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Note: The painting of Ambassador Andrew Young. The painting is now hung at the main lobby of Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University, Atlanta

Many regions, other than Banda Acheh, still having difficult access to aid relief

Author: Yulia Evina Bhara/SEGERA
Category: Acheh Tsunami
Date: 01/17/05


akarta - January 15, 2005 [The following report was compiled by Zelly A. from information sent by SEGERA (Solidarity Movement with the People of Acheh) activist volunteers currently deployed in Acheh to provide humanitarian relief and monitor the distribution of aid. See below for details on how you can assist SEGERA's Acheh Relief and Monitoring Campaign.]

- Major-General Bambang Darmono, the officer in charge of coordinating relief in Acheh, and the Minister of Welfare Alwi Sihab said yesterday that the zones which foreigners free to enter are Greater Acheh, West Acheh-Meulaboh and the provincial capital of Banda Acheh. For other areas all foreigners or non-government civilian organisations wishing to enter must do so with the authorisation of the local civil emergency authority. The decision was issued on the grounds of "freedom for humanitarian access". The "isolation" of these areas is being maintained on the grounds that they are conflict zones. The fact is however, that refugees are not just spread across Meulaboh and Banda Acheh but also in areas such as Bireuen, Pidie and Lhokseumawe.

- In the field meanwhile, access to regions outside of Banda Acheh has indeed been difficult from the start. Particularly in areas which the government has declared as conflict zones. In Bireuen for example, refugees from Banda Acheh and Meulaboh who are spread among a number of villages are being accommodated in people's homes which has added to the logistical access problems because they are not living in refugee camps. According to a human rights group report in the Peusangan regency of Bireuen, their investigations into refugee families of this type have been severely hampered by local security forces. This has even gone as far as them being taken as Free Acheh Movement (GAM) infiltrators and were detained for two nights by the Juli local police. In practice refugees living in the various villages in Juli have received no aid for almost 15 days. The majority of the refugees are housewives, young children and babies totaling as many as 214 families.

- Assistance from the government, international non-government organisations and the United Nations is being concentrated in the refugee camps. Meanwhile the majority of the refugees are in fact in the villages being accommodated by local people. One family is able to accommodate up to three other families. As a result the impact of the disaster at this time is spilling over into another social crisis related to employment opportunities and the unavailability of food. In practice the families who are accommodating them cannot survive much longer because there is no aid. Moreover this has been added to by the policy of Vice-president Yusuf Kalla to centralise the refugee camps on only 24 points. The government refuse to acknowledge the existence of refugees living outside of these.

The reality is that people's psychological makeup is such that they really do not want to live in camps. There are three basic reasons for this: strong family traditions which make them prioritise seeking refuge with relatives remaining in the vicinity or even the family of the regent; the way refugees in the camps are being handled which is of great concern as standardised supplies are allocated to each refugee, from babies, nursing mothers, pregnant women, infants and small children. Likewise, during the first weeks even mediation was standardised - because of the minimal health facilities; and this has added to the trauma and made refugees not feel at home living in the camps. Even if they do remain in the camps the numbers fluctuate because during the day they are out searching for missing family members and although some return to the camps at night to receive supplies this is not always certain night as they know their allocation by already be gone by the time they return.

- The extraordinary effect of this disaster has left behind it an equally extraordinary trauma. Social empowerment has declined dramatically. Self-confidence, solidarity and trust in others has also declined dramatically. Moreover the government and all of its structures are clearly incapable of dealing with this disaster in an organised let alone speedy manner. This situation provides a clear basis to prioritise the long-term need for support from volunteers to work with communities both in the camps as well as the villages. And these kind of volunteers are difficult to find with the majority at this time being still being drawn from outside of Acheh.

- In giving consideration to the points above, the activists in Acheh from various sectors, the majority of whom have lost their homes or searching for relatives and families, have formed the Central Aid in Resolving Acheh (Care Acheh) and are optimalising other institutions such as SeFa (Safe for Acheh) which has been in Acheh working with refugees and dealing with the trauma of loss since the state of martial law was declared in May 2003 and during the periods of civil emergency. Among the respective organisations at the moment there are between 40-60 volunteers but this will increase as the situation stabilises, that is when the search for families has been maximised and the recruitment of local volunteers has improved.

The following work has been and is currently being carried out in Banda Acheh and Greater Acheh:

1. Assessing the total number and classifying the priorities of refugees in the villages who are being accommodated by local people, including their most urgent needs. This is being conducted in the Berabung village in the Darussalam regency, the Lambaet and Lamteube Gapula villages in the Kuta Baro regency, the Neuheun village in the SMIK area and the Ujong Bate kampung in the Mesjid Raya regency and the Geuce Komplek village in Aneuk Galong Sibreh. These villages are scattered across Banda Acheh and Greater Acheh and will be broadened as points of priority are determined.

2. Dropping of the most basic relief supplies has been done at a number of refugee points, a free clinics have been built in the areas of Lam Ateuk, Lampeuneureut and Indrapuri, including an alternative education and trauma healing pilot project.

3. Investigating the long-term needs of respective villages, such as establishing alternative education for children, places for them to play, women's activities. This is being done in the context of trauma healing and will be adjusted on the basis of follow up investigations.

Situation update:

- The greatest obstacle at the moment is work mobilisation. Accommodation, communication and transport to conduct investigations and dropping off aid supplies - the availability of large pickup trucks, motorcycles and bicycles is extremely limited and needs to be augmented by medical equipment and supplies. Medical expertise is simply not sufficient at present.

- The long-term need to also establish an alternative information media - both a radio and newspaper for the people - is also extremely great, especially to provide information which can assist in rebuilding people's self-confidence and the enthusiasm to empower local communities.

- There are a number of flooded areas which were not initially effected by the tsunami however the number of casualties in these areas is now climbing particularly in the Sawang regency of North Acheh and Tamiang Kualasimpang in East Acheh where flood waters are as high as 1.5 metres.

[Translated by James Balowski for Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific's (ASAP) Acheh Tsunami Blog Solidarity Fund for Acheh.

In Solidarity





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