Oxfam says Indian Ocean tsunami sparked its biggest-ever aid operation

Last year's Indian Ocean tsunami sparked an unprecedented outpouring of aid and triggered Oxfam's biggest-ever relief operation, the British relief group said Monday.

In a report released ahead of the Dec. 26 anniversary of the disaster, Oxfam said its tsunami appeal had raised $278 million (Ђ238 million), a record for the group, More than 90 percent of the money came from members of the public.

The group said that within the first year it would have spent $127 million (Ђ109 million) of the money, working in all the worst-affected countries _ Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, the Maldives, Somalia and Myanmar.

Sixty percent of the money has been spent on public health measures such as wells and toilets and on "work to rebuild people's livelihoods," Oxfam said.

More than 200,000 people were killed in countries around the Indian Ocean when an undersea earthquake triggered a huge tidal wave on Dec, 26, 2004.

Former Irish President Mary Robinson, who is Oxfam's honorary president, said the tsunami had been "a unique challenge."

"The magnitude of the disaster demanded a response on a scale beyond any previous experience," Robinson said. "It has also generated an unprecedented surge of generosity from people around the world.

"This has imposed a massive responsibility on organizations such as Oxfam to demonstrate to donors that we are spending their money transparently and wisely."

The charity said it planned to spend a further $83 million (Ђ71 million) in 2006, $51 million (Ђ44 million) in 2007 and $17 million (Ђ14.5 million) in 2008 on tsunami relief.

Oxfam acknowledged flaws in its response, particularly in the restive Indonesian province of Aceh, where more than 130,000 people died.

"In the fast-changing and logistically challenging context in Aceh, our conventional approach of doing assessments first before determining our assistance package led to frustrations and delays in our response in the first few days," the report said.

"By the time our teams had consulted communities, collated information, and turned it into an intervention plan, the needs of those affected had changed.", AP reported. V.A.

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