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Tsunami Relief

This month in Indonesia, many families visited the grounds of the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh province. They went there to mark the six-month anniversary of the tsunamis that swept across the Indian Ocean. The earthquake-caused tidal waves killed people in nine countries, from Indonesia to Somalia. Over one-hundred-seventy-thousand people died and more than fifty thousand are reported missing.

More than six-billion dollars in aid has been pledged by governments and private organizations. The United States has committed more than eight-hundred-fifty-million dollars in assistance to tsunami survivors. Andrew Natsios heads the U.S. Agency for International Development. He says funds are being used to repair damaged infrastructure:

"We will be. . . .helping to rebuild the Banda Aceh Meulaboh road in Indonesia, which is a two-hundred-forty kilometer road project. I think there are one-hundred-ten, one-hundred-twelve bridges on that road. It was severely damaged during the tsunami and the earthquake. . . .We are also doing a large reconstruction project in Sri Lanka, which is to repair the damaged bridge over the mouth of Arugam Bay."

In Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and Indonesia, thousands of families are still living in tents and temporary structures. Many are unemployed. Mr. Natsios says vocational training and education are being offered:

"A thousand teachers were killed by the tsunami in Banda Aceh and so there is a huge gap in terms of what's needed in the schools to bring the schools up to what they were before."

Because of the reconstruction effort, more workers are being trained in the construction trades. Other survivors, says Mr. Natsios, are being encouraged to start their own businesses:

"We started a micro-enterprise program to do micro-lending to smaller enterprises and to individuals, many of whom are women, so that they have some way of supporting themselves. . . .We've been doing cash-for-work programs where we're trying to get money into the economy by providing day labor to people."

"As men and women across the devastated region begin to rebuild," says President George W. Bush says, the U.S. offers "our assurance that America will be there to help."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.