Church World Service (CWS) • Yayasan Kristen untuk Kesehatan Umum,YAKKUM Emergency Unit (YEU) • Yayasan Tanggul Bencana di Indonesia (YTB)

THAILAND • Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) (see page 111)

SOMALIA • Norwegian Church Aid (NCA)

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Allocation of the funds raised from the four ACT appeals (see 51, ASIN 73, ASIN 82 and INDO 93), totals $102.2 million. India has received $47 million, Indonesia $45.6 million, Sri Lanka $7.3 million, Somalia $1.3 million and Thailand $.03 million.

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About ACT International

A

CT International is a global alliance of churches and related organisations working to save lives and support poor communities in emergencies worldwide. As a humanitarian alliance, ACT is unique for the fact that it is made up of churches, related organisations and partners already well established in the communities they serve. Some of these communities were those hit hardest by the tsunami. As a Christian-based humanitarian organisation, respect for people and dignity for those who suffer are at the heart of ACT’s work. It bases its activities on assisting local populations to take care of their own lives. In saving lives, restoring communities and helping people regain livelihoods,ACT’s basic commitment is to listen to the voices of the people. Today, ACT has 129 member organisations spanning 73 countries. In many countries, forums of members work together on joint humanitarian and emergency coordination. Striving to reach communities in crises across frontlines, national borders, and other ethnic, political or religious divides, ACT provides humanitarian assistance irrespective of race, gender, belief, nationality, ethnic origin or political persuasion.


ACT mobilizes funds and technical support within the alliance so its members can respond to emergencies and other humanitarian situations. Another area of priority is strengthening the capacity of ACT members to better respond to emergencies. ACT also engages in global humanitarian debates on issues such as quality and accountability, climate change, HIV, gender, civil military issues, humanitarian financing, security, protection and disaster risk reduction, thereby doing more than simply offering relief from the effects of disasters. ACT is a significant member of the wider humanitarian community, coordinating with UN bodies, other international NGOs, governments, local authorities and other national organisations. ACT is a member of global humanitarian networks such as the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, the International Council of Voluntary Agencies, the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership, and the Sphere Project. It is a signatory to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief, and the Sphere standards. From January 1, 2010, ACT International and its sister body ACT Development will cease to exist and will become the ACT Alliance for humanitarian and development work. The unification will enhance ACT’s ability to better respond to emergencies, increase its collaboration in development work and provide a shared voice for advocacy. The ACT International Coordinating Office is located in the Ecumenical Centre, Geneva, Switzerland. John Nduna is the director of ACT International, while Sushant Agrawal from CASA, India, is the moderator.

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Bibliography (Unless otherwise indicated. material from ACT International was contained in ACT datelines. news stories. updates and appeals that have been archived on-line. For more information. contact: actcom@act-intl.org. Web: www.act-intl.org).

The End of the World Herlinger, Chris. “A year later, tsunami-battered Aceh searches for security and hope.” ACT International, Dec, 7. 2005. Herlinger, Chris. “Slow recovery: one year after the tsunami.” The Christian Century, Jan. 10, 2006. Herlinger, Chris. “Where the tsunami hit hardest: world’s response best ever. but thousands yearn for housing.” National Catholic Reporter, Feb 3, 2006.


The Day the Sea Died ACT International. “ACT Indian Ocean Tsunami & Earthquakes Response. The Day the Sea Died. Final Evaluation Report: ASRE51. Somalia.” ACT International, December 2007. ACT International. “ACT Stories 81-22: “YAKKUM Slices of life of tsunami survivors: Wounded inside and out: profile of a tsunami survivor in Tanah Pasir.” ACT International, Nov. 9, 2005. Clinton, Orla. “The morning that turned into mourning.” ACT International, Jan. 25, 2005. Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe. “Muhibbon: a peddler’s story.” Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe. Forum Bangun. Aceh. February 2009. Jones, Sheila. Stories submitted to the project team. Aug. 17 and Sept. 16, 2009. Lang, Rainer. “Living in a State of Shock: Churches to support traumatized survivors of the tsunami.” ACT International, Jan. 14, 2005. Opseth, Hege. “Indian fishermen now fear the ocean.” ACT International, Jan. 4, 2005. Poem included in ACT news update. “Between love and hate, life with the ocean is rebuilt.” ACT International, May 24, 2005.

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Meeting Chaos with Care ACT International. “Thousands killed as tidal waves wreak havoc to islands and countries in south and southeast Asia.” ACT International, Dec. 26, 2004. ACT International. “ACT members in south and south east Asia respond to earthquake and tidal wave disaster: Rescuers battling aftermath of earthquake and tidal wave destruction.” ACT International, Dec. 27, 2004. ACT International. “ACT members in south and southeast Asia mobilize massive relief operations: ACT International launches US$ 8.217 million appeal.” ACT International, Dec. 29, 2004. Clinton, Orla. “The morning that turned into mourning.” ACT International, Jan. 25, 2005. Jones, Sheila. Stories submitted to the project team. Aug. 17 and Sept. 16, 2009. Marquand, Robert. “In Sri Lanka, aid workers combat wild rumors and lingering fear.” The Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 3, 2005. Marquand, Robert. “Rumors, false reports mar cleanup.” The Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 6, 2005

Bibliography

195


Tsunami Evaluation Coalition: “Joint evaluation of the international response to the Indian Ocean tsunami: Synthesis Report July 2006.” At: http://www.alnap.org/ pool/files/synthrep(1).pdf Tarps and Trauma ACT International. “ACT members in south and southeast Asia respond to earthquake and tidal wave disaster: Rescuers battling aftermath of earthquake and tidal wave destruction.” ACT International, Dec. 27, 2004. ACT International. “ACT members in south and southeast Asia mobilize massive relief operations: ACT International launches US$ 8.217 million appeal.” ACT International, Dec. 29, 2004. ACT International. “ACT International marks six months of post-tsunami assistance.” ACT International, June 23, 2005. Baldauf, Scott. “Despite snags. huge aid lifts Asia: Three weeks later, a progress report on global tsunami relief.” The Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 18, 2005. Baldauf, Scott. “Aid groups’ next task: keeping world engaged; Government pledges for disaster relief are often delayed or forgotten, say organizations.” The Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 18, 2005.

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Clinton, Orla. “A devastated city and devastated people begin to pick up the pieces.” ACT International, Jan 12, 2005. Clinton, Orla. “ACT and other organizations size up enormity of disaster and gear up for massive response.” ACT International, Jan. 21, 2005. Clinton, Orla. “Forgotten by God and the world.” ACT International, Jan. 19, 2005. Herlinger, Chris. Interview with Maurice Bloem. Sept. 10, 2009. Hollenbach, Pia. Stories submitted to the project team. Sept. 1, 2009. Jeffrey, Paul. “Sri Lanka wrestles with tsunami’s aftermath.” ACT International, Jan. 3, 2005. Kristiansen, Tomm. Stories submitted to the project team. Oct. 6, 2009. Lang, Rainer. “In the wake of the disaster, people come together to help each other.” ACT International, Jan. 7, 2005. “Now spend it sensibly; Emergency aid.” The Economist, Jan. 7, 2005. Thorell, Jan-Åke. “24-hour service: Local churches on the forefront of providing assistance to survivors.” ACT International, April 5, 2005.

Bibliography

197


Wolfinger, Gesine. “Tsunamis destroy lives of poorest of the poor.” ACT International, Jan. 3, 2005. Wolfinger, Gesine. “A boat and a net is all I need.” ACT International, Jan. 11, 2005. The Year’s Advances ACT International. “ACT International marks one year of post-tsunami assistance.” (Fact sheet). ACT International, December 2005. ACT International. “ACT members mark second year of tsunami response.” (Fact sheet). ACT International, December 2006. ACT International. “One-year tsunami commemorations marked by emotions and community spirit.” ACT International, Jan. 10, 2006. Bonds, Lisa. “Chili farmer keeps hope for a better future.” ACT International, Nov. 9, 2005. Chunder, Rina. “Gender justice: Capacity building and community-based disaster preparedness programs in India.” ACT International, Feb. 20, 2007. DanChurchAid. “Tsunami Tales: From Tamil Nadu and the Andamans.” DanChurchAid/ South Asia Regional Office, New Dehli. 2009.

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Girsang, Jannerson. “Ten months after the tsunami, people yearn to go back home.” ACT International, Nov. 2, 2005. Herlinger, Chris. “In one village, facing the future with patience and determination.” ACT International, Dec. 7, 2005. Herlinger, Chris. “Slow recovery: one year after the tsunami.” The Christian Century, Jan. 10, 2006. Herlinger, Chris. “Where the tsunami hit hardest: world’s response best ever, but thousands yearn for housing.” National Catholic Reporter, Feb. 3, 2006 Høvring, Peter. “Villagers move rebuilding forward with self-determination.” ACT International, Feb. 8, 2006. Roselim, Lesvi. “ACT Interview (with John Nduna).” ACT International, June 16, 2006. Tarigan, Abdi. “Welcomes and thank yous exchanged as new houses are handed over to tsunami survivors.” ACT International, July 25, 2006. Thorell, Jan-Åke. “Why are you working for us day after day?” ACT International, Nov. 23, 2005

Bibliography

199


Thorell, Jan-Åke. “In Sri Lanka many face difficulties after the tsunami, but not without some hope.”ACT International, Nov. 24, 2005. Courage Despite Conflict Herlinger, Chris. “A year later, tsunami-battered Aceh searches for security and hope.” ACT International, Dec. 7. 2005. Herlinger, Chris. Telephone interview with Jenny Borden, Sept. 23, 2009. Tsunami Evaluation Coalition: “Joint evaluation of the international response to the Indian Ocean tsunami: Synthesis Report July 2006.” http://www.alnap.org/pool/files/synthrep(1).pdf Senanayake, Darini Rajasingham. “International Aid. Peace-building and Conflict: Lessons from Aceh and Sri Lanka.” SAS Working Paper. No. 80. Aug. 4, 2009. At: www.isas.nus.edu.sg Novirani, Dita. Stories submitted to the project team. Aug. 11, 2009 Fekete, Daniel. “In Sri Lanka’s north, war and the tsunami have exacted a heavy toll.” ACT International, Feb. 28, 2005. Baldauf, Scott. “Despite snags, huge aid lifts Asia: Three weeks later. a progress report on global tsunami relief.” The Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 18, 2005.

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Long, Callie. “Sri Lanka’s Jaffna peninsula a symbol of the ravages of war.” ACT International, Feb. 17, 2006. Tiongco, Linda. “In Sri Lanka, tsunami work both surges and stops.” ACT International. Dec. 22, 2006. Jeffrey, Paul. “Three years after tsunami, Sri Lanka rebuilds amid worsening war.” ACT International, Jan. 18, 2008. Evaluating the Effort ACT International. “ACT Tsunami (ASRE51) Response: A summary and highlights from the final evaluations compiled by Eberhard Gohl. FAKT for the ACT Alliance Tsunami Conference. Banda Aceh. Indonesia. June 30, 2008.” Herlinger, Chris. “Tsunami recovery in Tamil Nadu.” ACT International, April 28, 2007. Herlinger, Chris. “Witnessing continued progress in tsumani recovery.” ACT International. October 19, 2007. Herlinger, Chris. Telephone interview with Jenny Borden, Sept. 23, 2009.

Bibliography

201


Ongoing Dilemmas and Opportunities Herlinger, Chris. Interview with Lesley Schaffer. Geneva, Switzerland. June 30, 2009. Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine:The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Picador, 2008. Romero, Oscar (attributed). “Prophets of a Future Not Our Own.” At: http://www.larynandjanel.com/blog/prophets-of-a-future-not-our-own-oscar-romero Roselim, Lesvi. “ACT Interview (with John Nduna).” ACT International. June 16, 2006. Roselim, Lesvi. “Fishermen in Indonesia use skills and determination to restart their livelihoods.” ACT International, July 11, 2006. Solnit, Rebecca. A Paradise Built in Hell:The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster. New York: Viking, 2009. Tsunami Evaluation Coalition: “Joint evaluation of the international response to the Indian Ocean tsunami: Synthesis Report July 2006.” At: http://www.alnap.org/pool/files/synthrep(1).pdf Wood, Graham. “Tsunami media convergence: not a fair guiding principle for aid.” The Christian Science Monitor. Jan. 24, 2005.

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SHORT STORIES Andaman and Nicobar ACT International. Revised appeal: Asia Earthquake & Tsunamis–ASRE51 (Revision 2). Jan. 31, 2006. ACT International. Revised appeal: Asia Earthquake & Tsunamis–ASRE51 (Revision 4). Oct. 31, 2007. Nias ACT International. Revised appeal: Asia Earthquake & Tsunamis–ASRE51 (Revision 2). Jan. 31, 2006. Tarigan, Abdi. “People of Nias work hard for their future a year after the tsunami and earthquake.” ACT International, March 27, 2006. Proselytizing Lampman, Jane. “Disaster aid furthers fears of proselytizing.” The Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 31, 2005. Høvring. Peter. “ACT members make acceptance of all religions an external and internal practice.” with sidebar: “The example of Indonesia.” ACT International, June 14, 2005.

Bibliography

203


Thailand ACT International. “Churches in Thailand join tsunami response.” ACT International, Jan. 27, 2005. ACT International. Revised appeal: Asia Earthquake & Tsunamis–ASRE51 (Revision 2). Jan. 31, 2006. Somalia ACT International. “ACT Indian Ocean Tsunami & Earthquakes Response. The Day the Sea Died. Final Evaluation Report: ASRE51. Somalia.” ACT International. December 2007. Other Observations Fekete, Daniel. “Survivors in Sri Lanka begin to rebuild their lives.” ACT International, Feb. 18, 2005. Mathaikutty, K.G. Stories submitted to the project team. Aug. 11, 2009. Interview with Jan Egeland Herlinger, Chris. Interview with Jan Egeland. New York City. June 24, 2009.

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About the author Chris Herlinger, a freelance journalist and New Yorkbased writer and editor with ACT member Church World Service, reported on tsunami recovery efforts in India and Indonesia. He is the co-author, with ACT journalist Paul Jeffrey, of Where Mercy Fails: Darfur’s Struggle to Survive, published by Seabury Books. Herlinger is also a stringer for Religion News Service and Ecumenical News International, and his RNS reporting has appeared in The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, among other publications. His other freelance reporting appears regularly in The Christian Century, National Catholic Reporter and the Harvard Divinity Bulletin. He holds graduate degrees from Union Theological Seminary and Cambridge University and has been a resident fellow at Harvard Divinity School and a visiting fellow at Yale Divinity School.


From an interview with Jan Egeland, former United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

‘‘

‘‘

Churches and church networks such as ACT International have certain general qualities: they’re grass-roots based and oriented; they’re already on the ground, close to local parties and players…. That’s why it’s important to have ACT — a large, professional church network that has the same self-discipline as the UN and the Red Cross.


With courage, in hope