Friday, January 07, 2005

A Somber New Year

2005 began with a somber tone. The tsunami that hit South Asia and parts of Africa during last year’s Christmas season still rings fresh in everyone’s mind. I admit I had been immersed in my own little world of cooking for my parents and keeping my dad company, as well as shopping the sales for the past two weeks. Of course I knew about the tsunami, and read it on CNN’s website, but maybe it was because I didn’t watch any TV at my parents’ place, it didn’t hit me until yesterday as to the extent of damage and casualties those areas suffered.

Yesterday, a day after coming back to Japan, I turned on the TV for the first time and tuned into CNN to see Soladad O’Brian reporting live from Phuket. The TV screen is filled with corpses wrapped in white or blue sheets and secured with duct tape. Workers with facemasks sprayed giant open-air morgues with what I assume to be anti-infectants while flies swarmed around, and volunteers worked to obtain dental record or fingerprints for identification purposes.

Sitting there watching, I thought about how it could’ve easily been us. We love Phuket’s pristine white sandy beaches and have visited twice while living in Singapore; and Maldives, paradise on earth, is where we spent ten blissful days in May of 2003. I logged onto the website of Soneva Gili, the resort we stayed in Maldives, and found it closed due to tsunami damages. Luckily, all guests and hotel staff were unharmed but some staff lost family and homes on other atolls. My thoughts couldn’t help but turn to Mo, our Guest Relationship Officer with the bubbly personality who took care of us 24-7 while we stayed on Soneva Gili. I hope he and his family are ok. One of Jason’s colleagues was in Sri Lanka with his wife and two young children when the wall of water came crashing in. They climbed to the top of the hotel building and prayed for the water to not rise any further. Lucky for them, it didn't.

For every survival story there are thousands who were not so lucky, and the long-term economical and ecological effects in the area is hard to estimate. With disasters of this scale, one of the immediate priorities is to prevent outbreaks of deadly diseases such as cholera and dengue fever, achievable in part by ensuring clean drinking water and other basic hygiene standards. WHO is calling for 66 million USD in donation to help combat disease outbreaks. Here is an example of what your money can do, according to WHO:

US$10 ensures…
…that one person has access to safe drinking water for four days. Individuals must have access to 10 litres of safe drinking water per day, to reduce the risk of waterborne diseases, particularly the onset of various diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera.

US$50 ensures…
…that 70 people have access to basic medical care for a period of three months. Populations living in overcrowded temporary shelter accommodations are at increased risk of disease and will require an increase in medical attention.

US$100 ensures…
…that 10 people can be treated fully for diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera). Diarrhoeal diseases are a major cause of mortality among populations who may not have access to basic human needs.

US$150 ensures…
…that full surgical care is available to one person. Following catastrophes, it is estimated that approximately one percent of the population requires access to full surgical care. An additional ten percent of the population will require care for minor trauma and injuries.

Donation is easy, just click here.

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