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Human Rights and Natural Disaster: The Indian Ocean Tsunami

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Abstract: Why should we focus on human rights in the aftermath of a natural disaster? Governments and the international community are obligated - legally, politically, and morally - to undertake recovery efforts in ways that are consistent with the human rights of those most affected by disaster. The December 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami took the lives of more than 200,000 children, women, and men. Hundreds of thousands more were injured and millions displaced. Recognized as one of the worst natural disasters in recorded human history, the Indian Ocean tsunami remains a global issue. People in fourteen countries were directly affected as well as thousands of tourists from other parts of Asia, and from the European Union, Australia, the United States, and Canada. Like the 2005 Katrina disaster in our own country, the Indian Ocean tsunami marked a turning point for some in the human rights movement. The world is beginning to recognize that human rights protections must be an integral part of disaster prevention and planning, humanitarian assistance, and rebuilding efforts.

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