IN OTHER WORDS : Saving lives

In the days after the tsunami, public health experts worried about deaths from waterborne diseases affecting huge, concentrated populations. The WHO warned that disease could kill more people than the tsunami itself. Normal water supplies had been destroyed in the capital of Indonesia’s Aceh region, 70 per cent of the water supply system vanished. Much of what remained was contaminated. Many of the tsunami’s survivors were packed into camps with very little water and sanitation. But six months later, there has been no spike in waterborne diseases. This is a story of aid done right. Coordination was the key. Officials quickly established what was needed and who was in charge. Some areas chlorinated standing water, others brought in tankers of fresh water. Contaminated wells were emptied and cleaned. Aid workers also learned a lot from past emergencies. Water tankers carried messages in the local language about how to keep clean. Relief workers trained tsunami’s survivors the ways to assure their water was safe. They are now trying to make clean water permanently available in tsunami-affected areas. People worldwide who gave generously to help the victims of the tsunami can be satisfied that their money saved lives, and will go on saving them. — The New York Times