Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report



Letter from Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State, Department for International Development to the Chairman

  As it is now almost a year since the devastating Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed over 300,000 people, I am writing to you to give you an update on the UK government's response.

  When the earthquake and tsunami struck, the Department for International Development (DFID) responded immediately by setting up a crisis team and sending an assessment team to Sri Lanka. As the scale of the disaster became clear, DFID arranged 15 airlifts to transport essential relief supplies to the region and also paid for 25 flights for the Disasters and Emergency Committee (DEC). Reconstruction work in the region is progressing, and we continue to work in partnership with the Governments of Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India to ensure that our contribution is coordinated and meets the needs of the affected population.

  In total the UK government has allocated the equivalent of around £290 million to disaster relief and reconstruction in the tsunami-affected countries. This total includes: £75 million to the humanitarian relief effort; £65 million to the longer-term reconstruction; £55 million through the UK's share of EC humanitarian assistance and longer-term reconstruction; £50 million through tax relief on public donations made through the Gift Aid Scheme; and £45 million which is the UK's share of Sri Lanka's debt service costs to the World Bank until 2015 (following the tsunami, Sri Lanka was added to the list of countries eligible for the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative).

  Examples of projects that the UK has funded include £4 million in Indonesia to the United Nations Development Programme to help restore and improve the livelihoods for the villagers of Aceh. This includes a Cash for Work project where a drainage canal was built to drain stagnant water from the middle of Paya Ting village in Aceh. By the end of June 2006, UNDP will have helped to restore the livelihoods of more than 20,000 households. In Sri Lanka, DFID has provided ZOA Refugee Care with nearly £1.2 million to build transitional shelter for 2,000 people. ZOA are now building permanent housing which includes running water and sanitation. If you would like to find out more about DFID's tsunami reconstruction work, please visit our website:

  The overwhelming public response to the tsunami and the numerous offers of assistance that DFID received from individuals resulted in our collaboration with the DEC to produce the booklet Disasters and Emergencies Overseas: How You Can Help, a copy of which is enclosed The booklet explains how the UK Government and international community respond to a disaster overseas. It also offers practical advice and information for the UK public about how best they can help following a disaster: from donating cash and fundraising to volunteering and retraining as an emergency worker.

  To get hold of more free copies of the How You Can Help booklet please call DFID's Public Enquiry Point on 0845 300 4100 or email or download the booklet from DFID's website

  Our response to October's earthquake in Pakistan was swift and we have now pledged £58 million in humanitarian relief and a further £70 million to meet longer term reconstruction needs. The UK has also championed the UN Central Emergency Revolving Fund which, in the case of a humanitarian disaster, will ensure that funding reaches aid agencies on the ground faster and therefore helps to save more lives. We have already pledged $70 million to the fund and six other countries have followed suit, meaning that funding now totals $172 million. The Fund is expected to be operational early in the New Year.

  I hope this is helpful.

Received 9 January 2006

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