Indonesia: rebuilding Aceh

 The entire coastal area lies barren. Nothing much reminds of the villages that were here only two weeks ago before the tsunami struck. I have not been to Aceh before the disaster, and have no mental image to compare to, but in between twisted metal and scattered bricks there are signs of the life that was once: a family picture, clothes, the head of a tiny yellow teddy bear. On a rock, someone has placed a spoon and the miracle of an intact porcelain plate, signalling hope that their owner will one day come back. Literally on the road towards there beach there is a pink house, which walls for one reason, has managed to stand the pressure of giant waves flushing in and then pulling back throwing the entire house 50 meters from its foundation. The door is gone, and there are big holes in the walls through which we enter in an attempt to get closer to the forces capable of such destruction. Looking around I see a writing on the wall: "Do not disturb. Someone owns this house." I am struck with relief. Entering an IDP camp in a school up the hill I am told by a survivor that the village once had 6,000 people. There are now 600 left. His wife and two children are not among them. He was in the rice field together with many of the men when he saw the giant waves. He managed to run to the safety of the mountain, but most women and children were caught unaware near their homes. That is why there are mostly men to be seen in the camp, he points out to me. The refugees have been provided with medical care and food, and I ask him about what he thinks for the future. "What can I do but to sit and wait? I don't know what to do now. Our home is gone, my entire family is gone, my tools and my field are gone. Some of us will be ready to return eventually, but the women that survived are still too scared: scared of earthquakes, scared of the ocean, and scared of the ghosts." As the days and weeks pass since the tsunami, the emergency phase in the Banda Aceh area will come to an end. There are still needs in terms of adequate shelters and latrines. Vaccinations are needed to prevent outbreaks of epidemics, and the distribution system of food is still not fluent, especially into small camps and refugees who have sought shelter with family and friends. Nevertheless, assessments are needed to determine what it takes to bring life back to normal for the half a million refugees throughout Aceh, North Sumatra and Jakarta. What is needed for people to restore a livelihood back? What is needed in terms of psychosocial support to overcome the traumas and losses that the people have suffered? And importantly, how to involve the survivors in the rebuilding of communities to prevent long term displacement? The final question is especially of interest in the emergency operation which to a large extent is carried by international agencies and central Indonesian authorities. It is essential to allow the Acehnese themselves to determine the process ahead. JRS Indonesia has been in Aceh since 2001, and has established closed ties to many of the local organizations. The civil society is doing a remarkable job. The community has lost family and friends, and offices and material are gone. Nevertheless, with enthusiasm the civil society will plays an important role in rebuilding Aceh. JRS offers office space, 24 hour internet connection and transport logistics to local organizations, supporting them in becoming lead actors in the work ahead. Source: Jesuit Communications Office

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