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After the Waves
By Steven Ehrenberg

tsunami survivors line up for food
Tsunami survivors line up for bowls of rice and instant noodles at a refugee camp in Geugajah village, Aceh, Indonesia on January 4, 2005.
(Photo: Ardiles Rante/AP Wide World/EPA)
January 5—Eight days after a massive earthquake triggered deadly waves in Southeast Asia, political leaders and ordinary citizens around the world are asking: How can we help? Millions of residents in six countries are suddenly homeless and desperate for the world's assistance.

On Monday, President Bush asked two former Presidents—his father, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton—to lead the way in raising money from American people and corporations. They accepted. The 41st and 42nd Presidents will travel around the country, urging Americans to donate money.

"The greatest source of America's generosity is not our government. It's the good heart of the American people," said President Bush. The U.S. government has pledged $350 million in relief aid so far.

Providing Aid

The tsunami, or giant waves, struck countries bordering the northeastern Indian Ocean. The disaster was sudden: the tide went out, and then the waves smashed back into the shore. In some places, entire villages were washed away. Officials estimate that about 150,000 people were killed in the disaster.

The salty seawater makes fresh water undrinkable, so hundreds of thousands of survivors are sick or may soon become ill. Relief agencies must act immediately to prevent the disaster from growing worse.

The U.S. sent 12,600 troops to the region, along with 21 ships, 14 planes, and 48 helicopters. Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid has poured in around the world.

"Right now, the two main problems are water and sanitation," said Pilar Aguilar, education project officer at the United Nations International Childrens Education Fund.

Many children were orphaned by the disaster. One way to take care of them, said Aguilar, is to make sure they can get back to school, where they are safe and cared for. "As we speak, Thailand is reopening their schools," she told Scholastic News Online. Schools in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, two of the hardest hit countries, will reopen schools later this month.

You can help, too. Check out the links below to learn how.