In the aftermath of the tsunami, the OCHA Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) contacted the RCs’ offices in the Comoros, Madagascar, Mozambique, Mauritius and Seychelles, as well as relevant IASC partners in the region, with a view to assessing the impact of the tsunami in the southwestern part of the Indian Ocean. Based on a request from the Government of the Seychelles to the SG’s office, OCHA facilitated an UNDAC mission from 3 to 11 January 2005.
In the Seychelles, about 500 families were displaced as a result of the destruction of many buildings and public infrastructure. The livelihoods of more than a thousand people were affected due to the loss of assets such as fishing boats and equipment.While the government took the lead in terms of relief efforts, additional resources from the international community were required. Five projects for the Seychelles, totaling US$ 11.6 million, were included in the Flash Appeal for the Indian Ocean Earthquake-Tsunami. The projects focused on the provision of shelter, non-food items and livelihood support, as well as the rehabilitation of infrastructure and the development of early warning systems. Over US$ 4.5 million was received in support of these projects.
Additional assessments determined that the number of affected dwellings was 500 rather than 100. Immediate needs were actually addressed by the government and the Seychelles Red Cross Society with their own resources during the first few months. UN expenditure was essentially linked to infrastructure rehabilitation and reconstruction. Because of the nature of UN interventions, that remained low for most of the year.
ROSA provided support to the RC, based in Mauritius, to monitor and report on progress achieved against the Common Humanitarian Action Plan for the Seychelles in the Flash Appeal. UN Agencies carried out assessment and project formulation missions to the Seychelles to ensure the resources requested were commensurate with the scale of actual needs in the country. These missions provided technical details and costs estimates to prepare project proposals for: rehabilitation of essential infrastructure; rehabilitation/reconstruction of private dwellings, schools and utilities; establishment of the early warning and disaster management system; and, rehabilitation of livelihoods in the fisheries/agricultural sector.
In March, the regional office undertook a joint mission with UNDP/BCPR to assess the need for capacity building in the areas of disaster management and early warning. As a follow-up to this mission, ROSA collaborated with UNDP/BCPR to develop a comprehensive early warning and disaster management system, which is due to be implemented in late 2006.
In Somalia, the tsunami struck just as a drought was coming to an end and livelihoods were beginning to recover from multiple shocks such as flash floods, freezing rain and environmental degradation. The tsunami affected large parts of the coast, particularly a stretch of 650 km of coastline in the Puntland region, from Hafun in the north to Garacad further south. The tsunami resulted in the death or disappearance of 289 people, destruction of infrastructure, contamination of water sources, and the loss of livelihood assets. Some 44,000 people required emergency humanitarian assistance, including drinking water, food and medication, as well as support for the reconstruction or rehabilitation of houses and shelter. The damage caused to the fishing industry, which is the main income-generating activity of coastal communities, was significant.
OCHA, along with other UN Agencies and NGOs, created a humanitarian action plan in order to respond effectively to the urgent humanitarian and recovery needs of the tsunami-affected communities, focusing on 10 projects providing shelter and non-food items, security, livelihood support, food and healthcare.
Two funds, the Humanitarian Response Fund (HRF) and Emergency Humanitarian Intervention Fund (EHIF), were established to provide for quick and flexible emergency actions. In 2005, nine projects were supported through these funding mechanisms, for projects ranged from water trucking for tsunami-affected residents in Puntland to emergency mental health services for rural areas of northeastern Somalia. A psychosocial project helped 25,000 people to cope with the effects of a series of disasters that had affected their region and resulted in economic impoverishment, displacement, harsh living conditions and increased insecurity.
Humanitarian access was of major concern in the tsunami-affected coastline because of the rugged terrain and underdeveloped road networks in the area. The HRF supported two Cash for Work road rehabilitation works to improve access, provide income opportunities and help boost the local economy in the longer term. Water sources contaminated by the tsunami waves that washed over wells were rehabilitated and benefited 34,236 people. In addition, 4,000 displaced households from fishing and pastoralists communities were given water through trucking. A pilot project for energy source diversification supplied solar cookers to 950 households and thereby addressed environment degradation issues.
Projects funded under the HRF were designed to provide assistance to all the tsunami-affected populations to meet their immediate needs, such as water, access, counselling and environment protection. In addition to meeting the needs of the population in the Puntland region, some of these projects facilitated the expansion of humanitarian access more generally.
Before the tsunami, the effects of two decades of conflict continued to disrupt the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans languishing in IDP camps in the north and east. After the tsunami, which devastated two thirds of the coastline, killing over 31,000 people and nullifying livelihoods in a matter of seconds, existing vulnerabilities and inequalities were exacerbated for both poor and conflict-stricken coastal communities.
OCHA began operations in Sri Lanka shortly after the tsunami struck with the arrival of the UNDAC on 27 December 2004. An initial assessment was carried out to define the short-term financial, material and human resources needed to effectively aid the Sri Lankan government and its people. The HIC was deployed in early January 2005.
In response to the tsunami, OCHA Sri Lanka acted as the secretariat to the RC/HC and assisted the work of the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, former US President Bill Clinton, including during missions by the Special Envoy and Deputy Envoy to Sri Lanka. In 2005, OCHA staff were located in Colombo, in field offices in Kilinochchi, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara and Galle, and in two temporary sub-offices in Matara and Hambantota, to support coordination at the district level.
OCHA’s key objectives during the response in Sri Lanka were to: ensure effective coordination of humanitarian action and a smooth transition from relief to recovery; strengthen information management and public information and advocacy for humanitarian needs, in conjunction with the HIC, and introduce effective tracking and monitoring of needs and response; improve the level of understanding of, and capacity to conduct, contingency planning, and support disaster preparedness planning; facilitate/coordinate UN contributions to Government of Sri Lanka efforts to establish a solid foundation and speed up the transition from relief to recovery; foster the application of humanitarian principles and advocacy where required, and support the UNCT in developing a communications strategy.
OCHA, as an element of its secretariat support to the RC/HC, helped develop common priorities, shared goals, agreed strategies and coherent responses among all actors to support the relief and recovery effort. Such assistance included identifying the overall cost for the tsunami response; conducting public information activities through the deployment of surge staff and later regular staff; securing temporary housing and shelter for some 500,000 people; providing food, water, sanitation, clothing and medical attention; and working to return the population to a sense of normalcy as soon as possible.
Several assessments were conducted on a sectoral basis, including a stock-taking exercise in March 2005, facilitated by the HIC, which included an assessment of achievements and gaps that needed to be filled. This led to practical actions, such as the Care and Maintenance Workshop in September to ensure minimum standards by agencies for some 53,000 shelters housing over 250,000 tsunami displaced persons during the transition phase.
The Mid-Term Review of the Flash Appeal, which extended the timeframe until the end of 2005, was incorporated into the two-year UN Post-Tsunami Recovery and Reconstruction (UN Transitional) Strategy, running from December 2004 to December 2006. The document focused on: ensuring physical security by upholding human rights and the provision of shelter; the recovery of livelihoods through employment programmes, vocational training and loans or grant provision; ensuring that basic needs are met through the provision of essential services (health, food, education, etc); and building response capacity and disaster preparedness procedures. Overall, the strategy is a tool to realign resources to current priority projects, and raise funds for under-funded and new activities.
The launch of the Flash Appeal in January served as the principal funding request vehicle. OCHA strengthened the coordination structure by convening meetings with all partners, which discussed and mapped out response activities and addressed issues of common concern.
OCHA played a pivotal role in the development of the Transitional Strategy which led to the Tsunami Working Group initiative, an operational platform to monitor and address gaps in tsunami response and related matters.
OCHA’s field presence continually provided much-needed support at the district and divisional level. However, OCHA’s performance at the district level was not fully effective due to the deployment of junior staff without enough bac-kup or equipment in many places. While some of these staff performed well beyond their expectations, the overall picture as recorded by the TEC is one of a lack of OCHA effectiveness at district level. This was in part due to the lack of conviction by the UNCT of the need to deploy coordination officers to the districts. In future, OCHA needs to ensure that experienced people are also sent to coordinate and provide value-added at the decentralised level.
Underlying all activities in 2005 was the attempt to be attuned to both the government’s priorities and initiatives, and to those of tsunami-affected communities. This included informing the communities of their benefits and being a conduit to share their views and aspirations regarding the restoration of their lives and livelihoods.
The establishment of the HIC provided a vital lifeline in coordination, communications and information exchange. The HIC supported the establishment of the Donor Assistance Database (DAD), launched in early September, which is the Sri Lankan government’s principal database for financial and other information related to tsunami relief and recovery. The HIC improved access to information as well as stakeholders by developing a shared understanding of needs and responsibilities. Through regular mapping and monitoring activities, clearer information products were developed, which resulted in a more coordinated approach to information.
The Transitional Shelter Site Tracking Project (TSST), which surveyed the locations and quality of temporary shelters and was used to identify future shelter sites, was much appreciated by all partners.
Streamlining communication to develop a “one voice” message was addressed through the establishment of the Media Working Group and consolidating the existing UN Communications Group. OCHA and the HIC also ensured that all humanitarian actors worked towards strengthening communication capacities at the district and local levels, to ensure that tsunami-affected communities – and, particularly, displaced communities – are kept abreast of development plans and play an integral role in decision-making.
Key challenges in implementing the UN’s Post-Tsunami Recovery and Reconstruction strategy included: addressing persistent or unmet humanitarian needs; highlighting identified, emerging and/or unresolved issues and problems; ensuring transparency and accountability; promoting equity; and ensuring better communications with affected populations.
OCHA headquarters in Geneva responded swiftly and decisively to immediate humanitarian needs in the aftermath of the tsunami, deploying an UNDAC mission within 72 hours of the disaster. Over a three week period, the UNDAC team provided an informal clearing house function for international partners, undertook initial needs assessments and provided daily status reports. OCHA provided critical guidance to the UNCT, supporting the HC in setting up a Disaster Management Team, bringing together the heads of UNCT agencies to coordinate support, and helping to ensure the appropriate use of Military and Civil Defence Assets (MCDA) in response to the tsunami, as well as the proper involvement of regional MCDA providers in the strengthening of response preparedness. The coordination of MCDA is a key role for OCHA. OCHA resources should be strengthened in this area and UNCMCoord officers should be deployed as early as the UNDAC team.
The OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP), established in early 2005, facilitated transition and early recovery activities during the course of the year. The office supported the RC/HC with tsunami-related coordination, including UNDMT meetings, UNDAF preparation and liaison with the DERC, Deputy Special Envoy, UNDGO and regional RC/HCs.
Although ROAP was not set up to support the tsunami, it nevertheless played a very strong supporting role. The regional workshops organised by ROAP were widely praised and appreciated by national actors in the countries where they were held.
ROAP also seconded a Public Information Officer to the RC/HC Office to support the UNCT with tsunami response; established an Inter-agency Communication Officers Working Group; researched and wrote situation reports, compiled briefings, presentations and talking points for the RC/HC; wrote press releases and engaged with local and international media; organised the visit of the UN Messenger of Peace; redesigned and relaunched the UNCT tsunami web page; and coordinated production of the UNCT tsunami anniversary report.
The regional office carried out a UNCT financial tracking exercise for tsunami projects; organised a series of lessons learned workshops in four tsunami-affected countries (Thailand, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia) and a regional event in Indonesia; organised two workshops for regional field office representatives to share tsunami-related information, experiences and carry out planning activities; and participated in two key post-tsunami media-training events: the Asia-Pacific Journalism Centre regional videoconference on reconstruction and accountability and the ISDR/ABU workshop in Bangkok.
In addition, ROAP worked to strengthen civil-military cooperation for disaster preparedness and response by participating in workshops and training sessions in India, Japan, and Thailand; organised a familiarisation visit to OCHA Geneva for the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs aid management agency (TICA) and the Department for Disaster Prevention and Management (DDPM); and supported the training of National Audit Commission representatives in tsunami-affected countries.
At the time of the disaster, OCHA helped to ensure an effective working relationship between the UNCT
and the government and promoted the flow of information within the UN system and with external actors. During the course of 2005, the regional office ensured that issues relating to natural disasters remained on the agenda and strengthened collaboration between stakeholders in the region, including national governments.
Thailand was not initially seen as a priority country and was not a direct participant in the flash appeal, which limited the funding that was made available. The need for OCHA involvement in coordination of the tsunami response in Thailand was also limited by the prior existence of strong national coordination structures.