Sri Lanka was severely hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December 2004. The destructive tsunami killed 35 000 people and left 900000 homeless. The tsunami struck after the Sumatran earthquake created it. The waves travelled up to 800kph in deep water and were 300 kilometres wide, with the largest waves at the height of six meters.
The tsunami had also affected Somalia, leaving 50 000 thousand people displaced, 298 deaths and destruction of property which crippled the coastal infrastructure and the economy.
Gift of the Givers Response:
The Indian Ocean earthquake and resultant Tsunami devastated the coastal regions of a host of countries. Our relief assistance efforts were centred on Sri Lanka and Somalia.
Sri Lanka: We responded within 24 hours of the Tsunami striking Sri Lanka, delivering an R7 million aid package and holding discussions with the country's President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, who afforded us land in Potuville, where we built 55 new houses for victims of the disaster. Working in tandem with a major Sri Lankan textile company representative, we jointly expended US$500 000 in the four days after the Tsunami, delivering tents and distributing huge amounts of food and medicines to the hardest-hit coastal regions in the South and East of the country. We also chartered a cargo aircraft, at a cost of US$100 000, to deliver aid four times a day from the capital, Colombo, to areas rendered impassable, with destitute recipients of such assistance dubbing the aircraft "Gift of the Givers". An additional relief, valued at R1 million and comprising more medicines and medical supplies, 500 000 water purification tablet and 20 tons of selected food items, as well as quantities of a high-energy protein supplement (innovated by Gift of the Givers and the only one of its kind in the world) was also supplied from South Africa to help victims of the devastation.
Somalia: We also recognised that Somalia, an often neglected African country, was in dire need of relief and required urgent attention, although accessing the country proved extremely complicated. With negotiations with tribal leaders, the preparation of the airfield, the provision of trucks and an aircraft finalised on our behalf by the United Nations, we received the diplomatic support to reach the victims of the Tsunami. We provided 35 tons of supplies, valued at R3 million, which comprised tents, blankets medicines, additional medical equipment, water purification tablets for the purification of some 10 million litres of water, and 25 tons of food, including a high-energy protein supplement. In a first for Gift of the Givers, a team of 10 doctors, primarily medical specialists, accompanied our team to Somalia.
The mission proved arduous, flying a single aircraft first to Uganda, transferring our aid package to two smaller aircraft before flying into Bosaso, in Somalia, only to find the runway was 300 metres shorter than had been earlier indicated. The skill of the Russian pilots, however, ensured the safe landing of the relief packages we had brought. We were warmly welcomed by the Government of the region and were lent excellent support by representatives of the World Food Programme organisation to transport supplies by a truck to badly affected coastal areas.
Whilst distributing supplies in the Haafun area, it became clear that the region's primary economic activity was the fishing industry, all but wiped out by the power of the Tsunami. Accordingly, we supplied a fleet of boats and fishing nets to assist in resurrecting the industry for the benefit of the grateful community.
We also constructed a medical centre there - which continues operating to this day - and provided several 4x4 vehicles for the transportation of patients from Haafun to Bosaso.