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Everything about the 26 December Indian Ocean tsunami defies imagination — the scale of the devastation, the loss of life, the global response and the life-saving gestures of local people. Some 280,000 people died or are missing and millions more left homeless. However, the statistics fail to convey the scope of individual losses.

In the Movement, we mourned the loss of colleagues. In one village in northern Sumatra, more than 20 staff died, including that branch’s secretary general. But despite their personal tragedies, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers in the affected regions came together to help those most in need. In Indonesia, for example, when the army and National Society staff from the capital Jakarta arrived in the worst affected areas, they expected to find chaos. Instead, in some areas, they discovered Red Cross volunteer teams already in place, providing relief and comfort. Some volunteers had made their way up the coast by boat; others were the remnants of local teams suddenly made orphans, widows or substitute parents to siblings.

Globally, the Red Cross and Red Crescent network mobilized over 10,000 volunteers and 76 relief and medical teams. Over 30 National Societies sent assistance to sister societies in the affected countries, with the ICRC and the International Federation coordinating international response efforts.

Life goes on and today people are getting on with the long, hard work of rebuilding their lives. There is hope that communities will be able to recover quickly as the massive amount of money donated to tsunami operations means there is no shortage of funding for humanitarian and development efforts. The Red Cross and Red Crescent raised some US$ 1.2 billion, according to the International Federation. The Movement will be making every effort to spend funds in a responsible and transparent way.

Despite the revenues and the international goodwill, one still does not have to look very hard to see the enduring emotional scars and physical hardships facing the millions of people affected by this disaster.
As editors of a magazine dedicated to humanitarian issues, we cannot end this editorial without asking our readers to remind their political leaders and policy makers that suffering is without asking our readers to remind their political leaders and policy makers that suffering is not limited to tsunami victims. Vulnerable people worldwide need our support.

Jean-François Berger
ICRC editor

Jean Milligan
International Federation editor


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