Red Cross relief efforts under way for victims of earthquake, tsunami

Volunteers from Indonesian Red Cross branches fan out to operation centers in Sumatra to coordinate evacuations, burial and relief distribution. Siemens commits at least $1 million in an employee-match program toward effort. WHO worries now focus on water, sanitation, food and shelter for 3-5 million displaced by the disaster. The U.S., Britain, Japan, Australia and India take a lead role in coordinating logistics of getting supplies and equipment into the region more quickly...

ACEH, Indonesia, Jan. 3, 2004 (PRNewswire) -- About 340 volunteers from several Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia or PMI) branches such as Aceh Besar, East Aceh, South East Aceh, North Sumatra, South Sumatra, Lampung, Pidie, Bireun, Bengkulu, Central Java, South Sulawesi, Bandung and DKI Jakarta have been deployed to PMI Operation Centers in Banda Aceh and Lhokseumawe to carry out evacuations, burial and relief distribution.

Meanwhile, an emergency field hospital will be set up in Meulaboh. Six medical personnel have been deployed in the first stage Dec. 30, followed by 32 members of Special Emergency Response Team, flying in to Meulaboh on the morning of Jan. 2.

Within this week, PMI National Office has received a large number of donations from individuals, community groups, corporations, and international communities through the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, various embassies, as well as expatriate communities.

PMI has also received a donation of relief items worth 153,000 Canadian dollars [US$126,750] from the Government of Canada through the Canadian Red Cross, consisting of warehouse structure, water purifiers, generators, etc. The 29-ton weighing relief was personally received by PMI Chairman, Mar'ie Muhammad at Soekarno-Hatta Airport in a handover ceremony on Jan. 2.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (www.ifrc.org) has allocated 69 million Swiss francs [US$60.13 million] for the victims, particularly for Water and Sanitation programs, logistics, and community health. "These relief items are extremely important to provide clean water. One of our priorities is to ensure access to clean water to prevent water bourne diseases," Jean-Pierre Taschereau explains. The International Federation assessment team, FACT (Field Assessment and Coordination Team), in Medan is currently preparing the establishment of ERU (emergency response unit) field hospital.

On Friday (Dec. 31), donations received by the Indonesian Red Cross reached a number of Rp. 5,093,000,000 [US$548,420] and US$152,000. In kind donations received so far ranges from of clothes, instant food, blankets, mineral water, sanitary kit, tents, medicines, to body bags and ambulance. Part of these in kind donations have been flown into Banda Aceh by DHL and RPX on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

In other news, in a news release via USFilter, parent company Siemens announced that it was matching employee relief contributions in addition to using its local presence to direct financial and technical assistance to the devastated area through Siemens companies in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. "This way, help is reaching the places where it is needed the most," said CEO Heinrich v. Pierer.

Siemens experts throughout the region are providing technical support to help restore vital infrastructure such as electricity, telecommunications and water supplies. In addition, the company is making available medical equipment like x-ray and ultrasound systems to the local hospitals. At the moment, the aid measures being provided by the company total over 1 million euros [US$1.35 million] -- and will be increased as needed.

Among other notable contributions, actress Sandra Bullock committed $1 million while the head of Dell Computers pledged $3 million through the Dell Foundation. Overall giving toward the humanitarian effort topped $2.5 billion. While the official body count had risen above 150,000, World Health Organization worries were over water, sanitation, food and shelter for the 3-5 million displaced by the disaster. The United States, Britain, Japan, Australia and India took a lead role in coordinating logistics of getting supplies and equipment into the region.

Emergency Relief Organizations
If you would care to assist in the humanitarian response to the disaster through another organization, feel free to contact the following:
-- UNICEF: www.unicefusa.org or call 1-800-4UNICEF (86-4233).
-- American Red Cross: www.redcross.org or 1-800-HELP-NOW (435-7669)
-- Americares: www.americares.org or call AmeriCares directly at 1-800-486-HELP (4357)
-- CARE: www.care.org or 1-800-422-7385
-- Oxfam: www.oxfamamerica.org or 1-800-77-OXFAM (69326)
-- Save the Children: www.savethechildren.org or 1-800-728-3843
-- Doctors Without Borders: www.doctorswithoutborders.org
-- The Network for Good: www.networkforgood.org
-- Catholic Relief Services: www.catholicrelief.org
-- World Vision: www.worldvision.org

Although it does work for improved water quality in Asia, Africa and Latin America through its programs, Water For People, a Denver-based independent organization initially affiliated with the American Water Works Association and supported by various organizations and companies in the water industry, pointed out that it is not an emergency relief organization. Instead, it pointed people to another list of organizations found at the MSNBC website: Asia's Deadly Tsunami.

You can specify to direct your donations to South Asia Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Effort, but remember that a number of other areas of the world also may continue to need assistance as resources are redirected to this region.

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