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Volume 8, No. 1SPRING 2005

Wave of relief follows tsunami

Looking forward in hope, Syntrudin (right) and his friend Ramadham pick their way through streets clogged with debris following the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. IOCC and its partners are bringing life-sustaining humanitarian assistance to the tsunami survivors. Photo: Mike DuBose-ACT

Baltimore (IOCC) — Like the end of the world. That’s how IOCC officials described the tsunami devastation they recently witnessed on the island of Sumatra.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s hard for me to even describe,” said IOCC staff member Yorgos Daskalakis, who is coordinating IOCC’s ongoing response to the tsunami disaster from Medan, Indonesia. “The west coast is completely destroyed.”

Daskalakis traveled to the tsunami-devastated island as part of an IOCC needs-assessment team to meet with humanitarian agency representatives, survey the damage and determine how best to administer additional relief. The team visited the hardest hit Indonesian province of Aceh, where an estimated 170,000 people have perished.

In response the South Asia tsunami,
IOCC and its partners are:

  • Airlifting urgently-needed humanitarian supplies, including 43,000 soy rice meals and 20 tons of canned meat to the island of Sumatra.
  • Airlifting 8,000 health, school and baby kits to Indonesia, with more on the way.
  • Delivering nearly 300 medicine boxes to Indonesia, each with enough medical supplies for 1,000 adults and children for up to three months. That’s enough to help 300,000 people in need or to restock medical clinics.
  • Supplying food and other goods on a regular basis to displaced people living in camps or in homes with relatives on the east coast of Sumatra. The camps identified by IOCC are home to more than 34,000 people made homeless by the tsunami.
  • Shipping four 40-foot containers of multi-vitamins to tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka. That’s enough vitamins to provide 53,000 adults with a daily dose for a month.
  • Working through the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

“The damage within two miles of the coast can only be described as apocalyptic. There was nothing left except endless piles of debris,” said Christopher Ebe, director of the joint Office of Philanthropy operated by IOCC and the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

The needs-assessment team visited the eastern coast of Aceh province, which sustained serious damage and loss of life but has been lacking in humanitarian assistance. IOCC will distribute fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis at camps in Sigli and Lhokseumawe, Sumatra, where people displaced by the tsunami are staying.

Accompanying Daskalakis and Ebe on the mission was Fr. Chrysostomos Manalu, an Orthodox priest with the Metropolitanate.

Less than 24 hours after the tsunami devastated parts of South Asia on Dec. 26, 2004, IOCC participated in a series of humanitarian airlifts (which are ongoing) to the tsunami-affected countries. IOCC is coordinating its response through the Metropolitanate and other ecumenical partners, including Church World Service (CWS) and Action by Churches Together (ACT).

Daskalakis said the emergency phase of the humanitarian relief operation could last six months. “The first thing you have to do is cover the basic needs,” he said, “because these people have lost everything. They had no time to prepare. I met one guy who lost 20 of his relatives.” The biggest needs, he said, are medical personnel and medical facilities, medicines, health and hygiene supplies, basic and supplementary foodstuffs, shelter, clothing, and household items. According to the needs-assessment report, the tsunami disrupted life on the island of Sumatra in six main areas: Livelihood; Food; Shelter; Health, Water, Sanitation; Education; Infrastructure.

“The whole population is in shock,” Daskalakis said. “The biggest problem they have is … what now? They need to see that their way of life is going to be rebuilt, with the conditions that they are used to. They need hope.”

A doctor from IOCC partner Church World Service speaks with a tsunami survivor at a shelter in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. IOCC’s tsunami relief efforts are addressing health concerns in some of the hardest hit areas. Photo: Orla Clinton-ACT

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