AUSTRALIAN RUGBY STAR HIGHLIGHTS IMPACT OF ASIAN TSUNAMI CRISIS AHEAD OF UK RUGBY MATCH
LONDON - The former Australia rugby captain and World Food Programme humanitarian partner, Nick Farr-Jones, has arrived in Indonesia on the first day of a four-day mission to highlight the long-term challenges faced by communities whose livelihoods were devastated by the tsunami last year.
"It's barely two months since the disaster struck in places like Banda Aceh and already you can see that interest is fading," says Nick Farr-Jones. "Just because this story has disappeared from television screens, it doesn't mean that the problem has gone away. In reality, it won't take weeks or even months, but years for many of these communities to recover. "
Nick Farr-Jones' visit to Banda Aceh comes just days before a tsunami fundraising rugby match at the home of English rugby in Twickenham, London, on 5 March. The match, titled "Rugby Aid: Rebuilding After the Tsunami," will see international rugby stars compete in two teams made up of northern and southern hemisphere players.
The event, which will be broadcast live on television around the world, has been organised by the International Rugby Board. All funds raised by the match will be donated to the World Food Programme and used for long term relief and rehabilitation programmes across Asia.
During his visit to Aceh, Nick Farr-Jones, an ambassador to WFP's "Tackle Hunger" campaign, will travel to Meulaboh, on the west coast of Aceh Province, where he will meet survivors of the Asian tsunami and see a number of emergency relief projects run by WFP. His journey to Meulaboh will take him close to the very epicenter of the disaster which struck on 26 December.
This area suffered the double catastrophe of an earthquake, followed by the tsunami wave. Parts of the coastline near Meulaboh have been literally swallowed up by the full force of the natural disaster that ripped through the area. Salt water lakes have filled areas inland that were once rice paddy fields growing food for local people, and sea water and sewerage has flooded fresh water wells in coastal villages.
"The needs are immense," says Farr-Jones, "Humanitarian agencies like the World Food Programme have done an incredible job meeting the emergency needs of the hundreds of thousands of survivors of the tsunami disaster, but we must not forget the long term obligation to help these people rebuild the towns and villages that were once their homes. They have to be given the means to sustain their own livelihoods again."
An assessment survey carried out earlier this year by humanitarian agencies, including WFP, found that more than 970 schools in Indonesia were destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami in Aceh, leaving almost 180,000 school children without the means to continue their education.
More than three decades of experience in this field have left WFP with the specialised knowledge of how food can be used as an incentive to encourage and fuel reconstruction in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
Through "food-for-work" programmes, food can be used as a form of payment to communities in the reconstruction of everything from bridges and roads, to municipal buildings and school classrooms. Once children are back at school, WFP can ensure they are properly nourished through the implementation of school feeding programmes.
Historically, the "rebuilding phase" of the relief operations has proven to be the most difficult to fund. The IRB fundraising rugby match planned for Twickenham on 5 March will play a critical role in raising the money that will be used for this "rebuilding phase", and raising awareness of the long-term nature of the problem in Asian countries affected by the tsunami.
Nick Farr-Jones began working in support of the World Food Programme during the rugby World Cup in Australia in 2003 as part of the "Tackle Hunger" campaign in which WFP teamed up with the International Rugby Board to raise awareness about the 800 million people around the world who know what it is like to go to bed hungry.
Using television, print advertisements, stadium banners and the internet, the "Tackle Hunger" campaign reached more people than any single awareness-raising campaign ever conducted by WFP.
Born in Sydney in 1962, Farr-Jones retired in 1993 after a career in which he won 63 cups for Australia (19834 - 1993), captaining them 36 times, including their victory in the 1991 World Cup.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, WFP provides food aid to an average of 90 million people, including 56 million hungry children, in more than 80 countries.
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