The pictures that keep coming up on the right-hand side of the blog are for the most part those of the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. So we are not allowed to forget. Not that we want to.
Unfortunately, the hardest lessons to learn from Sri Lanka’s experience are incredibly difficult to implement. The most explicit reality is that the world’s most vulnerable—namely the poor who lack sturdy housing and good communication—are almost always the hardest hit. Work by the Centre for Research on the epidemiology of disasters reports that tragedy tends to kill more in the underdeveloped south than in the industrialized north. “The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami marked the starting point of a shift away from relief and recovery to risk reduction, which will give us disasters that are more like their ‘northern’ counterparts,” says Rohan Samarajiva, CEO of Lirneasia, a Sri Lankan nonprofit that has watched the tsunami recovery closely. However, accepting the fact that natural disasters are destined to continue, and understanding that climate change threatens to intensify some of Mother Nature’s most tragic handiwork, it will still take significant effort to prepare the globe’s most at-risk communities. And in a time of global financial crisis, the funds aren’t readily available.