Monday, January 4, 2010

Boxing Day Reflections

I think most people would agree that it seems like just yesterday that the devastating news of the Boxing Day tsunami hit our TV screens. I'm spending Christmas at my family home and like many people I can remember the exact moment that someone told me to turn on the TV as something terrible had happened across Asia.
Five years later, and life has moved on in leaps and bounds. Although another tsunami may happen again, one of the most important factors in the British Red Cross' recovery effort in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives is that communities have been left stronger and better able to cope with the threat of future disasters.
When I was in Aceh last week, I saw the way houses have been designed to be flood resistant, built on stilts in flood-prone areas. I saw how they were designed with clearly signposted evacuation routes to allow people to escape if another tsunami happens. Coastal plantations have been built along the coastline, and community based action teams raise awareness in their communities about what to do in the face of future disasters. Communities are actively helping themselves.
It would be wonderful to think that more disasters like the Boxing Day tsunami will not happen again. But the reality is that natural disasters are increasing in frequency and organisations like the British Red Cross need to support communities to prepare themselves for the future. Disaster preparedness has become an integral part of the British Red Cross' recovery operations across the world. (To read about other BRC recovery programmes see our interactive map here).
As people enjoy today with their family and friends, memorial services are taking place across Aceh and the rest of the tsunami affected regions, and even here in the UK, remembering the hundreds of thousands who died. Today is also a time to reflect on the incredible recovery and reconstruction across Asia and the empowering of communities to deal with future disasters - the key to protecting the most vulnerable and saving lives.

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