Experts: Aceh aid effort in chaos

A major study assessing the impact of last month’s tsunami on the west coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province says the aid effort there is in chaos.

The report said there was no systematic response to needs
The report said there was no systematic response to needs

“The west coast of Aceh continues to receive aid and assistance in a chaotic manner,” says the report completed by a 34-member inter-agency team from the Indonesian government, the US military, UN agencies, AusAID and others. 

The report cites “the continued absence of a systematic response to the multiple needs of the population” but says there is some good news because cases of malaria, measles and diarrhoea were significantly lower than expected. 

“Food stocks, though limited in protein and calorie density, are reaching most large population groups via civil authorities and the Indonesian military. Schools are ready to reopen in a few areas and local foods have begun to re-appear in local markets,” it said. 

Better coordination needed

The report was written just prior to Wednesday’s marking of a month after the 26 December disaster that left more than 230,000 dead or missing in Aceh and the surrounding region alone and nearly 300,000 in total worldwide.

Indonesia was the country worsthit by the tsunami disaster

Indonesia was the country worst
hit by the tsunami disaster

“Despite their best intentions, local and international NGOs, largely operating on an ad hoc basis, need to better coordinate so that their efforts bolster the primary healthcare system and other essential sectors,” the report said. 

Although many NGOs, military units and local groups provide health services in the area, “coordination has not been strong, and information has not been flowing from NGOs to the UN or Ministry of Health officials”, it said. 

Sanitary conditions are extremely poor in many areas where internally displaced people (IDP) live, it said. “Most of the sites have no latrines at all. As a result, most IDPs are defecating in fields, open areas or canals near to their shelters. Some of these are close to rivers or ponds that are used for bathing and washing. 

“Few organisations appear to be active in this sector,” said the report, provided to the media by the United Nations’ top official in Indonesia, Bo Asplund. 

Working well

But asked in an interview how coordination between agencies and countries could be improved, Asplund said: “Well, coordination can always be improved but I think it’s actually working quite well.” 

“Despite their best intentions, local and international NGOs, largely operating on an ad hoc basis, need to better coordinate so that their efforts bolster the primary health care system and other essential sectors”


He said the use of military assets under the leadership of the Indonesian armed forces was “working really well” and there was exemplary cooperation between foreign military units and the UN.

The inter-agency report said the tsunami destroyed virtually every village and town in the coastal zone lying below 10m elevation and extending up to 5km inland. 

Roads were severed, leaving many surviving communities isolated and initially dependent on air-dropped supplies. 

The report estimated that 3.5%, or 34,000 people out of the original 961,000 inhabitants in the coastal area, died in the disaster, while 125,000 have been displaced.

Official detained

Meanwhile, a leading Indonesian anti-corruption activist was been detained by police in tsunami-ravaged Aceh province for allegedly stealing trucks of relief supplies meant for disaster survivors, police said on Thursday. 

Farid Faqih, director of the Government Watch independent watchdog, has been charged with hiding aid supplies in a warehouse, director for special crimes Suharto told Elshinta radio. 

Reports said Faqih was working as a partner to the UN agency World Food Programme and had unhindered access to tonnes of aid at the air base in the provincial capital Banda Aceh. 

Faqih was arrested on Wednesday by air force officers after reports that aid supplies donated by the wives of military officers and others had gone missing, said Lieutenant-Colonel Sazili, the air base commander. 

The IndoPos daily said Faqih had told interrogators he had kept the goods at a warehouse just outside Banda Aceh to prevent the goods from being soaked in the rain.

Source: AFP

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