July 2006

The Drinking Water Response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami, including the Role of Household Water Treatment

Clasen, T., Smith, L., Albert, J., Bastable, A., Fesselet, J-F. (2006). The Drinking Water Response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami, including the Role of Household Water Treatment. Disaster Prevention and Management, 15,1: 190-201

ABSTRACT

Purpose – To document the drinking water component of the humanitarian response to the Great Sumatra-Andaman earthquake of December 26, 2004, including a focus on the promotion of household water treatment (HHWT)/safe storage to minimize the spread of diarrhoeal disease. Design/methodology/approach – Firsthand accounts of the response effort, interviews, and literature review. Findings – The combined efforts to mobilize a drinking water response were timely, comprehensive and effective. HHWT/safe storage efforts (other than the continued promotion of boiling) appeared to play only a secondary role in the initial response to the disaster for a variety of reasons. Practical implications – The enormity of this disaster and the unprecedented scale of the relief effort limit the broad lessons that can be learned at this time. Originality/value – Shows that there is a clear need to continue to take steps to minimize the risks of waterborne diseases following natural disasters, develop and disseminate practical solutions for the special circumstances associated with tsunamis, including saline water intrusion, clarify the conditions under which proven approaches to HHWT may be useful in emergencies and assess their role in the medium- and long-term response, improve water quality and surveillance without compromising emphasis on water quantity, take advantage of the enormous resources committed to the tsunami response to make effective and sustainable improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene in the affected areas, and document experiences from the tsunami response, distil the lessons learned, disseminate the results and develop guidelines to inform future actions.

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