One year after tsunami livelihoods recovering fast

Published: 20 December 2005

More than half of people are back to work and economies are fast returning to normal less than one year after the tsunami, according to a new report by Oxfam International. The new report, 'Back to Work' shows how one year after the tsunami hit, up to 60% of people who lost their jobs are earning a living again, and by the end of 2006 it is estimated that 85% of jobs will have been restored.

More than half of people are back to work and economies are fast returning to normal less than one year after the tsunami, according to a new report by Oxfam International.

The new report, 'Back to Work,' shows how one year after the tsunami hit, up to 60% of people who lost their jobs are earning a living again, and by the end of 2006 it is estimated that 85% of jobs will have been restored.

The report also shows that:

  • By 2007 1.4 million people will have been lifted out of the poverty that they were forced into by the tsunami.
  • 84% of the fishing boats destroyed in Sri Lanka have been rebuilt or replaced; in Aceh almost 70% of damaged fishing boats have been delivered or are being constructed.
  • Even by August the fish catch in Sri Lanka – having dropped by 95% – was back up to 70% of its previous level.
  • Thousands of hectares of land have already been desalinated, saline resistant plants have been introduced, and farmers have already had successful harvests.

According to community surveys, those affected by the tsunami placed the restoration of livelihoods at the top of their list of priorities, even above shelter.

"One year on, well over half of people who lost their jobs are already back at work, most of the destroyed fishing boats have been replaced and thousands  of  hectares of farm land have been cleared and replanted. There are of course problems that remain and continued support is essential if we are to safeguard the progress made. But the public's generous response and the resilience of local people has made the rebuilding of people's livelihoods one of the most impressive aspects of the entire aid operation," said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

According to the report, the scale of the damage to the economies of the affected countries threatened to push 2 million people into poverty:

  • One million jobs were lost due to the tsunami.
  • 64,000 hectares of agricultural land were damaged and contaminated – an area 6 times the size of Paris, or twice the size of London.
  • In Aceh, unemployment rocketed from 1 in 14 (7%) to 1 in 3 (33%). In the affected districts of Sri Lanka it more than doubled from 9% to 20%.
  • As well as losing their jobs, people also lost all their savings – often kept in the form of cash, jewellery or property.
  • The worst affected livelihoods were fishing families, small-scale farmers, labourers, those running small businesses, and the tourism sector.
  • 65% of the fishing fleet in Sri Lanka was destroyed, together with 10 out of 12 fishing ports; in Aceh 70% of fishing fleet was destroyed; in India 70,000 boats were destroyed or damaged.


"One  year  after the tsunami we are seeing an impressive recovery. Getting people back to work, as well as giving them an income and some control over their  future,  has  been  critical in helping them deal with the trauma of what  happened. Of course there's still more to do and real difficulties
remain but we are well on the road to recovery," said Hobbs.

Oxfam has spent its largest block of money, $27million in the first 9 months, on assisting people regain their livelihoods. Working with others Oxfam has helped 375,000 people back into work. The initial interventions – which many agencies engaged in on a larger scale than previously – were 'cash for work', where beneficiaries were paid for basic work which varied from desalinating farm land and clearing rubble to rebuilding houses and burying bodies. This program helped provide the beneficiaries with more choices and control over their options and helped to rapidly stimulate the economy. According to the report these programs were also critical in helping to provide people with a return to some routine and normality, helping them through the trauma of the tsunami.

The report also identifies some of the continuing problems:

  • It will take between 2 and 5 years for the soil to return to full productivity.
  • In some cases fishing communities are being given new land which is too far away from the sea to sustain their livelihoods.
  • The lack of access for local communities to markets before the tsunami remains a problem.
  • The need to ensure that assistance is not only targeted on the most high profile livelihoods.

Oxfam  and other aid agencies have also given out thousands of small grants to restart businesses and replace infrastructure. Much of Oxfam's livelihoods work has targeted women as they can be neglected in the aid response and their jobs often help see the family through the low season of agriculture, tourism or fishing.

Back to work: How people are recovering their livelihoods 12 months after the tsunami Oxfam Briefing Paper 84, pdf 149kb

Contact Information

For more details, video material, a copy of the report, or interviews, please contact:

Brendan Cox or Sarah Jacobs + 44 1865 47 24 98 or + 44 7957 120 853