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After bearing much of the brunt of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that sent tidal waves that killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions of others, Indonesia's island of Sumatra is again suffering. And, once again, the United States is responding. During the past month, heavy rains caused flash floods and triggered landslides in three Sumatran provinces.
More than 100 people have reportedly been killed and over 250,000 have been displaced. Hundreds are reported missing. People in the region are at risk for disease from unsanitary conditions caused by the flooding. Flooding and landslides have blocked several roads leading to affected areas, hampering rescue and relief efforts.
The U.S. is providing funds to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Indonesian Red Cross to distribute relief supplies including plastic sheets, water containers, cooking utensils, and sleeping mats. This reflects the commitment of the U.S. government and people to help Indonesia deal with the devastation caused by natural disasters. Following the 2004 tsunami, the U.S. provided more than 840 million dollars in relief to the nine countries affected, with almost half going to Indonesia. These funds are being used to help establish community health clinics, train midwives and caregivers, reopen roads, build homes, and expand access to clean water.
Beyond its disaster response, the United States has a long-term commitment to help Indonesia build a prosperous and democratic society. The U.S. is providing over nine-hundred-sixty million dollars to support Indonesia's governmental reform efforts, to improve health care, spur economic growth, and give Indonesia's young people a quality education. During his November visit to Indonesia, President George W. Bush said the U.S will continue to work to "build a relationship between our two nations that will last." It is important to the U.S., he said, "that we have strong, good relations with Indonesia.":
"Your democracy is making Indonesia strong and better able to play a positive role in Southeast Asia and the world." The United States and Indonesia are friends and partners now and for the future in Southeast Asia.