On December 26, 2004, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the northern coast of Sumatra triggered a devastating tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean, killing 226,000 people and causing widespread devastation across coastal areas of 14 countries. Many survivors escaped with their lives but little else. Millions lost their homes, their belongings and their livelihoods.
The disaster was one of the worst in living memory and triggered an enormous outpouring of support from people around the globe. Worldwide, more than 3.1 billion Swiss Francs was raised by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). What followed was the biggest single relief and recovery operation in the organization’s history which spanned ten years.
The operation was largely focused on the four most affected countries; Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Thailand. More than 4.3 million people received humanitarian support thanks largely to the efforts of thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers, many of whom had been affected by the tsunami themselves. Providing safe housing was a priority and 57,000 new homes were built. More than 700,000 people were given access to improved water supplies and 1,000 schools, community centers, hospitals and clinics were also rebuilt or repaired. Almost 63,000 families received cash, training or equipment which helped to restore livelihoods shattered by the tsunami.
Supporting communities to become more resilient and better prepared for future disasters was the thread that ran through the IFRC’s recovery efforts. From setting up search and rescue teams in Thailand, to training thousands of first-aiders in Sri Lanka and planting mangroves to reduce flood risks in Indonesia; risk reduction and disaster management programmes put in place have contributed to developing stronger communities across all the affected countries. The legacy of those initiatives lives on today.
Find out more about the human impact of the tsunami, the stories of survivors and how the Red Cross and Red Crescent has supported communities to recover from what will be remembered as one of the worst disasters of all time.