In a region where millions live in risk-prone areas, frequently in situations where building regulations and land use planning are not enforced, natural disasters all too often bring devastation and suffering to the most vulnerable. Yet, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean basin on 26 December 2004 was on a scale that few could have anticipated.
As one of the worst natural disasters in memory to hit the Asia-Pacific region, the 2004 earthquake and tsunami killed more than 225,000 people in 11 countries. The scale of devastation left behind was massive and required both immediate and long-term action.
"We rapidly responded, acting in close coordination with the affected governments, local communities and development partners," says Jim Nugent, Deputy Director General of ADB's Southeast Asia Department and former ADB Country Director for Indonesia..
"Our role was to support the immediate assessment of loss and damage. ADB also supported the Government in providing immediate assistance for the medium and long-term reconstruction of affected areas and to help rebuild the critical infrastructure – both social and physical – that helped people get back on their feet, reacquire their livelihood and rebuild their lives."
ADB responded to the crisis by launching the largest grant program in its history. As of 30 June 2007, ADB's total approved assistance and cofinanced funds for tsunami-affected countries stood at US$892.035 million. Of this, $725.14 million, or 81%, was grant funding.
Eight years after this unprecedented disaster, the progress achieved has been remarkable and the lives of those affected by the 2004 tsunami have improved immensely. In India, Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand, several reconstruction programs have been successfully completed, livelihoods restored and the long-term sustainability of economies rebuilt.
Despite the many success stories in the relief operation that followed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the fight against natural disasters and their consequences in the Asia and the Pacific region is ongoing, as poverty remains a major driver of vulnerability.
"While significant progress has been made in reducing poverty in the region, natural disasters can still affect the poor disproportionately, due to their of greater exposure and vulnerability to disaster risks," explains ADB's Nugent.
Poor families, usually living in informal settlements in risk-prone areas, have limited access to economic resources and find it difficult to weather these disasters. Damage is further exacerbated if families depend on livelihood that is easily affected by such events.
"Many valuable lessons were learned in responding to this tragic event," says Nugent.
"Having expanded our efforts to more effectively prevent and respond to natural disasters in the Asia and Pacific region, today we are better positioned to prevent human loss on the catastrophic scale that sadly occurred in 2004."