News

News left but World Vision still there

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

Having already collected $250 million –– $50 million of that from U.S. donors –– for the tsunami relief effort in south Asia, World Vision is stepping down its solicitation efforts while still shooting for another $100 million in donations over the next 18 months to support rebuilding and economic growth in the region.

World Vision spokesman Dean Owen said the Federal Way-based Christian humanitarian aid organization will reinstate active solicitation if donations taper off before reaching the $100 million mark.

The countries impacted by the tsunami last December form a semi-circle bordering the Indian Ocean. Hundreds of miles apart, they all suffered massive loss of life and devastation to property, livelihoods and local economies when an earthquake under Sumatra displaced a wall of water that, unannounced, swept inland on Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and even as far away as Yemen on the east coast of Africa.

Though many of the immediate emergency needs have been met –– beginning basic infrastructure repairs, bringing in food, clean water, supplies and burying the dead –– now is the time when relief workers hunker down for a long stretch.

While the tsunami-related needs are daunting, Owen said World Vision is committed to sticking it out.

“World Vision is in this for the long haul. It’s going to take a long time,” he said. “It’s out of the news, but these people will need help for the next three to five years.”

World Vision staff have been in the affected countries since just hours after the tsunami struck, helping to rebuild schools, clinics and homes and providing medical supplies and assistance. But Owen said World Vision officials expect the agency’s personnel will remain in the region up to five years and possibly longer to help restore local economies and to provide other assistance.

World Vision is looking into supporting micro-enterprise work, like providing low-interest or interest-free loans, to help people start their own businesses.

The organization purchased thousands of fishing nets to give to fishermen whose nets –– and livelihoods –– were swept out to sea, and also is looking into restoring farmland that was made non-arable by the deluge of saltwater that soaked it.

One of the largest natural disasters in recorded human history, the Dec. 26 tsunami galvanized the entire world to help the region, where death toll estimates have risen as high 220,000. Many of the 11 nations are dealing with water contaminated by bacteria and, reportedly, nuclear waste from illegal dumping, officials said.

World Vision says the best way to help the tsunami-stricken region is to give money. “It’s a lot easier to buy food there,” which also supports the local economies that are struggling to rebuild, Owen said. Besides, he said, it costs too much to ship supplies from the United States, and it takes too long to get there. Money can be wired in a day or two.

World Vision doesn’t take volunteers, preferring instead to hire trained staff from the area in which it’s working. Owen said 90 percent of the World Vision workers in any given country are citizens of that country.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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