IRC Responds to Asia Tsunami Disaster
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In response to last weekend’s devastating offshore earthquake and tsunami, IRC teams in Indonesia’s Aceh province are organizing emergency water and sanitation interventions to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases. The IRC is also providing emergency supplies and materials to people most affected by the crisis.
“Our first priority will be to ensure that people have access to safe drinking water” says Gerald Martone, IRC’s director of emergency programs. “Contaminated drinking water is the most serious cause of death and disease after a crisis like this. Our teams are experts in securing potable water sources in extreme situations.”
The IRC will also distribute emergency supplies such as plastic sheeting for shelter, blankets, water containers, and other items urgently required by the survivors of the disaster.
“This is a critical period of time, we have to react quickly,” says Martone.
Aceh, located in the north of the Indonesia’s island of Sumatra, is the region closest to the quake’s epicenter. The IRC has 21 local staff in Aceh, two of whom are still missing. Most of the IRC staff have lost family members, their houses and possessions. The IRC office was also badly damaged by the catastrophe.
The IRC’s country director Aitor Lacomba is leaving for Aceh this week on a United Nations mission to assess the scale of the disaster. Estimates of deaths are difficult to verify as communication links in the province have been severed, but the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Indonesia fears that the death toll might reach between 50,000 and 80,000 people.
The IRC has been operating relief programs to displaced populations in Aceh since 2001.