This December 26, as we bask in the warm afterglow of family Christmas celebrations, we will pause to remember the fifth anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, one of the most horrific natural disasters in memory.
The tidal wave claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people and left millions homeless, without the means to support themselves and their families. The destruction was almost unimaginable. The human suffering was even worse.
In response, Catholic Relief Services mounted the largest relief and recovery effort in our history. Nearly five years later, I can proudly say that our ambitious reconstruction goals have been met. Thanks to an incredible outpouring from members of the Catholic community in the United States, many contributing though their parishes, their dioceses and national Church organizations, CRS received an overwhelming $170 million in private donations to assist survivors. Another $32 million came from U.S. government and other institutional donors.
This incredible gesture of solidarity has accomplished a great deal. Working in collaboration with the local Church partners and other organizations, many of our projects were completed within four years, a year ahead of schedule.
In the three countries that were hardest hit by the tsunami—India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka—CRS has constructed more than 13,000 permanent homes, providing thousands of families with better places to live than they had before the disaster. But these houses are more than just a place to live. The recipients consider the house an asset that can be inherited by their children. It can be used as the basis for generating income, as collateral for a microfinance loan, or as a center for a small business.
Another area we focused on was the health of the people affected by the tsunami. In the immediate aftermath, the quick availability of funds enabled us to take measures that prevented the spread of waterborne diseases. We embarked on many projects to improve the quality of water and sanitation, which will preserve the health of communities. We helped to build and repair numerous health centers, and we trained community health workers to provide services in their communities, including basic prevention and management of diseases for children and pregnant women.
CRS recently wrapped up our final tsunami projects by completing work in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where we repaired and, in many cases, reconstructed more than 300 community infrastructure projects, including piers, markets, bridges, roads, schools and clinics. In addition, CRS constructed 13 central markets that support fruit, vegetable and fish vendors and help keep a market-driven economy in motion. The jewel of this effort was the construction of the Banda Aceh Mother and Child Hospital, a full-service facility that is the first of its kind in the region.
These good works stand as a tangible symbol of the connection of Catholics in the United States to their brothers and sisters who endured such great suffering. We were brought together in tragedy, but we will remain united as one human family.
Thank you for your continued support and your prayers.
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