The coastal areas hit by the December 26 tsunami are now battling hunger and the threat of epidemics looming large due to scarcity of potable water, food and medicine, even as aid agencies struggle to reach the victims. World leaders have pledged nearly four billion dollars in aid to the tsunami-hit for short-term relief as well as for long-term plans to rebuild the lives of those affected. For example, the UK has urged a debt repayment moratorium on all those tsunami-hit countries and Japan has announced to directly hand half of its $500 million aid it pledged earlier to the disaster-struck over to the UN. It has also backed the call for writing off debts incurred by the suffering states if the latter so wish. Times like these call for solidarity, as has been expressed by the international community. Grief, unlike anything, is a great unifier. The killer tsunami has proven it.

At the moment, it is important for aid agencies to identify priority areas of relief and respond accordingly, as they have been doing. Beyond words of support for the suffering, a well coordinated effort is necessary to oversee reconstruction and rehabilitation. There are several organisations which have gathered veritable experiences in such works. But the global body that has unanimous mandate and expertise to work for such a project is the UN. For effective results, international support must keep coming certainly for over a decade. Once the coasts are cleared and relief agencies start returning, the aggrieved will have but themselves to fend for. It is during this lonely but difficult period that the UN and other organisations will have to lend their support to, long after the first wave of calls of support ebb away. While it might sound harsh at the moment to call for governments reeling under the disaster to piece together a mechanism for proper use of the incoming aid, such a move will actually help in the post-recovery period.

No amount of words would express the extent of damage the tsunami has wreaked nor can any applause sufficiently extol the virtues of the largest humanitarian effort under way. Yet victims in pockets of inaccessible areas in Indonesia, the Andamans and Sri Lanka are still clambering for food and other necessities. The aid agencies need not be told how important it is to reach the victims, before it is too late. While these efforts must be pushed further in the face of all odds — monsoons have hampered relief work in parts of Sri Lanka — international agencies and those countries who have less worries at hand must now start rethinking on the long-term aspects of helping rebuild the lives of the tsunami-hit. The victims aside, history too will be grateful for helping those in distress.