February 1, 2006

Aid groups say tsunami victims’ rights abused

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The huge global relief effort
after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami has trampled on the human
rights of many of the survivors even as it tried to rebuild
their lives, three aid groups charged on Wednesday.

While the aid campaign, the largest ever undertaken, has
had many successes, it has failed to ensure the rights of many
of those affected to food, clean water and a secure home and
livelihood, the groups said in a new report.

More than a year after the December 26, 2004, catastrophe
that killed around 230,000 people, the situation of many
tsunami survivors, particularly women, children and other
vulnerable populations, "is unbelievably grim," said the report
by ActionAid International, the Habitat International Coalition
and the People's Movement for Human Rights Learning.

"We know that there has been some excellent work by
governments and nongovernmental organizations in the wake of
the tsunami -- the speed and scale of the response meant that
lives were saved and many predicted outbreaks of epidemics were
contained -- but it is not enough," U.N. human rights
investigator Miloon Kothari wrote in a foreword to the report.

Nearly $14 billion has been pledged by donors around the
world to rebuild the vast areas devastated by the disaster,
which drove 2 million people from their homes, deprived 1.5
million of their livelihoods and destroyed some 400,000 houses
in 13 countries in Asia and Africa.

But hundreds of thousands of survivors are still living in
substandard shelters and deprived of adequate health care and
other basic services, said the groups' 68-page report, based on
visits to more than 50,000 people in 95 villages and urban
areas in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and India
in November 2005.

"Thousands of children have not been able to go back to
school, women do not feel secure, people's livelihoods have not
been restored, and people are still distressingly uncertain
about their future," it said.

Discrimination in the distribution of aid, forced
relocations, government-assisted land grabs, arbitrary arrests
and sexual and gender-based violence are also abusing
survivors' rights, the report said.

"It is only through national and international cooperation
based on human rights standards that people uprooted and at
risk as a result of devastating natural disasters can be
effectively protected," it said.