An aerial image shows a town inundated with water

Boxing Day
Tsunami Appeal

Boxing Day
Tsunami Appeal

An image taken from a US Navy plane shows a village on the coast of Sumatra in ruins after the tsunami. Image: US Navy

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Key achievements

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£392 million

raised for this appeal

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households reached with humanitarian aid

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houses built or repaired

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schools constructed

The images broadcast onto television screens on Boxing Day 2004 shook the world.

The devastating earthquake and tsunami were described as the worst natural disaster in modern times. More than 200,000 people lost their lives.

What made the tsunami exceptional was its geographical spread: a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, triggered a 500mph wave which hit seven countries around the Indian Ocean, all the way to distant Somalia. The wave battered thousands of miles of coastline and affected the lives of millions of people, with Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka taking the brunt of the damage. 

A tsunami wave approaching a beach

An image of the tsunami approaching Phuket, Thaliand, captured by a member of the public. Image: Zalzadore

The DEC’s Tsunami Earthquake Appeal raised an unprecedented amount, reaching a total of £392 million in just two months, £10 million of which came in within the first day, setting a new Guinness World Record for the most money raised online in 24 hours. Unlike most of our appeals, this total does not include donations that went directly to our member charities, which raised at least another £51 million.

In response to the size and scale of the disaster, and considering the funds at its disposal, the DEC decided the money should be spent over three years instead of the usual 18 months. Member agencies were faced not just with recovery work but wholesale construction.

More than three quarters of a million households benefitted from DEC funds across seven countries, with the majority of the money being spent in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India. DEC member charities built more than 13,700 houses, 55 schools and 68 health centres.

After responding to the immediate impact of the disaster, focus shifted to helping people restore their livelihoods long term, with an onus on not just building back but “building back better”, especially in constructing homes and infrastructure that would better withstand earthquakes and providing training to help people diversify their incomes.  

Boxing Day Tsunami Appeal

Boxing Day Tsunami Appeal with Jeremy Thompson

Watch 'Tsunami Earthquake' DEC Appeal, Jeremy Thompson, 2005. BSky on YouTube.

The aftermath of the tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2005. Image: Howard Davies/Exile Images

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'We are so thankful to people in Britain for helping us'

When Sabri and her family moved into their newly built home in 2006, she was moved to tears and said: “I don’t know what to say. I am very pleased and happy but so overwhelmed I am crying… I was so stressed thinking about our situation but the new house from the British Red Cross is like a medicine for us and we are thankful to the people in Britain for helping us.”

DEC member charities including the British Red Cross built more than 13,700 new homes like Sabri’s, which were designed to be more earthquake resistant, providing long term safety to families affected by this disaster.


raised for the Boxing Day Tsunami Appeal. Thank you!

As well as the tsunami, events such as the Kashmir earthquake of 2005 and earthquakes off Sumatra in 2009 have demonstrated that aid agencies can play an important role in post-disaster construction programmes where funding is available.

It was recognised that agencies needed to capture and share the invaluable lessons learned in Aceh and the DEC commissioned a special study based on agencies' experiences, Lessons from Aceh, to contribute to the growing body of knowledge relating to humanitarianism and the built environment.

The final year of funding concentrated on securing significant investment for supporting agriculture and people’s livelihoods and further investing in building the local capacity for people to be able to face disasters in the future, including stockpiling relief items.


Read more about how funds were spent and how the response to this disaster was evaluated.