Mark Ward, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), spoke at a ‘tsunami relief and recovery’ update briefing at the National Press Club. The purpose of the event was to provide an update on reconstruction activities in the region in recognition of the second anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Also speaking was Eric Schwartz, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery.
Though the U.S. was among the largest contributors, the global response to the events of December 26, 2004 was essential in meeting the immediate needs of the affected populations of the region and to prevent a secondary disaster due to lack of sanitation and other public health concerns. The needed responses were met by the cooperation of the people and governments of the region and by public and private organizations and governments around the world.
In the two years since the tsunami, much work has been done to rebuild lives and livelihoods and U.S. government assistance has totaled more than $840 million in this effort. In addition, U.S. charitable donations have exceeded $1.8 billion, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
As a result of this generosity, the U.S. is working with the affected regions to rebuild infrastructure, provide jobs and training (particularly for women), strengthen communities and local governments, and develop early warning systems and effective disaster response programs.
“I’m pleased with our program to date, but more needs to be done,” said Ward. “We’re building roads that will withstand a tsunami, water sanitation systems, clinics, and homes. We’re also providing job training and credit for small businesses. All of this is needed for a self-sufficient recovery.”
Mr. Ward chaired both the USAID Tsunami Task Force as well as the USAID South Asia Earthquake Task Force and is now leading the U.S. Government’s Lebanon Reconstruction Task Force.