The Indian Ocean Tsunami: Five Years Later

Photos by David Snyder/CRS, Cecile Sorra/CRS, Karl Grobl, Sean Sprague and Kristin Thompson for CRS

How We Served

Read reflections from CRS President Ken Hackett about what has been accomplished, thanks to the generosity of Catholics in the United States.

Download the unaudited financial summary report through September 2009. If you are unable to automatically download the report, please install the Acrobat reader.

  Items Supplied Quantity Supplied Number of People Assisted

Food, tents, hygiene kits, bed nets, cooking utensils, emergency medical care




Temporary structures to house families until permanent homes are built


More than 108,000 people


Permanent, earthquake-resistant homes


More than 65,600 people


Temporary employment for survivors to aid in reconstruction


More than 38,100 people


Grants, training and vocational training to restart work or learn new trades


More than 10,600 people


Boats, nets and tools for fishing and agriculture


More than 41,600 people


Aid to self-help groups to improve access to work, education and credit


More than 2,224 groups

Water and Sanitation

Water-quality testing lab, wells, improved sanitation facilities and clean water systems


170,572 people


Clinics, hospitals, training of community and government health workers, and trauma counseling


Long-term benefits to hundreds of thousands of people

Child Protection and Education

Schools, temporary classrooms and children's facilities

More than 180

Long-term benefits to hundreds of thousands of children


Uniforms and supplies

More than 113,000

Long-term benefits to hundreds of thousands of children


Protection of children, including orphans, through activities, camps and community training


Long-term benefits to hundreds of thousands of children


Roads, bridges, piers, and fruit, vegetable and fish markets


Long-term benefits to hundreds of thousands


Disaster preparedness training


Long-term benefits to hundreds of thousands

Who We Helped

Kuchuvava Raghuvaran

Kuchuvava Raghuvaran, Kerala, India

An Indian fisherman and his family lost their home and all their possessions to the tsunami, but received a new house from CRS and Caritas. »»


Marwani, Suak Bidok, Indonesia

Marwani's two youngest children were swept away by the tsunami and never found. How could she go on? »»

S.G. Herbert

S.G. Herbert, Galle, Sri Lanka

After the tsunami leveled his Sri Lankan community, S.G. Herbert envisioned his future and began his painstaking journey toward it.»»


Marwani 'Anik' Halijah, Aceh Province, Indonesia

Aceh, Indonesia, was one the places hardest hit by the tsunami. Marwani "Anik" Halijah pulled herself up, then reached out to her neighbors.»»

Stories From the Field

Aceh, Indonesia, Five Years Later

Aceh, Indonesia, Five Years Later

The Indian Ocean tsunami hit Aceh, Indonesia, first and hardest. Rebuilding shelters and lives, through the eyes of the people on the ground.»»

What We Learned

What We Learned

Staff who worked on the ground in the first days after the Indian Ocean tsunami share the lessons they—and CRS—learned.»»

Aceh Hospital

Health for Women, Children, Community

A state-of-the-art mothers and children's hospital is providing a wide range of medical services to the people of Banda Aceh, Indonesia.»»

Metuchen delegation to Thanjavur

Partnership Between U.S. and India Born of Compassion

Two dioceses a world away come together in friendship and solidarity in the wake of the tsunami.»»

Indonesia staff

Indonesia Tsunami Memories: 'One Human Family'

As five years of tsunami recovery draw to a close, CRS Indonesia staff share their memories.»»

Wahyu Widayanto

From Tsunami to Earthquake: Indonesia Response

On the verge of wrapping up a five-year tsunami response, CRS calls staff back into action to help Indonesians affected by a 7.6-magnitude earthquake.»»

Rebuilding Hope—And Homes—After the Tsunami

Rebuilding Hope—And Homes—After the Tsunami

Five years after the Indian Ocean tsunami, remembering the generosity of Catholics in the United States. Watch what your compassion accomplished.»»

Allie Zito

'If I Help, They Might Get Through This'

When Allie Zito heard about the Indian Ocean tsunami, she knew she had to help. Watch this video to find out what inspired her to make a difference.»»

Leaving a Legacy of Hope

Five years ago, the day after Christmas, the unimaginable happened: A devastating tsunami crashed onto the coasts of 11 countries, killing more than 200,000 people. One-hundred-foot waves wiped out entire towns and left more than 1.5 million people homeless and utterly shattered.

Then the unforeseen: Across the United States, across the globe, people moved by the suffering of the survivors began a massive effort to help those who had lost nearly everything.

The Catholic community in the United States gave an unprecedented $170 million to Catholic Relief Services—and made possible one of the largest emergency and rebuilding efforts in our history. A five-year plan to rehabilitate the hardest-hit communities in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India was put into place.

Now, as CRS closes those programs, we trace the legacy of that generosity, and discover that when we act as one human family…

  • We rebuild houses that generations can call home.

    • In the initial weeks of the tsunami, Catholic Relief Services and our partners sheltered survivors first with tents and tarps and then with temporary structures as their homes were rebuilt. Then we began the long task not just of rebuilding homes, but of building them stronger. Along with the houses, CRS installed clean-water and sanitation systems that have helped improve the health of entire communities. Today, more than 65,600 people in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka have homes that will last generations.
  • We revive the vitality of communities.

    • In an instant, the tsunami washed everything away—homes, markets, buildings, roads, bridges. It took the very breath from those communities. But as Catholic Relief Services worked side by side with survivors to rebuild markets and roads, as we erected new hospitals and clinics, and as schools and recreation facilities rose up, so too did the hopes of the people. They not only rebuilt their communities, they learned how to provide better education and health care for their families. They learned how to guard against future disasters and to organize themselves to effect positive change.
  • We restore workers' ability to support their families.

    • The ability of people to earn a living was swept away. Trades were lost, crops and land ruined, fishing boats and nets sunk. Over the last five years, Catholic Relief Services has sought not only to restore the materials, seeds and equipment the tsunami stole, but also to ensure that people can actually attain sufficient income for a better future. Today, markets are open, and fishing, farming and trade cooperatives are working together to provide more stable earnings for families.
  • We sow the seeds of peace.

    • CRS carried out its work on the fringes of war and amidst long-standing feuds and prejudices. In Indonesia, the Aceh province had been isolated by a 30-year civil war. Sri Lanka, too, had been in—and continues to struggle with—a decades-long civil war that has claimed more than 80,000 lives. In India, the residual effects of the country's ancient caste system have erected walls between communities for generations. CRS' rebuilding programs brought together people of different races, socioeconomic status, religion and location—efforts that have sown the seeds for peace one person, one family, one community at a time.
  • We lift up our brothers and sisters in need.

    • In the United States, children collected coins, wrote cards, held fundraisers. Cab drivers dropped off donations collected from customers. Dioceses from Philadelphia to San Diego raised money. The faithful prayed. The tsunami elicited the single largest donor response in Catholic Relief Services' history—$170 million—indelibly connecting us as brothers and sisters across space and time.
  • We learn to serve people even better.

    • Just three months after the tsunami, a devastating earthquake hit the island of Nias off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. Catholic Relief Services mobilized teams—better-trained and equipped with experience from the tsunami—to quickly begin recovery and reconstruction efforts. In the years following the tsunami, droughts, earthquakes, hunger and war have continued to devastate people around the world. The challenges CRS experienced in responding to the tsunami paved the way to best practices we now use to mount more efficient and effective emergency and long-term development efforts.