The enormity of this disaster coupled with the complexity of working across two continents, a 3,000-mile swath from Indonesia to Somalia, means that the American Red Cross is working alongside the other Red Cross societies from around the world, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and international relief organizations like the United Nations World Food Program.

The American Red Cross role in responding to an international disaster is very different from our response to a disaster in the United States. We work in a coordinated manner with many global partners, taking into consideration how the American Red Cross can provide unique, specialized assistance in the areas where we can best help.

The immediate American Red Cross focus is on getting lifesaving help to millions affected by the tsunamis. This includes distributing culturally appropriate food like rice, canned fish and lentils to millions of people. Safe water and sanitation is a priority, and the American Red Cross will be rehabilitating water and sanitation systems to ensure that people have clean water and waste disposal systems.

In the near future, the American Red Cross will partner with health organizations to work in the crucial area of disease prevention, vaccinating and protecting millions against diseases like measles and polio, while also helping provide mental health support for those suffering emotional trauma. The American Red Cross will also help affected countries with prevention measures to reduce the loss of life and property from future natural disasters.