United Nations Response to South Asia Tsunami

The United Nations will update information about the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami as information becomes available. Below is a summary of the current situation and the UN's work to aid victims:

Toll of Victims:

The number of reported dead now stands at more than 115,000, a figure based on official Government announcements. However, the Government of Indonesia has issued preliminary reports that 25 percent of the population of Banda Aceh, or 80,000 in Aceh province alone, died. Another 500,000 were injured, and 5 million people lack basic supplies.

Upcoming Flash Appeal to Donors:

The UN will launch an emergency appeal to donors on January 6 to cover emergency needs for six months. This is expected to be one of the largest ever for a natural disaster; the appeal for Hurricane Mitch's victims in 1998 was for $153 million. To date, the UN has received $500 million in pledges and cash donations from more than 30 countries; this total does not include in-kind contributions or military assistance. An international pledging conference for donor governments is being arranged for mid-January.

What the UN is doing:

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has spoken to the leaders of all the affected countries to express his condolences and find out what they need most urgently. He also has been in contact with leaders of major donor countries to discuss international relief efforts and offer the UN's coordinating role. He cut short his vacation to return to New York Tuesday and oversee the UN's relief efforts.

UN Emergency Teams:

Teams from the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination division are currently on the ground, assessing damage. The following immediate emergency needs have been identified by UN country teams: $70 million (Sri Lanka); $20 million (Maldives); $40 million (Indonesia). In Somalia and the Seychelles, a UN Country Team from Kenya will conduct an assessment of the situation; hundreds of villages are believed to have been destroyed. These countries are not part of the current donor appeal. India and Thailand have declined to participate in a UN appeal.

OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) has been given a mandate in Indonesia from local authorities in Banda Aceh to coordinate assistance. It is setting up an office in Aceh and contributed $50,000 for the purchase of body bags and medical supplies in Thailand.

WFP (World Food Programme) is moving assessment teams from Dubai into Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and collaborating and sharing information with other UN agencies and the US State Department. It will handle management of camps for displaced people in Indonesia, which are springing up informally, and begin assessing those camps today. It has sent truckloads of relief food to 12 devastated districts in Sri Lanka and will provide an initial $500,000 in food aid in Thailand.

UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) is providing blankets, sleeping mats, clothing, oral rehydration salts, medical supplies, shelter equipment, water purification tablets, and 500-litre water tanks in Sri Lanka and southern India. In Thailand, it is contributing an initial $100,000 to the relief efforts, and is programming $1.4 million of assistance to support children and their families. Major activities in Thailand will focus on psycho-social care and support, reuniting children with their families, and assistance in the areas of education, nutrition, water and sanitation.

UNFPA (UN Fund for Population Activities) has committed up to $1 million and additional staff for rapid health assessments, hygiene needs and health supplies, including water purification tablets. It is focusing on the special vulnerability of women and girls. Its priorities include emergency obstetric care, the establishment of temporary health facilities, and the provision of equipment and supplies.

WHO (World Health Organization) will initially supply at least 15 new emergency health kits (each designed to cover the basic health needs of 10,000 persons for three months) and 13 trauma kits (each covering 100 interventions). It also is mobilizing at least 15 diarrhoeal kits (each designed to treat 100 severe cases of diarrhea and/or cholera). And it is monitoring the epidemiological situation through the "roll back malaria" regional program. In Thailand, it is working closely with the Thai Ministry of Public Health and other UN partners to assess health, water, sanitation and disease control needs.

UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) is set to airlift some 3,500 lightweight tents from its regional warehouse in Dubai for up to 100,000 people in Aceh. Some 20,000 kitchen sets, plastic sheeting for 20,000 families and 100,000 blankets will be airlifted from the agency's central warehouse in Copenhagen; airlift dates have yet to be confirmed. It also is delivering plastic sheeting, plastic mats, cooking sets and clothing in Sri Lanka. It is contributing $50,000 to the UN Emergency Relief Fund for emergency shelter needs in Thailand.

FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization) has offered support to fisheries and farming communities in Thailand and will contribute $20,000 to UN Emergency Relief Fund and has earmarked initial amount of $20,000 for damage and needs assessment in Thailand.

UNDP (UN Development Programme) has transferred $100,000 to Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an initial contribution (particularly for the transport of emergency relief).

IOM (International Organization for Migration) has opened an office in Banda Aceh to assist tsunami victims: IHP, the International Humanitarian Partnership, a grouping of several European countries, is making aircraft available to fly workers and supplies to Aceh.

ISDR: the UN's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction wants to see that every coastal country around South Asia and Southeast Asia has at least a basic but effective tsunami warning system in place by this time next year; this need will be discussed at World Conference on Disaster Reduction to be held in Kobe, Japan, 18-22 January.


How to Help Victims

UN organizations accepting monetary donations to help victims of the South Asian tsunami include:

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF): Contributions to the UNICEF can be made online at www.unicef.org or www.supportunicef.org, by phone at 1-800-4UNICEF, or by mail unicefusa.org, 333 East 38th Street, New York, NY 10016.

United Nations World Food Programme (WFP): Contributions to the WFP can be made online at www.wfp.org or mailed to Friends of WFP, Attn: Tsunami Relief, PO Box 11856, Washington, DC 20008. Contact Margaret Carrington at 917-367-5431 for more information.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): The UN Refugee Agency accepts donations online at www.unrefugees.org or by phone at 1-800-770-1100. Donations by mail should be sent to USA for UNHCR, 1775 K Street, NW, Suite 290, Washington, DC 20006.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): Donors can also contact Geneva Desk Officers: Mr. Erik Haegglund, at haegglund@un.org, or +41-22-917-3299 and Mr. Rudi Muller/Ms. Caroline Puget, at +41-22-917-3131 or 917-1836.
More information about the situation in South Asian tsunami can be found at www.reliefweb.int.