TSUNAMI - A YEAR ON: A World United in Grief and Giving; Twelve Months Ago One of the Biggest Humanitarian and Relief Operations in History Was Sparked by Ordinary Members of the Public Watching Television News Footage. Chief Feature Writer Paul Groves Reports

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Byline: Paul Groves

The cold statistics are frightening. The devastation caused over such a wide area, the lives lost, the social and economic impact beggars belief.

But just as remarkable was the immediate response of the public. Television viewers, radio listeners and newspaper readers shamed governments into matching their generosity and humanity.

The harrowing events of Boxing Day, 2004, led to one of the biggest humanitarian and relief operations the world has ever seen.

And it was people in their homes up and down the country, settling down to enjoy a traditional post-Christmas diet of left-overs and TV repeats, who were at the forefront.

The scale of the continuing operation matches the unbelievable statistics of the tsunami itself. Oxfam has revealed its operation was its biggest ever relief programme.

In its end of year Tsunami Accountability Report, produced to show the public how the money it gave to Oxfam's appeal has been spent, it revealed the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal raised pounds 350 million, more than pounds 5 million within 24 hours of its launch.

Donors in the West Midlands were especially generous, contributing more than pounds 10 million of the total Oxfam's report details how and where the organisation has spent the public's money, what has been achieved, some of the challenges that were met, and future plans. The report shows that Oxfam raised pounds 160 million in its most successful appeal ever - more than 90 per cent of this from thepublic and much through the DEC appeal By the end of 2005, Oxfam willhave spent pounds 73 million, or 45 per cent, of the total raised.

n So far Oxfam is estimated to have helped 1.8 million people. n Oxfam has worked in all of the worst affected countries - Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India (including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands), Thailand, the Maldives, Somalia and Burma Funds have been earmarked according to need, with Indonesia being allocated 40 per cent of the total funding, Sri Lanka 31 per cent and India 22 per cent Oxfam is planning to spend a fur-ther pounds 47.5 million in 2006, pounds 29 million in 2007, and pounds 9.5 million in 2008.

Oxfam's two major areas of focus have been public health interventions - digging wells, providing toilets and restoring clean water supplies - and work to help rebuild people's livelihoods.

"The impact of the tsunami is still shocking and the devastation continues for thousands of people who were affected," said Ruth Stockdale, of Oxfam in Birmingham.

"But the generosity of people locally and across the UK has provided hope to those people.

"Initially donations meant life or death for people. Now they are helping to rebuild people's lives."

The report also sets out some of the challenges that Oxfam and the other aid groups, charities and volunteers faced. These included an absence of suitable building materials in Indonesia, a lack of government clarity on land rights, land provision, and coastal buffer zones and initial problems with coordination between the agencies responding to the crisis. Despite these challenges the report notes the scale of the success in the relief effort including the rapid rebuilding of livelihoods by providing cash-for-work programs and helping to rebuild old industriesthe averting of any public health crisis following the tsunami, and the focus on supporting marginalised communities.

"The resilience of the people in tsunami-affected countries has been incredible," said Barbara Stocking, director of Oxfam. "Major challenges remain, of course, but unlike manyother crises, we have the resources to be able to help rebuild people's lives for the future." Many ordinary residents of the West Midlands have not just donated money to the aid operation. Hundreds have spent time in the worst affected areas, lending practical support and expertise to the rebuilding programme. …