The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched a preliminary appeal for 7.5 million Swiss francs to assist some 500,000 people and bring immediate support to relief operations of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries in the region after the strongest earthquake in 40 years caused massive tidal waves, killing at least 6,000 people, according to local authorities, and leaving more than one million displaced and homeless.
The number of injured is still not known. One million Swiss francs were released earlier today from the Federation’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund.
Locally, Red Cross teams in Sri Lanka and India have helped evacuate survivors, dispensed first aid and provided emergency relief materials, such as tents and blankets, as well as food.
The International Federation will send medical supplies for 100,000 people into Sri Lanka, the country hardest hit by the disaster, tomorrow, from Copenhagen, Denmark. Additionally medicines to treat up to 2,000 possible cases of diarrheal disease will also be part of the shipment.
“The biggest health challenges we are facing is the spread of waterborne diseases, particularly malaria and diarrhea, as well as respiratory tract infections,” explains Hakan Sandbladh, Senior Health Officer at the Federation’s Secretariat in Geneva. “We are particularly concerned about initial reports of destruction of hospitals and other health infrastructures in Sri Lanka.”
A field assessment and coordination team will also be sent to Sri Lanka in the coming hours and several Emergency response units, specialized in water and sanitation, relief coordination as well as field hospitals are on standby to be sent in, according to needs.
According to the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, there is relatively little damage reported so far in the coastal areas, and thankfully, no deaths or injuries, but the situation is being closely monitored. With telecommunications lines down or saturated, there is still a scarcity of information from certain countries.
“Basic needs for victims of the disaster are shelter, tents, blankets, clean water, food and family utensils and mosquito nets. An important part of the operation will also be tracing lost relatives,” notes Simon Missiri, head of the Federation’s Asia Pacific Department in Geneva. “This preliminary appeal will be revised as precise needs are evaluated.”