By Stephen Robb
BBC News website
Aid agencies had teams in the tsunami region within hours
Three months after the Asian tsunami, the £350m donated by Britons is continuing to fund aid in the region. At first charities concentrated on urgent relief, now they are able to look to the future.
Almost immediately after the tsunami struck, killing about 300,000 and washing away the homes and livelihoods of millions more, British charities began the task of getting basic aid to the region.
To that end, more than £112m of the Disasters Emergency Committee's fund went towards providing clean drinking water, sanitation, shelter, food and medicine.
"When you consider that a £15 donation allowed us to provide one family with plastic sheeting, a water container and purification tablets, or £35 provided a family with enough food for a week, you begin to realise the impact that this generosity has had," a spokesman said.
But now the 12 charities operating under the DEC umbrella are able to plan further ahead, their long-term reconstruction work well under way.
"We are working with local people to help them rebuild their lives with dignity, find lasting solutions to poverty and be better prepared for future crises," the spokesman said.
The DEC estimates that the work funded by British donations - including £300m given to the DEC and £50m to other charities - is benefiting around 3.6 million people.
It expects to be involved in reconstruction work in the region for at least three more years.
It is in discussions with the affected countries' governments, the United Nations and local people about how best to allocate funds, with detailed plans due to be agreed in May.
"This is going to be a marathon not a sprint, and it will be years before many people reach a decent standard of living," the spokesman said.
Outlining where the first of the donated money went, the DEC said £41m was used to help to more than one million people in Sri Lanka, £40m on around two million people in Indonesia and over £23m on around half a million in India.
DEC SPENDING SO FAR
Sri Lanka £41m, benefiting more than one million people
Indonesia Almost £40m on an estimated two million people
India Over £23m on more than 500,000 people
East Africa £3.5m-plus, benefiting over 40,000 people
Thailand Over £1m, benefiting more than 40,000 people
Maldives Almost £1m on at least 3,000 people
"Relief work began almost immediately after the disaster, with agencies getting teams in place within hours and drawing money from the fund at a later stage," the DEC said.
On top of public donations, the government pledged £75m towards tsunami aid, of which around £65m has so far been spent.
That has included more than £30m to some 40 UN organisations, £3.5m each to the Red Cross and World Food Programme, and almost £10m to other charities and non-governmental organisations.
The Department for International Development (DFID) has been responsible for allocating the money.
So far 92 Britons have been confirmed dead from the tsunami
A DFID spokeswoman said it usually received project proposals then found money for them, but that it had needed to respond more swiftly to the urgent demands of the tsunami aftermath.
"What we did was make sure we had the money available up front, then allocate it as and when we got the proposals in," she said.
"We were constantly assessing what was needed because the situation was moving so quickly."
Money had been allocated "based on value for money and effectiveness - whether proposals will meet the needs on the ground", she said.
DFID has also paid for 26 charity flights to the tsunami region, at a cost of around £2m.
It has donated almost £12m worth of equipment, including one million water purification tablets, more than 25,000 tarpaulins, almost 20,000 jerry cans and water containers, and around 4,000 tents.
The government's original £75m was all intended for immediate relief, but DFID will continue to be involved in the region's reconstruction as part of its ongoing development work.
"We will be looking to work in areas where they have been affected by the tsunami, so that people can have livelihoods and can start trying to get back into a situation where they have homes, they have food and they have work.
"That is important for their development and their health, and for the countries' development.
"We are in it for the long term," she added.