Germans Partner with Tsunami Victims | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 04.02.2005
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Germans Partner with Tsunami Victims

Hundreds of German organizations and communities are offering Tsunami victims long-term partnerships in order to help rebuild hospitals, orphanages and schools in the devastated region.


Germans are reaching out to those in need

The tsunami catastrophe has killed about 300,000 people in Asia. In Indonesia alone, 132,000 are missing a month after the disaster. The rebuilding of destroyed villages and cities will take years. Long-term sustainable support is urgently needed, according to German officials.

For this reason, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has called for regional partnership initiatives in his New Year's speech. And his compatriots are heeding his call: already hundreds of concrete offers are lying on the desk of Bonn-based InWent GmbH, which has been charged with coordinating them and advising volunteers by the federal ministry for international development.

The goal of the chancellor's initiative is a direct and sustainable cooperation between citizens, associations, businesses, schools, communities and the affected areas. And so far, there has been a wide resonance: Bonn, Hamburg, Potsdam - cities across Germany are answer the call. Politicians and citizens are coming together and coming up with ideas to promote sustainable redevelopment in the affected areas.

"We have a chance for the communities not only to help in rebuilding the region but also to offer solidarity," said Ulrich Nitschke, who heads the coordination for InWent.

Banda Aceh, Äußerungen des Schocks in Graffiti

The earthquake and tsunami that shattered Indonesia's Aceh province caused damage and losses worth $4.5 billion (€3.45 billion).

Quality before quantity

A month after the quake and floods, the hotline at InWent does not stay quiet - there are already 900 offers of help from all over Germany. Company officials say they are reviewing offers carefully because they want to put quality before quantity and speed.

In one case, the German government has requested €1 million ($1.3 million) for the repair and maintenance of the hospital in Banda Aceh, the main health facility in the hard-hit region of Indonesia. InWent is coordinating between the government and professional German soccer players, who are raising money through benefit appearances.

The twon of Regensburg has already secured help for the fisherman of Sri Lanka by collecting money for boats and houses for those that lost everything. And in Saarbrücken, about 60 schools with 36,000 students have created a project "Schools for Asia" to support schools and orphanages in the region.

A clear interest

Ein Monat nach der Welle

A month after a tsunami, a patchy recovery is taking place even as some areas remain almost lifeless.

At the end of January, about 50 new offers have been arriving daily even thought the catastrophe has disappeared from the headlines, say company officials. That pleases Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany's minister for international development.

"That so many offers are coming in - that is about 900 now - makes it clear how much interest there is," she said. "It is important now that these efforts become sustainable."

Officials say that partnerships with communities in devastated regions are an effective way to create such development. For example, Potsdam is helping its sister city, Galle, Sri Lanka, to rebuild a school. Cities such as Frankfurt are lending a hand to their already established sister cities with such projects as rebuilding libraries, sewage plants and orphanages.

In 2004, there were a total of 646 German communities in partnerships with other communities in developing countries such as Berlin with Jakarta or Hildesheim with Padang, Indonesia. "What I find very exciting is that so many communities have an interest in this," said Wieczorek-Zeul. "That shows that the idea of community partnerships are now firmly planted in people's minds."

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