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UNICEF—tsunami ten years on


TORONTO, December 24, 2014—On the tenth anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people—one third of them children—and destroyed whole communities, Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s Director of Programs and former UNICEF Representative in Sri Lanka during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, issued the following statement:

“UNICEF teams were on the frontline in eight countries, delivering life-saving aid and protecting children from danger amidst unimaginable scenes.” 

“Ten years on we have all learned lessons from the tsunami aid operation that have fundamentally altered the way we work.  We have prioritized helping countries hit by disasters such as the tsunami to build back better – constructing earthquake-resilient schools, introducing safer water supplies, ensuring schools prepare children for emergencies and improving legal and social measures to protect children.  We have also invested in building resilience to shocks and disasters by supporting decentralized and community-based health, water and sanitation, education, and social protection systems, working with government and civil society to provide tangible services for children and their families.”  

“UNICEF is determined that the legacy of the Indian Ocean tsunami must be more disaster-resilient societies for children – both in the region and around the world.”

In response to the tsunami, UNICEF raised nearly $700 million – thanks to generous support from government donors, individuals and the private sector. UNICEF responded in Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, India and Somalia.

UNICEF spokespeople are available to speak about:

  • The disaster’s impact on children and its unprecedented scale: UNICEF undertook one of its largest emergency and recovery operations ever. UNICEF teams were on the ground in eight countries. Work included providing safe and clean drinking water, preventing disease outbreaks and getting children back to school.
  • Protecting vulnerable children in the wake of the tsunami: Children were especially vulnerable after the tsunami – many thousands had been orphaned or separated from their parents and were at high risk of abuse and trafficking. UNICEF set up family tracing and reunification systems for children who had been orphaned or separated from their parents.   Through advocacy we saw governments strengthen their regulations to help prevent the trafficking of a huge number of children.
  • Building back better after the tsunami: UNICEF invested in programs and infrastructure with a long-term, sustainable impact. This included constructing almost 350 earthquake-resistant schools in Indonesia, upgrading water and sanitation in hundreds of schools in Thailand and moving communities in Sri Lanka from household wells to piped water systems.  

    Measures introduced during the tsunami have had a positive long-term impact on children’s lives. For example, child protection measures developed for orphans post-tsunami have continued to help children in conflict-affected countries such as Sri Lanka and Indonesia; Thailand implemented a model system to identify and monitor orphaned children which has been expanded throughout the country; UNICEF’s education program in the Philippines now includes emergency drills in schools.
  • Unexpected results of the tsunami response: In Indonesia, interventions to target malaria in Aceh after the tsunami lead to malaria being eliminated in some previously high-endemic regions.  The catastrophe also led to renewed efforts to put an end to 30 years of armed conflict between the government of Indonesia and the separatist Free Aceh Movement.
  • Lessons learned from the tsunami: UNICEF learned many vital lessons from the tsunami response. For example, making reducing the risk of disasters an integral part of work across the region; strengthening risk-informed programming to prepare communities for emergencies; and improving systems to deliver emergency aid.  

A snapshot of achievements

  • After three years, UNICEF had achieved results for more than six million children and women in tsunami-affected areas.
  • After five years, UNICEF and partners had built nearly 100 health centres, equipped more than 7,000 health centres and trained some 60,200 healthcare workers. UNICEF also supported campaigns for mass vaccination, mosquito net distribution and nutritional monitoring.
  • More than 1.3 million children benefitted from psychosocial activities to help them heal from the trauma of the tsunami.

Video and photos marking the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami are available for download here:

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UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230,
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806,