The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) shares the grief of those faced with one of the worst natural catastrophes of recent times by way of the tsunamis that devastated several countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives, Myanmar and Malaysia, and calls upon everyone to contribute in all possible ways to help the individuals and families who have suffered.
The disaster has particularly affected the poorer sections of society who lived squatting along the beaches. The increase in land prices in many of the affected countries pushed large sections of the poor out of any possibility of having premises of their own on safer ground. In fact, even the rents are too high for the poor. Thus, there has been an increase in squatters on the beaches. Many of them died due to the tsunamis. Those who have survived have lost all their possessions. While long term measures would have to be developed to assist these persons, their need at the moment is for basic requirements such as:
- Medical assistance by way of supplies as well as personnel: These are needed to attend the injured as well to cope with the possible diseases that may spread as a result of the aftermath of the tsunamis.
- Food supplies: As large numbers of persons have been displaced they are in need of immediate food assistance, including fresh water as the existing water resources have been contaminated.
- Clothing: In the coastal areas in all effected countries large numbers of persons have lost their lodgings and possessions. There is a special need for ladies undergarments.
- Financial and material contributions: Many organisations are collecting donations for this purpose and those who wish to make contributions can contact them.
While these remain the immediate requirements, the questions of rehabilitation and reconstruction will be a major concern in the immediate future. What is important is that those most adversely affected, who are the poor, should be kept as the focus of any rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. This will require well thought out plans and the participation of the United Nations and other agencies with adequate funding. Meanwhile, civil society organisations themselves can play a large role, particularly to ensure that the poor, who have suffered the most, will not be neglected.
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About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.