On Sunday, 26 December 2004, the greatest earthquake in 40 years occurred about 150 kilometers off the west coast of northern Sumatra Island in Indonesia. The earthquake generated a disastrous tsunami that caused damage in 18 countries and destruction in 11 countries bordering the Indian Ocean.
The death toll count was almost 300,000 people. Over 5 million people were affected by the tsunamis and well over a million were left homeless. Of the fatalities, almost half were in Indonesia with very high casualties in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand as well.
Waves of up to 10.5 meters in height struck Northern Sumatra, the Nicobar and Andaman Islands, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India. Destructive waves also struck the Maldives, Somalia, Kenya and the islands off the African coast.
Today, a massive international aid effort has rebuilt tens of thousands of homes, schools and roads.
Over 7 billion U.S. Dollars have been provided as humanitarian aid for those affected by the tsunami and as a result many of these regions have recovered sufficiently to provide for their inhabitants. However, there remains much to be done. In Sri Lanka the Tamil Tigers (a guerilla organization) have prevented much of the necessary aid being conveyed to affected people. Throughout Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand fishing villages have been destroyed beyond repair. The occupants of these villages simply have nowhere to go and they still have nothing.
Each year since the tragedy, the communities that have been affected by the Tsunami have had touching memorial services and this year, many of the communities will include candles floating in the ocean as a part of their service.
He saw firsthand how UNICEF was successfully addressing the physical and emotional needs of children affected by the disaster, and he brought this message of hope back to Congress. The new celebrity ambassador pointed out that the assistance Congress provides to UNICEF in the annual appropriations enables it to be an effective partner of the United States in responding to emergencies like the South Asian tsunami. He testified that the funding provided by Congress to UNICEF is an investment that yields returns for children in jeopardy around the world.
Clay Aiken is an example of an accomplished celebrity who is lending his talent and heart to bring UNICEF’s work to the attention of the decision-makers in Washington. He is among those who truly serve as ambassadors to the legislative leaders who can help make this a world fit for children.
The was a great deal of publicity surrounding Clay’s visit to Indonesia for UNICEF. Besides the regular entertainment news shows, the information was on many of the regular news shows and printed in many papers throughout the world. The following are a few of the articles.
Have You Heard? Clay Aiken visits victims of tsunami
By 6NEWS Staff/Associated Press
‘American Idol’ runner-up Clay Aiken, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, was in Indonesia Monday visiting areas struck by last December’s tsunami.
Aiken was in Aceh province, Indonesia talking with Acehnese children during his visit.
The death toll in Indonesia alone has grown to more than 115,000, and is possibly as high as 166,320, according to some government officials.
Most deaths were in the Aceh province, which includes Meulaboh. The tsunamis wiped some areas of the shoreline clean, leaving only the foundations of homes.
Aiken is a UNC-Charlotte graduate and runner up on the 2003 edition of American Idol.
Aiken from ‘Idol’ sings in Indonesian
Ivy Susanti, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Clay Aiken, American Idol runner-up, has begun his debut tour in Indonesia this week. But rather than performing any songs, he was visiting the tsunami-ravaged province of Aceh as an ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
He said his mission as an ambassador was to help children, with or without disabilities, in many areas like those hit by natural disaster, or in war-torn areas, to have access to basic needs like clean water, nutrition or other activities like education.
He sits on his haunches in front of an adorable, grubby little Acehnese boy who is singing his heart out to a happy children’s song. This little boy was most likely orphaned by the tsunami which swept his homeland leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead, injured and homeless, but the UNICEF Ambassador from America sees in this child’s smiling face that all is not lost, there is still the joy of childhood present in his smile despite the devastating trauma he has suffered.
The tall American with the freckles and rimless glasses stands, sings and dances to a local song with the schoolchildren, waving his arms and moving his body enthusiastically to the hastily learned lyrics in a language of which he had no previous knowledge. He smiles joyously-eliciting similar expressions from the children whose voices sing their happy song with him.
When I look back and remember, it reminds me of how very lucky I am. It also makes me very proud to be a fan of Clay Aiken. After all, this is the kind of thing that I expect when I think about Clay!